ARC Review: The Love Song of Sawyer Bell (Avon Gale)

Years before I stumbled into MM romance, I actually adored a number of F/F couple and friendship from TV shows & movies: Xena/Gabrielle, Rachel/Luce (Imagine Me & You is one of my favorite feel-good movies of all time) … I adore Jess and Jules in Bend It Like Beckham (they’re friends but I can imagine they are so much more *laugh*).

BUT I don’t read a lot of F/F romance because I am uncomfortable reading sex scenes description involving two women. I don’t like the words like cunt, pussy, or tits. Heck, I don’t like reading them in M/F too which is why I avoid M/F erotica at all cost. I like reading/seeing F/F kisses and touches but not when they go all the way ‘there’.

Having said that, I’ve started to read F/F romance last year. Not many, just one or two. Then I saw that Avon Gale, one of my favorite authors, is releasing one this month. It makes me curious enough that I requested the ARC for it. After I finished, I can safely say this:

The Love Song of Sawyer Bell is DELIGHTFUL and CHARMING; definitely one of my favorite reads of the year so far!!

In fact, I thought it has ALL the right recipes for a perfect summer movie … indie musicians doing performances on stages, ROAD TRIP(!!!), as well as friendship, sexual discovery, and FALLING IN LOVE. Not only that, people, The Love Song of Sawyer Bell also has a BISEXUAL HEROINE (hell yes!) and one of the band member is an ace.

I adored both Sawyer Bell and Victoria “Vix” Vincent right off the bat. In fact, I think I spent ALL of my time reading the book with smile on my face. These girls are SO ADORABLE together … I felt like my heart is full with joy, and I loved being able to be a spectator on their blooming relationship … from the first kiss, the sex, the jealousy, the (really short) break-up, to the happy ending.

Avon Gale writes these characters in a way that it feels REALISTIC (like this could easily be a portrayal of one of the indie groups out there) and RELATABLE like they also could easily be my friends, albeit “younger” friends, y’know? Never for once I felt this to be over-the-top dramatic. Sawyer’s hating her school or Vix’s concerns about the possibility of dating a band member are both very much grounded. Heck, even the discussion that Sawyer has with her parents regarding the school was so f*cking real to me.

Another thing that works for me is how Avon Gale makes the exploration of the sexual part of their relationship to be FUN. Vix always knows that she is a bisexual, she is open and unapologetic about it. Sawyer, on the other hand, has only acknowledged her attraction to girls: Vix is her first crush. Still, when they finally doing it, it was full of happy moments. One of my favorite scenes is when both Sawyer and Vix visit a sex shop then Sawyer is busy trying a strap-on dildo for her “lesbian lifestyle investment“. *LAUGH GLEEFULLY*

This book is not only about the friendship and the romance though, it is also about reaching for your dreams. Vix is living her dream right from the beginning, playing her music with her own band. Sawyer, on the other hand, might take a little detour before getting there. I could feel both the girls’ passion about their dream in every performance they do, in they way the collaborate together writing notes and lyrics… It was REALLY REALLY GOOD, and why I was dying to see this as a movie somehow.

Do what you love. Take risks. And when something doesn’t work, take a different one. But don’t stop taking them …. Sometimes it takes a while to find your own music, but believe me, it’s so worth it when you do. Otherwise, all you’re playing is notes.

In short, I pretty much LOVED everything about this book … maybe I thought the ending to be a little rushed, and I kind of wanting to read about a slightly grand gesture from Vix… and personally, I still cringed whenever I read those words I didn’t like. However, it’s not a deal breaker. In fact, I’ll be happy to recommend this to ANY of my friends or readers who want to take a dip on new-adult F/F romance. I think it can put a huge smile to your face. I know it did to me.

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: The Love Song of Sawyer Bell
Author: Avon Gale
Series: Tour Dates, #1
Genre: FF New Adult Romance
Word Count: 62,000 words
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Release Date: September 25, 2017

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ARC Review: Her Hometown Girl (Lorelie Brown)

Her Hometown Girl is the third book in Lorelie Brown’s Belladona Ink series. Each book is stand-alone and can be read in no following order. This is the first novel length, though, also features dual narratives for the first time.

Tansy and Cai couldn’t be more different. Twenty-five year old Tansy is a girl from Idaho; she is sweet-natured and tends to be more shy. Thirty-nine year old Cai is a tattoo artist, definitely bolder than Tansy (even if it plays around the butch stereotype in tattoo artists, along with her posture and owning a bike). Tansy runs away from her wedding when she catches her future-bride getting shagged by the caterer’s assistant. She decides to get herself a tattoo and Cai is the one handling her.

One thing for sure, Brown’s writing is beautiful *sigh* And I loved her imperfect characters. Tansy has been in an emotionally abusive relationship with her ex — but I totally loved her for attempting to be braver, to stand up for herself. The part where she challenged Cai when Cai told her that she didn’t look for forever made me want to clap my hands in pride. Personally, I thought Tansy has more intriguing layers. Cai also has a sad backstory but compared to Tansy, I thought Cai is more straight-forward as a character.

I adored their relationship — aside from the one in the spoiler tag below. There were a number of tender moments between the two. Cai totally gets Tansy and doesn’t feel bothered when Tansy gets insecure. She adores Tansy, thinks she is beautiful. I thought Cai was good for Tansy.

“You are brave. It’s why I love you. You’re still soft, that’s what makes all the parts of you. That’s why you’re so amazing.”

I did feel slightly unsure about one thing, namely ** SPOILERS ** the D/s element in this. Yes, it was very interesting to read about D/s that involved two women (of course I read more MF and MM, so my D/s experience always involved men) … but it also felt like coming out of nowhere.

I would be fine if this was simply a hurt/comfort romance. Adding D/s element felt a little bit awkward; especially when Tansy started to call Cai “Daddy”, in opposite of Cai’s endearment to her as “little one”. ALTHOUGH, it contributes to those layers of Tansy that I mentioned above. Because clearly she enjoys it. Tansy can get flirty and rather demanding in her submissive role ** END SPOILERS **

Full confession: I still skipped a lot of the sex scenes. I just can’t read two women doing it physically. I get squeamish with too many girly bits involved. I mean no offense. I skip alot of sex scenes in M/M or M/F too. Please consider my asexuality and more likely sex repulsive in real life, okay?

In overall, it’s another great addition to the series.

By the way, Tansy’s grandmother is so. freaking. cool!! One of the highlights in this book for me was when Nanna told Tansy that she was ** SPOILERS ** bisexual, and would’ve married her first girlfriend if she had the opportunity! ** END SPOILERS **

 

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: Her Hometown Girl
Author: Lorelie Brown
Series: Belladonna Ink, #3
Genre: FF Contemporary Romance
Word Count: 65,000 words
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Release Date: September 4, 2017

ARC Review: The Glamour Thieves (Don Allmon)

I was immediately intrigued with the blurb when I saw this being listed at Netgalley. First, ORC! Yep, orc and elf. While I read a number of urban fantasy books with elves, I don’t think I’ve read many with orcs as main character and protagonists. Second, the allusion that JT and Austin had history previously. Second-chance romance will always be a favorite trope of mine. I wanted to know why it didn’t work between them before and how would JT and Austin found a way back to each other again.

Unfortunately, I had trouble when I tried to figure out the universe of this novel. One important thing when it comes to urban fantasy books for me is the ability for the author to introduce the world so I can easily understand what is happening. In here, I felt that the particular aspect didn’t flow as smoothly as I wanted.

There were references to previous events or other characters that were not known to me as a reader. I also didn’t understand how Austin’s glamour really works — did it also influence feeling?? So I was quite confused with many things: the players, the events, the technologies, the magical power!! It wasn’t really fun reading experience.

HOWEVER, I was excited with a number of things. There were times the emotional conflict between JT and Austin felt strong, I wanted them to work things out. Although their background didn’t feel flesh out enough, I was quite invested with JT and Austin’s relationship. I was a bit disappointed that the ending felt more like HFN, though.

Conclusion:
Some things excited me. Some things confused me. All in all, I felt rather indifferent. But it wasn’t bad enough for me to say that I disliked it. Thus the rounded-up ‘just okay‘ rating of mine. Not sure if it’s enough for me to check out the sequel … I just have to wait and see.

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: The Glamour Thieves
Author: Don Allmon
Series: Blue Unicorn #1
Genre: MM Fantasy / Sci-Fi
Word Count: 46,800 words
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Release Date: August 28, 2017

ARC Review: Suspicious Behavior (L.A. Witt & Cari Z)

Suspicious Behavior is the follow-up for Risky Behavior, which was released in May 2017. If the first book plays rather heavily on the procedural/mystery while at the same time developing the romance between Andreas and Darren, this book is more about the consequences of Andreas and Darren shaking up the department (and the city) while navigating their status as something more than professional partners.

Andreas and Darren are basically pariahs at their precinct now. No one wants to work with them because they are considered traitors. Cops don’t rat out other cops. Both men resort to take a case from other precinct; cases that might link to a serial killer that has never been caught.

Urgh, I wanted to smack down the other detectives who make it difficult for Andreas and Darren to do their job. Fuc*king a$$holes! I really don’t get the whole “blue bloods” loyalty thing. Those cops exposed are dirty, damn it! Or maybe I’m never really do well with authority who abuses their power :p.

As for Andreas and Darren, I loved that they were solid, despite the problems from work or Darren’s family (as in his brother’s declining health). I think this time the spotlight falls on Darren. He is dealing with the possibility of carrying the same early-onset Alzheimer’s gene as his brother. Darren worries about that, and he worries that he cannot do his job well.

Previously Andreas is the difficult one, the jackass who doesn’t play nice with his partners. In here though, Andreas accepts his relationship with Darren. He … mellows a bit, I think. Repeatedly Andreas says that he wants to help Darren deal with both physical stress and emotional stress. He also comes forward about his health and relationship status with his daughter.

I definitely enjoyed the change!

The mystery is not as heavy as the first book; we find out who the bad guy is about halfway. I don’t mind though, I enjoyed the change towards more personal plot. Plus reading about Andreas’ interaction with his youngest daughter was ADORABLE!

So another satisfying read for me — too bad I have to wait until next year to read book #3 (damn it!). I mean the BLURB!! It promises intense action!!

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:

Title: Permanent Ink
Author: L.A. Witt & Cari Z
Series: Bad Behavior #2
Genre: MM Contemporary / Mystery Romance
Word Count: 74,700 words
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Release Date: August 21, 2017

ARC Review: Permanent Ink (Avon Gale & Piper Vaughn)

I am a fan of both Avon Gale and Piper Vaughn so I was really excited to read this collaboration from both of them. BOY this one was good! I LOVED it.

First thing first… maybe I was in the right mood for this book because I enjoyed the daddy kink! It was a kink that I usually avoid, but somehow in here it worked well. Probably because both men owned it! Or probably, like my friend said, “It’s your hormones talking” *laugh*. In fact I vehemently wished that there were more spanking, paddling, and gagging the boy involved… and I was rather bummed that it didn’t happen *pout*.

I know, SHOCKING, coming from me

What I loved the most about Permanent Ink was the complex characters. We have Poe, a 23-year-old brat who loves his graffiti art and probably gives his dad, Landon, a lot grey hairs with his attitude. Then we have Jericho, a 40-year-old tattoo artist and owner of a tattoo shop who also a good friend of Landon. When Poe is arrested once again for vandalism, Jericho offers a job via Landon to help Poe to pay his dad for the lawyer’s fee. It t is a way for Jericho to “pay it forward” because a long time ago, someone gave Jericho a second chance to get his life in line.

I loved that the slow burn — Poe IS the son of Jericho’s best friend, so it’s complicated — but boy the chemistry and tension sparkled between these two. It wasn’t just the romance though, there was personal development too, which for me was VERY important. Poe matured up as the story went along. He realized the importance of tattoo and different kind of art. He became respectful towards Jericho. In short, he GREW up. While Jericho learned a different way to appreciate art and life (“You remind me that life is like art. It isn’t static“); I guess being with Poe made Jericho wanted more of what he was content with.

Another thing that I loved was the description and appreciation of TATTOO ART. I don’t have tattoos but I could feel how this was important for both authors. It became an extra character, I think, in this book

The only thing that I wish to be more present is the relationship outside the tattoo shop. I want to see how Jericho and Landon connect outside of the art. Because I believe that is also important for a long-lasting relationship, right? Oh and also, what’s up with dangling the readers with paddle gift and NOT write in on page, authors?!

As a reader, for me, one of the signs of great writing collaboration is when the two authors can mesh their style seamlessly that I can forget that actually two minds are involved in creating the book. In that point, I thought Permanent Ink delivered. I didn’t know which author wrote which character and I didn’t really care. This book has deliciously sexy romance with two characters I genuinely care about. I cannot wait for the next book in this series — or for more collaboration between Gale and Vaughn!

 

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:

Title: Permanent Ink
Author: Avon Gale, Piper Vaughn
Genre: MM Contemporary Romance
Word Count: 67,800 words
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Release Date: August 7, 2017

ARC Review: House of Cards (Garrett Leigh)

I admit that I have only read two books by Garrett Leigh and I tend to avoid her works because I am worry about the level of angst. Well, I am satisfied to say that in House of Cards , the fourth entry to the Porthkennack series, Garrett Leigh successfully balances the angst, the drama, and the hopefulness between the two main characters.

Yes, it started with Calum Hardy being down on his luck, losing his place of work and money, with practically no place to go and nothing owned thanks to his bastard cheating of a boyfriend. While Brix Lusmoore has secrets of his own, one that he has been carried along as personal baggage for the past four years.

However, it never gets to the point where I thought the angst was written ‘for the sake of angst alone, you know? It is somber, probably supported by the atmospheric location of Porthkennack, but at the same time it also feels earnest. This town simply becomes sanctuary where all these characters belong.

I loved the slow burn (and oh, how it SLOWLY burns with low level of steam as well! *heart feels content*) romance between Calum and Brix. Although they know each other from a decade ago, that they are friends, but it takes time for both to acknowledge their feelings and to act on it. I loved the contemplative conversations that Calum and Brix have as they slowly learn about one another that didn’t happen the years before.

I loved the connectedness between Calum, Brix, and the rest of the ‘strays’ that Brix collected as part of his tattoo shop crews. Each of them has their own story to tell, although Lee, who steadfastly becomes Calum’s best friend, is the only one with a solid background.

And gosh how I loved the good-for-cuddling hens and the cantankerous cats *laugh*

“There’s a home by the sea for any emmet who’s got the heart for it. My nan taught me that.”
“Did she? What do you think she’d say about my heart, eh?”
“That it was made for mine.”

All in all, for me, House of Cards is a wistful, quiet, and at its core — I think — a very romantic story.

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: House of Cards
Author: Garrett Leigh
Genre: MM Contemporary Romance
Word Count: 66,000 words
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Release Date: July 17, 2017

ARC Review: The Other Five Percent (Quinn Anderson)

Okay, let me get the positive things about The Other Five Percent first. I LOVE Quinn Anderson’s writing. I really do. That is probably why, even if I haven’t been completely satisfied with her previous books (and this one) I still want to read the future releases. Her writing just clicks with me and I love her humor. Logan’s narrations — especially in the first two chapters — makes me chuckling in delight.

He looked down and wiggled his toes, watching the calfskin bulge. They’d cost almost as much as his suit, but his boss was always telling him, “The shoes make the man.”

I guess that makes me a baby cow.

I also like Logan’s co-worker and his two sisters. They are fun to read

Logan started to protest, but she’d already ducked into her cubicle. To his chagrin, she shouted over the wall, “No buts, mister! If I see you back in this office before one thirty, I’ll …” There was a pause. “Um.”

A male voice sounded from the other cubicle. “Steal all of his pens?”

“Thank you, Anderson,” Jennifer called back.

Unfortunately, I really am not sure about Logan. So Logan runs into his *best friend* Ellis after four years, whom Logan is very close with in college, the one Logas has “sexual experimentation with a man” with, and the one behind Logan’s joke of “I’m ninety-five percent straight” (because the other five percent is basically Ellis) … and Logan claims he cannot REMEMBER how he ends their friendship?

Come on!!! Not with the level of closeness that they shared in college. No way!! not when Logan claims that he “worshipped” Ellis back in college and even his sisters said that Ellis was all that Logan talked about back then.

I also don’t understand Logan’s denial about his sexuality — he is never bullied for liking boys, his sisters are cool, and Logan himself think that his parents can accept it if he’s not straight, so where does his root of denial comes from? I think the whole straight and bisexuality theme here isn’t being fully explored. Logan’s acceptance of his bisexuality is too abrupt. Being an asexual myself, I understand that sexuality can be a spectrum, but since Logan keeps denying that there is possibility that he likes men (or in this case, only Ellis), everything after the revelation is way too fast.

The epilogue is cute … but I want a bridge to get to that point, to make a believer out of me. Sadly I don’t get it…

RATING: 3.5 out of 5
35

 

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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:
The Other Five Percent
Author: Quinn Anderson
Genre: MM Contemporary Romance
Word Count: ~40.000 words
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Release Date: July 10th, 2017