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"It is what you read when you don't have to that determines what you will be when you can't help it." - Oscar Wilde

ARC review: Rustic Memory by Nic Starr

Rustic Memory - Nic Starr, Book Cover By Design

Aaaw, I think I really found a new go-to author for books that transport me to my happy place.


After reading Rustic Melody I had this big smile on my face and this sweet goey feeling in my stomach. So I was one happy little cmaper when I received the second series in the series.


And while this story contains some darker and more angsty themes, overall it still was a sweet and light read that brought me back to my happy land with all the love and rainbows. Bite me, on some days I need all the fluff I can get.


This installment though, really starts with a bang. Tyler, running wild with his best friend and lover, witnesses the tragic accident that ends his first boyfriend's life. Fast forward, years later he's still feeling the pain, but in addition to that, he has a whole new set of hurt, loss and loneliness he's bringing home with him to Armindale. Mac McGrath spent his whole life in Armindale, leaving his gangly, akward teenage years (in which he had a huge crush on Tyler) behind, growing up and growing strong, only to discover that his crush on Tyler Samuels might not be as long forgotten as he thought it was.


I really enjoyed their journey together, although I might have wanted a little more exploration of the dark side of things. Tyler's grief and pain are present, no doubt about it. And they still influence all his actions greatly. I guess I could have done with a little more grieving and coping. But then that's problably just me, plus: the loss was not exactly completely fresh. So yeah, that one's on me.


Other than that I didn't connect as much to these two guys than two the MCs in the first book - but again: that's on me.


It's still an engaging, sweet and heart-warming read and I definitely recommend it to everyone who is looking something that warms you up from the inside and makes you smile.




*copy provided by author in exchange for an honest review*

The Blinding Light by Renae Kaye

The Blinding Light - Renae Kaye

I've thought long and hard about writing this review. Mostly because I wasn't sure if I should write a review at all. But then someone *wink-wink-nudge-nudge* reminded me that A) I have a right to say what I feel about a book, and don't have to dwell on it and be angry about it silently and in private; and B) my own personal feelings do matter, simply because they're my own and if something is said/written publicly, it's perfectly alright to say what I think and feel about it in a public way, too. 


That said, this review will be full of my own personal issues and my personal hurt feelings. It will also be a little rant-y and a little rage-y. So you've been warned. I'll try not to spoiler anyone, but still: Read at your own risk. 



Let me start with the things I liked about this one. Renae Kaye can write, there is no doubt about that. I didn't connect as much to the characters as I thought I would, but that wasn't necessarily because of the writing. The basic idea behind the story drew me in, and I was interested in the whole story after reading the blurb. Unfortunately my reading pleasure was seriously spoiled because of some things happening and being said in this book that were unacceptable to me. 


I don't even count the odd fat-shaming comment. Because firstly, the character who said it got his very own lecture shortly after, and secondly, because it wasn't a reoccurring problem. It happened, I didn't like it, I moved on. I have no idea why, in a community of readers and authors coming in all shapes and forms and sizes, we frequently have to deal with shaming people for their outward appearances. But it's the same thing with chauvinism and misogyny. I hate it, I don't understand why it is so freaking common in MM romance, but I also know that many people obviously don't take offense when they stumble upon it in their books. So no, I didn't even took that into account. Much.


But then there was the gem that made me want to puke. 



"Tell me what you want done, and as long as you're paying me and it won't give me AIDS or rabies, I'll clean it."



Woah. You can't be serious. No, really. You CAN'T. BE. SERIOUS! That, right there, is so wrong and so damn hurtful on so many levels, I don't even know where to start! And I don't give a flying fuck if this MC was supposed to be a smart mouth and say inappropriate things and this is meant to show his inability to think before he speaks. THIS is wrong! There is a HUGE difference between being a smartmouth and being a complete and utter asshole! Getting AIDS from cleaning? Really? Comparing it to RABIES? The first time I read this, I was shaking with rage! How dare you? I'm serious, how dare you? I took a break from reading the book, but even after I had time to cool off and read on, this stuck with me. It pretty much ruined the book despite the rest of it mostly being not so bad.


You know why? Because not only did this "statement" piss me off like nobody's business, it also didn't have negative consequences for the MC after he said it. On the contrary. This... thing was supposed to be the reason why the MC got his new job, because it was met with approval by his future employer. And you know what? Screw the smartmouth-thing. The fact that an employer would give a housekeeper a job after he said THAT, is a fucking insult. It's the big "fuck you" to everyone who ever had in any way, kind, form or fashion anything to do with HIV, AIDS, STDs, house cleaning, housekeeping, human beings... Ah, screw it! It was insulting to ME. And I was stark raving mad after reading this paragraph. 


But then I thought, maybe I'm overreacting. In my heart, I knew I really wasn't because how can you overreact when someone hits you with a big load of horse shit like that? But I tried to get past it, I tried to read on. Because despite this one thing, the book wasn't bad so far. Plus, I really liked previous works by Renae Kaye and I thought maybe, just maybe, this book would redeem itself somewhat over time. And maybe it would have.


But then there was the part with Mrs Lee, the Asian housekeeper. 


And I realize that I might have a huge chip on my shoulder where others might just shrug. Because I know that with the shit going down in my country ever day right now, with all the hate and prejudices and sterotypes flying around and poisening every little aspect of my every-day life, my nerves are stretched so very, very thin. On some days I'm exactly one xenophobic comment away from exploding all over my life like a water melon someone threw from a speeding car. So yes, I might be hyperaware, oversensitive, and sometimes overreacting. But the way Mrs Lee was portrayed, the way her accent was described was... I saw other readers calling it "borderline offensive". Which is a very nice way of saying: Hey, the fucking 40s and 50s are calling, they want their anti-Japanese and anti-Asian jokes back! Plus, Mrs Lee might not have spoken English without an accent, but she was the BEST in cleaning the whole house without fault, she was very strict and harsh and had no sense of humor. For a moment I was wondering if I was watching Mrs Kim from the Gilmore Girls exploring a new job. Never mind that Mrs Kim was Korean, and not even she was that cartoonish. 


What it came down to for me was this: Instead of writing this scene with dialogue and plot, the author also could have written: "Mrs Lee is a Chinese housekeeper who can't speak English, but is one hell of a cleaning lady." And that's okay, right? Because the MC liked her and respected her for it? Uhm, no. No. It's not. In the 90s we called that romantic racism. "I love the Chinese, they're always so prim and proper. And so quiet!" "I love Mexicans, they are such hard and dedicated workers, and always eager to proof themselves!" "I love black men, they are fantastic basketball and football players!" "Oh, don't you admire gay men and their fantastic sense of style and fashion?"


No matter how nice that is supposed to sound, no matter how you twist and turn it, no matter how much sugar you throw on it, THAT is racism. A romanticized, so very dangerous kind of racism. It sounds good, so it can't be bad, right? Well, it fucking is and I hate it with a vengeance. And just to be clear, it's exactly one step above "I don't have anything against -insert minority here-, BUT...."


'Nough said. 


What else can I add? The rest of the book was okay, and if the things that bugged me don't bother you, I'm pretty sure this could be a fun read. I couldn't get into it though. I didn't enjoy the family dynamics, mainly because I found them too bizarre, and as a whole, I didn't really connect with the characters. That's on me. Ergo, the ending did nothing but raise my brows so high, they payed my grey hairline a nice, long visit. 


The "arrangement" left me feeling so wrong in all the important places. So, Jake hated the idea of bringing up and supporting yet another unplanned sibling - and rightly so, if you ask me. But then his mother decides - without telling him or his partner - that they would make great parents, so instead of raising the child on her own with the help of Jake and the rest of the gang, they do what? The TAKE the kid and raise it as their own? And that's fine with Jake, because since they put a different label on the baby and now will take care of the little one 24/7, it's all just fine and dandy? What? Man, that felt so fucking wrong. A little like human trafficking. Like this whole problem was about a box of plants, not a human being. And they all found that to be sweet and cute and the HEA they'd all been waiting for? Not in my world, it wasn't.

(show spoiler)


So, no. I couldn't enjoy this book. I didn't like the plot, I didn't connect with the characters, and I was hurt by some of the messages that came across. Sure, I might be overreacting, overinterpreting, overanalyzing. But since it's my review, and my personal feelings, and my personal views, I'll proudly stick with it and give this book one star. Because NO, I didn't like it and Goodreads taught me that if this is the case, I have every right to choose the one-star rating. So I do.


That is all. 


After Midnight by Santino Hassell

After Midnight - Santino Hassell

Holy Crap, this book. This BOOK! I thought I'd find it okay at best. I was so, so wrong! 



"Two decades after war ravaged the nation, one of the last remaining metropolises thrives on a currency of sex, drugs, and lies."



Alright, let's be clear about something. I'm not a big fan of dystopia. I usually have a hard time with post-apocalyptic stories, and I'm also not that big on drugs and assassins. But I loved the original cover of this book, I fell in love with Santino Hassell's writing in Soutphin Boulevard, and then this book was on sale. I had to grab it and try it out. But I was fully prepared to DNF it, or not exactly like, because stories like this one so rarely work for me. And since I never touched Santino Hassell's In the Company of Shadows series, I really read this book as the stand-alone it's intented to be. And holy moly, did I love it!


Gordon Frost is different. I'd go as far as calling him my anti-hero of the year. After he survived the war, orphanages, and life on the streets, he became what was necessary in order to survive. He's taking drugs, he's dealing with drugs and he walks on a very thin line, always hoping that one of the things controlling his life doesn't get him killed. One night, he's assaulted by an assassin who needs a hiding place after a job didn't go exactly as planned. Adam holds him captive in his own flat, on his own bed damnit!, for one night. Adam should kill him - nothing is as bad as keeping witnesses alive - but he doesn't and soon enough, things slowly start to spin out of control. And Gordon starts wondering if this gritty, dark and violent life really is the life he wants to have. Nothing seems to be good enough anymore. Add that to Gordon's smart mouth and his growing backbone, and Adam has his hands full with a witness he should have eliminated a long time ago. 



“Adam: "Perhaps you should get a real job and become a useful member of society."
Gordon: "Perhaps you should shove a pipe up your ass and die of lead poisoning." 



This book surprised the hell out of me. First of all, because I wouldn't say the characters in this book are likeable. Sure, Gordon has a big mouth, and a tendency to ignore every survival instinct once his temper kicks in. I snorted more than once into my coffee, because his snark is funny as hell. But it's not what I would call endearing. Adam was cold and distant, but you could feel the desperation and unhappineess with his life coming off of him in waves. So, I was reading this story about two men who were everything but likeable, approachable or even understandable most of the time. It isn't a classical romance, it's gritty and dark, with some pretty rouch scenes, a very elaborate crime-and-suspense plot with very unexpected twists and turns, and a lot of side-characters I absolutely detested. And I still loved this story to pieces! It drew me in, captured me, amused me, slayed me and put me back together in the end in a way I absolutely didn't see coming. 


I even loved Gordon after a while. Maybe because he is such a typical anti-hero, but with so many redeeming qualities and this vulnerable heart underneath it all. He isn't selfless, he isn't overly brave, he isn't loyal to a fault - at least not in the way that would guaranty his survival. He makes stupid and dangerous decisions, he lets himself be used as a plaything willingly, and all in all, he is one of the most insecure, irrational, bad-tempered and self-destructive MCs I've come across in a long time. And yet, I was shocked how much I cared about him after a little while. I already saw myself wrapping him up in a blanket and singing "Hush little baby, don't you cry" - nobody was more surprised than me about that, believe me.


I even liked Adam, although it took a little more time. He was so evasive and closed-off, but carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders, and still paying for the decisions he made in the past. It almost felt like he was constantly trying to balance out all the conflicting emotions within himself - with self-pity, guilt and regret being the biggest players. 


I never thought that two anti-heroes, two so difficult and deeplay flawed MCs could capture and intrigue me so much, but they absolutely did. This story surprised me, challenged me, tested my patience and tugged on my heart strings. I loved every second of it and then some. 


Highly recommended and one of my favorite reads this year so far.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry - Rachel Joyce

I had this one sitting on my TBR for quite some time. I'm glad I finally picked it up, because it was all worth it in the end. 


"Recently retired, sweet, emotionally numb Harold Fry is jolted out of his passivity by a letter from Queenie Hennessy, an old friend, who he hasn't heard from in twenty years. She has written to say she is in hospice and wanted to say goodbye. Leaving his tense, bitter wife Maureen to her chores, Harold intends a quick walk to the corner mailbox to post his reply but instead, inspired by a chance encounter, he becomes convinced he must deliver his message in person to Queenie--who is 600 miles away--because as long as he keeps walking, Harold believes that Queenie will not die."



This book was so different from all the others I've read over the last year or so. I was very impressed with the writing, because despite my scepticism and fear going in, the book captured me right from the start. I couldn't stop reading, even though I didn't enjoy all parts of the story equally. 


It was Harold who broke my heart pretty much in the first chapter. He was so lost, so uncertain of everything, but then something just snapped in his mind and he HAD to walk the distance to see Queenie. Because if he only belived hard enough, a miracle might happen and Queenie would be cured. He mad eme smile and hurt for him at the same time. His wife Maureen was a different story. I had a harder time with her. Maybe because she didn't always make sense to me on an emotional level. Maybe because I still understood her - she had a very eerie resemblance to someone in my own family. But all in all, these two MCs touched me on a very personal level, one I didn't expect or was always completely comfortable with. But they got under my skin, and once they did, I enjoyed their journey very much. 


Sadly, some parts of the story dragged a little. Especially the happenings involving all of Harold's "followers" and the whole media hype. It was probably not far from a potential reality, but it still annoyed me one moment, then bored me the next. I felt somewhat disconnected at that point.


The last part packed another punch though, and really got to me. So much. It was Harold, again, so beautifully real and human and flawed, who broke my heart and drew me in again. I felt for him, I even felt a little more for Maureen. Their loss and hope slayed me all at once.


All in all, I really liked this story despite the niggles and issues I had with in now and again. I'd recommend it to everyone who likes a well written story about life, love, regrets and loss, combined with a very unusual adventure. 

Kickass Anthology - All proceeds benefit Eric Arvin

Kickass Anthology - Eleanore Pavelle, Tara Bluhm, Angela Irvin-Young, Jackie Keswick, Nancy Hartmann, Jade Crystal, Keira Andrews, Taomi Ray, Sophie Bonaste, J.P. Kenwood, A.L. Boyd, Mia Kerick, Tali Spencer, Kate Pavelle, Michael J.  Bowler, Brandon Witt, Connie Bailey, Jonathan T. Penningt

A collection of some pretty great stories - like a big bag of candy, a little something for everyone - and for one of the best causes I can think of. Buy it, read it, finish it with a smile on your face. That is all.

Sixty Five Hours

Sixty Five Hours (Sixty Five Hours #1) - N.R. Walker

Perfectly developed short story about Cameron and Lucas who habe 65 hours to develop an ad campaign. I loved their ideas, and I enjoyed the hell out of their journey to get it done. And do each other in the process. It was funny, it was sexy and it really touched. If you want to read a perfectly written romantic short story that had it all, READ THIS!




Edit 02/21/16



I'm going to remove my rating. I still think it's a great, quirky, fun book. A sexy office romance, perfectly executed short story.




And I'm sorry and not sorry to say this - things changed. Mostly because a man that rocks my world a time or two per month with his words, pointed something out that hit me where it hurts.



Recap & TMI: A couple of years ago my bae told me he couldn't talk to me about his sexlife anymore because he knew I'd explode all over him and beat him to a bloody pulp with a huge dildo if he did. Why? Because I was an oblivious, judgemental asshole about HIV and AIDS, about condoms, staying safe and most of all, having an opinion on a matter I practically knew nothing about. Talk about major eye-opener. But I tried to learn. I'd like to think I got better over time - nowadays I'm having kittens when I read a scene about one MC telling the other he's "clean". Aw, please go fuck yourself with something salty. I washed my ass this morning too before I went to work. Anyway, I'm getting off track.


The thing is, back then I didn't think twice about what was written in "Sixty Fice Hours". The comments about "Oh my god, I'm turning into a girl!" didn't even touch me (much) anymore. Because they are so common, so frequent in books (not only MM, I'm just used to it. Same goes for the explanations. Most of them are homophobic, mysogynistic, or plain offensive on all fronts. So I don't even want to hear the justifications anymore. I'm a girl, sometimes I cry, I'm not a supermodel and I'm mostly blond, with quite some grey mixed in. I'll always be the butt of many jokes, and making fun of or belittling me and people like me, will always give some people serious feel-good vibes - intended or not. I'm used to it, in books and in the world. So when it happened in this book, I barely cringed. It is what it is.


But then there is this whole issue about HIV/AIDS/safe sex/condoms/hospices. And dang girl! What were you thinking? It's bs-ception. Bullshit in bullshit in bullshit. With a little bullshit on top to make us all feel better. Except for the people affected by this kind of marginalization and hurtful obliviousness. But oh well, what can you say? It's been so long ago and we all didn't know better and yada, yada, yada. Fuck that. We should know better. We should have known better for a long, long time - me included. But we didn't and now we get called out on it. And damn right, we all should be. Including NR Walker and this book. For educational and eye-opening purposes go look at the "beautiful review that got me thinking and maybe weeping a little on the side, because it says it all so wonderfully and better than I ever could.


As one of the people who were oblivious and judgemental without ever questioning my ways, I have no "excuse" for my behavior a couple of years ago. But nowadays I feel differently. I think I'd still enjoy this novella today, because it WAS fun, and quirky, and sexy, and well executed. But then I wouldn't be able to ignore the things 'on the side' and it would definitely spoil the experience for me. So, no rating anymore. Not because I didn't enjoy this book, or don't like NR Walker's books anymore. But because I don't feel comfortable with the five stars anymore, and I wouldn't give less stars without reading the book again. Which is not something I want to do. Because I know myself, I can guess how I would react and it wouldn't make me happy or feel better, it would spoil my day, make me sad and then I still wouldn't know how to write a different review, because I would probably be torn up about it for weeks.


So I'll stick to no stars, an edited version of my first review and then I'll move on.

Source: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1555484296?comment=147886012#comment_147886012

Strong Side by Alison Hendricks

Strong Side - Alison Hendricks

Well, hello my lovely. Where've you been hiding? 


This one came completely out of left field for me. Here I was, waiting for the superbowl and really yearning for a new football story, and suddenly there is this COVER all over my news feed. Athletes, football, difficult past? Hell yeah, sign me up! And this story didn't disappoint. 


Jason, star quarterback with his eyes set on the NFL, is slowely but surely crumbling under the pressure of playing, school and finding some peace. His dad with his high expectations isn't exactly helping the matter, and it isn't like Jason is really friends with any of his teammates. 


Enter Derek, the great walk-on with some hang-ups that prevent him from having a chance at a pro-ball future. Jason likes him, wants to help him and finds a good friend along the way. Except, it doesn't exactly stay that way and soon enough things start to get comlplicated. 


I enjoyed that story so much! It a well done friends-to lovers story, with a lot of coming-of-age and new adult mixed in. It wasn't your typical football/jocks gfy/ofy story and I liked that a lot. The little twists kept me interested and both MCs drew me right in. Some of the solutions might have been a little too easy in my opinion. If the very mixed reactions to the superbowl halftime show showed us one thing, then it's that the NFL (maybe even sports in general) are still one of the most homophobic areas in society. Sometimes it's blatantly obvious, sometimes it's a little more subtle, but all in all, the sports world hasn't come as far as some of us might've hoped after a few of the bravest men came out during their active career.

That said, I was very surprised and somewhat sceptical when Jason seemed to have no problem at all going public with his bisexuality and his relationship with Derek after so little time to think it through. Of course I wish it was that easy, and in that respect this story is a nice fantasy, but although I'm not into romance for the realism, I didn't quite buy this part. It was just a bit too easy. Same goes for Jason's dad. It was nice how he came around so fast, but again, I wasn't exactly convinced.

(show spoiler)


All in all, this was a good story and I see a lot of pontential here. I am definitely looking forward to reading more from this author! But this is also a self-pubbed debut novel. So it has it's issues. When "stakes" are grilled and "wright" is shifted from one foot to the another, I did get pulled out of the story a little. In the end though, I still enjoyed the book very much, so I'll give it 4 stars and a big thumbs up. 

Life in Fusion by Ethan Day

Life in Fusion - Ethan Day

Well, what can I say? I just had to pick it up.



Even after the issues I had with the first book, Sno Ho, it just couldn't not follow up on how Boone and Wade were doing after their holiday fling ended. 


And I am glad I did. 


For one, I felt like it was all a little more settled, a little slower, a little less confusing this time around. There still were some situations that made me cringe, shake my head, and didn't make me laugh as much as it was supposed to. 


The big difference this time was that there weren't any huge WTF-moments with the MCs, nor did I feel like one of the them suddendly got a personality transplant for a couple of minutes. The writing was good and solid, everything flowed nicely and freely. Some of it was pure crack again. Boone is just Boone and will stay Boone forever. I guess, you either like or hate him. There isn't a lot of middle ground really. And Wade - the good Wade - is so sweet, you can't help but forgive him for his awful screw-up in the first book at some point.


What I couldn't get into were the family dynamics. Both parties of in-laws were just too much for me, and way over the top. Especially the interactions with the little kids drove me up the walls. They were... different (?) on a whole new level, sometimes even disturbing or downright awful. The population of Summit City and the busy-bodies were a little better, or maybe I just got used to their special brand of crazy. The new side characters were good though, I actually understoood them most of the time and they did make me laugh more often. Granted, the bis bang and the solution in the end were a little off the rocker, but I expected as much. I was prepared for all-over-the-place crazy and I got exactly that. 


Plus, Ethan Day has a way with the steamy scenes that is just... Phew. Plenty hot, a little dirty and raunchy, but always tender at the same time and with a little naughty cherry on top. 


It was good, I enjoyed it, and I'll probably never forget about it. But it also didn't rock my world to the core. All in all, it was different, sweet and sexy, so I'll give it 3.5 stars and that's that. 

Sno Ho by Ethan Day

Sno Ho - Ethan Day

What the hell did just happen? I can't even... 



What happens to Boone when he winds up dumped on the eve of his one-year anniversary and ends up at a bar having one too many cocktails? Wade Walker.



Uhm. I have no idea where to start. Let's talk about Boone first, since it's his POV we're stuck(?) with. Boone is... different. Freshly dumped, but still staying in the cabin his ex rented for him - and how fucked up is that?! - his wallow in self-pity, rage and alcohol ends in the bed of a stranger. The next morning Boone can't get out of there fast enough.


At this point in time I thought I kind of understood what I was reading. Although Boone was like a firecracker - loud, crazy, all over the place, in your face - he also had a little bit of a human side. The writing was good, it felt natural and had a nice flow to it, and I think, if you are into Ethan Day's kind of humor, this book is pure crack and an amazing read. Unfortunately, my kind of humor is not that kind of humor. I understood the jokes, the snark, the references - but sadly, they missed the mark for me more often than not. It wasn't bad, just not exactly my thing. 


Until Boone meets his stranger again, who turns out to be his skiing instructor Wade Walker. What followed was one of the most messed up "morning/day after" conversation I have ever read. Maybe it was supposed to be funny, maybe it was supposed to lighten the mood or brighten my day, or crank up the crack, but for me it was just... NO. NO! You do NOT brag about fucking a completely wasted stranger - because let's face it, a discussion about consent is ridiculous at this point - and most of all, you do NOT describe a guy you alledgedly find great as a "wet noodle" in bed, or tell him how he really was a warm, tight hole to fuck. EXCUSE ME? 


I have to say, this little gem of a conversation spoiled most of the book for me. I didn't buy the hate-sex, I didn't buy the date, I didn't buy any of it. Not really. Because I couldn't get over the fact that Wade was so hurtful and cruel! Especially because it absolutely didn't fit with his personality - or the personality he had for the rest of the book. 


Boone, too, had his moments. Moments where all I could do was stare in morbid fascination, shake my head and question his (or my) sanity. 


It took ages - at least that's what it felt like to me - before I could take that story seriously again. Which was okay, because it didn't pick up for quite a while. Except maybe for the absolutely over-the-top crazy, out-of-their-minds busy bodies in the town! Like I said, pure crack. Just not exactly my kind of crack. I only got invested in the characters and their relationship in the last 10 percent or so. It was the only time that really made me feel something, made me interested in either of the characters, made me root for these guys. Which was of course when the book ended. Not exactly abruptly, but also not with a HEA, or strong HFN. It was more like a "We might be happy, but we're really not sure. Ask in another year or so." 


All in all, this book confused me, didn't make me laugh as much as it should have, and enraged me at times. I didn't care for the characters until very late in the story, despite the natural flow of the writing and the snark that I usually dig.




It did get me interested in the sequel, so it wasn't all bad. I'll stick to the 2.5 stars, because I absolutely couldn't get over The Conversation. But maybe that was just me. Like I said, if you can get on board with Ethan Day's humor, I think you'll be just fine and adore this book from beginning to end.

Ty Hard by Laura Harner

Ty Hard: Willow Springs Ranch (Volume 1) - Laura Harner

Sadly, only 2 stars for this one from me.



Because honestly, it wasn't for me. The writing was okay, but didn't sweep me off my feet. But the story did have some potential. Tyler, out of the Navy and struggling with PTSD, clearly hasn't accepted his own sexuality and still isn't completely ready to accept himself. Cass one the other hand knows he's gay, he just prefers the casual, 'love 'em and leave 'em' - kind of "relationships". My problems was that I didn't really feel that, though. It's a short book, there wasn't exactly time for slow burn and a lot of UST. These guys pretty much went from insta-lust to some kind of love. Sex wasn't that complicated once Tyler got used to seeing another man's dick - at least he didn't act in a way that convinced me of his internal struggle with his attraction to Cass.


To me, the characters in general remained too flat to really connect with them, especially because the backround stories stayed pretty vague except for one or two key points.


Overall it was a little too much of everything packed into not enough pages. There was the PTSD, the struggle with sexualtity (somewhat), the commitment issues (maybe?), homophobia, violence and a little whodunit mixed in.That one wasn't bad, the revelation surprised me a little, but then it wasn't all explained in a way that left me satisfied or with answers I needed. Instead, the violence and drama felt over the top to me, and didn't fit with the general setting of the story. 


All in all, it was okay, but I had to many niggles and problems with it to give it more than 2 stars. I'm also not exactly interested in the sequel, so I think I'll just give this series a pass and move on.

I finally got around to writing a review for this one.

Wish Come True - Keira Andrews, Amy Jo Cousins, Suki Fleet, Megan Erickson, Anyta Sunday, Kaje Harper, Joanna Chambers

I enjoyed this one very much. Some of the stories were better, others a little weaker, but really good overall!


Plus, this anthology has a fantastic cause! All proceeds will be donated to Lost-N-Found Youth, a nonprofit corporation that works to "take homeless lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youths to age 26 off the street and transition them into more permanent housing."  If that's not a good reason for buying it, I don't know what is. Definitely recommended! 



The Stories



A Very English Christmas by Kiera Andrews 



Isaac and David are tying to build a new life together ouside of their Amish community. But it isn't easy finding their way - and more importantly their own home in a world they don't completely understand yet. 


I liked reading about this two very much. They were just too cute together, their tenderness with each other was heart-warming, and they have one great support system. Plus, their creativity when it came to mistletoes was damn sweet and sexy. 



Mr Perfect's Christmas by Joanna Chambers


Sam's not job wasn't exactly what he was dreaming of. Small town, small law firm, unfamiliar cases and clients. He's feeling more than a little inadequate, and having to attend the firm's Christmas party together with Mr Perfect, the guy he's been trying to replace, doesn't exactly help. Although Nick is really nice to look at, and seems to be trying hard to get on Sam's good side. 


This one was really for me. I loved the enemies-to-lovers with a twist and a little misunderstanding mixed in. It was well written, it was fun, sweet and sexy. I loved it!



A Christmas Ship by Amy Jo Cousins 


Ah, hell yes! This was great! Injured football player Josh has been watching one TV show religiously every Sunday for months, always with his best online friend @princessglitter. On a whim, he decides that enough is enough, and gets on a plane to Miami to finally meet his princess. Well, surprise surprise! Because his princess is Benji, grown up twink  with glitter flip flops and a massage table. 


I love Amy Jo Cousins writing, and this one was no exception. I liked the MCs so much, and the ending made me smile and smile and smile. Even though this one was definitely more dorky and sweet than sexy, I still enjoyed the hell out of it! 



That Thing by Megan Erickson 


When Devin's sister needs his help with a wedding she is planning, he agrees with only a little bit of grumnling. What he didn't expect was to picking up a very grumpy but hot as sin best men from the airport. Sparks fly, trouble is right around the corner and the homophobic wedding guests are already waiting for their chance to attack. 


This one was hot and sexy, but also heartwarming and so enjoyable. I really, really liked it! 



Just Like Heaven by Suki Fleet 


This was sweet, but different. David, unbearably shy and one of the good ones, helps out Jess when a kid is trying to steal the money he made with his guitar on the streets. One boy, painfully shy and introverted, tries his best to bring a smile to the face of another boy with a lot of baggage from too many relationships with bad boys. 


Some of it was a little bit too much for me, and some of it just was too fast, even for a short story. I liked it, but didn't love it.



Not Your Grandfather's Magic by Kaje Harper


Now, for this one you need to keep an open mind. Zeb has been waiting for as long time for his 21st birthday, because that's when he'll come into his own Talent. His father said so. What he didn't see coming was Matt. Socially akward, a little on the clumsy side, and a real ginger. 


All I can say is: Don't overthink the premises too much, because in the end the real magic happens in a way you won't expect going in. I love Kaje Harper's writing, I like the way she spins her stories and lets her characters grow in a natural and fascinating way. This short story was no exception, and while it was heartbreaking in a way, it was also a little magical and full of hope and love. My favorite in this anthology. 



Bottle Boys by Anyta Sunday


I was a little sceptical going into this story. It felt weird to read about a student in Berlin, Germany chilling out in the summer, going on festivals, catching glimpses of a boy he really likes and struggling with his father at the same time. It was just so... close to home and I really wasn't sure about it in the beginning. 


But in the end, it surprised me how much I enjoed it the farther the story progressed. Ben and Sebastian are wonderful team, the side characters were sweet and the more I read about these two boys, the more they grew on me. 




Moment Of Clarity by Karen Stivali

Moment Of Clarity - Karen Stivali
Good lord, the angst. The ANGST! And so much of it is unnecessary as hell. 
The third book in the Moments In Time series finally brings a HEA for Collin and Tanner - or at least a strong HFN. However, the way to get there was... hard. In many ways. And not all of them pleasant. 
Back at college, Collin and Tanner are not only faced with a homophobia and angst to the max, but they also need to find a place to live since their dorm was flooded. After reconnecting with his brother Sean, Collin can stay with him and his daughters in his house. Even Tanner is allowed to come, and they both enjoy the (somewhat) quiet, the relative privacy and the babysitting inbetween. Until the bitch-y and absent mother of the girls, Laura, shows up in all her homophobic and hysterical glory. 
After that nice little meeting, the boys are back on the streets looking for a place to stay. Because Laura is suing Sean for custody and the boys don't want to "damage" Sean's image or destroy his chances of keeping the kids. Which is... yeah, no. What?! That woman abandoned her kids, hasn't been around for weeks and NOW she wants sole custody? Also, in what world would a big brother throw his little brother plus boyfriend out on the streets when he is starting to fight for custody? It was a temporary solution anyway to let the boys stay until they could back to their dorm, and while I am well aware of how fucked up custody cases can get, and how homophobic judges can be, in my opinion there was absolutely NO REASON to throw the boys out immediately and without looking for another place for them to sleep first. It didn't make any sense, and it pissed me off.
So then, in all their desperation, Collin and Tanner try to reconnect somewhat with Wendy (Tanner's former fuck buddy) and maybe stay with her and her roommates. And let me tell you, I couldn't care less about this woman. She's manipulative, she's mean, and one big self-centred bitch most of the time. Even when she was fucking up her friendships for all the wrong reasons, even when her douchebag of a cheating boyfriend finally went a step too far, I couldn't muster up a lot of sympathy for her. And I was even less impressed with how she handled all the drama. I just disliked her way too much. 
The big drama also was too much for me. First you get the homophobic assholes who didn't even get expelled or suspended for criminal property damage - in a freaking college dorm! Then Collin, the martyr, completely looses his shit and is looking in the most unlikely place for help/a place to hide. Which was not only an overused and old plot device, but also didn't make a lick of sense. 
But... I still couldn't stop reading. And I still can't just give the book one or two stars. Because for one, I really enjoyed Karen Stivalis writing style. It was engaging and smooth, and I actually enjoyed the writing as such. And while they aren't flawless, I liked the two MCs and their on-page time together. Tanner and Collin are sweet, sexy, sometimes too cute, sometimes a little heartbreaking, but always likeable as characters. I liked to read about their relationship and I enjoyed the parts of their journey that actually was between the two and the two alone. 
I could have done with a better ending, though. While it wasn't a complete HEA, in other parts it was just too much. Too much of in an "everything is absolutely fine for EVERYONE"-way. I really didn't buy it. And while I know that there is a new book out in the series, I'm not sure I'm going to pick it up. I think I'm just finished with this series for now, no matter who's staring in the next book.

Moment Of Truth by Karen Stivali

Moment of Truth - Karen Stivali

Well, I'm not completely sure about this one and my review might contain mild spoilers.



The first installment was well written, a little sexy and a little sweet, but not exactly my favorite read. I still wanted to know how things would progress between Tanner, the man who screwed his girl right next to the man he claimed to have a crush on, and Collin, a sweet guy coming from a messed up family and not at all comfortable with being out of the closet.


The second installment starts out with Collin and Tanner arriving at a house on Fire Island where they're spending their summer working as waiters. But Collin is not used to being out, while at the same time his insecurities get the best of him now and again, driving him to the kind of ugly jealousy that is never good for any relationship.

The story was well written, the pace was good and I enjoyed Collin and Tanner growing together, getting more intimate with each other and exploring their physical relationship further. The many side characters were a little... tiring at times. They all had a story, they all had their own angst, and some of them just got on my nerves. Because while they all wanted to have "screen time", they also stayed kind of vague and rough around the edges.


What I really didn't like was the jealousy/misunderstanding part. Don't get me wrong, I'm not one of the readers who absolutely hate cheating in a book. Also, what we got here was a very grey area, if you ask me. Not exactly cheating, but not exactly fidelity either. But the way it happened was absolutely not my thing. Not only did we get a "Big Misunderstanding" that was never actually explained, but the whole thing felt forced from beginning to end. Especially because at first I was very happy that Collin found an actual friend on the island - he definitely needed one - but it felt so... "cheapened" after everything was said and done. As if people can't be friends without at least making out once. Didn't like that part at all.


It also says a lot when I start liking the "other man" too much and when I am actually considering for a moment if the two wouldn't make a good couple.

It's all resolved in the end, maybe even a little too easily and with too many rainbows and butterflies. But again, it's "only" a HFN, and not exactly a very strong one.

So I'm a little torn. On the one hand it's well written, with good pace and two likable MCs that had their moments. But then I didn't like the "big drama" and wasn't a huge fan of the ending.


So it was okay, and I was curious if these two would ever get their HEA, but it wasn't enough to bump this up to more than three stars all around.

ARC review: The Law of Attraction by Jay Northcote

The Law of Attraction - Jay Northcote
This was fabulous! Absolutely fabulous and not at all what I expected. 
Granted, the first time I read the blurb, I was a little afraid I'd get a story that had "cliché" written all over it. Alec, successful hotshot lawyer in London has a nice little Friday-night-adventure with a beautiful guy. There is a little spark and a lot of sexy stuff happening, but it all ends rather abruptly the next morning. Nothing unusual so far. 
That is until new intern Ed, very eager and smart, comes to work on monday to impress his new boss and maybe future employers, only to be confronted with the one-night-stand of two nights ago. Who not only send him packing the minute the sun came up, but now also is the very boss he so desperately wanted to make a good first impression on. Just not with his skills in the bedroom. 
Thank god, that's where the cliché story ended and the "real" story began. I enjoyed the journey of these two immensely. Alec, so successful and strong when it comes to his career, has some serious thinking to do when it comes to his private life. Because as much as he wants Ed, he is stuck in the closet behind the closet - has been for a very long time. But Ed, beautiful (and at times maybe a little too perfect) Ed, is not going back into the closet. Not even for a man who makes his heart beat as fast as Alec does. 
I loved how this story surprised me. It was the typical office romance, and then it wasn't. Well written, with twists and turns that kept me interested from the first page to the last, and just fabulous all around. These guys actually TALK, and act accordingly, instead of running circles around each other or hiding behind misunderstandings. And let's not forget the smexy stuff, which was hot as hell, but also tender and raw at times. 
All in all, Jay Northcote wrote a wonderful story, full of integrity, honesty and feelings without being too drawn out or too melodramatic. It just... was. And it made for a wonderful, wonderful read. Definitely recommended. 

*copy provided by the author in exchange for an honest review*

ARC review: Rustic Melody by Nic Starr

Rustic Melody - Nic Starr, Book Cover by Design

Very sweet and sexy comfort read! 



Adam Chambers is a young man on a journey without destination. After a big falling-out with his father about business and their private life, Adam leaves his home, family and job in order to find his own way in life. The problem is, he still has no idea what to do with himself.


Joey is 21 and owns his own bar/hotel/bistro. Not that this ever was his dream choice, but after his father's death and his mother falling ill, he was slightly out of options. Now all he wants is for the pub to pay for itself on the market, set up his mom comfortably with his aunt, and finally start his own life for real.


These two lost boys meet each other at the Tamworth Country Music Festival and immediately feel the Zing! But after Joey's vacation is cut short abruptly, these two have a lot of decisions to make - alone and together. Good thing they can help each other figuring things out. 


This book is a sweet, low-angst comfort read for rainy days or dark moments. Adam and Joey are cute together, but Joey especially stole my heart. He's not perfect, he's not a gym rat, his hair is red, his skin too pale, he has practically no business skills other than interacting with his patrons, but his pride is still alive and kicking. I loved him! And I enjoyed the journey of these two boys very much, especially because there were no fabricated misunderstandings, no artificial shouting matches or silly games. These men talk and listen. Granted, they might be a little slow on the uptake here and there, but they're adorable and sweet doing it, so who cares, really? 


In the beginning I was a little afraid this would be an insta-love kind of story with a very predictable main plot. I'm happy to say that while there is some insta-lust going on here, the development, the sexy and sweet moments and the personal journey of both MCs was well thouhgt out - nothing insta about it. The pace was good, and the writing drew me in right until the end. Was it flawless? By all means, no. There were some "Well, duh?!"-moments, some situations where I wanted to shake both MCs and make their teeth rattle. But it never reduced my enjoyment of the story at any point in time. 


The only niggle I had was the showing vs. the telling. When it came to the side characters, some of them remained a little rough around the edges and pale in comparison to the MCs. Same goes for the main conflict between Adam and his father. It's not that I didn't get the drift, or that there weren't interactions between the two that made it clear how big the rift between the two really is. But I really wished for more on-page action showing it to me. Joey's struggle keeping the bar afloat was handled similarly, although we got more glimpses of how hard he really works in order to survive. In both cases though, while we did get some hints and clues, a lot of it was only told and explained. I just wished for a little more showing here and there. 


But overall, this was a very enjoyable book, perfect for curling up under a warm blanket with some hot coffee and cookies. It certainly got me out of my little reading funk, after some of my other books started to weigh me down with the angst. Definitely recommended! 



*copy provided by the author in exchange for an honest review. Thank you, Nic Starr! 

Excuse my French, but FUCK NO.

Schadenfreude - XIX, 19

Erich Kass has a safe gray life in Berlin until he is arrested
by the Gestapo for kissing another boy.

The Hell he finds in Auschwitz as the property of Dr. Ahren Kaltherzig will destroy everything he thinks he knows
about life and safety.




Never going to touch it. Not with a ten-foot pole. Because the thing is... No.


There are boundaries. I have personal limitations based on my life experiences and my own personal moral code. I worked in Auschwitz as a volunteer. I had the honor of meeting and talking to three survivors for hours. And the blurb of this books alone makes me feel violated on many different levels. And no, I couldn't care less how well it's written, how great the psychological aspect is or how dark fiction is a thing one is allowed to like.

I don't have a problem with dark fiction, although I don't prefer it genre-wise. I also don't have a problem with massive mindfucks. I'm a firm believer in "Whatever floats your boat". However, every time I look at this thing, it comes down to boundaries again. The author could have used literally every scenario on this planet or another. Literally. Make it an alternative universe, tell me you're writing your own history of your own world. Make it a COMPLETE work of fiction. I wouldn't say a thing. But this blurb and the reviews I've read leave me with one very, VERY disturbing impression.

Somebody just wrote a fanfic about Mengele et al. And people are liking it because it's well written.

You might be entitled to your opinion as much as you want, but to me, it's unbelievably wrong on sooo many levels. In a hurtful way that makes me sick to my stomach. You might like it because you build fictional characters in your head with faces you'll never see again and then enjoy the hell out of the dark story. But me?


I'll forever see Häftling 40*** standing right next to me in front of the Todeswand - the Wall of Death - and telling me how he offered himself up to some SS men in order to safe his family. THAT'S what I see when I read this blurb, and absolutely nothing you say can convince me that this work of 'fiction' is somehow okay in any world, in any way, form or fashion.