Christmasvaganza: Sunday Review

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Lately, I’ve been feeling in the mood for something historical. I had a period in my life back in the day, when all I read was historical (M/F) romances and I adored them. These days, I prefer contemporary, but every now and then longing for gentlemen and historical settings flare up in my chest and I want to indulge.

And when I hosted Ruby Moone’s release blitz last week, I found what I was looking for. So here’s my review of The Mistletoe Kiss.

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c7781-coverWidowed bookseller Lawrence Fenton has spent a lonely lifetime hiding who he is. He has convinced himself his feelings for his far too young, gorgeous, but troubled assistant Christy Shaw are nothing more than pride in his protégé and concern for his plight.

Christy’s life involves walking fine lines: one between his mother and his abusive stepfather, one where he must keep his needs hidden, and hardest of all, one where he must keep his feelings for his serious employer to himself.

Lame since birth, Lawrence cannot imagine anyone wanting him, least of all Christy. But when Christy’s life threatens to spiral out of control, Lawrence steps in. Then Christy’s emotions spill over into a kiss under the mistletoe at Christmas. Will Lawrence be able to face the long-buried truth about himself and keep Christy by his side?

There’s a special place in my heart for imperfect heroes. I’m not a super fan of the alpha male, the gruff main character with chiseled abs who likes to pin his man to the wall and have his way with him. I much prefer the normal guy. The flawed guy who manages to steal my heart just by being awesome. Just like Lawrence. Mr. Fenton. He was born with a physical deformity of his hip and leg, and he thinks it makes him unlovable. He’s spent a long time all alone, hiding behind a gruff exterior, and it’s not until Christy comes into his life that it changes.

Christy is a fabulous character full of joy and creativity despite the conditions of his life. His mother is remarried to a drunken idiot, who uses his fists on both Mother and son and takes almost all the money Christy earns in the bookstore and buys booze with it. Christy’s life changed for the better that day when he stepped into Mr. Fenton’s bookstore.

I want to visit that bookstore. I want to sink down into the old chairs (that Christy restored) in front of the fire, and drink a cup of tea and eat one of Christy’s slightly charred biscuits. I want to browse the books and have a conversation with Mrs. Anderton. The bookstore is fabulous and I can imagine it so clearly.

“Spending his days amongst books was his idea of absolute heaven.”

Lawrence and Christy’s story is slow burn, but full of emotion. Both characters are amazing, and I love seeing them be there for each other from the start, even when neither of them knew if the other was gay or not. And maybe that’s why I adore this book so much: I’m a big fan of the small, thoughtful ways to show your love. Like how Christy leaps up the ladders that are difficult for Lawrence because of his hip. Or how Lawrence gives Christy coal or firewood to take home to his mother.

“He waited for him to resist, to pull away, demand to know what his game was…but he melted into him, buried his face in Lawrence’s neck, and let out a shuddering sigh that pierced Lawrence’s parched, lonely heart.”

*swoon*

I loved this book. I mean like I want to scream it from the rooftops-loved it and I’m going to make it my life’s mission to force everyone to buy it. Buy this book! It’s an order! Curl up in your favorite reading spot with a cup of tea (or hot chocolate!) and immerse yourself in Lawrence and Christy’s love story. It’s glorious and you won’t be sorry.

This is definitely a five Christmas tree-read and it ended up on my feelgood, re-read shelf…and I went and bought most of Ruby Moone’s other books at JMS Books 😀

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Christmasvaganza: Sunday Review

christmasvaganza

Today I treat you to three reveiws instead of one, and all of the stories are from this year’s Dreamspinner Press Advent Calendar. I’ve looked forward to reading some of the other stories since I first read their blurbs, and I share three of them with you here today.

Being accepted to the advent calendar was unexpected and a happy event and I want to celebrate it by honoring some of my writer colleagues. Let’s get to it, shall we? 🙂

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three advent calendars

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An Open Window by Rick R. Reed

Two men. One Christmas Eve that changes the courses of both their lives.

Henry’s homeless and only wants a warm place to sleep on the coldest night of the year. A forgotten open window in a darkened house entices Henry inside with the promise of warmth and comfort. He knows it’s wrong, but he promises himself he’ll be out before the owner wakes on Christmas morning. Except he oversleeps and the homeowner, Jim, discovers a bearded stranger sawing logs under his dining room table. When the shock and the drama that ensues dies down, Henry and Jim discover that they might have found, quite unexpectedly, the Christmas miracle they’d both been longing for—love and home

This was a very short story, only twenty-one pages, but it’s still jam-packed with feelings. We’re treated to two scenes from Henry and Jim’s lives: one in the present where they are an established couple and one from the past when they first met.

The love between the men in the scenes taking place in the present leaps off the page and curls itself around my heart, making me feel really great. I love the story of how they met, even if it might be necessary to suspend disbelief to believe it. But that’s why we read in the first place, isn’t it? To get away from the bleak reality even for a short time, and I’m all aboard with that idea.

I really would have loved seeing how the two men fell in love, so I—the lover of short stories—think it’s a little on the short side. But I love Rick R. Reed’s use of language and the emotions he conveys, so I still give it five solid Christmas trees.

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A Gift of Family by Tami Veldura

Scott Burke has always desired a big family, but as a divorced single dad, all he has is his young daughter, Lexi. He pours himself into raising her, half-convinced he’ll never find what he’s looking for. When Brennan Price strolls into Scott’s life, he’d better have enough patience for both Lexi and Scott if he intends to stick around.

Brennan has a huge family and a successful career, but no one to call his own. Wooing Scott and his daughter is right up his alley, though, and he steps up to the challenge to prove he’s enough for both of them. His attraction to Scott is immediate, but he recognizes a family man when he sees one and hatches a plan to win Lexi over. Her handsome father is sure to follow…

This is thirty-two pages of awwww-inducing sweetness and that’s just the way I love my holiday stories. It’s two men, a little girl, and a dog in reindeer antlers. It’s insta-love (which I personally love), wintery goodness, hot chocolate, and dirty talk…and seriously: What more do you need? It’s perfect for getting you in a Christmas mood: curl up on the couch with a hot beverage of your choice, light the fire (if you have one), and let yourself be transported to the land where it’s possible for two men to meet and fall in love over the course of a couple days.

It was the first book I ever read by Tami Veldura, but it won’t be the last. Loved it.

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A Timely Gift by Kris T. Bethke

Sometimes the right gift can be life-changing….

On the solstice, Rory’s grandfather gives him a pocket watch that he claims will have Rory’s life sorted and his problems solved by Christmas. Rory starts out skeptical, but when he reconnects with an ex he never thought he’d see again, he has to admit there might be some holiday magic working after all.

Deacon’s life is in shambles, and he’s returned to Syracuse for a fresh start. Running into Rory again feels like much more than a coincidence, and neither of them can deny the passion between them is still smoldering. With the watch behaving oddly at just the right moments, Rory and Deacon might receive the gift of a lifetime—if they’re willing to accept it.

This was my favorite of the three books in today’s review. I’ve been a fan of Kris T. Bethke since the first book I read by her (which was Pumpkin Rolls and Porn Sounds which I read only because of the fabulous title and definitely didn’t regret it!) I love her writing style and her characters and she delivered on both counts in this story.

I love second chance stories and when stories are infused with tiny glimpses of unexplained magic. This isn’t a paranormal story. It’s a contemporary story with a twist and I loved how the pocketwatch “interfered” in just the right times. Both characters were great and I really loved that they both still feel the attraction even after all the years that passed since they were together.

My favorite character probably was Apollo the Parrot though. Read it and you’ll understand why.

Also: extra kudos for writing a bi character without making a big deal about it. As a bi person myself, I appreciate it a lot 🙂

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To sum it up: they were all great stories that got me in a holiday mood and made me want to read more from all three authors. Isn’t that the best praise you can give a writer? “I want to read more of your stories.” It would be for me at least 🙂

Christmasvaganza: Sunday Review

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Hi everyone. Sundays in Christmasvaganza are dedicated to reviews of Holiday stories so you’ll have more to read when you’ve finished all three of mine (<- shameless self-promo alert).

First out is Teddy Bears by Brandon Witt.

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Other than working the front desk of a gay bathhouse in Denver, Brian McKay is a bit of a recluse. At the best of times, his social life consists of work, role-playing games at a local toyshop, and making YouTube videos with his Teddy Bear hamsters. The arrival of the holidays—with the annoying music, Christmas shopping, and all the reminders of how he disappointed his father—just reinforces his reclusive nature.

When James Olsen, a gorgeous daddy bear who frequents the bathhouse, notices him, Brian is at a loss. He’s not proud of his own bear status or his struggle with weight. The idea that James has interest in him beyond an easy hookup is more than Brian can fathom. But with a little bit of holiday magic, James might help Brian learn to accept Christmas again—and himself.

When Dreamspinner Press had their Halloween sale, I splurged on a ton of short stories, mostly from their earlier Advent Calendars. (I got 11 stories for less than 20 bucks!!) And among them was this one.

I have one important question: why on earth haven’t I read anything by Brandon Witt before?

I ADORED this story and everything about it. The characters (all of them, even the Bathhouse Santa) are amazing, but I especially love Brian. He has a lot of insecurities, but the author has done a really great job of not letting them take over. I want to scoop him up in my arms and shower him with love, but at the same time he’s funny and smart. And he’s a huge geek…and I have a bit of a thing for geeks.

“What? Did my geek level just freak you out?”

LOL.

Teddy Bears is short—47 pages according to Goodreads—but it’s perfect. We get to know enough of Brian’s backstory to understand his behavior and it’s more than enough to make me fall head over heels for both MCs. And most importantly: this gem of a book was what I love most about stories: a fabulous mix of happy and sad. One moment I laughed out loud and the next I was fumbling for my Kleenex.

This book ended up on my feelgood-reread shelf, and now I’m taking my wallet over to the bookstore to shop more Brandon Witt books.

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Sunday Review: Dear Mona Lisa…by Claire Davis & Al Stewart

dear mona lisaTom, shy office clerk by day and drawer of foxes by night wakes up one Monday knowing the most extraordinary week of his life is about to begin. In five days time a lifelong ‘secret’ will be made gloriously public—but will it mean losing the person he loves most?

Getting married…

It seems like only yesterday Tom changed nappies and sang nursery rhymes to a laughing baby. He relishes the demands of being a daddy; especially teaching his little girl to draw and paint as she grows up. But the years tick by and times change. Long-buried secrets must come to the surface which may test even the strongest ties.

Tom and Lawrence…

He writes a list of all the things he has to do before the weekend and sticks it in the middle of his wall. The names and goals hang like threads of a spider’s web, inevitably leading to the centre, and all to the same place.

Dear Mona Lisa…

How to explain?
Each morning he notes the colours of dawn, listens to the birds and waits for the perfect moment. In one hand rests the balance of life and a terrible responsibility, in the other a wedding ring. Difficult days and the past loom, but his friends rally round and one by one the words come to life. Everyone waits as Tom finds the strength to open up and set free the secrets of his heart in a celebration of family, friendship and love.

A quirky story of modern life, set within the breathtaking landscape of Bradford.

This book…Wow. From the first line, it reached into my chest and grabbed my heart in an iron fist of emotions. It’s a work of art painted with words. It’s beautiful and heartbreaking and wonderful.

I love stories featuring quirky characters, where the authors bravely color outside the lines and turn their backs on stereotypes. And this book is all that, and more!

Main character Tom has had a very difficult past and a hard time coming to terms with his homosexuality. It’s a short story (65 pages according to Amazon) but the authors do a great job telling his backstory and giving just enough to break my heart. It’s less than a week before he’s getting married, and Tom has a hard time telling his beloved adult daughter that he’s getting married to a man. He’s terrified he will lose her, for very understandable reasons and this gem of a book shows how he goes about it.

Tom is an artist and draws quirky animals (foxes) and sees the world in colors. It’s difficult to explain, so I’ll show you in a couple quotes (I highlighted a gazillion when I read it. So many it would have been copyright infringement to post them all here 😁)

His purple rage consumed and grew, and I disappeared somewhere in all that aubergine.

His orange was the sun to my cold, lonely planet.

That last quote is about his husband to be, Loz (Lawrence) and it makes me week in the knees. Someone hand me my smelling salts, because I’m about to swoon!

The emotions in this book are amazing. The way Tom desperately loves his daughter leaps off the page. I can feel the love between the main characters all the way to my bones. The supporting characters are great, especially his ex-wife. And isn’t it great when the ex-wife isn’t portrayed like a villain?

I have one minor niggle: I would like to have known more about Loz. His love and support for Tom is abundantly clear, but I would have loved to get some more backstory. But in the end, it’s not enough for me to lower the rating, and I curse myself for making up a stupid five-star rating system, because this book deserves all the stars.

And if you manage to read through the wedding vows without grabbing for the Kleenex, you have no heart and you’re dead inside. Dead! 😁

Dear Mona Lisa… ends up on my re-read shelf. I want to kiss it and hug it and scream from the rooftops how great it is. If you’re in the mood for something different, something beautiful and artistic and emotional, this is the book for you.

5-stars

 

Book review Sunday

It feels great to have gotten back into my reading habit again. I miss reading when I don’t take time for it. But no more of that! I decided Sundays are for reading…and maybe reviews on the blog? I’m not promising every Sunday, but I’ll try to write—and post—more reviews because I want to. Sound good?

Today, I’m gonna gush about For a Reason by Jessie G. It’s part two of the Sizzling Miami-series, but this book is standalone (I haven’t read part one and had no problem following along.)

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for a reasonFormer Marine and full time big brother, Bull Connor spends his days helping those in need of a second chance and his nights fighting the inner demons that won’t let go. During a routine tow he comes face to face with the only person who refuses to need him and the one man he wishes would.

As a throw away, Ian Jones is used to being alternately overlooked or ridiculed but hasn’t given up on the idea that with just one chance he could turn it all around. Rescued by the one person who neither overlooks nor ridicules him, he longs to be seen as more than just a man in need.

Ian isn’t pining for the family he’s never known but when they descend, unwanted and uninvited, Bull must prove that he’s the man who will protect Ian’s long neglected heart by sharing the demons that torment his wounded soul.

I love stories where the main characters connect early on and really want to make a relationship work. So many books out there are about people not looking for relationships or not having time to fall in love, and I guess those kind of stories are trying to tell us that because the MCs fall in love despite these conditions, their love must be very special and unstoppable. And as true as that might be, my favorite kind of story is the one where the guys meet, like each other and decide they want to take a chance on being together, and then they spend the rest of the book working on the relationship.

For a Reason is exactly that. It is also a story about courage, about being brave, and about making your own family when the one you were given at birth is found lacking. It’s about loyalty and friendship, and about having each other’s backs, no matter what. But most of all it’s about love. A beautiful kind of love that wild and passionate, but at the same time tender and romantic. It’s about two people that come to trust each other implicitly, who will fight tooth and nail for each other and work hard on their relationship by talking, communicating, and trusting.

Both MCs are fabulous characters. I love that even though Ian has had a really tough life, he isn’t broken. And I love that Bull is everybody’s protector and caretaker, but has no one to take care of him…until Ian. I love the way they accept each other completely and how they both pour their hearts and souls into making life better for each other.

I have a minor complaint and that’s not even about the story. Bull’s real name is Jon Connor, and every time I read his real name I heard Arnold Schwarzenegger saying John Connor with his Austrian Terminator-accent in my head and I giggled loudly to myself. But that’s just my twisted brain playing tricks on me – can’t be helped 😁

This is going on my re-read shelf, for books to read when I need a big hit of romance or for those dark gloomy days when I need something that makes me feel better, that fills my stomach with happy, fluttering this-book-is-so-darned-good-butterflies.

Highly recommended.

5-stars

Short Story Sunday

Lately, I haven’t really been reading much. I’ve been too busy writing, or doing other stuff to take the time to read. For a writer that’s not good. A writer needs to read just as much as they need to write. So I decided I’d spend the day reading.

If you’ve followed me for a while, you probably know by now that I love short stories. A well written short is like magic; writing a believable love story on just a few pages is an art and I appreciate the ones who are good at it. The ones who manage to make me feel all the feelings and get to know the characters enough to root for them.

Not many things make me as happy as reading a well-written short story. So today, I’ve read several (six, to be exact), and I thought I’d share my three favorites with you.

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double exposure

Double Exposure by Sam Kadence

A high school boy helping out his aunt on a photo shoot is asked to fill in as a model but as a girl, not a boy. The session leads to a kiss with another boy from school and opens the door to many emotions, dreams, and self-discovery.

This is a YA short and it was seriously cute. I admit that I had to suspend disbelief when I read it, but isn’t that part of why we read anyway? To take us away from the mundane, everyday life? The story is about Tory who dresses up as a girl for a photoshoot and finds his true self. And goodness, his family was absolutely perfect. Adored them, especially his father. I wish everyone had a dad like that. If you want something cute and swoonworthy and fairytale-y, this is the perfect read for you.

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mine

Mine by M. Caspian

Noah McCormack spent his life looking up to his best friend’s dad, Logan Kavanagh. Now Noah wants to do more than look, but can Noah convince Logan to see him as someone other than the boy next door?

A May-December story about a boy falling in love with his best friend’s dad, loved and admired him since he was eleven. Don’t worry, nothing inappropriate happens before Noah is of age…but when he is…Oh myyyyy. This story is kinky, but still very romantic in a non sugary way. And the final scene took me by surprise. It was unexpected, borderline forbidden, and totally hawt *fans myself*

four-stars

yours

Yours by Kim Alan

Kyle is a lost boy. “Freed” for his own good, he’s doing his best to follow through on promises made. But he’s struggling, there’s no doubt about it. That is, until he suddenly finds himself in a place he least expected. 

Beau is an independent man, answering to no one but himself. If he’s lonely, it’s a small price to pay. That is, until a beautiful, lost young man stumbles into his bar on Valentine’s Day. He can’t turn him away. The boy needs him. Or is it the other way around?

This is why I love short stories so much. In 21 pages, the author manages to make me feel all the feelings, surprise me, and make me sob in the end. BDSM can be so oddly romantic. I say oddly, because I could never kneel at anyone’s feet and call them Master or have it the other way around. I like equality in my relationship. But I love reading about it and when it’s well done, it can be very romantic. This story was fantastic. The ending was completely unexpected and I adored it. I sobbed under my blanket so my husband wouldn’t see 🙂 It definitely ended up on my re-read list. And when I write this, it’s free on Amazon. Run and one-click it now!

5-stars

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Is there a better way to spend a Sunday than reading great stories? I don’t think so! 🙂

Review tour and #giveaway: Year One (Would It Be Okay To Love You #2) by Amy Tasukada

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK
Length: 22,000 words approx
 
Blurb
A robot fanboy. An erotic voice actor. Will their secrets overwhelm their love?

 

Sato doesn’t get out much. The anime company accountant spends his days at a desk and his nights working on his own small-scale robots. His geeky life is like a dream, but it has just one piece missing…

The world only knows Aoi for his moans. The erotic voice actor has legions of fangirls obsessed with his gasps of simulated ecstasy. And his new boyfriend Sato can barely handle the attention.

As Aoi’s popularity rises and secrets about his past begin to reveal themselves, can the accountant and the voice actor rise above their problems to create something real?

Year One is a short story anthology collection unlike anything you’ve ever read. If you like geeky settings, and sweet romance, then you’ll love Amy Tasukada’s slice-of-life story.

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My review:

This is the published version of Amy Tasukada’s monthly newsletter about Aoi and Sato. The reader is treated to a glimpse of the couple’s lives every month and because of the format, it’s low angst.

Aoi and Sato are cute and I love following along as they grow closer as a couple over the year and being there for important milestones like moving in together. I appreciate how they both are trying to show their love and appreciation for one another. Like in the March chapter when Sato wants to dazzle Aoi with his cooking for White Day, but even though he’s planned it perfectly and practiced the meal several times, he fails when when the big day arrives. He’s understandably miserable, but Aoi does his best to cheer him up. I love those intimate moments between them.

Both characters are adorable. Aoi’s job as an erotic voice actor (a professional moaner) is very creative, but Sato is my favorite of the two. He’s a bona fide geek and lives for gundam and spread sheets, but he’s not portrayed with any negativity. Instead, Amy Tasukada celebrates his geekiness and I love that.

One of my favorite things about Amy Tasukada’s writing is her meticulous research. Every little detail is correct and it’s evident that she’s spent hours and hours checking her facts and getting everything just right. One of my pet peeves are when authors get easily googlable facts wrong, so I really appreciate a writer who’s done their due diligence.

I can’t write this review without mentioning the fabulous illustrations. Every month there’s drawing to go with the story, and Alexandra Pilzner has done an amazing job in capturing Aoi and Sato. I couldn’t decide which one was my favorite, but it’s between March when Sato burns dinner, or June when Aoi hides from the cat in the bathroom (look at that little paw under the door! So cute!)

aoi and sato

If you’re in the mood for a quick, sweet read with lots of Japanese flavor, this is just the story for you.

5-stars

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September 11 – Bayou Book Junkie, Gay Book Reviews
September 13 – Wicked Reads
September 15 – The Novel Approach
September 20 – Alpha Book Club, Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words, Nell Iris, Bayou Book Junkie

Author Bio
 

Amy Tasukada lives in North Texas with a calico cat called O’Hara. As an only child her day dreams kept her entertained, and at age ten she started to put them to paper. Since then her love of writing hasn’t cease. She can be found drinking hot tea and filming Japanese street fashion hauls on her Youtube channel.

 

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