ARC Review: Back to You (Chris Scully)

A journalist who comes home to his sleepy hometown after two decades. A second-chance romance with the first boy he ever kissed. And an answer to the mystery of a missing teenage girl that might either make or break the possible future between the two of them

This book is (nearly) perfect for me in every way. It is MY kind of read.

From the moment it opens with Alex driving his car towards his hometown of Alton Pop. 3,200 I was bewitched with Chris Scully’s atmospheric prose. Alex returns home to visit his estranged dying father, after a call from his older sister. But Alex knows, he also going back to Benji Morning, his former best friend. Once Ben was part of Alex’s childhood life, they did everything together. And Ben was also Alex’s first kiss with a boy. Unfortunately, after Alex’s mother packed up their bags and left their father, Alex ceased to continue communication with Ben…

In hindsight, I suppose I could have Googled him, or found him on Facebook like any other long-lost friend, but I was already in motion, driving the extra hour east purely by instinct, as if Benji were my true north and I the needle on a compass.

However as he arrives in Alton, Alex is involved with a mystery involving Ben’s older sister. Twenty years ago, Misty Morning, disappeared without a trace; her case was considered a runaway. But a little over a week before Alex’s arrival, Misty’s car was found near a lake, and Ben’s mother insisted for the police to re-open the case.

The memory of Misty’s white Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme seeped into my brain, coalescing like a slow-developing Polaroid. Calling it a shit-bucket would have been generous.

Back to You is written solely from Alex’s perspective. While Ben’s POV is missing but I wasn’t completely bothered by it. For me, this is basically Alex’s journey. He is the one returning home. He is the one that needs to make peace with his father and his decision to ‘cut-off’ any communication with Ben. In a way that matters Ben’s is the solid one — like Alex said, his true north.

I was as engaged with the answer to the mystery as much as I did with the romance. Scully cleverly throws some red herrings before she reveals what really happened to Misty all those years ago. She skillfully navigates the dysfunctional family dynamic in both Alex and Ben’s family the serves a role to the mystery that both heartbreaking and thought-provoking.

At the same time Scully steadily develops the relationship between Alex and Ben, which is appropriate considering when they left things, the two men were only in a brink of their teenage years. Alex and Ben need to work through the years that they have been separated, to untangle what they are meant to each other then and now.

To me, this is a compelling story. It fulfills my (reading) heart’s desire for a strong plot and characterizations — and not simply leaning on sexual content. I did wish the epilogue to be more of a firm happily ever after decorated with sunshine and rainbows.

I have been a fan of Chris Scully since the very beginning — this is definitely her best yet and my favorite so far.

RATING: 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: Back to You
Author: Chris Scully
Genre: MM Contemporary Romance / Mystery
Word Count: 70,500 words
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Release Date: June 12, 2017

ARC Review: Action (Quinn Anderson)

Action is the second Quinn Anderson’s book I read after her debut last year, Hotline. Unfortunately I have likes and dislikes about this book, and it ends up only within my so-so category…

First off, with having only one perspective, I didn’t feel like I have enough balance. Yes, I loved Pete Grifflow — I loved his babble, I loved his friends, I loved his mom, and honestly Pete’s insecurity issues were a bit endearing (except near the end). BUT I couldn’t say the same about his love interest, Evan Darko. He came off as a bit two dimensional and I always got quickly bored with gorgeous and perfect specimen anyway, which was how Evan was described (at least from Pete’s perspective).

Second, this book is LONG. While I didn’t exactly put it down because I was quite engaged with Pete, but at times I thought that the editor (or Anderson herself) could cut several scenes to make it a bit more effective. And may I say that I really didn’t find Pete’s smoking habit as attractive? Sorry, but I’m not a fan of smoker characters. So having THAT habit written on page annoyed me. Probably would be the scenes I expect to be deleted.

Third, while Pete did experience growth throughout the book, where he gained confidence while being with Evan, but I was not completely happy when even near the end Pete was still a bit in denial about his relationship. Like he wasn’t certain about what Evan saw in him, and he couldn’t even say that Evan was his boyfriend.

ALSO, I wasn’t completely happy with Pete’s decision about whether or not he should be honest about his job as a porn start to his mother.

Having said that, I liked how Anderson sort of “humanized” porn stars. I mean, they like doing what they do. They came to the industry with various reasons and there aren’t any angst, guilt, or humiliation coming from these characters. I also appreciated Anderson’s reaching out to diversity by having a Muslim female character — a friend of Pete — who also kicks ass in my opinion. Sana’s reply to one obnoxious customer at the coffee shop where Pete works his day job is one of my favorite scenes in this book.

In conclusion, I am still going to check out Anderson’s next books. But I hope she steps up her game and gives me a more stellar read than the two books in this Murmur Inc. series.

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:

Title: Action
Author: Quinn Anderson
Series: Murmur Inc. #2
Genre: MM Contemporary Romance
Word Count: 97,000 words
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Release Date: June 5, 2017

ARC Review: A Gathering Storm (Joanna Chambers)

It has been more than a year since I last read anything by Joanna Chambers … so when I saw this one being listed by Riptide at Netgalley, I requested it without any second thought.

Sir Edward “Ward” Fitzwilliam comes to Porthkennack to continue his work — to scientifically experiment and to prove how the plane of spirits can interact with the real world — after his reputation is shattered among fellow scientists in London. In order to do this, Ward needs subjects, and he hopes with his money people in Porthkennack will be willing to participate. Ward doesn’t count on how people distrust him since his work involves electricity.

Nicholas “Nick” Hearn is a land steward to the Roscarrock family. He is a half Romany Gypsy (from his mother’s side) and Ward thinks Nick is perfect for his experiment. At first Nick refuses. However, after a slight misunderstanding — Ward sees Nick with another man; Nick thinks Ward is going to blackmail him upon this knowledge — Nick agrees to become Ward’s subject for a limited time …

Oh how I adore this story. It reminded me again how much I miss Chambers’ writing, characters, and stories ♥. This is a classic opposites-attract, in my humble opinion.

Ward is a scientist but he also comes from privilege, so some things are easy for him (like purchaing the land for his experiments, or offering money to attract the locals). At the same time, he is also sheltered due to a grave illness so Ward is not the most sociable person. For me sometimes he is either too ‘nerdy with his passion towards science (though nothing wrong with that!) or unable to get social cues.

Nick, on the other hand, is a half Gypsy and a bastard. Some people never really let Nick forget about that. He has a complicated relationship with old Godfrey Roscarrock — his employer, landlord, and to an extent, his family after Nick’s father left and his mother died. Nick distrusts Ward on sight and he feels that he is roped into agreement due to blackmail.

But then Nick gets to know more about Ward and vice versa, and how I devoured the progress. I loved their sessions. I loved how they exchanged things about their lives. I loved them together, period.

I also loved reading about them individually, these two men with their different baggage. Ward is still dealing with grief and unable to let his twin brother go, even if he tries to hide it by working on his project. While Nick tries to find a place he calls home as he feels like he never truly belongs in Porthkennack. Even if he loves the land.

I did have slight problem with the pacing. Somewhere in between Ward and Nick building their tentative relationship, to knowing each other better, to acting up on their attractions, to realizing their true feelings for one another … I felt sometimes the pace was off. Especially during the part where they go to Truro to see the séance all the way to the ending. It felt rather rushed for that moment of love declaration.

Still, it ends in a lovely way that made my heart soared *smile*

I think fans of both Joanna Chambers and MM Historical Romance in general will not miss this one, for sure. Next time, Joanna, don’t stay away too long, please?

RATING: 4 out of 5
4stars

 

11613309

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 Gathering Storm
Author: Joanna Chambers
Genre: MM Historical Romance
Word Count: 82,000 words
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Release Date: April 17, 2017

ARC Review: Home Fires (Kate Sherwood)

Home Fires is the final installment of Kate Sherwood’s tetralogy, Common Law – and it is filled with high octane action as the town of Mosely is preparing to defend themselves from the militia fanatics that are going to run down the town to get their friends out of jail. Of course, in the middle of it, is our hero under-sheriff Jericho Crewe who is determined to protect the town, alongside the rest of the Mosely sheriff department, some of citizens, as well as his on-again lover Wade Granger.

Boy, did I LOVE the action part of this book!! Seriously, the moment that Jericho, Kayla, and everyone realize that they are pretty much left alone to defend the town – I was on the edge of my seat!! It is the kind of action-moment that is worth for visual imagery – guns blazing, bullets flying, and of course we have one or two explosions courtesy of Wade.

And boy, Wade is such a badass!! With this series written from Jericho’s perspective, Wade retains a flair of mystery to me as a reader. Much like Jericho, sometimes I wonder if Wade is being genuine or doing his own manipulative way while bending rules here and there to get what he wants. However, there is no doubt in my mind that Wade really does care for Jericho. In this book, Wade has his moment of glory and I loved him for that.

There is a thing or two that I wish has a much ‘concrete’ closure. Now with Jericho is finally ready to be with Wade completely, how are things going with Nikki and the kids? I wish I get a better update on that. I also would like to get a firmer resolution on the corruption case which was introduced in book #1 since it was basically what started everything – in addition to Jericho’s dead father.

In overall this is a SOLID series – and I so loved that epilogue *smile*

 

RATING: 4 out of 5
4stars

 

 

11613309

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:


32790716Title:
 Home Fires
Author: Kate Sherwood
Series: Common Law, #4
Genre: MM Contemporary / Suspense
Word Count: 44,300 words
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Release Date: April 3, 2017

ARC Review: Darkness (Kate Sherwood)

I think knowing that there is book #4 in the horizon sort of helped with my rating this time. I still loved reading about Jericho Crewe, and especially the inevitable sexual tension between him and Wade Granger — I compared Jericho with moth to a fire when it comes to Wade :p — but at times, there are things I wish to be more progressed. This is book #3 after all!!

Probably my biggest issue is with the state of Mosely as the town with problems. We get introduced with the police corruption in book #1. Then the biker wars in book #2. Plus there is a looming militia problem that sort of hanging in the background. With Darkness being the penultimate book, I wanted to see a built-up momentum… a preparation to the climax, that kind of thing.

Unfortunately, I felt like I didn’t really get it. Yes, we had a dead prostitute. Yes, we had a possible innocent man being framed for a murder he didn’t commit. But it didn’t really add anything to the whole federal agents raining down Mosely. Plus the resolution of this particular case was anti-climactic — to the point where I murmured to myself, “That’s it?

I understand that the case became an epiphany for Jericho; him starting to question his moral judgement, wondering whether being in law-enforcement is the right thing when he can condone crime for certain purpose. It’s a good character progress. But still, it slightly frustrated me because in the grand scheme of Mosely and its problem, it didn’t really go anywhere.

Despite that, Darkness is a good installment — what can I say, I admit that I am getting into this because of Jericho and the promise his relationship with Wade. On that front, I was satisfied! Jericho finally accepts that he can’t get away from Wade, despite his ex-best friend / ex-boyfriend being manipulative, skirting between that fine line of breaking the law. THAT part is always delicious to read :).

I can’t wait for the conclusion…

RATING: 4 out of 5
4stars

 

 

11613309

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:

darknessTitle: Darkness
Author: Kate Sherwood
Series: Common Law, #3
Genre: MM Contemporary / Suspense
Word Count: 49,400 words
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Release Date: March 6, 2017

ARC Review: Embers (Kate Sherwood)

Dear, Ms. Sherwood…

May I tell you how I adore your complex characters and how you tell their stories?

From the moment I started the first chapter, I was spellbound with what Jericho Crewe was dealing this time. Three dead bodies found on blazing building of a bar, the federal agents pressuring Mosely Sherriff department, looming biker wars after drug-dealing territory between the local and out-of-town gang, not to mention on-going investigation of corrupted police officers, and taking care of his newfound family, a.k.a stepmother and step siblings.

Then of course, in the middle of it all, the smoldering sexual tension with ex-best friend, ex-childhood lover, Wade Granger…

Embers , the second installment of Common Law tetralogy, was as solid as the first book. Jericho often found himself being pushed from all angles: his boss Kayla, the federal agents, the biker gang (whose leader’s nephew apparently also went to the same school with Jericho), and Wade, who undeniably had his own agenda.

But even if Jericho realized that he might be used and manipulated, I found him still able to push back. Jericho might not be aggressive character, but I still found him resourceful to work around the feds or the biker gang.

I was entertained with how Jericho dealing with his step siblings… especially little Elijah who seemed to be fascinated with guns. Jericho might need help on that front, clearly kids were not his forte *haha*.

I was also happy that Nikki didn’t have too much of page-time this time around. I know that Sherwood’s characters are not rarely black and white. So there might be another layer of Nikki that haven’t been discovered. But it was really hard difficult right now to NOT feel annoyed with her. Nikki was pushing my patience and I hadn’t been able to have enough sympathy for her.

But I have to be honest … it was the relationship with Wade that made me salivating though. Since the narration for this series (so far) came solely from Jericho, Wade stayed as an enigma. It was really delicious reading how Jericho tried to figure Wade out while fighting the attraction.

Jericho and Wade had their KISSES (and a blowjob *wink*) this time, and I would like to think of it as mere foreplay. I couldn’t wait to see the main course. Which was why I wish I have book #3 in my hands right now *whine*.

With how this series is going so far, I think Common Law can easily be one of my favorites of the year…

RATING: 4 out of 5
4stars

 

 

11613309

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:


32790609Title:
 Embers
Author: Kate Sherwood
Series: Common Law, #2
Genre: MM Contemporary / Suspense
Word Count: 51,300 words
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Release Date: February 6, 2017

ARC Review: Rogue Magic (Kit Brisby)

In an alternate universe to our current time, mages are considered threats to human population. They are required to be registered the Department of Occult Supervision and must use a band that suppresses their magic. If not they are considered rogues. Unsanctioned use of magic can result in prison sentence (or even death).

The idea felt familiar to me since I consumed hundreds of Merlin fan-fictions few years back; the ban of magic was one of the recurring theme. In fact I remember one of them had Merlin using a wrist-band like this himself. I didn’t have any problem being immersed with the world-built. The premise wasn’t difficult to understand.

I WOULD love to get some context into it though. Were mages considered threatening since the beginning of time? Or were there a significant event that turned the opinion against them? Like the Salem Witch Hunt? Why would they need to register and use the bands? What happened to mages before the bands were created? Were the laws different between the United States and the rest of the world? And so on…

It also drove me up to the wall when I read about terms that wasn’t explained beforehand. Like CALM bands … what does CALM stand for? My mind kept guessing the meaning (was it “Control and Lessen Magic?” or something?). Or how the character suddenly talked about AMID; only few chapters later, he explained that AMID is “AntiMagic Integrated Defense”. See, I need these things explained, author!

Apart from that I found this book to be appealing. I thought Byron was a great and sympathetic protagonist. He started the journey being unaware about what horrible things his family’s company, Cole Industries, really did to mages. I didn’t think Byron was ignorant, but Byron was “wrapped inside a bubble” by his position as part of the Cole family. Byron didn’t have enough friends who could open his eyes about what the mages were going through

After Byron was saved by Levi, he saw for himself the horrible treatment that Levi received. Only because Levi was an unregistered mage and used magic. Byron realized that everything was not completely black and white. Like I said, I thought Byron was sympathetic character. He had a kind heart. It was easy for me to see why his close friends were willing to fight with him, even if it was dangerous. Heck, even the “enemies”, like Levi’s ex-boyfriend or other mages would help him.

I felt like I didn’t know a lot about Levi, though. While it was also easy to care for Levi — considering that he spent the majority of his time in this book being tortured for his magic, then tried to control his fear and trauma in order to help bring down Cole Industries, so you couldn’t help wanting him to be saved — I still had questions about him. Was he close with his mother? Did all of his family members have magic? Why did he seem to stay away from the mages community? Why did he broke up with Sam? There was still a lot of Levi that I want to know more.

I guess, I couldn’t say that the romance was stellar since I didn’t felt myself rooting for Byron and Levi 110%. Personally, I felt Rogue Magic focuses more on the suspense/action part rather than the romance. But because that part was excellent for me — it kept me on the edge of my seat — this ended up as a satisfying urban fantasy read!!

I will keep eyes on Kit Brisby’s next books for sure!

RATING: 4 out of 5
4stars

 

11613309

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:


32727405Title:
 Rogue Magic
Author: Kit Brisby
Genre: MM Urban Fantasy
Word Count: 81,000 words
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Release Date: January 30, 2017