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Currently Browsing: LGBTQ
Sep
5

Review: Fast Connection by Megan Erickson & Santino Hassell

Review: Fast Connection by Megan Erickson & Santino Hassell Fast Connection Author: Megan Erickson & Santino Hassell Reviewer: B. Rating: A What I’m Talking About: Unwilling to remain stagnant like the majority of his peers, and lacking other options, Dominic Costigan joined the Army straight out of high school, any “growing up” he had to do being done with a gun in his hands on the front lines of war. Now that he’s back, he’s quickly discovering that the home he knew, and most of those in it, is more foreign and ill-fitting than ever. Lonely and eager to explore his newfound sexual interest in men, he decides that a no-strings, internet-spawned hookup would be a fine place to start over again—especially if it means protecting his already battle-worn heart. Luke Rawlings is done with relationships. Out of the two he’s had that mattered, one ended with two amazing kids and an incredible ex-wife, while the other resulted in his being discharged from the Army and his former boyfriend briefly kidnapping his children. All he wants, or needs, now is to make sure his landscaping business stays profitable, to take care of his teenagers, and keep his sexual engagements as impersonal as possible. Lucky for him, Grindr was made for exactly that. After eagerly anticipating the release of Fast Connection, the second story in the Cyberlove series by Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell, I was both pleased and unsurprised to find that it was as fun and thoughtfully written as I imagined it would be. Whereas Strong Signal, the first in the series, didn’t explore the mingling of the virtual world with the “real” one until later in the narrative, Fast Connection takes place amid the interchange of one with the other throughout, handily reaffirming the validity of online relationships along the way. In a testament to the authors’ writing abilities, Dominic transformed from an abrasive, insecure bully with a serious control problem into a thoughtful, insecure survivor who wants a better future for himself and his family. In Fast Connection, that earlier façade is given a degree of substance I hadn’t expected, and appreciated all the more for it. Dominic doesn’t make excuses, which I was glad to see, instead waving his mistakes ahead of him, almost as a warning, lest anyone see too much potential in him. Rather than wallowing, he seemed to want to hope very badly, but couldn’t quite find his way there on his own. Luke, as it happens, is the perfect person...
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Aug
31

Review + Blog Tour: Looking for Group by Alexis Hall

Review + Blog Tour: Looking for Group by Alexis Hall Looking for Group Author: Alexis Hall Reviewer: B. Rating: A What I’m Talking About: Beginning with what is essentially a “job listing” in a fictional MMO, Looking for Group is one of the most unique and fun stories about falling in love that I’ve had the pleasure of reading in a very long time. Told exclusively from Drew’s perspective, it’s a noteworthy lesson, not only about accepting others for who they are, but being honest with ourselves, as well. There’s actually much more to it than that, but it’s better to just read it firsthand. One of the most fascinating things about Looking for Group is what felt like a fairly thorough immersion of the reader in the gameplay of the fictional MMO, Heroes of Legend. Though Mr. Hall clearly took as many facets of his audience as possible into consideration when writing the game scenes, I was still thankful for the glossary at the end of the story. If you don’t already speak MMO, this should definitely be read first. Aside from being very helpful in following along in HoL, it’s an extremely entertaining feature in its own right, and, in general, I thought it was a nice touch. As he’s the only narrator, we see the world of the story through Drew’s eyes, and there were several moments when I wished with all my heart that I could derail certain trajectories he’d flung himself along before it was too late. But, Mr. Hall is an excellent storyteller, and that would have been too easy. Instead, we’re given the chance to ask ourselves what the term “real” actually means, and hopefully acknowledge that our definition isn’t likely to be the same as anyone else’s. And that’s okay. Despite Drew’s best intentions, there simply isn’t a universally applicable pie chart for “The Equitable and Acceptable Distribution of Self.” As usual, Mr. Hall has created an entire cast of vivid and engaging personalities in Looking for Group, each unique and “alive,” whether secondary or no. Drew and Kit are each completely wonderful, and witnessing them banter with each other was a real pleasure, although it was Kit who really stole my heart. The other characters are no less remarkable, however, and I appreciated the variations in the ways we get to know them (online vs. “in the flesh”). Looking for Group is a fine story with some delightful twists, and I loved every moment I spent grumbling and gesticulating at...
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Jul
18

Review + Giveaway: Top to Bottom by Delphine Dryden

Review + Giveaway: Top to Bottom by Delphine Dryden Top to Bottom Author: Delphine Dryden Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: B- What I’m Talking About: Mistress Amie lives day-to-day without attachments. She loves her job at the gym, but the only person she has any type of bond with is her ex, Mara, whom she’s sent away for good to a new club, Escape. She used to love the crowd and scenes at her current club, but now, the club just feels drama-filled and tired. Dru is determined to make club Escape work. On her own, she seeks the advice of her onetime college partner, Amie, to help the club break even. What she didn’t expect is to have feelings for Amie, even after their initial reunion left little to be desired. Top to Bottom is a love story of two women finding their way back to one another after many years. Although the years in between college and current day were filled with significant life trials, shaping each woman into someone slightly different and a bit stronger. Top to Bottom shares the final stage of each female’s development; both taking that final step to heal and love. Amie’s wild and crazy ways condemned her to homelessness when her family discovered her kissing another girl. With all of her college friends gone, Amie struggled until she found her first job. Understanding the hardship and humiliation of living on the streets, and the pain of loneliness after being cast out by her family, Amie doesn’t trust easily. Dru gives her balance and a safe place to share herself. While I found the falling (back) into love part a bit too easy, or rather than it felt like it happened under the radar, it was still believable because of the pair’s dynamic when we did see them together, opening up and therefore, growing. Dru pushes Amie with just the right amount of determination, until Amie realizes she can trust again. Meanwhile, Dru has lived a pretty good life, until she lost her partner. Opening the club was their dream, and Dru is determined to make it work. However, someone is out to ruin her and/or her club, and giving up may be the easier option. At times I felt like Dru saw Amie as a case to manage – something broken to be fixed – and that’s what drove the relationship. However, it was done because she cared, and she was ready to move on with her life. Dru saw past...
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Jul
6

Review + Giveaway: What Remains by Garrett Leigh

Review + Giveaway: What Remains by Garrett Leigh What Remains Author: Garrett Leigh Reviewer: B. Rating: A What I’m Talking About: The only thing vibrant, independent Jodi Peters wanted from his rare evening out was to have a little fun, then go back home to his comfortable no-strings life. He never expected the captivating bouncer who tossed a small herd of drunken idiots out of a bar to walk him home. Of course, inviting the man inside certainly hadn’t been on his to-do list for the evening, either, but he wasn’t about to let the strongest attraction he’d ever felt slip away. Recently divorced and newly out, Rupert O’Neil doesn’t exactly have his life in order when he meets the hipster-scruffed, not-entirely-sober web designer outside the bar where he works on the weekends. Fighting fires is everything he wants in a day job, but it isn’t enough to keep a decent roof over his head and support the daughter he adores, especially when his ex-wife is set on making him as miserable as possible. But, as flirtation with a stranger turns into love, his world becomes as close to perfect as he ever could have hoped for—and far too good to last. Although I was only introduced to her writing recently, Ms. Leigh has quickly become a new favorite. I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve read by her so far, even though each of those stories has broken my heart a little. Which, admittedly, is part of the draw. Not content to have her characters “merely” struggling to find love, they must fight unfavorable odds to keep it when the world seems intent on wrenching it away. Fortunately, the scale is tipped towards the hopeful side of the equation just enough in What Remains, and it works. Unlike many other stories I’ve read (irrespective of genre), I liked both main characters in What Remains equally well. Jodi and Rupert are each wonderful in very different ways. Jodi is the more open of the pair, always quick with a joke, and unabashedly determined when it comes to loving Rupert. Rupert, by contrast, is quieter—mostly, I imagine, from the responsibilities he shoulders all the time. He’s more practical and uncertain, yet he’s no less resolute in his devotion to Jodi. Jodi almost shines too brightly compared to Rupert’s more reserved demeanor, but, the combination of personalities is actually perfect. What Remains is also one of those stories that needs to be experienced and shouldn’t be reduced to a few perfunctory statements....
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Jun
13

Review + Giveaway: All the Wrong Places by Ann Gallagher

Review + Giveaway: All the Wrong Places by Ann Gallagher All The Wrong Places Author: Ann Gallagher Reviewer: B. Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Despite the risks of his career as a semi-pro skateboarder, most things in Brennan Cross’ life are good. He’s got a job he likes, good friends, and is working towards his dream of competing in the X Games someday. Even though his personal life is a little shaky at present, his biggest problem isn’t that his girlfriend cheated on him—it’s that she’s the third one to do so. And the fact that all three have blamed Brennan’s inability to meet their sexual “needs” has left him more than a little confused. Now, Brennan has questions. Where better to find some answers than the local sex shop? As a single father and a Muslim working in an adult toy shop, Zafir Hamady knows he’s an anomaly. Being asexual as well just adds to the list of complications that has kept him single for so long. Sure, he’s lonely, but all he really wants to do is give his son a good home and every opportunity to have a better life. The last thing he needs is to fall for the seemingly straight, yet very lost, skater who wandered into his store right after an ugly breakup. Too bad his heart has other ideas. I’ve been very excited to see an increase in Ace titles and characters in the last year or so, and not at all surprised to see the topic addressed so well in a Bluewater Bay story. Asexuality is a broad, multifaceted, yet little-explored topic, but I think that the author of All the Wrong Places approaches quite a few of these issues with compassion and respect that I appreciated a great deal. I liked both Brennan and Zafir a great deal, even though they are about as different from one another as possible—at least in the beginning. As the vehicle for self-discovery, I thought Brennan was very likable, for the most part, and was especially pleased to see that he was both serious and introspective, rather than a flaky caricature of skateboarding culture. It is Zafir, however, who is the heart of the story, and it was his cautious yearning and affection that really drew me in. While this story could easily have turned into a “How to be Asexual” pamphlet, I found it to be so much more. From the support group where Brennan begins to feel less isolated to Zafir’s...
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Apr
27

Review: First and First by Santino Hassell

Review: First and First by Santino Hassell First and First Author: Santino Hassell Reviewer: B. Rating: A What I’m Talking About: No matter how hard he tries, Caleb Stone always manages to disappoint those around him: his parents, his former work associates, his ex-boyfriend… Spending an alcohol-soaked New Year’s Eve observing the happiness of others only highlights the fact that nothing in his life has gone the way he wanted it to. It all makes the idea of giving up on romance entirely seem like a pretty good one. Of course, waking up next to a gorgeous acquaintance might not have been what he had in mind, either, but things have certainly been worse. Going from riches to rags after his parents threw him out when he was eighteen taught Oliver Buckley a lot about being independent. Being cast aside by a man who only wanted to use him for the status he no longer possessed taught him to never give his heart away again. Now, he’s got money of his own, no attachments weighing him down, and a standing invitation to the most exclusive scene parties in NYC. Everything is perfect. At least, until a one-night stand with Caleb flips his entire world inside out. Having primarily seen the worst of Caleb in Sunset Park, the previous story in this series, I was relieved to find that spark of “something else” I saw in him given a chance to take over in First and First. Caleb’s acceptance of his need for control, for things to fit what he sees as a logical order, is so absolute that it’s strangling him, as well as infecting every other relationship he has. He isn’t tyrannical (that’s his father’s job), just very, very stuck. He’s been emotionally isolated for so long that trusting others and letting go is impossible for him. Until his drunken night with Oli, anyway (which he can only remember in sporadic flashbacks). Yet, even with Oli, he initially thinks salvation might be found in following the other’s lead, only to learn that trying to shove himself into someone else’s mold won’t do him any good, either. Oli, on the other hand, has custom-built his world just the way he likes it. Happily rough around the edges, Oli could easily be dismissed as the blithely hedonistic party boy, except he’s most assuredly more than that. He and Caleb actually have quite a lot in common, but Oli’s version of control is expressed much differently. Adept at...
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Apr
19

Review + Giveaway: Selfie by Amy Lane

Review + Giveaway: Selfie by Amy Lane Selfie Author: Amy Lane Reviewer: B. Rating: A What I’m Talking About: The Bluewater Bay series has continually proven to be among the best I’ve ever read, and Selfie, by Amy Lane, is one my favorites to date. Told from the perspective of Connor Montgomery, movie star and grieving “basket case,” it isn’t the tale of a Phoenix rising, or miraculous rebirth. It is, rather, a story about coping and healing, honesty and loss, and loving again. To begin with, Ms. Lane is an undeniable asset to this series, as was already proven with her previous additions, “Nascha” (from Lights, Camera, Cupid!) and The Deep of the Sound. I absolutely fell in love with these characters. Connor is, frankly, a heart-broken mess. He’s also enviably strong, quirky beyond reason, and kind to a fault. My heart ached for him over and over, but I couldn’t stop hoping that he would be okay with everything in me. As much as I liked Connor, though, Noah Dakers, local Philosophy grad and driver/bodyguard/PA/etc. for the studio producing “Wolf’s Landing,” stole my heart and kept it. Noah is gorgeous, inside and out. I can’t think of a single thing I didn’t completely love about him. He’s incredibly astute, patient, funny, brilliantly sarcastic, sexier than should surely be allowed, so loving it hurts—pretty much perfect in all the ways that make me want to read Selfie again and again. While Connor and Noah are the two main characters, it would be wrong to ignore Connor’s former love, Vinnie, as the third. He’s simply always there. One thing that I appreciated a great deal about Ms. Lane’s treatment of his memory is that it changes as Connor tries to find a way to live again. Initially, his perfection is suggested by the enormity of his absence in Connor’s life. But, that idyllic love starts to break down memory by memory, becoming something real—cracked and frayed in places, and giving Connor’s reawakening a weight it might not otherwise have had. Just as important, I think, is that, while Vinnie’s flaws are presented with a stripped-bare honesty, it is done without taking the easy out and completely vilifying him. One of the most beautiful things about Selfie is its treatment of the unquantifiable nature of grief. Through the characters’ various perspectives, Ms. Lane dissects the reality of loss and presents it as a living, evolving entity, unique to each individual, even though common threads may be shared...
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Apr
11

Blog Tour + Review + Giveaway: The Empty Hourglass by Cornelia Grey

Blog Tour + Review + Giveaway: The Empty Hourglass by Cornelia Grey Hello! I’m Cornelia Grey—welcome to the Empty Hourglass blog tour! At various tour stops, I’ll be sharing some secrets about my writing process, sources of inspiration and future projects! Comment on each stop to be entered in a drawing for a $15 Riptide Publishing gift card and the two previous titles in the Deal with a Devil series—Devil at the Crossroads and The Circus of the Damned—in an e-book format of your choice. Thank you for joining me on the tour! Review The Empty Hourglass Author: Cornelia Grey Reviewer: B. Rating: B What I’m Talking About: After losing his hand, as well as his beloved workshop, in a fire, Thomas Escott wants nothing more than to find a way to make things be as they were before. When a mysterious letter points him in the direction of an enigmatic inventor who’s touted as a genius in the creation of prosthetics, he thinks he’s found the answer to his prayers. But, as the truth begins to unfold, Thomas discovers that heaven has little to do with it. Jethro Hastings gave up on everything, save for an extremely costly secret invention, after personal tragedy left him heartbroken and lost. Having secluded himself away in a decaying mansion with nothing but his work—and the rapid passage of time—to keep him company, the last thing he expected was the intriguingly capable toy maker who turned up on his doorstep. But, with the minutes running out, and a devil waiting in the wings, redemption may be beyond either man’s reach. While I have enjoyed the Deal with the Devil series as a whole, I felt that this story was missing something. Although Jethro and Thomas have independently compelling backgrounds that led them to the main conflict within the narrative, I wasn’t as drawn in by them as I was by the events and characters of the second story in the series, Circus of the Damned. Having said that, I still think there is plenty about The Empty Hourglass to like. A common theme that The Empty Hourglass continues, and which works nicely in this series, is the loss of purpose in the face of other worries and vices, such as hopelessness and grief, but also vanity and an unhealthy quest for glory. One of my favorite things about this story, however, is the author’s ongoing ability to make a postponement of damnation a kind of salvation instead at the hands of a soft-hearted devil...
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Mar
23

Review + Blog Tour: Trailer Trash by Marie Sexton

Review + Blog Tour: Trailer Trash by Marie Sexton From the author: Hello, everybody! I’m Marie Sexton, and I’m here today to tell you about my New Adult novel, Trailer Trash. Trailer Trash is a sweet coming-of-age story about two high school seniors: Cody, who’s dirt poor and literally lives on the wrong side of the tracks, and Nate, the preppy new kid in town. It’s set in the fictional town of Warren, Wyoming, in the mid-1980s. It’s full of angst and 80s pop culture references, and I promise, it has a happy ending. 🙂 Trailer Trash Author: Marie Sexton Reviewer: B. Rating: A- B.’s Review: Set in the miserable wasteland that is Warren, Wyoming in 1986, Trailer Trash is the “coming-of-age”/ “coming out” story of two young men who somehow manage to find love despite the world around them trying its best to tear them apart. Aside from the inevitable death of the town itself, the entire narrative is filled with stark descriptions of joblessness and poverty, and the frustration and misplaced blame that comes from struggling against the immovable boundaries of the established financial and social order. All of which makes for compelling, but not frivolous, reading. Of the two main characters, Nate was definitely “easier” for me to read about. He’s naïve, affluent (by Warren standards, to be sure), resentful, and lonely. Far from being a bad person, though, he’s just hurt and a little shiny. It takes him a while to accept that “the rules” that applied in Austin, Texas, do not apply in his new home… and he gets just about everything wrong. Still, his desire to hang out with the self-described “pariah” of the school, rather than the popular kids he resembles in clothing labels only, made me like him very early in the story. Cody Lawrence, on the other hand, could never be accused of being shiny. Stripped of any dreams he may have had for himself early and often, he’s already been through too much, seen too much, at the age of seventeen. As the only acknowledged gay student in a small high school full of the most vicious kinds of cliques, he really can’t catch a break. This, combined with his situation at home, makes Cody a genuine outcast. Yet, he has a truly good heart, despite everything, and I adored him. One of the ways in which I think Trailer Trash excels is in the author’s ability to add vivid details to nearly everything. From the pervasive reek...
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Mar
18

Review + Giveaway: Between Ghosts by Garrett Leigh

Review + Giveaway: Between Ghosts by Garrett Leigh Between Ghosts Author: Garrett Leigh Reviewer: B. Rating: A What I’m Talking About: Losing his older brother to a war he’s never agreed with would have been bad enough for Connor Regan to live with, but for that hurt remain adrift with no understanding to anchor it is worse. Going on assignment with a SAS team that’s seen the worst the war has to offer—and to one of the most dangerous regions there is—seems like his best chance for some answers. What he finds will change him forever, and lead him to the first man Connor isn’t sure he can survive without. Sergeant Nathan Thompson isn’t a man with a lot of time on his hands. With one mission beginning almost before the previous one has ended, he can’t seem to find the hours to sleep, much less babysit a civilian reporter who’s managed to be embedded with his team. But, the “hack” gets under his skin faster than Nat ever imagined he would, and keeping Connor safe quickly becomes far more than just an obligation. Ordinarily, the speed with which Connor and Nat become attached would have concerned me. But, Between Ghosts is set in the middle of a never-ending war, and that, justifiably, made a huge difference. That a physical connection could be a balm in the midst of so much destruction, and that the heart might just as quickly follow—especially when time inherently must be counted so differently—I could easily accept. Ms. Leigh depicts the temporary nature of living through war very convincingly, making the relationship that evolves between the two men something worth cherishing, rather than dismissing. I found both Connor and Nat easy to believe in. Neither was very predictable, and accepting that their different personalities might be complimentary wasn’t a problem. At first, there seems to be little more to Nat than the gruff Sergeant whose responsibilities weigh so heavily on him. However, this proves not to be the case. Connor, in contrast, has plenty going on from the start, including his own, personal undertaking, and watching that mission disintegrate as his understanding of the situation increased made me feel as badly for him as I did for the soldiers he accompanied. Connor and Nat aren’t the only characters that stood out in Between Ghosts. It didn’t seem as if there were any negligible characters to me, each being imbued with such individuality and heartfelt connection to one another that I held my...
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