ARC Review: Off the Ice (Avon Gale & Piper Vaughn)

I am going to say that it’s TWO for TWO for me, when it comes to Avon Gale & Piper Vaughn’s writing partnership, after Permanent Ink. Because I loved this one as well!

Off the Ice is the first book of the new trilogy, Hat Trick, featuring Tristan Holt, a defenseman for Atlanta Venom, and Sebastian Cruz, sociology professor at Georgia State. It has a number of tropes that may attract readers of this genre. Let’s see … student/teacher, age-gap, d/s kink … and well, hockey players!

The two men meet when Tristan enrolls for summer course during his season break and takes Sociology 3201 where Sebastian is the professor. Initially Sebastian — despite his PhD in sociology and his lecture about perceptions, mind you — ends up falling into stereotype trap as he thinks that Tristan is just a jock, who plagiarizes his fellow student’s paper. Boy, I LOVED that scene where Tristan reminds Sebastian about it, takes him down a peg *laugh*. They don’t start dating after the final grade is given though, to avoid breaking the rule.

The main conflict of the book is nothing new, especially if it involves non-straight athletes. Tristan being in the closet, afraid of the repercussion of being an out player, versus Sebastian’s out status and unwillingness to be a secret lover. Having said that, I didn’t think it was angst-heavy. We still have a lot of them being in the state of sexual bliss, outside of Tristan coaxing Sebastian to start paying attention of hockey. Addressing the issue is being kept until later in the book to act as the bridge to deliver the happy ending.

All in all, it’s a great start to introduce readers to the series. I already look forward to reading the upcoming books. I hope the next one is about Ryu, the Venom goalie.

 

RATING: 4 out of 5
4stars

 

The ARC is provided by the authors via A Novel Take PR for an exchange of fair and honest review. No high rating is required for any ARC received.

 

BOOK INFO:

Title: Off the Ice
Author: Avon Gale, Piper Vaughn
Series: Hat Trick, #1
Genre: MM Contemporary Romance
Word Count: 70,900 words
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Release Date: October 30, 2017

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ARC Review: Nobody Rides for Free (Neil S. Plakcy)

Young FBI Special Agent Angus Green is back in this follow-up to Plakcy’s The Next One Will Kill You. After being shot in the line of duty and is forced into working desk job while he recovers, Angus finally gets himself involved in a zombie case: people who are overdosed by synthetic drugs called flakka are acting like mindless zombie, including attacking and gnawing other people’s faces. Early clue about the drug distribution seems to involve underage gay teens being abused by acting in porn movies. This becomes an extra motivation for Angus to solve both cases…

I really, REALLY liked this. I can see how the story might be tedious to some readers since all Angus does are basically doing research and filling paperworks. There are minimal of high-speed car chases or bullets flying all over the place. HOWEVER, I always enjoy procedural (and research is necessary, always!) so I liked reading how Angus working the Internet, interviewing people, and tracing facts to help him find the teens as well as looking for the source of the drugs.

It also helps that Angus is a NICE guy. Brooding lone wolf rebellious type of heroes are fine but there are a LOT of them out there. Sometimes too many, especially in a mystery genre! For me, it’s refreshing to have someone like Angus: young, eager, play to the rules, and not unwilling to work with others.

Also, he comes from a good and loving family. His stepfather and mother are still married and Angus has pretty close relationship with his brother. A detective or agent with too much baggage is overdone? It’s great to read that a not messed-up guy can still do a good investigation. I definitely rooted for Angus all the way through.

There is a slight update on the romance department for Angus, too. No, not a new guy — it’s the same old guy from the previous book, Lester, a bouncer at Eclipse, a gay bar on the outskirts of Wilton Manors. Angus is doing some “growing” up in that part of his life. It put a smile to my face 🙂

I hope Plakcy will have more stories about Angus…

RATING: 4 out of 5
4stars

 

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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:

Title: Nobody Rides For Free
Author: Neil S. Plakcy
Series: Angus Green Series, #2
Genre: Gay Fiction/Mystery
Length: 262 pages
Publisher: Diversion Book
Purchase Links: Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo
Release Date: October 24, 2017

ARC Review: Sightlines (Santino Hassell)

More than any books released this month (October 2017), Sightlines sits on the top of the list. I’ve been dying to read the conclusion of Hassell’s X-Men-like series, especially because I love Chase and Elijah. So when I was offered the chance for advanced reader’s copy, I didn’t think twice to request it.

So, does it deliver to my satisfaction? FUCK YEAH.

Between the three brothers, Chase’s background is the one that draws me the most. Probably one of the most powerful multis with his telepathic and telekinetic power, Chase has been tortured since he was a child by psychic vampire who wants to understand how his DNA works under his own father’s order. His father who wants to breed multitalented psys in order to take over the world.

Elijah is Chase’s only light in the darkness. Even if Chase thinks that Elijah only thinks of him as substitute for his bother, Holden, he cannot stop his heart to fall for Elijah and wants to protect him at all cost.

Based on the blurb (… With Chase playing the role of a tyrant’s second-in-command, and Elijah acting like Chase’s mindless sex toy) I thought there would be more sex scenes in this book! And you know I actually pouted that it wasn’t really. Because I actually wouldn’t mind to read Chase and Elijah going down and dirty *grin*. So yes, I wished there were more of Chase and Elijah time together … because #ChaseElijahFTW!

But for the rest??

Sure, the bad things that happened (the torture, the brainwashing, the assault) are not easy to read (or to imagine); however, at the same time is quite a page-turner due to the danger and risks that follow our rag-tag band of freaks to dismantle the Farm and makes a permanent change in the Community leadership.

I admit, I think the climax needs more superpower clashing or guns blazing — something at the level of destruction of X-Men: The Last Stand though. Also the deaths of a number of main villains here are a little too easy. Guess I can be blood-thirsty woman *lol*

Sightlines is an exhilarating read — the best and my favorite of the series. And despite the slightly lacking of Chase/Elijah moments … the ending is sweet, hopeful, and manages to make my heart feels warm and fuzzy. An excellent ending, Mr. Hassell.

RATING: 4.25 out of 5
4stars

 

The ARC is provided by the author via A Novel Take PR for an exchange of fair and honest review. No high rating is required for any ARC received.

 

BOOK INFO:

Title: Sightlines
Author: Santino Hassell
Series: Community, #3
Genre: MM Paranormal/Fantasy/Suspense
Word Count: 68,000 words
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Release Date: October 9, 2017

ARC Review: Once a Charmer (Sharla Lovelace)

Allie Greene and Sebastian “Bash” Anderson are the BEST of friends. They have been in each other’s lives for years — with Bash also pretty much becoming a father figure to Allie’s daughter. They haven’t really crossed the line though, the fine line between friends and lovers. Until that kiss, the kiss that Allie gave Bash few months ago when she thought that he was shot. Now Allie’s nights are bombarded with sexy things that Bash does to her…

I think, compared to the previous two books, this is the first time I’m being quite comfortable with the story written from the heroine’s first person perspective. With A Charmed Little Lie (book #1) and Lucky Charmed (book #2) I missed the heroes’s thoughts. I wanted to understand how they fell for the heroines. Especially because Nick was a stranger to Lanie, while Sully was Carmen’s ‘one who got away’.

In here, I felt like I didn’t need Bash’s perspective. I KNOW without a doubt that Bash always loves Allie. He has been Allie’s person for years, the one who keeps Allie’s secret, the one who Allie turns to during times of need, the one who knows Allie inside out. The ball is pretty much in Allie’s court, so to speak. Allie, who is now dealing with a teenage daughter, a father with ailing health, and news that she might lose the family diner she’s been managing for the past seven years. It is definitely NOT the time for all sexual repressed feelings towards her best friend to coming like a torrent of rain *laugh*

Allie is probably my favorite heroine of this series so far. Allie becomes a single mother when she is seventeen, her father has a gambling problem and he pretty much gambled their live savings away after her mom died. So she becomes the responsible one. It must not be easy but Allie never gives up. She’s strong, determined, and I admired her so much. I liked how she dealt with her daughter too. Allie can be a tiger Mama but she’s not exactly restraining Angel as well. I thought their relationship as mother and daughter was pretty healthy.

My slight problem with Once a Charmer is in the romantic progress between Allie and Bash. Despite my certainty of Bash’s feeling I thought there were other important things happening in Allie’s life as well (her daughter, the diner) that the romance became slightly pushed in the background. Even if Allie constantly thinking about Bash and the sexy dreams. Which is too bad considering that Bash easily takes the title as “King of Charm” in my eyes. His speech for Allie alone … MAN, hands down, kicks Nick’s or Sully’s asses in the ‘big gesture’ department … I am dying for more Allie and Bash moments.

All in all, Once a Charmer is lovely, heartwarming, and sweet. I love this series and I hope there’s still more tales coming from this small town of Charm, Texas.

RATING: 4 out of 5

 

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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:

Title:
 Once A Charmer
Author: Sharla Lovelace
Series: Charmed in Texas, #3
Genre: MF Contemporary Romance
Length: 271 pages
Publisher: Lyrical Shine
Purchase Links: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes
Release Date: October 17, 2017

ARC Review: Tender with a Twist (Annabeth Albert)

Logan Rosner has been holding back a part of him that he knows is true, that he is a Dom despite his baby-face look and posture. But his only experience of coming to a leather scene in Portland ends up with disaster so he knows better to give it another try, especially in small town like Rainbow Cove. But he dreams to have Alpha men as his sub — men like Curtis Hunt, the reclusive chainsaw wood carver of Rainbow Cove.

Curtis Hunt lost the love of his life a couple of years before. Since then, he slightly withdrew from the world, except for his best friend and mother-in-law. He no longer stays in the house he lived before with his partner, he no longer ride his bike; Curtis wants everything to stay exactly the same. Except that Logan is making his heart beats a little faster, and when he sees what Logan is capable to do, he knows that Logan can be someone to satisfy his needs for pain and submission. Even if Logan doesn’t look like his type.

Tender with a Twist (such clever title, by the way) is definitely one of my most favorites from Annabeth Albert. I loved the theme(s) that this book has: from not judging a person by their look, reaching for your dream, finding the courage to show the world outside the person you know you are inside, as well as holding to new love after losing one…

I loved the progress of Logan and Curtis’ relationship. What starts as “lessons in D/s practice” — Logan’s clever idea, to make Curtis agrees to the sexual arrangement between them — turns into something more as they learn about each other’s dreams and fears. And as a reader who usually prefer less to no sex, I devoured each and every sex scenes in this book. They don’t feel gratuitous to me. They feel like progress.

Everything else also feel justified — including the fears that Curtis has regarding this newfound love he feels about Logan, especially when faced with other people’s judgments.

With Tender with a Twist, Annabeth Albert has proven once again why she is one of my must-read authors.

 

RATING: 4.25 out of 5
4stars

 

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

 

BOOK INFO:


Title:
 Tender with a Twist
Author: Annabeth Albert
Series: Rainbow Cove, #2
Genre: MM Contemporary Romance
Length: 264 pages
Publisher: Self-Published
Purchase Links: Amazon US, Amazon Global
Release Date: October 2, 2017

ARC Review & Giveaway: Strike Up the Band (Sam Burns)

Jake McKenna, guitarist, song writer, and pretty much the brain behind Freddie Mercury Isn’t Dead (or “Fred” for short), just wants to fulfil the band’s contract and for their current tour to be over. Then he can say goodbye to his music career. He doesn’t want to act nice and befriend Brian Mulholland, an ex-boyband member who now is part of the band.

Brian — dubbed “Kitten” by the drummer — on the other hand, wants badly to be in the band. Brian walks away from his previous music career and his toxic mother. Being part of a band like Fred is something he has been dreaming of. For that, Brian will try to win over Jake’s approval, one way or another.

—–

I imagine those who are stricter in the definition of romance might not find this to be romance-y. First thing, the friendship vibe is strong here, since Strike Up the Band deals with how the band moves on after experiencing a devastating loss. It put emphasis on all the band members, although Jake and Brian as the new guy are the spotlight. Another reason is because this book has ZERO heat because Jake is a homoromantic asexual who doesn’t desire sex with his partner.

I have enjoyed this series since book one, but for me Strike Up the Band connects with me the most. For once, it doesn’t have a slightly extravagant plot like the previous two books (no undercover cop or FBI agent here). I felt like the storyline was more grounded. I devoured those parts with all the band members being there for each other and protect one another. Jake, Elsi, Alex, and Brian is a family of choice — a theme I always love to read in my book.

And Brian is so adorable — “Kitten” is so apt for him *lol*. He might be scared with Jake at first, not knowing where he stands with the band. But Brian shows that he has claws. He make Jake sees him for what his worth.

The other reason is more personal. As an asexual reader who also have no desire to have sex in real life, having a character like Jake makes this like finding kindred spirit. I thought the asexual representative is respectful here. Probably because the author is also an asexual, so it’s important for her. The part where Jake finally acknowledged his asexuality, and thought how he was not broken, and most certainly NOT alone, made me a bit teary eyed. I KNOW exactly how Jake feels. I’ve been there too. It feels like a warm blanket, like FINALLY, I can stop thinking that something is wrong with me.

Even as he fell asleep, his mind wouldn’t stop replaying the same thoughts—thoughts he hadn’t had in years. He was not broken, and he was not alone.

And of course I loved Brian for how he approaches the promising future of being in a relationship with Jake. And how refreshing it is to read a story where the couple don’t define the relationship and love simply by having (or not having) sex.

I believe that love can happen without sex. There are more than just sex to make a relationship works, right? Communication, respect, admiration. And really, when you find the people who accept you for who you are, unconditionally, either as your friend, your platonic partner, your romantic partner, your family of choice … without thinking to change you … well, isn’t that one of the greatest kinds of love?

RATING: 4 out of 5

 

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

 

I am giving away one e-copy of any title of your choice from Wilde Love series, gifted via Amazon.
Just click the rafflecopter link to enter

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BOOK INFO:
Title: Strike Up the Band
Author: Sam Burns
Series: Wilde Love, #3
Genre: LGBT/MM Contemporary
Length: 210 pages
Publisher: Self-Published
Purchase Link: Amazon
Release Date: September 27, 2017

ARC Review: An Unsuitable Heir (K.J. Charles)

Mark Braglewicz’s inquiry to look for the missing heir of previously deceased Lord Moreton brings him to Pen and Greta Starling from the Flying Starling trapeze act. Mark is fascinated with Pen — the artist with muscular shoulder and long hair is different compared to other men or women that Mark is involved before. But Mark has a job to do, there is a killer on the loose and dead set on killing people from discovering the Earl of Moreton; even if he has to break Pen’s heart to do it.

Pen Starling doesn’t want to be an earl … he doesn’t want to live as fake and behave as a man just like society dictates it. That is not who Pen is. Being a trapeze artist and lives in the world of performance gives Pen the freedom to be who he is as he chooses to be. But Mark tells him that people are being murdered and he is trapped with decision he doesn’t want to take. Of course, falling for the inquiry agent also brings complication…

We finally get to the final book of K.J. Charles “Sins of the Cities” series. First thing that I need to address: I would like to raise my (imaginary) hat to K.J. Charles for bringing me a genderfluid character in Pen, and his pansexual lover in Mark. I LOVED how Charles wrote these characters; it never felt forced. I loved reading about Pen’s perspectives about his sexual fluidity.

I don’t see why there’s only two choices, as if unless I behave like a man then I must want to be a woman. I’d hate to put on a satin dress every night and have everyone call me she almost as much as you would. Except some nights, now and again, it would be lovely. If I chose.

And Mark adored the hell out of Pen, which was so sweet!!

Aside from the romance, I also enjoyed the answer to all the violence that started with An Unseen Attraction. It was a satisfying conclusion to the mystery — as well as providing the perfect solution to Pen’s status as Earl and his relationship with Mark. The pace of this book seemed to be smoother than the rest. The suspense was added when the killer seemed to follow Pen and Greta as they were hiding at Crowmarsh while the matter of their title is being investigated, and made attempt to kill Pen.

Combined with my liking both Pen and Mark both as individuals and as a couple, all in all An Unsuitable Heir is my favorite book of the trilogy

RATING: 4 out of 5

 

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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:

Title: An Unsuitable Heir
Author: K.J. Charles
Series: Sins of the Cities, #3
Genre: MM Historical Romance
Length: 246 pages
Publisher: Loveswept
Purchase at: Amazon US, Barnes & Noble US, iTunes, Kobo
Release Date: October 3, 2017