logo
Currently Browsing: LGBTQ
Jul
5

Review: Pounding Skin by L.A. Witt

Review: Pounding Skin by L.A. Witt Pounding Skin Author: L.A. Witt Reviewer: B. Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: Picking up shortly after Back Piece, the first story in the Skin Deep, Inc. series, Pounding Skin introduces readers to jet pilot Jon Russell and inker Matt Huffman, whom we briefly met before. Although the pairing of a member of the military and a civilian employee of the tattoo shop is the same, the characters are so different that there’s very little repetition. While familiar within those parameters, this sequel feels brand new in plenty of other ways, making the entire series better overall. Even more than the first story in this series, Pounding Skin is a tale in which “opposites attract.” Jon throws his candor, which was downright abrasive on occasion, before him as if it were a shield he can hunker down behind, while still feeling blameless for anyone else’s hurt feelings. Matt, on the other hand, seems so genuine—even when he’s clueless—that I worried for him for the duration of the novel. Of the two, I couldn’t help the fondness I felt for Matt from the start, nor the protective irritation that was repeatedly inspired by Jon’s behavior. Nearly all of the emotional ballast is on Matt’s side, but it ended up working out well that way. Although I enjoyed Pounding Skin as a whole a great deal, there were some instances that I found distracting (but not particularly troubling). The sudden reversal of Matt’s old, alcohol-induced amnesia about an important moment with his college roommate; certain phrasing that’s repeated nearly verbatim; the suggestion that women are more easily “charmed” than men when it comes to sex, etc., did pull me out of the narrative on occasion. These moments are few, however, and are nicely balanced out by the more positive aspects of the story. Pounding Skin is a well-crafted second in the Skin Deep, Inc. series, and one I feel certain I’ll revisit soon. While I was never able to fully sympathize with Jon, I felt that Matt was a truly wonderful character. More than a romance, however, Pounding Skin examines the ways we are shaped by our experiences, sculpted by many other hands in addition to our own. I was also very glad to see more of Colin and Daniel from Back Piece, and every bit of the affection I have for them both was not only remembered, but magnified. The tattoo shop seemed like a real family this time around,...
Read More
Jun
28

Review + Blog Tour: Oversight by Santino Hassell

Review + Blog Tour: Oversight by Santino Hassell Oversight Author: Santino Hassell Reviewer: B. Rating: A+ What I’m Talking About: After falling in love with Insight, the first in the Community series, I had high hopes for this story—and the end result far exceeded any expectations I might have had. In fact, I believe that Oversight has elevated the entire series by several degrees, and there’s still one more book to go. With a mix of characters both familiar and new, Oversight is filled with some of the most vivid personalities ever—some good, some bad—and, as was the case in its predecessor, it can be difficult to tell the difference sometimes. Although I didn’t care for Holden in Insight, a more thorough examination of his adolescence and the tactics and motives of the Community gave me a much greater appreciation for him and what he’s currently going through. It was Sixtus, however, that won me over completely. His unique talent is a perfect disguise for what simmers beneath the surface, and I found him to be utterly mesmerizing. Mr. Hassell has given life to someone truly remarkable in Sixtus, his gifts as intriguing as the man himself. He’s an immediate favorite, one who makes the entire novel worth a reread as soon as possible just to ensure that I didn’t miss a single detail. I absolutely adored him. While Nate’s story kept me invested from the beginning, the conspiracy that unfolds throughout Oversight felt even more urgent at times, the building suspense making getting through those moments a white-knuckling affair in all the right ways. From the first chapter, the momentum crescendos in extremely well-timed sequences of recollection and desperation, and once I hit the midway point, the narrative owned me until the very end. Although I think it would be enjoyable regardless, Oversight isn’t a standalone. There’s a momentum that was introduced in the first story that works its way to a frenzied pace here that I couldn’t look away from. The return of quite a few characters from book one means that this series needs to be read in its proper succession, but it’s well worth it. There are layers of secrets and machinations that are uncovered methodically through the experiences of these characters, and it’s been a real pleasure to watch things unfold to this point. Oversight is an oftentimes terrifying view of what is at stake when good intentions give way to the commodification of the very people most in need of help...
Read More
Jun
27

Review: The Cartographer by Tamsen Parker

Review: The Cartographer by Tamsen Parker The Cartographer Author: Tamsen Parker Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A+ What I’m Talking About: I can’t imagine Rey’s book being more perfect. If you’ve been reading Tamsen Parker’s Compass series, you know Rey Walter—the kink puppeteer/matchmaker. I’ve always been curious about Rey, but never did I imagine the revelations in The Cartographer. As always, I’m keeping this review spoiler-free. Which means it’s going to be short 😉 Allie Hart is an awesome guy. He hasn’t had an easy life but he’s responsible and committed. Not committed to someone else, though. Like, not romantically. I found myself wanting to slap Allie up-side the head and tell him to let Rey help. **pulls hair** We do get to watch Allie grow, too. I like seeing him overcome preconceived notions and become a fly on the wall when he’s with the people he cares about. I think I connected with Allie because he’s had a rough go of it, but seems to have come out the other side of his battles a better person. Rey? Oh, I love the things we learn about Rey. It’s really nice to see his Dominant, match-making tush again. I think parts of The Cartographer were difficult to read for me because I like to have some semblance of control in my life, but the way Rey handles his own control—at times—is difficult for me. I read the words and I’m the person murmuring to my book, “Oh, honey…don’t do that.” Rey has been instrumental to this series. There’s a REASON he’s the Cartographer—he’s been charting a course for everyone else all these years and it’s finally—finally—time for him to travel the road toward his own happiness. I don’t think there’s many people who can write kink the way Ms. Parker does, either. I love her imagery and the depth of the emotions during a particularly harrowing scene. And, you guys? This book is particularly smokin’ hot. But even more than how hot the sex is, and how intense the BDSM scenes are, there’s so much emotion. It’s been absolutely wonderful watching the development in Ms. Parker’s Compass series, and I’m sad to see the series end. But, this is good news for you—in the even you haven’t picked up this series, yet. IT IS COMPLETE. You may now commence the binge-reading. My Rating: A+ Personal favorite About the Book: Reyes Walter is the man who engineers everyone’s happiness, and he’s never wanted anything else. He’s got a...
Read More
Jun
19

Review: Chief’s Mess by L.A. Witt

Review: Chief’s Mess by L.A. Witt Chief’s Mess Author: L.A. Witt Reviewer: B. Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: While he was happy to provide some moral support during his sister’s peace-making visit with her ex-husband and his new boyfriend, what Anthony Talbot really wants is a night of no-strings sex with a hot stranger. Luckily, the sexy chief master-at-arms who takes him home clearly agrees. Noah Jackson quickly gets under Anthony’s skin, however, and their increasingly frequent hookups soon turn into a long-distance relationship that leaves both men hungry for more. But, Noah’s hiding a problem he doesn’t even realize he has, and it’s the one thing that Anthony may not be able to forgive. While the previous story in the series, Afraid to Fly, also dealt with alcoholism, Chief’s Mess is an examination of the denial and consequences of the situation as they’re happening, rather than the aftermath. Here, the reader is witness to the chain of events as Noah’s life begins to fall apart around him. The dual perspectives also cast Anthony’s own feelings in a stark light as they shift from happiness and optimism to fear and pain as the narrative evolves. One thing I especially liked about Chief’s Mess is that it’s not a hearts and flowers kind of romance out of the gate. Noah and Anthony’s story begins with a hookup and grows into something more over time. The initial attraction is purely physical, and I thought the uncomplicated necessity of that beginning worked really well. Their sexual compatibility is evident from the start, the long-distance relationship they slip into providing ample opportunity for the anticipation between them with to build. Sadly, it is precisely that distance, both emotionally and geographically, that allowed the truth to be ignored and hidden so easily. At its heart, Chief’s Mess is about honesty and forgiveness—good lessons to keep in mind regardless of the specifics involved. That Anthony and Noah are a good match for one another is evident from their earliest meeting, and wish I could have seen even more of their interactions outside of the bedroom as the story progressed. Watching their connection falter was hard at times, some of the worst moments being downright painful, especially knowing that things would become more difficult before they could get better. Even though I missed the first of the Anchor Point stories, I’ve enjoyed the two I have read a great deal, and would recommend the series to any fan of the genre....
Read More
Jun
7

Review + Blog Tour: Mature Content by Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell

Review + Blog Tour: Mature Content by Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell Mature Content Author: Megan Erickson & Santino Hassell Reviewer: B. Rating: A What I’m Talking About: From the very beginning, the Cyberlove series has been an unflinching and welcome rebuttal to the notion that the connections, and lives, we find for ourselves online are invalid. Mature Content goes further in that the characters’ challenges, opportunities, and relationships play out where the distinction between “real life” and the internet is no longer distinct—or even relevant in many ways. Zane Brody and Beau Shields are two popular YouTubers in the LGBTQ community whose already overlapping circles are about collide—spectacularly. Beau’s online persona, Beau Starr, isn’t a lie exactly, but rather the version of himself he wants to be. Informative and validating, he tries to be the positive presence that was lacking when he was trying to figure things out for himself. The problem is that living means making mistakes, and Beau has his share like everyone else. But, the past is never very far away, and I was reminded of the Confucius quote “No matter where you go, there you are.” It’s simply too much for Beau to shoulder on his own, and the steadily increasing weight of it all was tangible as the story progressed. Zane, on the other hand, decided long before to live his life openly, his “TrashyZane” identity being the truest version of himself that he could possibly be. He is incredibly strong, unrepentantly sexual, and has an enviably good heart to go with it all. He is sometimes (justifiably) wary, but honest to a fault, and his determination not to hide who he is means that there’s nowhere for him to hide when he might have need of such. I adored Zane from the beginning, and still can’t think of a single thing I didn’t like about him. In terms of sex, the aptly titled Mature Content has plenty, and I thought these scenes were some of the best I’ve read. Entire lifetimes could be spent unsuccessfully searching for the kind of sexual compatibility Zane and Beau share. That they despise one another makes the fact as perfect as it is annoying (for them, at least), but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t find their mutual struggle with that reality as riveting as the encounters themselves. Saying that these two are “smoking hot” together wouldn’t be wrong, but it would be sadly inadequate for the chemistry that Ms. Erickson and Mr. Hassell manage to bring to...
Read More
Jun
5

Review + Blog Tour: Small Change by Roan Parrish

Review + Blog Tour: Small Change by Roan Parrish Small Change Author: Roan Parrish Reviewer: B. Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Having first met Ginger in In the Middle of Somewhere I was very happy to see her get her own story. Small Change follows a parallel timeline, but to say that it is the same narrative from a different perspective would simply be untrue. Titled after the name of her tattoo shop—which is itself named after a Tom Waits album and song—Small Change introduces readers to Ginger’s world, and all the wonderful characters in it, amid a significant upheaval. The absence of her best friend, changes at the shop, and the addition of someone she’s beginning to care for (despite her reluctance to believe the truth of it) all have her off balance, but it’s precisely this unsteadiness that made Ginger seem more substantial and genuine than a lot of other characters I’ve read. Something that I particularly enjoyed about Small Change is that Ginger and Christopher’s dance towards one another raises some excellent questions that I think many will find familiar in some way. Can she be honest with herself? How much of herself will Ginger lose if she lets Christopher into her heart? If the hurts that have toughened her are flung outward in defense when someone gets too close, who else might she hurt, in turn? Ginger has spent so long fighting for everything she has—and then having to guard it against anyone who would negate those accomplishments—that she is understandably terrified about what loving Christopher could mean. Interestingly, we get to know Christopher not only by his interactions with Ginger, but through his emails to his brother, Jude. Most of the narrative is strictly from Ginger’s first person point of view, but these one-sided messages are extremely telling, and allow the reader to understand Christopher by the complexity of devotion evidenced within them. They are filled with love, hope, sadness, anger, and even loneliness, proving that he truly is as good as he seems. I also thought it especially appropriate that Ginger must face her hardest truths via Jude—who I found absolutely fascinating. Ginger identifies as queer and has dated both men and women to varying degrees of success, and I loved that there wasn’t any drama about the fact on Christopher’s part—or the story as a whole, come to that. Though the tattoo shop owes its current uptick in business to the publicity it received for being “queer-friendly” as well as...
Read More
May
22

Review: Enemies Like You by Annika Martin & Joanna Chambers

Review: Enemies Like You by Annika Martin & Joanna Chambers Enemies Like You Author: Annika Martin & Joanna Chambers Reviewer: Jen Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: NOTE: The authors recently released a free “prequel” novella, Enemies with Benefits, prior to the release of this book. It is actually the first eight chapters (about 25%) of Enemies Like You. So if you have read the prequel, the authors direct you to start at Chapter 9, which is what I did. If you have not read the prequel – no need to pick it up. CIA operative Will is set to kill his enemy, Polzin. It’s a personal kill since Polzin is responsible the deaths of so many of Will’s brothers-in-arms. Kit has been deep undercover for two years, forced to protect Polzin as his bodyguard. Kit must keep the dirty Russian alive until he completes his own, secret objective: locate the Roc file. Now the pair face off in a deadly match that neither can walk away from. Will and Kit begin the story as two sides to the same coin. Both ultimately after the same goal – eliminate Polzin – but with opposing methods and reasons. I’m glad that through their relentless pursuits, each learns the truth about the other, allowing the pair to team up and work together. I appreciate that the authors didn’t drag out the stand off between the pair, rather they used each encounter between Kit and Will to slowly wear both down. This ultimately changes both men, giving them the space to grown and open up. And I loved watching the pair evolve before my eyes, maturing and joining. I loved how each scene brought them closer together and changed each just a little bit, until they are a solid couple in love by the end. I look forward to more challenges and Kit’s “Kate persona” taking on Will, but I like that Kit has a soft, vulnerable side as well. The espionage story is a good one. Like a classic spy thriller, there are several players in action, and the reader doesn’t fully understand all the pieces until nearly the end. I enjoyed watching Will and Kit figure out every step and finally getting to the end game. I was, however, a bit disappointed in the ending. I felt there was a distinct lack of closure on a specific character and what happened after the final showdown. Whether the authors were deliberately obtuse, or I was supposed to make assumptions based on...
Read More
May
17

Review: How to Bang a Billionaire by Alexis Hall

Review: How to Bang a Billionaire by Alexis Hall How To Bang A Billionaire Author: Alexis Hall Reviewer: B. Rating: A+ What I’m Talking About: Beginning with an enigmatic and somewhat dark farewell, How to Bang a Billionaire explores the inception of the “arrangementship” between Arden St. Ives, imminent graduate of Oxford University, and Caspian Hart, billionaire, immovable personality, and magnet to Arden’s desires. Both men are contradictions—Arden for being completely undone by his own honesty while trying to be someone else, and Caspian for only coming off as “monstrous” while acting on his determination not to be a monster. This would be enough of a puzzle to draw me in, regardless, but there are many other things to consider here, as well. Alexis Hall is one of my all-time favorite authors, and is among the most gifted writers I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. By the time I’ve finished, his books are nearly always covered in highlights (if electronic) or filled with random bits of paper (if in print) which I’ve shoved in at the binding to mark all the things I don’t want to forget. Unsurprisingly, I think How to Bang a Billionaire is a fantastic story, interweaving science, history, philosophy, art, humor, hurt, and sex into a narrative that I found beautiful. For all the above attributes, How to Bang a Billionaire is also incredibly romantic. Arden occasionally envisions his reactions through an old-Hollywood lens, complete with Hepburn smiles, the “flare of amber” warming Caspian’s face in the dark, and so on. Caspian, by contrast is likened unto the harsh inflexibility of metal: “Sculpted in silver and steel, a man so coldly perfect he was barely real at all.” And yet, it is Caspian’s unexpected laughs and bashful grins, and especially the hungry growls and unraveling control, that threaten to steal Arden’s heart completely. Later, it gets even better as they negotiate needs and boundaries, and how much of themselves they might be able to give. There are more than a couple of swoony moments, without a single “precious” in sight. I still tend to skip reviewing the sexual relationships in many of the books I read, but that wouldn’t be right in this case. There’s a lot going on sexually in How to Bang a Billionaire, but Caspian’s struggle with the connection of sex to self, and the importance of being honest about that, was both frustrating and heartbreaking. Additionally, the narrative is prefaced with what appeared to me to be a misunderstanding...
Read More
May
9

Review: Concourse by Santino Hassell

Review: Concourse by Santino Hassell Concourse Author: Santino Hassell Reviewer: B. Rating: A+ What I’m Talking About: Amid the shining lights and luminaries of New York, Ashton Townsend glimmers more brilliantly than the rest. Young, rich, and undeniably beautiful, he’s either desired or envied—or both—by just about everyone. He’s also lonely and brutally aware that nobody really knows who he is beneath the façade he’s created. Nobody except his most cherished friend, and most elusive desire, Val. Valdrin Leka, on the other hand, is a broodingly handsome competitive boxer on his way to going pro for all the wrong reasons. His mother’s full-time position as nanny for the extremely wealthy, entitled Townsend family made growing up in their shadow a bitter pill to swallow—the only exception to that opinion being Ashton. But, as much as he’s always wanted Ashton, letting himself fall completely would surely be a one-sided heartbreak waiting to happen. Or would it? While I’ve loved each of the Five Boroughs stories—and have a particularly soft spot for the first two—Concourse is exceptional. I liked both characters tremendously from the beginning, and I could not stop worrying about them throughout the entire narrative. The tension that had been building between Ashton and Val for years off-page was a nearly tangible thing, their behavior towards one another practically screaming its veracity and making their shared history easy to accept. The weight of Val’s secrets was likewise dark and viscous, threatening at any moment to destroy the happiness they were so close to realizing. I also found the writing itself in Concourse to be about as perfect as I could have hoped, and there were quite a few passages that tugged at my heart during my reading. Val and Ashton’s shared hunger for affection is indisputable, and Mr. Hassell once again rips away any artifice with an emotional simplicity that was both irresistible and believable. “There would have to come a point when I drew boundaries about all this touching, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it yet. Not when he was the only person whose touch I actually felt.” In addition to Val and Ashton, Concourse introduced some interesting new characters as well as allowed me to get to know some of the others who have piqued my curiosity for a long time now a little better. Val’s sister Hana, his friend Matt, and even Luis, his main competition at the gym, were all welcome additions. I also thoroughly enjoyed seeing more...
Read More
Apr
26

Review: Back Piece by L.A. Witt

Review: Back Piece by L.A. Witt Back Piece Author: L.A. Witt Reviewer: B. Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: To say that Colin Spencer—gorgeous, fit, and with a body full of tats—has lived an interesting life so far is an understatement. Most would never guess the truths that exist behind the sturdy exterior he presents to the rest of the world. Colin has demons he can’t escape, and enough heartbreak to cure him of ever wanting to lose his heart to someone again. But, everyone has secrets beneath their skin, and the young sailor who’s given Colin a glimpse of his own fears and dreams might be more temptation than he can resist. Daniel Moore is twenty-six years old, semi-closeted, and really wants a tattoo. Good thing he’s just met the perfect guy for the job: the striking civilian tattoo artist who left him tongue-tied and wanting after their first chance meeting. Soon, he can’t think of anything else. But, Daniel is terrified of his own truths, and hiding from the very people who should know him best. What would a man like Colin possibly see in someone like him? Although there is plenty to think about in Back Piece, I believe some of its strongest moments are when Colin and Daniel’s beliefs and opinions—both about themselves and others—are challenged. The author makes quite a few significant points, not the least of which is that very little is as easy or as clear cut as it seems. Colin has a wonderfully supportive, accepting family, but still has serious issues that he’ll have to work through for the rest of his life. Daniel’s, on the other hand, is the exact opposite, yet Colin recognizes that, in some ways, they’re good as a unit. This is just one example, but I appreciated that there was so much to consider here. Another plus is the honesty that exists between Colin and Daniel almost from the beginning. There are a couple of wobbles early on in their relationship, but neither is willing to let the secrets that might be exposed in a given situation linger long enough to become huge problems. This sense of integrity opens the way to mutual acceptance that felt as right as it was sweet, and saved the entire story from the often-overused burden of lies. As much as I liked the attention the author gave to the rest of the narrative, I couldn’t help but be somewhat conflicted in one particular area at the...
Read More
Page 3 of 2012345...1020...Last »
logo
Powered by WordPress | Designed by Elegant Themes