ARC Review: Tracking You (Kelly Moran)

“You are no star, Gabby. You’re the sky. The rest of us are just circling your orbit.”

Excuse me while I swoon…

Sometimes you have a feeling that a book will be wonderful. This is one of those occasions for me. From the very beginning, I felt my heart being enchanted by both Gabby and Flynn. I loved these two so f*cking much.

Gabby Cosette is the girl-next-door… she is the good girl that everyone likes to be friends with, but not exactly attracted to her as something more. Gabby longs to have someone who wants her for her, who loves her, who worships her, because she is worth all that.

Flynn O’Grady, the middle of the O’Grady doctor, has been born deaf … so he is used to being invisible. People don’t really know how to engage with the deaf boy, do they? But Gabby has been Flynn’s best friend for over two decades. There isn’t a significant moment in Flynn’s life that he can’t think of not sharing it with Gabby. Because of that, he doesn’t act on his secret attraction on Gabby. Especially because Gabby isn’t romantically interested in him – or so he thinks.

Oh, these two *hugs them tight*. I love friends-to-lovers trope, and I think that Tracking You is this trope being written AMAZINGLY WELL. I believed on the process of Gabby and Flynn moving into something more. They have been in each other’s lives since the forever! I could also believe the conflict. With this trope, usually the argument is “I don’t want to risk the friendship” … and that can be dangerous because it is easy to make it lame and repetitive.

Not here though. I could understand how Flynn thought that he was dragging Gabby down. His life is tightly integrated with Gabby. She is in both his personal and professional life. Does Gabby choose this life because she wants to or simply because she is his friend? That as kindhearted as Gabby is, she wants to make Flynn’s life easier … like she did more than twenty years ago when she demanded to learn sign language to be able to communicate with Flynn.

I LOVED the conflict and the internal arguments that happened between both our heroine and hero. I loved Gabby for being so wonderful, gentle, loving, loyal, and tough in her own way. I loved Flynn for being flawed (not because he is deaf, but because he can’t see what is good for him! Stupid boy). And I loved them together.

This is definitely one of my most favorite romance novels of the year. It has almost everything I want … including the grand gesture that put me all teary eyed. I only wish Ms. Moran adds another chapter or an epilogue just to wrap this one with colorful rainbow tie

Now I cannot wait to read Drake’s story.

RATING: 4.5 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: Tracking You
Author: Kelly Moran
Series: Redwood Ridge, #2
Genre: MF Contemporary Romance
Length: 250 pages
Publisher: Lyrical Shine
Purchase Links: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo
Release Date: May 23, 2017

ARC Review: A Charmed Little Lie (Sharla Lovelace)

I discovered Sharla Lovelace last year, with her Heart of the Storm series. I love her writing style. Which is why, when I saw that she had a new series with Lyrical Press, I jumped for the chance to request the advanced copy.

Lanie Barrett needs a husband. Stat. Apparently her deceased Aunt Ruby makes it a clause in her will that in order for Lanie to inherit the house and the money, Lanie needs to prove that she is blissfully married and must stay with her husband for three months at the house. It’s all because Lanie spun a story about her nuptial to her aunt shortly before she passed away. Enters Nick McKane, a divorcé who needs work and money to send his daughter to college. So Nick agrees to be Lanie’s husband and Lanie promises to share the wealth. Only things get complicated when their fake marriage starts to feel real.

Well, for the most part, A Charmed Little Lie is a delightful read! The story is written solely from Lanie’s first person perspective and she is FUN to be around with. I loved her quips … the humor here fit to my liking. I had so much fun reading how Lanie tried to get out from the deep hole that she dug herself into.

Some of the situations might be a little rom-com cliché, like the way Lanie’s ex (and his wife!) tried to seduce Lanie and Nick away from each other, since they were in it for the money as well … but it resulted in hilarious moments, I couldn’t really complain.

It isn’t perfect though… I wish that Ms. Lovelace explores more about Nick and Lanie “connecting” before acknowledging that they fall in love with one another. Since this book is only from Lanie’s perspective, I felt that Nick was still a mysterious character. I didn’t know much about him apart from him being a divorced father who needed the money … most of what I knew about Nick I got from Lanie’s opinion (and perception) about him. I didn’t really knew what Nick thought of Lanie and when he fell in love with Lanie. It felt a bit one sided…

Having said that, I definitely can say that I was charmed (see what I did there *wink*) and I look forward to reading the next book about Carmen, Lanie’s friend.

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:
 A Charmed Little Lie
Author: Sharla Lovelace
Series: Charmed in Texas, #1
Genre: MF Contemporary Romance
Length: 241 pages
Publisher: Lyrical Shine
Purchase Links: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Google Playstore
Release Date: April 18, 2017

ARC Review: Danced Close (Annabeth Albert)

Kendall is a wedding planner and Todd works at a bakery where Kendall takes his business (PS: The bakery is owned by Vic, the MC of book #2). Todd is a recovering addict so he thinks Kendall is out of his league. While Kendall breaks up with his boyfriend who cannot take on Kendall’s femme-ness and wants him to tone it down; and Todd seems to be the similar type. But they can’t help to be attracted to one another.

When Kendall’s best friend must bows out from dancing class they are both signed up for, and Kendall discovers that Todd is very good at dancing, he asks Todd to be his partner… and maybe to have fun while they’re at it.

Danced Close is the 6th book from Annabeth Albert’s Portland Heat series … and it definitely of of my favorites *beams happily* I think I have a weakness for men dancing together, which is what happened here. I enjoyed their dancing lessons so much.

I LOVED how Kendall and Todd got into the relationship; it filled with just enough angst and tentativeness. Mostly because both Kendall and Todd formed a certain perception about the other. Kendall being a genderqueer who embraces his feminine side is not used to people like Todd willing to follow and give control to him. He thinks Todd is too perfect and maybe Todd only sees him as ‘flavor of the week’.

While Todd has a major case of insecurity, being a recovering addict and not exactly coming out of the dark side without a scar (this part is important, potential readers, probably best that you find out yourself). Todd tends to think that he’s not good enough both professionally (in his job) and personally (with Kendall). It doesn’t help that Kendall keeps saying that they’re just “friends”, like Kendall doesn’t want to have someone like Todd to be his boyfriend.

These young men definitely need to TALK and work things out, to clear out any misconception. Yes, of course there is a moment of “pushing the other one away” but it resolves WONDERFULLY. I smiled widely when it happened.

I definitely liked the part of Kendall’s genderqueer identity — this didn’t feel like “PSA for marginalization” which was one of my major unfavorable opinion of Knit Tight. I didn’t feel like I was being preached upon. Maybe because Todd was so sweet when he asked Kendall about things, so Kendall wasn’t being defensive when he explained.

Since Portland Heat seems to be the series where Annabeth Albert introduces various QUILTBAG identities, I hope that she will write asexual characters in the future. You know a wish from her asexual fan ^^

You’re what I didn’t know I was missing. What I need. Like dancing back in my life and pesto and salad and you

 

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:


9781601836953Title:
 Danced Close
Author: Annabeth Albert
Series: Portland Heat, #6
Genre: MM Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Lyrical Shine
Purchase Links: Amazon US, Barnes & Noble, iTunes
Release Date: March 14, 2017

ARC Review: Wrapped Together (Annabeth Albert)

Well, it was a nice holiday read. It has the formula of a little Grinch, tons of holiday-extravaganza, and some sexy times.

Unfortunately, I had trouble to form an empathy and rooted for the couple. Despite it being said that Hollis and Sawyer have been friends for almost two decades — get this, Hollis and Sawyer are both sets of twins; in fact Hollis’ twin sister is married to Sawyer’s twin brother! — I felt like I didn’t have enough backstory about the two of them. Interspersed between the present day, where Sawyer was trying to coax Hollis into Christmas spirit, were few flashbacks scenes that I ended up wishing for more.

Instead of that, I got quite a number of kinky sex scenes between Hollis and Sawyer before Hollis pushed Sawyer away, then had an epiphany, and bam! HEA … While I know this will please majority of MM readers, it’s not my cup of tea. I don’t mean that I dislike kinky sex. However, I enjoy reading sex scenes more if I’m invested enough with the characters and their romance leading up to those. And I didn’t get that here, not so much.

I want to understand about Hollis more; I want exploration on his introvert self and his crush for Sawyer over the years. I want more of Hollis’ past with that older guy that most definitely screwed him in the head enough for relationship. There is a huge chance that I can see myself so much in Hollis because I am also an introvert; social scene tires me out, I prefer to have small company to celebrate important events. So the fact that I didn’t get any of this made me disappointed a little.

It’s not a bad one, I’m sure that fans of Annabeth Albert will like this. It’s just not one of my favorites coming from her.

RATING: 3 out of 5
3-stars

 

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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:

29536941Title: Wrapped Together
Author: Annabeth Albert
Series: Portland Heat, #5
Genre: MM Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Lyrical Shine
Release Date: December 6, 2016

ARC Review: By Firelight (Janice Maynard)

** SPOILER REVIEW **

By Firelight: 1.5 stars

I rarely gave a book below 2-stars (simply because 2-stars is my benchmark for “dislike”) but MY GOD, this novella just made me want to rant. I’m sorry but this story was ATROCIOUS. I couldn’t find anything good to say about it. The dialog was ridiculously bad. The heroine was supposed to be this murder mystery author but she didn’t have any sense of danger, being trapped in a cabin with a STRANGER. The hero tucked her hair within minutes of meeting, called her with endearments like sweetheart, honey, or baby — she proposed sex, and within 48 hours they were ENGAGED. Oh, and she supposedly didn’t believe in love because her parents of 35-years just got divorce.

WHAT THE HELL IS THIS STORY!?! I was fuming mad after I finished.

Stupid, STUPID romance. HMPH.

Hot Arctic Nights: 2.5 stars

This was slightly better but still not good. The heroine arrived in Alaska, for a job, and she didn’t even research the place?! Seriously, she came to me as incompetent!! It was getting better as the story went, at least there was some relationship development, although everything was also rushed. But then again, this was a novella, so I kinda expected that. Oh, except when Daniel also ended up proposing to Hallie, and then bought the whole B & B as wedding present. WTF? People might think it was romantic, but me, I prefer to be ASKED when it come to BIG present like that!

RATING: 2 out of 5

2

 

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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:
byfirelightTitle: By Firelight
Author: Janice Maynard
Genre: MF Contemporary Romance
Length: 200 pages
Publisher: Lyrical Shine
Release Date: October 11, 2016

ARC Review: Knit Tight (Annabeth Albert)

Knit Tight is the fourth installment in Annabeth Albert’s Portland Heat” series. If you haven’t read the previous books, no worries, each title can be read separately.

Sometimes, it is difficult to completely love a story when it feels unbalanced — e.g. you love one character but dislike the love interest. As in the case with this one. It was easy for me to love Brady the barista whom at relatively young age must takes care of his younger siblings. I found him to be such a nice guy, reliable, and mature.

On the other hand, I couldn’t warm up to Evren. It wasn’t even about his kink (he didn’t like anal or skin on skin sex, too messy) because as an asexual I can relate to not prioritizing sex above all else, penetration or otherwise, but it was more about him keeping Brady on arm’s length. The relationship between the two of them felt one sided.

See, to me, it seemed that Brady is the one yearning enough to get any scraps from Evren. He has to deal with Evren’s ‘rules’ of “no drama, no false problems, no anal” but Evren doesn’t really do anything in return. Sure, yeah, he helps Brady once in a while in terms of taking care the young’uns, but when it comes to the personal part, he doesn’t want to share his problem and just pushes Brady away. At parts where I should feel sympathetic, all I felt was annoyance. Yes, Evren was just too cold and distant for me to root for him.

So the whole progress between Evren’s not trusting Brady in the beginning (Brady is bisexual, Evren is … not happy) to friendship to lovers … and then THAT ending just felt off. Also there were times when I felt like I was being told rather than shown about how Evren and Brady finally connected.

Other things that I wasn’t too fond of was the part about Brady’s bisexuality. This is probably the third book in matter of weeks where I encounter bisexual guys. Two of those books dealing with the gay guy not trusting the bi-guy that they can fully ‘commit’ to one gender. I admit, this might be the huge issue that any bisexuals must face. But the way that it’s written here in the beginning, somehow I feel like I’m being preached upon. When Brady mused “God. Why did I constantly feel like a PSA for bisexual marginalization?“, I wanted to say, yeah, this did sound like a PSA.

I guess I just don’t want keep being reminded blatantly when I read my fiction. I don’t mind books with social issues but I prefer them to be given to me in more subtle and natural kind of way, rather than the character listing out wrong perceptions about one sexuality. I like that I can think about it rather than just nodding in agreement. I guess I assume that M/M readers in general is more open towards the other letters in the LGBTQIA spectrum anyway, disregard whether they want to read each letter’s romance or not.

I’m not disliking this but I’m not mind-blown with it either. So far, book #3 (Delivered Fast) is still my favorite.

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:

25937705Title: Knit Tight
Author: Annabeth Albert
Series: Portland Heat, #4
Genre: MM Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Lyrical Shine
Release Date: April 12, 2016

ARC Review: Treble Maker (Annabeth Albert)

I am going to start with a disclaimer. I love Annabeth Albert’s stories … I enjoy her Portland Heat series and her contribution to this year’s Goodreads M/M Romance “Don’t Read in the Closet” event, Waiting for Clark, is simply one of my favorites and an almost perfect read. So when I saw that she was releasing a full-length novel, and then the book was available in Netgalley, I didn’t think twice. I just requested right away (and was lucky to be approved).

Albert’s writing was good and attainable; I had no problems with it it all. Then there was Cody, one of the main narrators. While he sometimes showed a Diva-esque behavior as he thought of himself as the best and lead singer of Embellish, Cody ended up being quite endearing for me. Cody’s background struggle with his family, his determination to make it on this business, alongside the judgments and sneer from others because of his Goth/Twink/Rainbow/Man-Whore attitude made Cody much rounded character. Yes, Cody pushes Lucas with his flirt and his arguments, but it brought different dimensions of him, and I’m SUCH a sucker for that complexity.

Unfortunately, this book failed me in other levels. It might also had something to do with expectations, and this one didn’t give me what I wanted. Thus, my lack of enjoyment during and after finishing the read. First off, it felt too long. Cody and Lucas going hot and cold for more than 200 pages challenged my patience. Especially when the drama felt childish — then again, these were 20’s years old men, so maybe that was why it was difficult for me to connect? — Seriously, it felt dragging, and I found myself skimming the 1/3rd of the book or so.

Then, we also had the sex content over the story. Okay, so this MAY be just my issue, all right? I don’t see many M/M readers having problem with it. I guess I was expecting the emphasis to be combination of the competitions, how the group was going each week, while having the romance in between. I felt that the competition was pushed WAY back, whereas the parts that related to the competition was actually some of my favorites: like Cody taught Lucas how to dance, how the choreograph the dance, heck, even how they chose the song to sing. Instead this felt like a repetitive sex-lessons for a gay virgin hero, which didn’t work for me at all. I couldn’t care less for the mutual jerk-off sessions, or the push-and-pull about doing it in the bedroom, etc. I wanted the romance and I didn’t get it.

Oh, and everything related to the “conservative way = bad” and “free to do what you want = good” was also not a favorite theme of mine *shrugs*

Bottom line, this is not my favorite from Albert. As always, reading is a personal experience, and I might come to this with different set of perceptions and preferences. I can see this being a favorite for those who love their new adult boys, and their angst. It’s simply not mine.

RATING: 2.5 out of 5
25stars

 

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:
23519651Title: Treble Maker (Perfect Harmony, #1)
Author: Annabeth Albert
Genre: MM Contemporary Romance / New Adult
Word Count: 102,403
Publisher: Lyrical Shine
Release Date: August 4, 2015