ARC Review: Winter Oranges (Marie Sexton)

Winter Oranges is a lovely romance story doused with magical realism — and of course, what better time to believe in something magical than nearing the holiday, am I right?

Jason Walker purchased a house in a relatively secluded area in the mountainous region of Idaho in order to get away from his life in Hollywood. But he soon finds out that he is not exactly alone in that big house. There is a young man who “haunts” the place. But he is not a ghost though. He is an almost twenty-year-old young man (he would turn 21 in June) born in 1840. His name is Ben. And oh, he lives inside this magical snow globe.

I found Ben to be so very endearing. He has this innocent-like optimism that just brings joy and laughter in every single small things. He is such precious young soul — and for Jason, being with Ben put things into perspective. Yes, Jason is jaded with Hollywood, he doesn’t know whether he wants to continue acting, he feels heartbroken because he thinks that he’s in love with his best friend Dylan and it’s being with one-sided. But here’s a young man who has been trapped inside a globe for 150 years, and can still appreciate little things. Who thinks that watching soap opera and bad horror movies to be his best day ever? Well, it’s easy to fall in love with Ben, and that was what happened with Jason of course.

The only thing that I didn’t like was the sex scenes. I thought they were awkward and somehow disrupted the tender loving flow of the story. It felt a little bit too much for my liking. If I can try to describe how it feels, it will be like seeing this lovely white-ish color painting to be smeared with blotch ugly colors. Maybe it has something to do with my being asexual — or maybe I just tend to like less-to-no sex scenes at all. In any case, that was the one thing that just, well, yanked me out of the story, every single time. Of course that would be a particular case for me, and I’m sure majority of the readers will not find it a problem *smile*

In overall, I thought this to be a typical Marie Sexton. A little bit fluffy, a little bit sappy, a little bit angsty. But it all wrapped up in one good reading experience (and just the right feel for moi).

RATING: 4 out of 5
4stars

 

The ARC is provided by the publisher via Netgalley for an exchange of fair and honest review. No high rating is required for any ARC received.

 

BOOK INFO:

26117781Title: Winter Oranges
Author: Marie Sexton
Genre: MM Fantasy / Contemporary Romance
Word Count: 85,600 words
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Release Date: November 30, 2015

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ARC Review: Jefferson Blythe, Esquire (Josh Lanyon)

2.55 stars rounded up

I love Josh Lanyon (+1). I love road trip romance theme (+1). But new adult contemporary is not my favorite genre of mine (-1). Having said that, considering that this is Lanyon and the promise of the blurb “From Paris to Rome and back again, Jeff and George fall for each other, hard, while quite literally running for their lives” are enough to make me curious to read this. I figure I can try to set aside my feeling of new adult stories (that sometimes I feel too old to enjoy them) and set myself for the ride.

Alas, it’s not exactly satisfactorily for me…

First, the new adult characters. Jefferson is supposed to be 22-years old — but he sounds, well, old. Sure, I believe in old souls, and some people are just mature for their age. However, Jefferson doesn’t feel like ‘new-adult-ish’ to me. Jefferson feels like he is written by someone older who thinks that they know what the 20’s are really thinking but at the same time, still lets their own disapproval about the Millenials seeps through the pages. For example…

In fact, it was kind of beautiful. But…TMI. Right?

Away from computer. Okay. Was the real message TTYL or DND or FOAD?

versus

I brooded over this as I continued to walk through the crowds of people wielding selfie-sticks and cell phones. By the way, it isn’t that I object to the preservation of the moment, the documenting of an experience—I dreamed of being a filmmaker, after all—but were these people actually experiencing anything? Their backs were to the art, to each other even. Was the experience not enough unless others validated it with likes and comments and retweets?

It doesn’t help that George, the supposedly love interest, keep calling Jefferson with, well, Jefferson. I’m very sorry to say that it made him sound old. Because of that, Jefferson doesn’t feel like he has enough character in him.

Second, the road trip/adventure/mystery — like I said, I am all about road-trip romance. Because road trip for me can actually enhance that intimacy moments. But in here, the road-trip/adventure portion also feels half-cooked. Yes, we have Jefferson visiting places, only to be interrupted by the villains as he is interrogated, kidnapped, and threaten. And nope, there’s really no road trip happening BETWEEN Jefferson and George at all. In fact it seems like Jefferson going to one place, George follows, George leaves, Jefferson follows, Jefferson leaves, George follows … rinse and repeat. As for the mystery, it’s supposed to be one of those ‘mistaken identity’ themes, but the villains feel caricaturish (until it becomes slightly ridiculous, because how in the hell they have the resources to track Jefferson?!?), and not very engaging. And I’m sorry that I feel George’s occupation also a little bit over-the-top for new-adult related theme. We do have dead body (dead body count = 1) if that matters to you.

Lastly, the romance — ah, what can I say, it’s meh at best, and uninspiring at the worst. I felt that George and Jefferson have no chemistry. Like something is off between them, even if it turns out that they used to be old friends (and I’m a sucker for reunited couple as well). I usually don’t mind Lanyon’s version of HFN ending, but gosh, I kinda wish that they end up with different love interest all together.

It’s not all lost cause. It still provides Lanyon’s trademark of dry humor. Plus Lanyon is excellent when describing unrequited / internal feelings (I’m a sucker for those). I also liked it when Jefferson meets with a bunch of Californians because THAT feel more relatable — an believable account of someone young on the road trip to foreign country, making friends, going to places together. And I kinda like those quotes from Esquire’s Europe in Style, some of the quotes are full of thoughts I could easily apply on my next solo trip (not necessarily to Europe).

My friend Natasha said in her review that “I had to give this 3 stars (technically 2.5). Giving it 2 felt wrong to me.“. I am going to rip a page out of her books. Technically this is 2.5 stars. I usually rounded things down. But when Lanyon is being excellent, it’s perfect for me so I still cannot exactly put this in my 2-stars rating. You know what, let’s make this 2.55 stars. So I can rounded it up…

RATING: 3 out of 5
3-stars

 

The ARC is provided by the publisher via Netgalley for an exchange of fair and honest review. No high rating is required for any ARC received.

 

BOOK INFO:

25719256Title: Jefferson Blythe, Esquire
Author: Josh Lanyon
Genre: MM New Adult
Word Count: N/A
Publisher: Carina Press (link will be updated later)
Release Date: Nov 16, 2015

ARC Review: Found at the Library (Christi Snow)

This is my first book of Christi Snow, which I found thanks to a status update from a friend. There were some things I really like and things that really annoyed me (and influenced my reading experience). Okay, let’s see … let me start with what I liked from the story.

I thought it started strongly. I loved the beginning — the descriptions of the library with so many books in sight. I mean, this sentence alone — The aroma of paper and ink permeated his senses like nothing else in this world. Being in the midst of all this literary brilliance was honestly his favorite time of the year — made me want to weep. The beauty and joy of being readers *sigh*. Only us could appreciate the aroma of paper and ink, right?

Also the theme of book and reading, and love for books or written text being executed in a different form of art by someone who enjoy books through different means (since Tommy was dyslexic he found his love for books by listening to audiobooks) — that was something I truly appreciated. I liked that Ms. Snow created a thing of a challenge for his character, Mac, in order to see that celebration of books and stories can come in so many ways.

When it comes to character, I did like Mac. Sure, he did something that I thought bordering to creepily stalker-ish in the beginning but I could also see that he was a hopeless case because he liked Tommy. So I was able to forgive this sucker a little bit *lol*. The female characters were also likable; always nice to see women who takes non sense when it comes to the men in their lives.

I enjoyed the secondary plot related to Tommy’s younger brother, Ryder. It provided a kind of angst — a good one, because when it came to angst between Tommy and Mac, I thought it was unnecessary, but I’ll get to that later — in addition to giving a different take on Tommy. I was slightly annoyed with Tommy as a character (which I will explain) but I couldn’t deny his love towards his brother. It helped his case, so to speak.

Now, the things that I didn’t fully enjoyed…

Tommy was a bit too prickly for me, and he also quickly jumped into conclusion, which contributed to the unnecessary separation. I’m NOT a huge fan of Big Misunderstanding theme in romance, and this definitely had one. The whole thing about men don’t talk about things, and the idea of “you should make your move first” grates on my nerves every time. Tommy could easily asked Mac about why he decided to do that with his character (yes, Tommy made a conclusion without even reading Mac’s book). Tommy could also picked up a phone and talk it all out.

I also had big issue regarding the flow. I think about the last third of the story, Ms. Snow decided to include excerpts of Mac’s book (in order for Tommy to understand Mac’s feeling). Not just one but ten installments. It became “a book within a book” and for me it disrupted the flow. It felt like an attempt to add more pages and extend the separation between Tommy and Mac. I found it not effective nor efficient (I ended up skimming this part).

But in conclusion, I still thought this was a good introduction of a new series. I am especially excited when I see the couple for book two, because that sounds like a recipe for great romance story..

RATING: 3 out of 5
3-stars

 

The ARC is provided by the publisher via Netgalley for an exchange of fair and honest review. No high rating is required for any ARC received.

 

BOOK INFO:

26852438Title: Found at the Library (Found, #1)

Author: Christi Snow
Genre: MM Contemporary Romance
Word Count: N/A
Publisher: Self-Published (will update later)
Release Date: Oct 23, 2015

ARC Review: Diamonds (Nash Summers)

When I found out that Nash Summers would be releasing the next story of Maps Wilson, I was excited. Maps was pretty unique as a character. I always pictured him a tad of young Sheldon Cooper. Genius, smart, but can be condescending towards others, socially challenged, and exasperating. But lovable — can be lovable.

In this sequel, Maps is missing Lane (even if he vehemently denies it) because Lane is staying at baseball camp. Maps also needs to find a job because his parents demand it – oh the travesty! So Maps is navigating his life and the feeling he develops for his pale-blonde-haired pear-green eyes gap-tooth baseball boy next-door.

And it was a delight to read. I would actually love to read more about the (horrible) adventures of Maps finding a job. I thought those would be hilarious to read — based on two disasters that Maps getting himself into *haha*. Although I also feel sorry for Maps’ coworkers ^^.

I also wished that Lane would be more present — this is book two after all. I think Lane keeps Maps grounded — he has his way to tone down Maps patronizing behavior. I guess Maps become more tolerable when Lane is around. However, I can’t deny that separation makes heart grows fonder because I think Maps and Lane are stronger this time around, despite Maps’ being his usual drama king. I mean, those sweet words in the end were just perfect …

Lane just smiled. “So, can we be school boyfriends too?”
Maps nodded. “Yep. And baseball game boyfriends.”
“And science boyfriends.”
“And cyborg boyfriends, one day.”
“Hopefully one day soon. Cyborgs are cool.”
“But mostly hand-holding boyfriends. Those are the most important kind.”
“Obviously.”

Oh, I liked the addition of a new secondary character here, Perry. I meant, he was a good addition plus he helps making things right for Maps and Lane. Besides, I thought that Maps’ circle of friends could grow other than Lane and Benji. Of course, those people might have to be able to deal with Maps, uhm, quirkiness… but it would be lovely, right?

RATING: 4 out of 5
4stars

The ARC is generously provided by the author. She said no need for review, but I gave one anyway. I solemnly swear that this is a fair and honest review. No high rating is required for any ARC received.

BOOK INFO:
25860843Title: Diamonds
Author: Nash Summers
Genre: Young Adult
Word Count: 21,600
Publisher: Self-Published (ARe link)
Release Date: October 16, 2015

Queer Romance Month — And Why Queer Stories Matter to Me

 

Queer Romance Month, is a month-long celebration of romance across the LGBTQIA spectrum. There will be posts from authors, writers, bloggers, and discussion with readers as well. It’s a reminder that LOVE is not a subgenre — and it’s a way to celebrate QUEER (and all of its spectrum) romance. 

The theme for this year is “We All Need Stories” … and suddenly, I want to say something about it too. Because yes, WE all need stories. 

Last year, around the same time, I wrote a guest post over at Boys in Our Books; basically my “limited” coming out online of being an asexual and how I even arrived to finally acknowledging my asexuality. At that time, I didn’t exactly wrote it for Queer Romance Month event, though I was inspired by it. It has been almost a year since then. I am no longer part of that lovely blog and I have identified myself more firmly as Asexual (rather than Grey-A). I still read a lot of romance, including MM romance (a genre that I discovered about 6-7 years ago). And I feel that I am forever grateful to queer stories because without it, I will never learn about myself.

So let me just write again, why queer romance matters to me…

As an Indonesian, born in a country with Eastern culture, talking about sex in daily life is not something common. I don’t know whether the younger generation of Indonesians are different nowadays, but in my time, there’s no such thing as sex education at school. Sex is something you do privately. You do it with your spouse AFTER you get married. Maybe there are people doing it before marriage — but they don’t really talk about it except probably with very, very close friends. Heck, my mother taught me about handling my period. But having sex? Nope. Nada. Maybe it’s different now, with tons of information can be found just with the tip of your finger on your cellular phone — in which I hope that means the younger generation of Indonesians can learn about various spectrum of sexuality earlier than I did. But for me, learning about my own sexuality doesn’t even possible if not for those queer stories I read.

Queer romance opens my eyes about different spectrum of sexuality — that it is possible for man to love man, woman to love woman, man to love both man and woman, woman to love both woman and man … and for someone to have no sexual attraction all. Because in a culture where not being very sexual is highly acceptable (as in, it’s common if you’re 20 year old something and you’re still a virgin especially if you’re not married yet) — asexuality may as well be an alien from Mars. How do you explain not having sexual attraction to society who don’t really talk about sex, much less differentiating about sexual attraction and sexual drive? Heck, even I need to scour The Asexuality Visibiliy and Education Network to be able to understand more about the differences.

Despite that culture, romance books are (thankfully) visible here. Local bookstores carry romance novels, either translated to Indonesian or in its original language, English. We can also purchase them online. Romance novels has its Indonesian readers and fans. Duly noted, they are heterosexual romance. Because Indonesia is still a predominantly Muslim country and acknowledgment to spectrum other than heterosexuality is still a long way to go. But let’s imagine that in those romance novels, there are queer characters or queer couples … isn’t it a wonderful way to introduce queer sexuality then? Then imagine the possibility of these readers learning about queer romance and further along, learning about their own sexuality.

Imagine … another me.

So keep writing about those queer characters — because who knows, your stories might open the eyes of another non-Western person who love reading romance and find out about queer characters, and discover more about queer romance, and be more tolerant to queer, even realizing his/her  own sexuality. Because like K.J. Charles wrote in The Mary Sue, Queer Romance is a celebration of “reading what you like, writing what you love, and being who you are“. In the meantime, I look forward to reading more posts at QRM.

 

I am not an author so this post is all over the place, I know. Maybe I will write more about things celebrating this month, but don’t expect coherence *LOL*

ARC Review: The Spike (Matthew Iden)

4.25 stars

The fourth book in Iden’s Marty Singer Mysteries opens with action — Marty becomes (one of the) eyewitness of a horrific murder when a woman is pushed in front of a moving train at Waterfront Metro station. The victim’s family then asks Marty to help investigate the case, after the police department can’t give a satisfying answer to the case due to lack of evidence and information. Initially, Marty refuses — until a financial problem makes Marty reconsiders. After taking the case, Marty discovers that the murder is just a tip of the iceberg of a more complex and corrupt system surrounding public housing and renovation projects in Washington D.C….

Well, The Spike is another winner coming from Matthew Iden — I seriously LOVE this series to bits!! While I didn’t think of it as perfect as the previous book, due to an appearance of previous character, whom I still not sure was needed, this book still rocked my socks off for various of reasons.

First of all, the opening. My GOD, that was a very effective first chapter. Imagine yourself an eyewitness of someone being pushed into a moving train! *shudders* I use train to commute from my house to the office every day (here in my hometown, Jakarta), and it’s a scenario that can happen!

Second, the revelation of the corrupt system surrounding the murder — I definitely learned a LOT from this book. From the insane hospital bill (which forces Marty to accept the case) to the complexities of commercial real-estate deals, their brokers, white-shoes firm, investments, up to campaign donations. And I thought Iden writes ALL of this very smoothly. I could understand the explanation easily for a topic that it’s pretty much new to me.

Third, I LOVED the secondary plot of Marty helping his adopted daughter, Amanda, while her workplace dealing with a boyfriend threatening his ex. I didn’t know whether the term “adopted” means that Marty legally adopt Amanda — considering that she’s a female adult already — or just a figure of speech. Whatever it is, the development of Amanda becoming Marty’s daughter is something that made me very happy. Amanda is a very important person in Marty’s life. So Marty’s concerns about Amanda, about what happened at her workplace, including how Marty deals with the problem (which results in a very ass-kicking scene of Marty facing a senator!), are all winning moments for me.

The only plot that I wasn’t sure about — as I mentioned above — was the thing with Julie Atwater. Even now, I still wasn’t really sure if her character (or the idea of Marty wanting to fix things with her) is needed. This is a series which I think will do fine without any hint of romance. I prefer Marty spending time with Amanda or any of his friends — Dods, Bloch, Rhee — rather than the idea of Marty and Julie together again *shrugs*

In any case, I can’t believe I only have one novel and one novella left of Marty Singer mysteries. I’m going to miss Marty until the next book comes along.

RATING: 4.25 out of 5
4stars

 

The book is provided by Thomas & Mercer publishing via Netgalley for an exchange of fair and honest review. No high rating is required for any ARC received.

 

BOOK INFO:

cover73869-mediumTitle: The Spike (A Marty Singer Mystery, #4)
Author: Matthew Iden
Genre: Mystery
Length: 397 pages
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer (Amazon Publishing)
Release Date: December 16, 2014