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Archive for August, 2013

notlettinggoTitle: Not Letting Go
Author: Danni Keane
Length: 6,769 words
Publisher: JMS Books
Genre: m/m contemporary YA romance
Rating: B

Blurb:
When someone dies, how are you supposed to behave? Josh Roberts has no idea. Losing his dad has left him deeply confused. He loved his dad, so why isn’t he crying? All Josh can think about is spending time with his boyfriend, Bradley. He can’t wait to go to Uni, when he and Bradley will finally get to be alone.

Bradley wants nothing more than to give love and support to his grieving boyfriend. But Josh’s expectations of a life together next year are putting a lot of pressure on him. He’s not going to get good enough grades for Uni, especially if whenever they are in Josh’s room they don’t get round to any real studying. Why can’t Josh understand that?

Review:
This story is the sequel to the delightful Sunshine and Buttercups which I reviewed here last week. It follows on a few months from the last one. Josh’s dad has just died from cancer and Josh is struggling to accept this. His boyfriend Bradley is his lifeline but there’s a chance that their dreams of going to university together will fail because Bradley isn’t getting the grades he needs.

The previous story charted the beginning of a relationship and was filled with bright hope tempered by the worries that Josh has about his dad who had been newly diagnosed with cancer. This story is more melancholic, showing us a young man in the grips of grief and like the previous story, I felt that the author had captured perfectly the feelings of a teenager. Josh is numbed by his dad’s death and this makes him feel guilty. This aspect of the story was sad, but it was also well written and brought a tear to my eye.

The other theme within the story is the relationship between Josh and Bradley. The passion is still strong between them and I liked how they work through their problems. Having said that, they are still teenage boys and Josh is somewhat oblivious to the problems that Bradley is having. Josh is one of those guys who pretends that all will be well and this is the case with Bradley’s grades. I enjoyed seeing them together and how Bradley is a support for Josh, but also how they deal with the tension between them. It was realistic.

I didn’t enjoy this story as much as the first, mainly because of the slightly despondent theme, but I liked revisiting the main characters and seeing them together. I found the writing to be thoughtful and would recommend this story to those who like YA.

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MulliganTitle: Mulligan
Author: Nora Roth
Length: 16,943 words (66 pdf pages)
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: m/m contemporary
Rating: C+

Blurb:

The only thing between Jesse Yates and the top of the air hockey leaderboard is Cameron Greene. When Cameron returns home from college unannounced and knocks the win out of Jesse’s reach, the last thing Jesse plans to do is strike up a friendship with the guy he dislikes on principle. But Cameron charms Jesse without even seeming to try, and the attraction and friendly rivalry between them soon leads to something more.

Everything is perfect until the world as Jesse knows it comes crashing down when Cameron’s secrets are revealed. Before Jesse can find his balance, Cameron is gone without a word, leaving Jesse alone with anger and grief—hoping against hope for a second chance.

Review:

I like this story, but at times it felt a bit disjointed and like I was missing something. Jesse is ready to take the top title in the air hockey tournament when he’s up against a stranger. Going by the way the guy looks, he figures it’s a sure thing, only he soon changes his mind and after a close match, the other guy wins. That’s when Jesse finds out he’s the local champion of air hockey. He’s mad at the fact that he didn’t win and that he didn’t recognize the guy.

They end up meeting at the arcade again and before long there’s a bet, about who will jerk who off. This is the first time Jesse’s been with a guy, but he can’t resist, although he admits to Cameron it’s his first. They soon start hanging out and fooling around. However when Cameron’s family collapses, he disappears leaving Jesse acting out as he finishes high school.

I found it a bit weird that Jesse never asked Cameron why he was home from university, or asked around at school. I know teens can be pretty self-centred and clueless about the world, but it seemed like it would have come up in conversation. Also, they were only hanging out for a few weeks and Jesse was completely lost when Cameron vanished. I could understand being angry he just took off without saying good-bye but to spiral to drunk driving and sex with strangers seemed a bit extreme.

Still, I liked Cameron a great deal and you could see he was the more confident college student, Jesse the unsure high school student, but still both good kids, definitely teen/young adults. So others may not find it leaves them quite as off-kilter as it did me. I’m not exactly sure why. I just felt like some link was missing. But I’m not sure what exactly. If you like young protagonists, it’s a good choice for a quick read.

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Today is a bank holiday in the UK so instead of a review, you can hop over to my blog and check out my pictures from the Pride parade yesterday.

Enjoy.

DSC_1363

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PouringaBrickTitle: Pouring a Brick
Author: Tray Ellis
Length: 10,835 words (43 pdf pages)
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: m/m contemporary
Rating: C+

Blurb:

High-energy Spence joins a Brazilian jiu-jitsu school looking for adventure. Will is already a calm, advanced practitioner of the gentle art when they meet, and he takes the new student under his wing. After training for a tournament, Spence realizes that relaxing into the flow works great for channeling his energy at competitions and for life in general, but when it comes to taking a chance on Will, pushing the boundaries may be the only way to take their friendship to the next level.

Review:

This was a nice story with an interesting setting, but I never felt like I really got a handle on the guys. Spence has been trying to find new ways to meet people, he’s tried classes of different types and never really had any luck expanding his social circle or dating life. However he joins Brazilian jiu-jitsu and Will befriends him quickly knowing that newbies who feel accepted are more likely to stick around.

Before long they are sparring regularly and chatting. It seems that this type of jiu-jitsu involves some moves which on the surface could be seen as sexual, but Will is determined to back off, in part because he thinks if things go badly, then it’s awkward for everyone at the school with two feuding exes there. Of course Spence makes it a bit difficult for him to stick to his guns.

I liked the opposites factor. After about 6 weeks Spence is ready to join a competition, but even after a couple of years, Will is content to be a purple belt and he doesn’t like competing much. Just not his thing, he’s more laid back where as Spence is go hard right from the gate. There’s a fair bit of mention about how they became friends, but you don’t see much of it, I suppose in part due to the length, but the development of the friendship seemed a bit glossed over.

Still, I am curious about this sport given some of the descriptions, so I’ll have to Google some videos.  I’m pretty sure there’s no chance I’d try it, but I’d not heard of Brazilian jiu-jitsu so it was nice to be introduced to something new that what described in such a way it didn’t leave me confused and scratching my head. If you’re in the mood for a sweet story of two nice guys getting to know each other it’s a good choice, little angst for when you’ve had your fill elsewhere.

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LuckoftheDiceTitle: Luck of the Dice
Author: Pinky Rae Parker
Length: 6,566 words (30 pdf pages)
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: m/m contemporary
Rating: C-

Blurb:

Gavin Gage has never been much for sports, but he does love fantasy-based role-playing games. Though his social life is quite active, Gavin feels like he’s botched his roll in the love department. Then he receives a mysterious invitation to an exclusive gaming tournament at a comic book convention, and Gavin meets a mysterious suitor. Between one roll and the next, Gavin realizes that when it comes to love, everything is just a game of chance.

Review:

As a romance, the interaction between the two main characters is so limited as to be barely there and I just couldn’t connect with the story. Gavin likes his life, although he would enjoy a boyfriend, however his geekiness tends to chase them away. He likes his job at a comic book store and playing the games with his friends and was lucky enough to be asked to be in a tournament at a local game show of his favourite game which is being re-released.

The moderator of the game at his table is someone wearing a goat mask, one of the characters in the world. Everything is going well and he receives a note from the moderator asking him to meet at midnight in a hotel room, where the game starts with a twist.

Large portions of this story are the game itself. Descriptions of what the gaming characters are doing. However these long tracts of text have little, if anything to do with the story. They are completely separate and have no bearing on the romance or progressions of the story. I found myself skimming over them because it just didn’t matter. The romance itself is only revealed on the last page and ends with a quick peck of a kiss. I didn’t get any great feeling of satisfaction from the two getting together, it seemed rather an after-thought to me and certainly not really any great passion or interest on Gavin’s side.

Perhaps those who play these type of games will find it interesting, but the focus was clearly on the game play and not on the relationship and I just couldn’t connect.

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Late-InningHomeRunTitle: Late-Inning Home Run
Author: Stella K. Jefferson
Length: 6,596 words (29 pdf pages)
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: m/m contemporary
Rating: B

Blurb:

Widower Jay Parker hasn’t seen his high school boyfriend, Craig Myers, in thirty-five years—not that they ever used the word “boyfriend.” When Craig turns up at a baseball game where Jay’s seventeen-year-old son is playing, Jay discovers the old attraction is still alive. It feels natural to invite Craig home to catch up, but reigniting their flame isn’t easy for anyone involved.

Review:

I enjoyed the easy flow of this story. Not a lot of angst. Jay runs into his old boyfriend Craig at his son’s baseball game. They immediately reconnect and Jay is shocked by the attraction that is still there. It seems that Jay’s wife died five years ago and he has spent the ensuing years raising his kids, and Craig’s partner died of cancer three years ago. They soon end up in bed, but are surprised by an early arrival by Jay’s son.

This was part reminiscing about the kids they’d been and part realizing they could have a second chance. I really liked Jay’s easy way with his bisexuality. He didn’t stress that he was attracted to men and had been attracted to and loved his wife. He’s always been the one easily accepting his teen relationship with Craig, assuring him it wasn’t wrong. It was nice not to have the big angsty “OMG, I might be gay” thing happening. I also thought it was handled well with the son. He was shocked but at 17 he was almost an adult and while it was awkward, it wasn’t  overly dramatic.

It’s also nice to see “old” guys still feeling the passion and excitement of an old relationship turned new. So while there isn’t a lot of conflict or drama here, I just really enjoyed the breezy feel of reunification. Two people happy they have a second chance and willing to grab it without stressing about it too much. I would definitely pick up something else by this author.

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New Sip coverTitle: Summer Country
Author: Camilla Gingold
Length: 7,700 words
Publisher: Torquere Press
Genre: m/m paranormal romance
Rating: C+

Blurb:
Recently divorced geneticist Tom St. Laurent is hoping for a quiet summer vacation. Then a mysterious man named Namir saves him from drowning and disappears, leaving a strange sealskin behind. Tom, who grew up hearing about the legend of the selkies, strikes a deal: Namir will allow himself to be studied for seven nights. In return, Tom will give back the sealskin and never bother Namir again. But science isn’t the only thing Tom is interested in. When forced to decide between his conscience and the pursuit of knowledge, will he choose Namir’s happiness above all?

Review:
Tom arrives at his island holiday home still unsettled from his divorce. After swimming too far out, he is rescued by a mysterious man. Tom discovers a seal skin on the beach and takes it home only to find that the skin’s owner, Namir, comes looking for it. Tom agrees to give it back to Namir after a week if Namir will let Tom study him.

I rather like selkie stories but they often leave me feeling vaguely dissatisfied because the inevitable happy ending can seem forced. This was the case for this story as when it ended I felt that the differences between the two species was too great for the romance to work in the long term. Another part which didn’t work so well was that I didn’t really like Tom. He comes across as smug and arrogant, and even his hurt over his divorce couldn’t redeem him too much for me.

There were parts that I did enjoy. The writing is evocative and the growing regard that Tom feels for Namir was done well. Tom changes from seeing Namir as a specimen to study to getting to know him and although the short length of the story means that this happens quickly, I still liked seeing that growth in Tom’s character. I liked Namir too. He’s enigmatic but as the story develops we learn a little more about him and I wished that we had been given more information about his life as a selkie.

In the end I had mixed feelings about the story. Its flaws were bound up with the selkie myth and trying to create a romance from that, but this was balanced by some positive aspects with Namir and the development of Tom. If you like selkie stories then I would still recommend this one despite its imperfections.

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sunshineandbuttercupsTitle: Sunshine and Buttercups
Author: Danni Keane
Length: 5,172 words
Publisher: JMS Books
Genre: m/m contemporary YA romance
Rating: B+

Blurb:
Josh Roberts knows something’s wrong. His parents are making frequent trips to the hospital, he’s excluded from their conversations, and worst of all, there’s a leaflet in the kitchen all about cancer treatments. He’s scared he’s going to lose his dad.

The only thing holding Josh’s world together is his relationship with his best friend, Bradley. But if Bradley finds out about Josh’s true feelings for him, will that friendship be threatened, too?

Review:
This free short is a prequel to a story by this author that I haven’t read. It tells of 16 year old Josh who’s getting on with life at school and home when he discovers a leaflet about cancer in the kitchen. Josh’s dad had cancer a few years ago and Josh is worried that the cancer may have returned. In a typical 16 year old fashion, Josh ignores his worries about his dad and concentrates on hiding his desire for his best friend Bradley, until a drunken party when everything is forced out into the open.

There was much to like about this story especially in Josh’s character. The author has managed to capture perfectly that awkward teenage time of life. Josh’s confused feelings about Bradley, his jealousy over a girl and his worries that should he confess his feelings then he will damage their friendship were all plausible fears. I liked Josh a great deal and understood why he behaved as he did. Even his attempts to ignore the fact that his dad may have cancer was entirely in character and led to an understated and poignant scene between Josh and his mum.

Another part I liked was in the interactions between Josh and Bradley. It’s obvious that their friendship is strong and than Josh knows Bradley well. I liked the slightly stilted and confused conversation they have about a girl that fancies Bradley and the way they look out for each other. Their friendship was realistic and provided a bright spot in a story which could have been a little maudlin. Instead the romance and the characterisation lifted the tone and left me smiling at the HFN ending.

Overall, I greatly enjoyed this story. The romance was lovely and the writing very solid. This is a new author to me but I’m already intending to read the sequel to this story.

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FlexibilityTitle: Flexibility
Author: Maja Rose
Length: 6,104 words (27 pdf pages)
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: m/m contemporary
Rating: B-

Blurb:

Jared Glass thinks he’s got a pretty sweet deal. Andrew Blackwell is his best friend and roommate, they both live for gymnastics, and Jared’s on his way to the 2016 Olympics. Then Jared’s teammate breaks his leg, and Andy is named his replacement … except no one tells Jared, and isn’t that something you’d tell your best friend? Then again, they’re good at bending around the obvious: Andy’s been in love with Jared for years but stays silent; Jared denies it could even be possible. Surely two friends this close can be more?

Review:

I think if you like characters who are rather flighty and self-deluded you’ll enjoy this, or he’ll make you crazy. Jared doesn’t handle change well, and just in advance of the Olympics, his roommate suddenly becomes his team-mate which throws him completely into a panic attack. He also sort of admits that he is into Andy, but has managed to convince himself that it’s normal he’s jealous of Andy’s boyfriends, and that he never wants him to leave. Besides, Jared’s had girlfriends.

Even Jared’s twin sister gives him grief over his hidden homosexuality, but he continues to deny it, until Andy is hurt in a car accident and he finally realizes the reality of it all.

I did enjoy Jared, even if he is totally over the top. His internal monologue as he convinces himself that he’s not in love with Andy, and that finding him attractive is normal, and telling himself that he’s totally self-aware, were amusing. Even though they cuddle and hold each other, he’s padding happily down the Nile.

Plus, Jared refuses to believe he’s that dumb. No way is he emotionally constipated enough not to have noticed he’s in love with his best friend. That would seriously be the worst example of self-awareness ever. Anna is totally wrong; he is like 300 percent innate emotional awareness, 200 percent muscle. Like Batman. Actually, bad example on the awareness slot.

The banter between Jared and his twin was cute. A typical sister she wastes no time in tell him he’s an idiot, and I liked that Andy was letting him go at his own pace, but I could see that Jared’s drama-queen antics could put some readers off. However it almost reminded me of a sitcom. Everything has to be just a little bit extreme to show how ridiculous he’s being. I found myself smiling while reading and the length is just right for that kind of humour as I doubt it could be sustained for a novel length book or it would make you crazy long before it ended. Great if you need a pick-me up.

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ImprovesTitle: Improves with Ages
Author: Lavinia Lewis
Length: 60 pdf pages
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: m/m contemporary
Rating: B+

Blurb:

Sometimes you can go home again. Reece Watkins left Montana after high school. A math major, he found a fulfilling career as an accountant in Washington with Mike, the love of his life. But then Mike dies of a heart attack, leaving Reece to reevaluate his own life and realize he’s on the same track. He decides to return to Montana and a slower pace.

Former football team captain Nick Kenison never left Montana. Instead, he married his high school sweetheart, had two kids, established a contracting business, and discovered he was gay. Now out and proud, Nick drives out to Reece’s to answer a call about roof repairs.

In high school, they were opposites, but now? The attraction between them is electric. Of course, it isn’t that easy—Reece is still dealing with body issues, self-esteem issues, and grief over Mike’s loss. Nick will have to teach him it’s never too late for love.

Review:

There’s not a lot of conflict in this story, but it’s very sweet and always nice to see romantic heroes who are older. It’s been three year’s since Reece’s partner of 20 years died of a heart attack and he’s moved back to his hometown, in part to change his lifestyle so he doesn’t end up on the same path. He bought an old “fixer-upper” which thanks to a hole in the roof in the middle of winter means a significant repair bill and no contractors available to do the work. Except one.

When he realizes who Nick is, it doesn’t take them long till they are getting down in the hallway, when I say not long, I’m talking 10 minutes. 🙂 Before long Reece is swept up in a relationship with Nick who is easy-going, nice, friendly, and hot and seems to have a thing for Reece. The main conflict lies with Reece’s guilt over moving on from his partner’s death, and his own self-image as an older man at 49 with gray hair (a shame the cover has him blond) and getting older and thinking he had his one chance at love.

However, a fall off the roof by Nick makes Reece realize he’d be stupid to pass up a second chance at love. There are small conflicts, the moment to discuss anal sex, dealing with the holidays and Nick’s kids and Reece’s parents, but all are solved quite simply with no great drama. But they are both such nice guys you are happy that they have found each other, are boinking like bunnies, and their families are supportive and not mean or vindictive. So sometimes you don’t want to deal with the drama. 🙂

What I particularly liked, is all too often, it feels like no matter how good the relationship between a couple is, some author’s feel compelled to tear down the dead partner, perhaps in an effort to show that the current partner is “better”, and that wasn’t done here. Reece’s partner was a terrific guy, they got along well, they were faithful, there was no effort to show that this current relationship was better, it was just different and good in its own way. I also though Reece’s understated mourning still was nicely done, how things would hit him at odd moments.

So when you’re in the mood for something that makes you smile at the end and kind of go “awwww”, with some characters who are older but not suffering from tons of baggage, it’s a great story and I really enjoyed the time I took to read it.

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