Holding On

Reviewed for @BMBR

4 Stars

How does one classify this book? Is it a coming of age? It had all of the coming of age feels that I love: the hesitance, the self-discovery, the falling for your best friend, and the coming out. But, it also had other aspects that made me think we were dealing with characters much older than 18 year old high school seniors. Still, there were the moments of magic I crave in coming of age stories that made me pretend the other stuff didn’t exist… at least for a little while.

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Aaron is a high school senior that has it rough. An abusive, alcoholic father has been a dark cloud that finally turned into a cat 5 hurricane. Add in being homophobic to his father’s already glowing personality, a mother who stayed and endured the abuse (not judging, just recounting), a sister that witnessed it and Aaron wins the award for the crappiest luck of the draw. Aaron’s bright spot though, is his best friend Jeff who doesn’t know his two biggest secrets: abusive home life and that he’s gay.

Jeff is an amazing best friend that’s the calm in Aaron’s storm. He attends to his every need and is able to calm Aaron down from his panic attacks. He is the constant rock Aaron counts on as all hell breaks loose. Jeff is also gay and Aaron doesn’t know.

How they finally got together is beyond me. Every time they were about to make a step in the right direction, drama intervened. There was a TON of drama which meant a lonnnng delay in coming out and an even longer delay in actually communicating interest in each other.

Once they got over the overly dramatic lack of communication and the seal was broken on sex, it was balls to the wall. Errr… more like balls to the chin, hand, ass. You get my point. This was one of those areas I had to suspend my reality and pretend. Aaron and Jeff are two nerdy (but hot) high school virgins with zero girlfriends/boyfriends in the past. BUT, you wouldn’t have know based on their sex life. I’m talking zilch on hesitance, dirty talk that was seasoned, alpha male title drops (literally), fantasy sharing, etc.

“Now tell me, my sexy alpha man, what is it you want?”

There was none of the fumbling first time awkwardness. It read like college or mature adult sex which didn’t line up with their age or experience.

As I mentioned, they go through a lot in the story and I appreciated the balance they had in their friendship and eventually relationship. They had a great connection and chemistry that made me all warm and fuzzy… and if I closed my eyes and pretended they were at least in college, it was hot too. They did take for-freakin’-ever to finally come together. It was amazing how clueless Aaron was. Some of the drama was a little after school special-ish with the star quarterback back coming to their defense and awkward classroom speech. The legal proceedings at the end were also a tad unrealistic but again, I pretended because I enjoyed the bond that Aaron and Jeff had.

For the most part, Holding On kept me coming back for more. I’d recommend it for 18+ coming of age fans who don’t mind lots of drama. Trigger warning for abuse, alcoholism, homophobia, and death.

https://boymeetsboyreviews.blogspot.com

Copy provided for honest review.

 

Desperately Seeking Santa

Reviewed for @BMBR

3.5 Stars

Want a feel good, low drama holiday read? This fits the bill with its fluffy, low angst, and likable characters. I liked it, but it didn’t blow my elf socks off like Easton typically does. While many readers may want a feel good, easy peasy holiday romance, I’m all gimme my angst, kindle combusting steam and then seal it with sweetness. *shrug*

Gabe Martin, college senior and aspiring journalist has been assigned to cover the annual Elks Christmas Charity dinner that benefits St. Mark’s Children’s Home. After some research, Gabe decides to turn his story from puff piece to an investigative article on revealing the Santa that has a hidden identity yet brings much joy to the children at this dinner.

Now, I sure do hope you have read Superhero by Easton because it’s awesome and we’re treated to Owen and Jordan being secondary characters in this story. Jordan invites Gabe to Owen’s wrestling match and he begrudgingly accepts. Apparently the idea of skin tight singlets on fit wrestlers wasn’t that appealing… until he sees Mack “The Mountain” McDonall.

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Mack is a 285lb wrestler that’s straight muscle and stirs up an urgent need to learn all about “mountain climbing.” Gotta watch out for that high altitude and proper hand holds/placement. Maybe throw a carabiner in, too. *bites fist*

“That’s not a man, that’s a zip code.”

Yassssss… tell me more.

I was giddy with anticipation for Mack and his ability to pick up huge men off the ground. I was already dreaming about the *ahem* possibilities of someone that big and strong connecting with another man. Except, Mack wasn’t his wrestling persona. Don’t worry, I dig gentle giants too. He was shy, quiet, reserved, smart, and kept his head down to get through school and move on to the next stage. He wasn’t dealt the best hand at life but he is doing his part to make a difference.

Gabe and Mack are officially introduced when Jordan attempts to set them up. It’s all going swell until Mack retreats at Gabe’s mention of investigating Santa’s identity and using it for his article. The night ends quickly but it doesn’t stop Gabe from tracking Mack down. They form a tentative friendship and it slowwwwwly progresses. It grows as much as it can when both men are still tentative and hesitant to take it further. Much of the story shows their developing friendship with some real UST thrown in. An actual relationship doesn’t happen until the last 20% of the book which brought out my *disappointed face*. Gabe and Mack were opposites but likable characters and while I appreciated the foundation they built leading up to that moment when it all changes, I wanted more. More relational connection. More assertive in their wants. More of them together as they transitioned to boyfriends. And yes, I’ll say it, more heat.

One little oddity for me was the integration of Spanish. I’ll warn you that I took Spanish in high school for a few years and only came away with saying “No, I don’t have gum in my mouth” and “can I go to the bathroom.” Clearly, I’m not the expert on it and definitely wasn’t a model student either. However, Gabe embraced his Spanish side but stated that he wasn’t a proficient speaker due to his father not allowing it. Yet, there were many times throughout where Spanish words were thrown in. I have seen this in a few other books but it didn’t seem as forced as it did in this one. Mi Mama, dios, joder, etc., were all thrown in randomly and pulled me out each time. Again, not an expert on language integration and I look forward to some of my fellow reader’s thoughts on the authentic-ness of the placements.

All in all, this was a sugary sweet, low angst, holiday read with a HEA. If that’s what you’re looking for, I’d recommend it.

https://boymeetsboyreviews.blogspot.com

Copy provided for honest review.

Check out S.C. Stephens Latest Release

S.C. Stephens’s THE BEAST WITHIN is available TODAY and paranormal lovers won’t want to miss this one! Be sure to pick up your copy today!

 

About THE BEAST WITHIN

Nika Adams has had a challenging year. She gave her heart to Hunter Evans, only to have him break it. But Nika refuses to give up hope. Not when there’s a chance she can save her true-love—even if she must save him from himself.

Julian Adams finally knows what he wants, and is truly happy. But when he gets mixed up in Nika’s suicide mission to save her wayward boyfriend, he begins to wonder if his dream girl can handle the dangerous life that comes with being an Adams

Add THE BEAST WITHIN to your Goodreads shelf here!

Get your copy of THE BEAST WITHIN now!

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Don’t miss the other books in the Conversion series!

Books in the Conversion series

Conversion / Bloodlines / ‘Til Death / The Next Generation / The Beast Within / Family is Forever

 

About S.C. STEPHENS

S.C. Stephens is a bestselling author who enjoys spending every free moment she has creating stories that are packed with emotion and heavy on romance.

Her debut novel, Thoughtless, an angst-filled love triangle charged with insurmountable passion and the unforgettable Kellan Kyle, took the literary world by storm. Amazed and surprised by the response to the release of Thoughtless in 2009, more stories were quick to follow. Stephens has been writing nonstop ever since.

In addition to writing, Stephens enjoys spending lazy afternoons in the sun reading fabulous novels, loading up her iPod with writer’s block reducing music, heading out the movies and spending quality time with her friends and family. She currently resides in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with her two equally beautiful children.

Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Goodreads

 

Call Me by Your Name

Is giving it Infinite stars a thing?

I hated it.

I absolutely fucking loved it.

My heart broke.

My heart soared.

It broken again…

My heart will never fully be set free from the summer love affair between Elio and Oliver. The obsession and love. The way they talked without words. The way they said nothing which was really everything. It was an epic love. The heart of hearts. It was as pure as it was twisted.

It was captivating.

It was enraging.

The writing was beautiful. Lyrical. It drew me in like a siren call that kept me begging for more. More pretending. More silent talks. More touching. More of anything because that would mean there was something. I wanted to be with them in Italy. They had a summer in paradise while being in “heaven” every day. Together.

The narration was amazing. Armie Hammer brought these men to life and forced me to become even more invested than I already was. The cold shoulders and desperation. The longing and obsession was that much more when I switched to audio.

This was the first time in a while that a book wrecked me and forced me to step back for a couple of days. I try to stay away from books that don’t offer the promise of a HEA/HFN but I had to try this. I’m mad I read it. I’m also SO glad I read it. Thank you to my buddy reader, Cupcake for the moral support.

Definitely recommended.

P.S. Anyone craving some peaches? #Hangry

Wolfsong

5 Stars

Joe. Ox. The Bennetts. Pack.

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I LOVE this book to pieces. I could read it over and over and probably never get bored. Alright, maybe that’s a bit cheesy but my love knows no bounds. I’ve been meaning to do a reread and decided to do an audio “read” instead. This is a super heavy read mixed with much joy, hope, and humor. Joe and Ox just make me happy whether it’s candy canes, and epic, and awesome or walking into walls when Ox’s attractions become fully realized. I love the pure love they have for each other that started in its simplest form and grew into something impossibly beautiful.

I’m not sure why I didn’t write a full review for this when I initially read it but I’ll skip out on that now since there have been some amazing reviews already written.

This was narrated by Kirt Graves. When I listened to the sample, I was hesitant. Sometimes you dig a voice, sometimes you don’t and I didn’t when I heard the sample. I was worried because this is an 18+ hour book and that’s practically marriage proposal level commitment and I almost became a runaway bride. But, I decided to give it a shot because I needed more Joe and Ox in my life and I’m really glad I did. The voice grew on me pretty quickly. The voice of Joe as a young boy is exactly how I imagined it when he first ran into Ox. The sweetness, wonder, and awe of Joe’s feels for Ox came through in this narration. The 18+ hours flew by, I’m practically married to Kirk Graves at this point, and I got to spend time with Joe and Ox. *wink*

In lieu of wedding gifts, the bride and groom(I’ll speak for him) recommend that you listen to the audio. (Yep, can’t hide my crazy)

Obviously recommended.

Fragile Ground

4 Stars

Whew! Color me happy and surprised. This was an enjoyable read plus it’s a debut novel. *Shocked face* It wasn’t perfect but I really liked it.

“Fucking retrograde amnesia.”

Poor Olivier. He wakes up after a car accident with the past two years of his memories gone. He is covered in tattoos, apparently all the way out of the closet, lives on the West coast and there is this guy/roommate that is tending to his every need and he doesn’t understand why.

Auriel is the love of Olivier’s life. But, now he is the guy Olivier doesn’t remember. Their love story, their chemistry, their connection, their romance; all of it’s gone and Auriel is subjected to playing an overcaring roommate while Olivier adjusts to his new life.

It’s a very bumpy and emotional journey as Olivier and Auriel find a way to let each other go and then in turn, find their way back. Auriel’s love for Olivier is beautiful as he tends to Olivier and then gives him what he needs, even when it’s breaking his heart and smashing it to pieces.

“I’m sorry… For forgetting you. For not knowing how to love you.”

Auriel and Olivier walk on fragile ground to get to…well, a place that they can find each other and love again in spite of their circumstances; even if it isn’t the same as it was before. They do find their way to a HEA but I was even more delighted that it wasn’t all wrapped up in a shiny bow.

As I said above, it wasn’t all unicorns and rainbows in this debut. My first little niggle is that we didn’t know much about what happened to Olivier. They didn’t really talk about the accident, it wasn’t mentioned besides an in passing car accident and a couple text messages asking where he was. If I hadn’t read the synopsis, I wouldn’t have understood what actually led to this brain injury until about 20%. Which is fine but I wouldn’t have complained to have a bit more information as the story progressed.

My next issue was more of a something is missing feeling. From Olivier’s letting Auriel go phase to their back together phase, something was missing. Olivier didn’t do much soul searching for someone who had zero memory and the jump in feelings wasn’t fully realized when they were back together so suddenly. I will say that after this coming together, they did work things through and it became much less disjointed.

I really enjoyed this book and will look forward to more from this new author. The writing style was easy to digest and although the amnesia trope has been done many times before, this was interesting and not the status quo. The growth each man made was evident and their connection became believable. Definitely recommended.

“Our experiences, our choices; these are not only demonstrations of who we are… they are the things that make us who we truly are.”

 

Copy provided by author in exchange for honest review.

Juniper Unraveling

Review by Cupcake

3.5 Stars

First, let me get a couple of caveats out of the way. I don’t do zombies. They gross me out and I don’t like them. Though Ragers aren’t labeled as such, that’s what they are. I also don’t like motorcycle men/clubs/whatever. They aren’t my jam. Guess what’s also in this book? I got about 2% in when I figured out what was what and you should’ve seen the look on my face when I realized I’d chosen a %^&%$# zombie book! Fit to be tied, I was. God damn cover being all intriguing and whatnot.

Now, having said all that it’s a miracle I even finished this thing much less enjoyed it, but I did. I didn’t LOVE it, but there’s a lot to like about it, so bear the caveats in mind if you’re at all interested in reading it.

Keri Lake is a new to me author and she has a writing style that draws you in. There were times when I thought the pacing dragged, but the overall story arc was engaging and kept my attention despite the zombies and motorcycles, owing mostly to the strong worldbuilding.

I don’t want to get a whole lot into the plot because of spoiling but I will say the romance reminded me a lot of The Notebook only set in a post-apocalyptic dystopia that’s 14 different kinds of fucked up and you could legit have your face eaten off at any second. But, details. Anyhoo, remember how cute they were when they first meet? They’re always together just hanging out and doing nothing? I had those feels except these two like to bone. I’m not mad about that either. For some reason I liked the first half of the book better than the second half, though I can’t really pinpoint why exactly. However, the heart of the romance is one that should speak to the inner squishy marshmallow of all romance readers.

If there is a weak point in the narrative it’s these characters. They don’t really pop off the page. I didn’t love any of them nor do I feel like I know them like I feel I should. They seem mostly cookie cutter post apocalyptic/trying to survive/general badassery… think Katniss. The rest of the cast is made up of caricaturish villains and an alpha to top all the alphas in all the land and there were any number of alphas. I would’ve liked to have had his POV or maybe just to have understood his mindset better, though.

Let’s talk a minute about the violence, because there is a lot of it. Trigger warnings for off page rape, child abuse/neglect and a whole lot of gross monsters doing gross things. Some of it I thought veered towards gratuitous, but I can’t say that I didn’t get the Danger, Will Robinson! Danger! message and lest you forget I am a delicate flower so, grain of salt. I would caution anyone who is squeamish to know your limitations. Also if you’re a stickler for your protags being upstanding and moral… errrm, this might not be the book for you? Heed the dark tag warning!

The sex is fairly frequent and rough with some breath play. Some of it’s hot, some of it’s fair to middling and none of it changed my life.

What Lake does that spoke to me was subtext. This world she’s created is built on lies and illusions that led me down the yellow brick road to a comparison with contemporary society. She also has great insight into human nature that speaks to an inherent compassion that resonated.

You see the world as it is. I see the world as it isn’t. But what we see individually is molded by our past, our experiences, and our hopes of what’s to come. Always remember that everyone has a story, and you’ll never know hate for another human being as long as you live.

I pray, in time, your generation will heal from our mistakes. Perhaps you’ll come to know the truth that somehow escaped us along the way- there isn’t a vaccine in creation that can cure hatred and indifference to human suffering. They are the most virulent diseases in existence.

Preachy perhaps, but I liked it. These sentiments seem to be fitted into the narrative in organic ways rather than shoehorned in to make a point.

Recommended to zombie, post apocalyptic, dystopian and romance fans. Just watch out for that violence; it’s a killer.

Review copy provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Passionflix Special Announcement

★ ★ ★ PASSIONFLIX SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT ★ ★ ★

Passionflix and New York Times bestselling author Kristen Ashley are thrilled to announce the option of not one, but TWO beloved romance titles! We are over the moon excited to announce THE WILL and THREE WISHES will be coming to Passionflix, a studio and streaming platform dedicated to turning romance novels into movies and series.

Get ready to fall further in love with Josephine and Jake in THE WILL and Nate and Lily in THREE WISHES, coming soon from passionflix.com!

You know you wanna watch…

Subscribe Today!

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Read THE WILL Before You Watch

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2zcttxB
iBooks: http://apple.co/1GrnPor
Nook: http://bit.ly/2ydqOWh

Early in her life, Josephine Malone learned the hard way that there was only one person she could love and trust: her grandmother, Lydia Malone. Out of necessity, unconsciously and very successfully, Josephine donned a disguise to keep all others at bay. She led a globetrotting lifestyle on the fringes of the fashion and music elite, but she kept herself distant.

While Josephine was trotting the globe, retired boxer Jake Spear was living in the same small town as Lydia. There was nothing disguised about Jake. Including the fact he made a habit of making very bad decisions about who to give his love.

But for Josephine and Jake, there was one person who adored them. One person who knew how to lead them to happiness. And one person who was intent on doing it.

Even if she had to do it as her final wish on this earth.

Read THREE WISHES Before You Watch

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2zbQuk5
iBooks: http://apple.co/2n91oBD
Nook: http://bit.ly/2y7pWD1

When Lily Jacobs was born, she inherited Fazire – a genie. Her family had three wishes and they’d only ever used one so Fazire was stuck in the human world. This worked since he’d become a member of the family anyway.

Even with a genie, Lily’s young life wasn’t perfect. To escape the kids making her miserable at school, Lily buried herself in romance novels. One day, when the teasing was just too much, she used one of her wishes. She told Fazire she wanted to find a man like in her books and she made the most complicated wish Fazire had ever heard. Her wished-for man had to be impossibly handsome, virile, fierce, rugged and ruthless (amongst a dozen other things).

He also had to think she was beautiful and he had to love her more than anything in the world.

Nathaniel McAllister wasn’t born to a life where there were such things as genies granting wishes. His life was filled with drugs, crime and neglect. He was running errands for a gangster before he was in his teens and, even though life and hard work led him to wealth and respectability, he always knew, deep down, he was dirty. When Nate met Lily he knew he was no good for her but as virile, fierce, rugged and ruthless as he was, Nate was no match for the pull of sweet, innocent Lily.

Unfortunately, Lily’s wish included that she and her hero go through trials and tribulations to test their love. And Fazire wasn’t only a good genie, he loved Lily – so he gave her exactly what she wanted.

Meet Kristen Ashley

Kristen Ashley was born in Gary, Indiana, USA and nearly killed her mother and herself making it into the world, seeing as she had the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck (already attempting to accessorize and she hadn’t taken her first breath!). Her mother said they took Kristen away, put her Mom back in her room, her mother looked out the window, and Gary was on fire (Dr. King had been assassinated four days before). Kristen’s Mom remembered thinking it was the end of the world. Quite the dramatic beginning.

Nothing’s changed.

Kristen grew up in Brownsburg, Indiana and has lived in Denver, Colorado and the West Country of England. Thus, she’s blessed to have friends and family around the globe. Her family was (is) loopy (to say the least) but loopy is good when you want to write. They all lived together on a very small farm in a small farm town in the heartland. She grew up with Glenn Miller, The Everly Brothers, REO Speedwagon and Whitesnake (and the wardrobes that matched).

Needless to say, growing up in a house full of music, clothes and love was a good way to grow up.

And as she keeps growing, it keeps getting better.

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