Friday review

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37909611Elliott Thompson was once a historian with a promising academic future, but his involvement in a scandal meant a lost job, public shame, and a ruined love life. He took shelter in his rural California hometown, where he teaches online classes, hoards books, and despairs of his future.

Simon Odisho has lost a job as well—to a bullet that sidelined his career in law enforcement. While his shattered knee recovers, he rethinks his job prospects and searches for the courage to come out to his close-knit but conservative extended family.

In an attempt to manage his overflowing book collection, Elliott builds a miniature neighborhood library in his front yard. The project puts him in touch with his neighbors—for better and worse—and introduces him to handsome, charming Simon. While romance blooms quickly between them, Elliott’s not willing to live in the closet, and his best career prospects might take him far away. His books have plenty to tell him about history, but they give him no clues about a future with Simon.

A blurb containing the words “historian,” “hoards books,” “overflowing book collection,” and “neighborhood library” is bound to attract my attention. I’m a book hoarder, too, but most of my books are of the electronic kind, so I can’t make a cute little library with them. But when I settle down in a place where I’m going to spend the rest of my life, I’m going to hoard physical books too, and THEN I can do a library just like Elliott did and spread joy and books to my neighbors.

A book written by Kim Fielding is also bound to attract my attention. She’s one of my favorite authors, and this book didn’t disappoint. Elliott is a very intellectual guy and he analyzes every little detail in his head. For example when he goes on a “date that’s not a date” with a guy from his sister-in-law’s job:

Elliott analyzed that statement. Did it mean Kyle didn’t really care about the not-date, or was he trying to minimize its apparent important? And how about that handshake? Had it been too short or too long? Was the amount of eye contact sufficient? Had Kyle looked disappointed when he caught sight of Elliott?

Elliott kind of reminds me of myself; I also tend to over-analyze everything so I can relate. Maybe that’s why I love him so much.

Simon is a genuinely likable guy with a huge family. He has lots of insecurities, his body is one of them, and he fears coming out to his family. Both MCs are at a crossroads in their lives, and they’re trying to decide how to move forwards, and I love how that aspect was explored in this book. What do you do when your life suddenly takes a turn you didn’t expect? How do you live up to society’s expectations on you, or your own expectations on yourself for that matter?

It’s a quiet book. Nothing much happens, and at the same time lots of things happen. Elliott and Simon meet and like each other immediately and they have to decide what to do about it. It’s not that they don’t want to be together; on the contrary. But the circumstances make it difficult. Simon isn’t out, and Elliott doesn’t want to be a dirty secret; he had enough of that in his last relationship. Elliott is looking for a job and a history professor in a narrow field can’t be picky, so he applies for jobs all over the country. How can he make a relationship with Simon work if he gets a job in Nebraska?

But here’s the thing. Elliott and Simon handle those issues by talking about them. Like two responsible adults who refuse to sweep any problems they have under the rug. And OMG, talking is so sexy!! (Almost as sexy as consent!) I’m sick and tired of misunderstandings, of characters not communicating, and of assumptions made only on the basis of half the facts. And this book is the complete opposite of that.

This book does not have chest-pounding alpha males or big drama or excitement. But it’s quiet and thoughtful and intelligent and romantic, with two flawed characters who are doing their best to navigate life together. And that is just the kind of book I love.

Buy link: Amazon


Sunday review

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therecruitAlbert Manlii has walked this earth for more than two thousand years, but survival on his own was never easy. Now he leads a faction of highly organized vampires who carefully guard the secret of their existence. Unlike the old days, potential recruits are carefully selected and presented with an offer.

Phillip Brewer has weeks to live—if he lets his disease run its course. He doesn’t want to die, but given a choice, will his desire to live outweigh his concerns about the vampires’ ethics?

When the new recruit’s missteps are cause for concern, can Albert control the fallout, or will Phillip’s life once again be torn apart?

I’ve been a lover of vampire stories my whole life. It started in my early teens when I discovered Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and I’ve read and re-read it so many times I’ve lost count. Not only because of the vampires, but also because of the epistolary format (love epistolary stories!) The love continued with Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire and even Twilight. (Yes, I liked it, the first book at least. No, I don’t have a problem with vampires glittering in the sun.) And with them, countless other vampire stories over the years.

So when Addison Albright, my dear friend and one of my favorite authors, decided to write a vampire story, I jumped with joy.

I had the honor of beta reading The Recruit way back when. Last week, I finally read the finished version, because I also had the honor of beta reading The Choice, which is the sequel (yay!!), and I needed to be up to speed on what happened in The Recruit, especially considering that Addison added several thousand words after I read it.

That was a great way of spending an hour on a lazy Sunday afternoon. If you’ve followed me for a while, you know by now that I’m a fan of Addison’s writing, and The Recruit is no exception. I like her no-nonsense style. I like that her guys are regular guys (even when they are vampires, though maybe not Albert in this story 🙂 ). I like her restrained yet emotional way of writing love stories.

The Recruit ticks all those boxes.

But what I like the most is her unique take on vampire lore. She’s created a completely different world than you’d come to expect (i.e. vamps dressed in flowy capes, sleeping in coffins in dusty old houses). Instead, Addison has brought the vampires into the 21st century. They use technology and other advancements to their advantage. They are organized and resemble a spy organization more than an ancient secret society. They are smart, clever, and even though they still need to drink blood to survive, they don’t attack humans, drain them and leave them for dead. In short, they’re civilized, while they still have that romantic glow vampires tend to have.

The Recruit is worth reading only for the interesting world building. But then there’s all the other good stuff like a cherry on the ice cream sundae, and what you end up with is a delicious read that I warmly recommend. Very warmly.

And it’s currently available on KU.

Also: if you’ve already read The Recruit, you will definitely want to read The Choice when it’s released. Trust me on this, I know. 🙂

Buy links:

JMS Books | Amazon 



Sunday Review

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Happy Sunday, everyone. To celebrate T.A. Creech‘s new release yesterday (Happy belated release day!) I thought I’d review one of her other books that I’ve read and enjoyed. And if you think it sounds interesting, today’s the day to buy it. All T.A. Creech’s ebooks are 40% off over at JMS Books today, Sunday, only. This link will take you to her author page, get ready to do some shopping. 😁

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sentinelSentinel by T.A. Creech

A fireball burning up the sky leads farmer Jason Thomas to the strangest thing he’s ever found in his pumpkin patch. A man with wings. And no, he doesn’t think it’s an angel, no matter what his brothers say.

Taking the stranger into his home is hard. Keeping his heart from the stranger’s hands? Harder. But everything in him calls to this being and Jason is so damned tired of only having his brothers at his back.

Castiel has no idea what this angel thing is, but the evil that knocked him out of the sky did him a favor. He’d heard the tales of his kin and their missions on Earth with envy and now he has the chance to experience it himself. Better yet, his mate takes him home. One small problem. Castiel has a duty and needs to find a way back. Of course it isn’t going to be that easy.

A lovely and well-written story. I really love how the relationship between Jason and the angel Castiel develops organically and I love how Castiel have absolutely no idea about how life on earth works, for example: the Halloween scene. It was truly hilarious and made me laugh out loud.

Castiel is fabulously written. The descriptions of him makes it easy for me to imagine him, and in my mind he’s the most beautiful creature ever written. I’m totally in love with his wings and how he looses control over them when he gets excited 🙂

I wouldn’t say that the story is a stand-alone, because at the end of the book I have even more questions than I did at the beginning, so be aware that you’ll need to read the sequels for closure. Except for the relationship part, that part I’m satisfied with 🙂

Warmly recommended.

Sunday Review

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Happy Sunday, everyone. A short review of a short book today, and be warned: my review contains a minor spoiler, so if that’s not your thing, don’t read it 🙂

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henry and jimHenry & Jim by J.M. Snyder

These two men who have spent a life in love, from the very first date arranged by Henry’s sister, through the rocky times they worked to make ends meet, and into their twilight years.

This is such a wonderful story about Henry and Jim that met and fell in love over 50 years ago. It’s a very short story that takes place over the morning one day in their lives, but we are treated to glimpses from their life together, among other things their first date that was set up by Henry’s sister.

Jim is suffering from Alzheimers, although he still remembers Henry. But every morning is a struggle for Henry because he worries that this will be the day Jim has forgotten him. I need to stop reading Alzheimer stories: I read Ofelia Gränd’s Trapped a few weeks back and bawled my eyes out, and this book had me sobbing the entire way through. My greatest fear in life is Alzheimers or dementia and that I will forget the love of my life, so this book touched me on a personal level.

It’s beautifully written; full of emotion and the love between the two men is almost tangible. The ending is beautiful and leaves me with a feeling of hope, despite the fact that I know Henry and Jim’s story inevitably can’t end well. This short glimpse from their lives, however, ends on a happy note, and J.M. Snyder stops before the inevitable happens.

Warmly recommended.

Sunday Review

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Happy Sunday, everyone. Today I’ll talk about a book I read a while back, but that I really love. N.R. Walker is one of my favorite authors, and Henry is one of the best characters I’ve ever read. Have you read it? What did you think? 🙂

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The Weight of It All by N.R. Walker

After being dumped by his long-term boyfriend for being overweight, Henry Beckett decides to make some drastic changes. In a vain attempt at getting his boyfriend back, Henry does the most absurdly frightening thing he can think of.

He joins a gym.

Reed Henske is a personal trainer who isn’t sure he’ll ever be ready to date again. He’s sick of guys who are only interested in the perfect body image, never seeing him for who he really is.

As Reed tortures Henry with things like diet and exercise, Henry enamours Reed with recipes and laughter. As the friendship lines start to blur, Henry is convinced there’s no way Thor-like Reed could ever be interested in a guy like him.

Reed just has to convince Henry that life isn’t about reaching your ideal bodyweight. It’s about finding your perfect counterweight.

I find it hard to write book reviews, I could never be a reviewer or a book blogger. It’s somewhat easier if I didn’t like the book very much, because let’s face it: anybody can rant about stuff they don’t like, right? But when I really and truly loved a book, it’s very difficult.

It’s tough for me to find words that do justice to a wonderful book, nothing feels good enough. How do I convey to others what I loved so much about it, what words do I use to convince them to read it? How do I talk about all the feelings I experienced while reading?

What I can tell you about The Weight of it All, is that I absolutely adored the main characters in this book, especially Henry. I love Henry, I adore Henry, I want Henry to be my best friend and I’m genuinely bummed he’s not real. I love his wit and his sense of humor. I love that he decided he needed to change for himself, and I loved the way he took his passion for cooking and adapted it to his new lifestyle. I like Reed too—what’s not to like? —and the fact that he’s pretty much perfect, but doesn’t care about looks in a potential partner…well, that melted my heart.

I died of happiness over all the Harry Potter references. I have a newfound respect for Bee Gees, and when Reed and Henry went shopping and the twinky Chihuahua tried to pick up Reed and Henry says: “His full pedigree kennel name is Shameless Bottom Needs a Muscle Daddy, but he gets called Chihuahua Boy for short” I laughed so hard my husband came out of the home office and asked what was so funny, and told me he’d had to mute his work call because of my hyena like laughter in the background.

This is a very funny book. But what I like most about it is the complexity. One moment I almost fall out of my couch because I’m laughing so hard, but the next second something happens to make me choke on my laughter and start crying instead. I appreciate the humor so much more, when not everything is fun and games, but has glimpses of realness thrown into it.

One of my favorite movies is The Full Monty from 1997It’s hilarious, with a bunch of regular, unemployed British guys trying to become the next Chippendales to earn some money. But there’s one scene in particular that I love. It’s the big guy of the gang, Dave, who’s nervous about taking his clothes off in public because of his weight. And someone tells him you can loose weight by wrapping yourself in cling film – so this scene I’m thinking about has Dave, sitting half naked eating a candy bar and wrapping himself in plastic to lose a few pounds. It’s funny and heartbreaking at the same time.

And The Weight of it All is like that. Funny and heartbreaking, but also heartwarming and uplifting.

I loved it. Read this book, it’s fabulous. Five laughing and five crying stars – that makes ten stars, but frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.

Sunday Review

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Happy Sunday, everyone, I hope your week has been good. Mine has been much better than last week: my dad is finally home from the hospital, and I think the flu I caught four weeks ago has finally let go of me completely. I’ve got my energy back, yay!

Friday and Saturday was Chinese New Year, but the festivities are not over but will go on for two weeks or so, and I hope to catch a Lion Dance.  If I’m lucky we’ll have performers here at my condo, and if we do, I’ll post a picture.

Enough of that, now it’s time for this week’s review. Like I said in this post, I planned on reading one of the stories in the 2017 Top Ten Gay Romance anthology, and I loved it so much I decided to review it.

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beau and the beast

Beau and the Beast by Rick R. Reed

Beau is a down-on-his-luck street artist living on the streets of Seattle. One rainy night, he is accosted by a group of fag-bashing thugs, intent on robbing him of his art supplies and humiliating Beau for who he is. Beau is beaten into unconsciousness … 

… And awakens in a bedroom, head bandaged, with no memory of how he got there. Outside his window pine trees and mountain vistas beckon. 

Beau’s tale grows more mysterious when a large, muscular man begins bringing Beau his food. The man says nothing — and wears a wolf mask. When he finally does speak, it’s only to tell Beau to call him “Beast.” 

What secrets does the mask hide? What do these two outsiders have in common? And will their odd circumstances bring them to the brink of love — or rip them apart? Inspired by the timeless fairy tale, this is a haunting love story that reveals that beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder.

This is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, and normally I’m not a big fan of fairy tale retellings. In general, I prefer original stories – even though I’ve been known to watch a movie remake or two. But I liked the sound of the blurb, and I’m a fan of Rick R. Reed’s writing, so I thought I’d give it a chance.

I’m glad I did. And this also teaches me a lesson that I need to take more chances with my reading! 😁

The characters in the story are great. Beau is an artist and he has been told many times by the person he’s painted that it’s like he can see into their souls and paint their true selves. This makes for a believable premise for when he meets Beast, and how Beau so easily sees beyond his scarred face.

Beast himself is the gentle giant type, a really sensitive guy who’s trying to hide his hurt behind a mask (literal and metaphorical). But when Beau sees him, he’s touched. And scared for his heart.

This book contains lightning-fast insta-love, but since this is a fairy tale, I have no problem with that…not that I usually do 😁

I really like the setting, and how Rick Reed has managed to juxtapose the modern Seattle with a gay neighborhood and Vietnamese Pho places, with the fairy tale quality of the Beast’s mansion. The reader is told that Beast lives outside of Seattle, but it feels like Beau ended up in a magical land with beautiful settings and starry skies, which helps the fairy tale feeling in this otherwise contemporary story.

The original Beauty and the Beast is a horrid fairy tale (like most old stories are), but this is a lovely adaptation. No one is being forced, no one is kept against their will. It’s simply a story about a man who is able to see that real beauty is so much more than what the eye can see. I wish real life was like that. ❤️

Five magical stars and one more reason (if you need one) to buy the 2017 Top Ten Gay Romance anthology. 😁

Sunday Review

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I’ve had a pretty crappy week, personally. And the other day I felt sad and down and needed a good pick-me-up. Something easy, breezy, and non angsty to take my mind off things. And I found it.

So, two (short) reviews for you today.

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loving me loving you.jpgLoving Me, Loving You by J.D. Walker

Hanson Yoo despises his job. He works seven days a week and is in line for junior partner, but that’s not enough anymore. Why does he do it? To please his mother, or at least that’s how it began. But now, not even that can keep him going.

Late one night, Hanson helps an acquaintance out of a bad situation and meets Lindsey Grier, a man he’s been admiring from afar.

When Lindsey flirts with him, Hanson isn’t sure if it’s real or out of gratitude. Things like that don’t happen to him, and he has little self-confidence. Rather than take a chance, he cuts his losses and runs away. But then he doesn’t get the partnership, and realizes he has nothing left to lose.

Hanson has been given a second chance, and isn’t going to waste it. Maybe by learning to love himself, he can love someone else, too.

This was just what the doctor ordered. Short and sweet and in feel-good in general. The characters were great: I identified with Hanson and the way he freed himself from a job he hated. That’s just what I did when I left Sweden for Malaysia: I had a soul-killing day job back in Sweden, and here I’m living my dream as a writer. I also loved Lindsey: the way he acted toward Hanson was totally adorable and I just felt…happy…when I read it. Just what I needed.

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first and goalFirst and Goal by Terry O’Reilly

After being disappointed too many times by the hook-up sites, Broadway dancer Darrin Houghton takes down his profiles. However, when he gets a message from an intriguing hunk on a site he’d forgotten about, Darrin sets up a meeting despite his reservations. 

Brad Grabosky is a deeply closeted football player in the NFL. Brad has a preference for no strings attached, anonymous, one night flings in seedy motel rooms. 

However, love has a way of complicating the intentions of both men, leading them to make compromises they never thought possible. Will Darrin and Brad find a way to get to first and goal and ultimately score a touchdown? Or will their chance at happiness be fumbled away?

This should come with a warning label: Contains a serious case of insta-love 🙂 Don’t get me wrong; I’m a fan of insta-love, but I have to admit this book teetered on the edge of becoming almost too fast even for me. But in the end I bought it. I think it’s because it was exactly what I needed: a highly emotional story about two guys who love each other. They loved each other so much I could feel it and the author managed to infuse the love even in the sex. And that’s my favorite kind of read: loving, romantic, and emotional.

Both books get four stars and my eternal gratitude for making me feel better ❤️