I would not change a thing! I would double the star count if I could.
Anyone who follows my reviews has to know how rare that is. I loved everything ab...moreI would not change a thing! I would double the star count if I could.
Anyone who follows my reviews has to know how rare that is. I loved everything about Black Dog.
It is a novella with 3 different POV's but the transitions are seamless, well timed, and cleverly done. The main MC's POV is told in the 1st person, while the love interest MC and the runaway MC's POV were both in 3rd person. This is not a menage, but the 3 POV's were essential to the story.
The depth achieved in Black Dog is usually reserved for much longer novels. The story concept is interesting, the romance is incredible in it's complex subtly, and the relationships between the full cast of characters are very dynamic. I am equally impressed by every character crafted in Black Dog, and would gladly read about any of them. And even though there is tragedy that touches the "Bannon's Gym" family, there is still so much promise.(less)
From Charlie's tick-tock heart to Ant's spontaneity, both characters jump off the page. Each are compulsive in their own way,...moreSuch a compelling story.
From Charlie's tick-tock heart to Ant's spontaneity, both characters jump off the page. Each are compulsive in their own way, and that leads them to meet under dire circumstances. A day that could have ended horribly turns out to be the best ever, a day that influences the rest of their lives. These boys are in different stages of their adolescence, but they are both able to see exactly what they need to see. Not only is it sweet and endearing to read, it's quite beautiful.
There are a few subtle (and not so subtle) things going on outside of Charlie and Ant's bubble. As the boys have their fun, the adults seem to be imploding. This is a short story so their actions are shown briefly, just enough to shape the world around Charlie and Ant. A way to contrast the inner peace, confidence, and awareness they are both able to achieve in their perfect-but-not-so-perfect day. Regardless of how short the page time is, these supporting characters are just as brilliant, and help to explain who Charlie and Ant are by what they're going through.
This short story is fast paced, fun, and a nice shout out to the 80's. Their interaction is age appropriate and could easily be enjoyed by readers of any age group.
I've seen reviews that include wishes for a longer story or a more involved ending. Of course I would like to have more from these characters because they are great characters. But I don't feel like there is anything that I need to know, or that there is anything left unsaid. The ending is such that I know that everyone will be fine and happy. And that makes me happy. (less)
There are so many things about this book that I like. It is strong from beginning to end. And I say this even though I wasn’t happy with some of the e...moreThere are so many things about this book that I like. It is strong from beginning to end. And I say this even though I wasn’t happy with some of the events that go on.
Out first impression is of Cole, a self admitted control freak with OCD tendencies. We are in his POV for the majority of the book so if Cole rubs you the wrong way then that could hamper your enjoyment of this story. For me, though, I found him to be just the right balance of charm and nuttiness. (I have a little control freak in me so I can relate.) His methods are a little over the top sometimes, but is written in such a way that works. For all that he is trying to stay in the shadows, he has A LOT of fire!
The reasons for his behavior are explained well. His background experiences are hardly new or original, but instead of dragging it out, it is presented in a way that says “this is it, I’ve dealt with it, so should you, let’s move on.” I think it would have been fine for his history to have taken up more page time, but by limiting the past, there was much more room for developing more original here-and-now content.
I knew I should throw out any preconceived notions as soon as the first kiss happened around the 11% mark on my kindle. I’m always worried when the couple gets together too quickly. Either the rest of the book turns too fluffy for my taste, or they go through hell and back to earn their HEA. MRAJ?WC! has given me a third option. There were so many things that happened in this book and none of them felt rushed or incomplete or over dramatic. Every event had it’s own space. (Kind of fitting for a book about a control freak :-) )
Another thing I was not expecting but worried about as soon as it presented itself was religion. I find a lot of the religious content of MM books to be heavy handed … either in a nasty, bigoted way or by preaching to the choir. Not so in MRAJ?WC!, at least not in my opinion. A supporting character is religious. His views are discussed and other characters are free to disagree and there is no harm or ill will, no drama, no hidden agenda. Religion happens, that’s about as worked up as anyone gets over it.
POV and timeline a huge sticking points for me. As far as I could see, the timeline was pretty tight. MRAJ?WC! is paced well and written clearly. The POV threw me a couple of times. Cole is the dominant POV, but there are 5 other characters that share their POV at one time or another. 4 POV changes are from supporting characters. Each one brings something necessary to the story even though they originally confused me. The first time it happened I went back to re-read the book blurb because I thought I forgot who the love interest was supposed to be. Why are we hearing from a secondary character, is his POV going to pop up again? The easy answer turned out to be no, but his insight added a lot to the story. As did the other 3 who made singular POV appearances. I didn’t always like what they had to say or how they behaved, but they were all important. Depth, and lots of it!
The 5th POV is obvious, Cole’s roommate, Ellis. We don’t hear from him often, but it’s a doozy when we do. His journey is surprising. The book blurb doesn’t hint too much to Ellis’s inner debate. And his sticking point isn’t his sexuality, not really. There is a little, but it turns out to be much more than that. A self-aware, self-perception kind of thing. This part could have been really insulting if it were written badly. I haven’t seen any reviews mention it, so I can only assume that, like me, they felt Ellis’s feelings, experiences, and actions were written very well. Add in the very real life truth that every sexual escapade isn’t as perfect as most books would like to portray, and Ellis is an awesomely unique character.
The only thing that still has me baffled is Cole’s interaction with Stan, the school’s housing something-or-other. When he is first introduced everything seems fine. I don’t recall anything standing out about the man. Not surprising since he doesn’t have a huge part to play except as the one responsible for saddling the jockaphobe with a jock roommate. When he reappears mid story, he is more developed … but nothing like I assumed based on his and Cole’s earlier encounters. Not his age, not his job, not his personality, and certainly not his intentions. Stan isn’t shown in a good light and I’m not too sure why. Was this just because we are seeing him through Cole’s dark-colored glasses after a bad morning? Cole’s new impression of Stan totally overshadows everything in a distracting way. What was the point? Toning down Stan’s dialogue would have just kept the scene as an essential step along the way. Leaving the scene intact but following it up later with something to re-enforce Cole’s reaction would have given the scene purpose. But as-is, the scene seems to stick out like a sore thumb to me.
But don’t let that stop you. MRAJ?WC! is a really good book that may challenge your perception of college nerd/jock stories. I was not expecting anything more than a few hours of banter reading but got something so much more original and complex.(less)
This second installment of Tuck and Owen was a surprise in a few different ways. The first and second reason being that I didn't know there would be m...moreThis second installment of Tuck and Owen was a surprise in a few different ways. The first and second reason being that I didn't know there would be more to their story ... and this one is double the length of Battle Buddy. Which is awesome because the third surprise that the first half is Owen's retelling of the first book.
Touching on Owen's POV ... very cool idea done very well. Just as no two people will have the same memory or perspective on the very same event, neither do fictional characters. Because we already know how Tuck felt about the whole thing, it was a lot of fun to see Owen's take. I found the whole thing to be charming, informative, and successful. Especially since Owen is more experienced and more sure of his life in general and isn't nearly as stressed out as Tuck is. Tuck called Owen cocky in book one, but in book two you are able to see it as confidence.
So ... in the first half or so, a lot of the fixed events matched up even if some of the particulars were a little different. We got to see Owen's background and an interesting, darker bit of sidestory that was only hinted at in one or two lines of book one. And we got to see Owen just play with Tuck; poor Tuck, the guy was such a bundle of raw nerves, lust and fire. The whole thing was just as good the second time around.
The second half was pretty great, too. Nice transition to the new stuff. Now that they had gotten together, what now? This stayed pretty true to military life in which very few things are certain and the boys did the best they could. The story had quite a few touching moments to satisfy the die-hard romantics, but never seemed over played. It was real, it was sexy, and it was highly entertaining.
And the ending left no doubt that there is much more planned. This makes me very happy.(less)
1 - It is told from a single POV with a very distinct voice. A lot of personality.
2 - Military theme with eno...moreI LOVED this short story and here is why:
1 - It is told from a single POV with a very distinct voice. A lot of personality.
2 - Military theme with enough detail to back it up, and then some. It's not like you can go suit up with the trainees after reading this story, but I think it's the most generous "behind-the-scenes" look you could get without needing the nitty-gritty of a more serious book.
3 - The pacing was pretty great. This is a short story and it behaved like one. A lot of time is cover in a short amount of space so there wasn't a lot of room for clutter. The events were a hop, skip, and a jump ... and all relevant to the story of Tuck and Owen. In a way, this is an extension of point #1 since Tuck's POV is so dynamic. We know the why's and how's and all the in-between's because he tells us in very colorful ways.
4 - The romance is there; wrapped up in attraction, sexual frustration, lust and even anger. Often times, there seems to be pressure for an author to rush to the HEA because there aren't as many words to tell the story. Battle Buddy did not rush. Even with the speeding of the timeline, Tuck and Owen were going to get together when they got together no amount of pushing and prodding was going to make a difference.
5 - And when they got together, it was explosive. Definitely more quality over quantity.
**When I read this story I had no idea that there would be any more. I am so glad to see that there is. (less)
I really enjoy the cop/rescue/partners stories and this was a good one. I found it to be solid from beginning to end, and exactly what I expected and...moreI really enjoy the cop/rescue/partners stories and this was a good one. I found it to be solid from beginning to end, and exactly what I expected and was looking for when I picked it up.
There are many conflicting reviews for this one and I'm not sure why. 2 main concerns that I'm seeing is the pseudo-GFY theme and the mix up of the first and last names. Neither of these were a problem for me.
GFY isn't my favorite thing, but I didn't really see this as GFY. Nate may not have been with a man before, had not really even considered it until his obvious attraction to Mike, but once he opened up to the possibility he clearly accepts being gay. Even comments about how lackluster his relationships with women have always been and how he never realized the reasoning before Mike.
As for the swip-swap of the first and last names ... I found it very useful. It was a further indication as to how the characters where feeling. First names when they were getting along, last names were for when they were irritated, angry, hurt, or professional. There really wasn't a huge supporting cast to have to worry about and the swip-swap of names where minimal and simply a personal-time vs on-the-clock professional courtesy.
I enjoyed the build up of tension, I enjoyed the pieces of backstory without everything getting too cluttered, and I enjoyed the pacing. I really enjoyed that it wasn't too flowery. I really felt that both men were surprised by their attraction and the intensity of their connection - which led to some confusion and surge of feelings - but neither one went through a total personality transplant because of it. I really appreciated that.(less)
I can't get enough of Mary Calmes' stories and characters. There is always that blend of spark and spirit that is so fun to read.
Steamroller deviates...moreI can't get enough of Mary Calmes' stories and characters. There is always that blend of spark and spirit that is so fun to read.
Steamroller deviates a little from her usual in that the main character isn't very well liked. He's still pretty enough to have a few willing takers if he so chooses, but it wouldn't because they wanted to spend any real time with him. He has a few friends that "get" him, his humor, and his temperament, but other than that, he's on his own.
His love interest, Carson, however, is the talk of the town ... a star. Since we are never in his POV, we can only guess at his attraction, but I think the simple and idealistic explanation given within the novella sums it up fairly well.
And I have always hoped she would spend more time with the gritty, snarly one of the pairing as the main character. I love her loveables, but they are very hard to live up to. In Steamroller, Vince was much more accessible and I loved his attitude. His personality could have even been pushed a little darker and I would have still been happy.
And, as with all her books, the characters are never standing still. For such a quick read, quite a few things happen. I really liked the pace and easy flow. Nothing stands out as overdone, and everything works in that "If we believe it, then it will be so" way that Mary Calmes does so well.
I think most readers will spend most of the time reading this book with a huge, goofy smile on their face.
Although I haven't read everything by Shawn Lane, I have read quite a bit and she is getting better and better.
She's always been good ... nice, compa...moreAlthough I haven't read everything by Shawn Lane, I have read quite a bit and she is getting better and better.
She's always been good ... nice, compact stories with strong emotional elements. Her short stories and novellas are complete, with a beginning, middle and end. There are hundreds of sidetrips her stories could take but she stays on track instead of cluttering up the events. There are very few instances that I feel like I'm missing anything. (Although I am very interested to see what she could do with a novel.)
That being said, One More Time, was really something. The characters, the dialogue, the action and events ... everything was tight. And I say this even though I didn't 100% agree with what the characters did.
I thought Theo was too pushy, I thought Dane was moving too fast. But I liked both men very much because of their faults. I liked the story because they didn't act like most people think they should. It pushed the boundaries of time in both instances ... Theo, having waited 10 years to see and apologize to Dane, just couldn't wait 1 more minute after finally seeing him again. And Dane, having just lost a wonderful man, couldn't bear to let another one walk out of his life just because they reconnected while he was still in mourning.
The events weren't cookie cutter and I'll remember this story longer, and re-read it more often because it wasn't filled with things "I would have done" or expected.(less)
This is a fantastic short ... and I love the rivals to lovers theme. Great interaction, even the reader wanted to throttle Nico because of his jealous...moreThis is a fantastic short ... and I love the rivals to lovers theme. Great interaction, even the reader wanted to throttle Nico because of his jealousy. But the way everything was handled was so well done that you knew when he finally let loose, he was going to be fabulous.
Had some great one liners, especially around the end.
Am definitely picking up more from Jana Downs.(less)
Hope, like all of the books in the Home series, is bigger than just the main couple. There are several points of interest that keep the novel from be...more Hope, like all of the books in the Home series, is bigger than just the main couple. There are several points of interest that keep the novel from being one type of story. I appreciated how all the different fires within the story were handled – almost brutal situations with a hint of sweetness – a William Neale trademark. We get to revisit with characters – that because those people are just as fleshed out in this book as they were in their own book – I found it wasn’t entirely necessary to have read the previous novels to be completely aware of what was going on and how they fit in. And I thought the romance itself was very interesting. The book blurb more than hints at the resolution, but there is a short time where the reader might root for it to go another way.
I love supporting cast and Hope has quite a few. The events of Hope almost directly follow the events of Always Faithful. We see his opportunity to head back to Cleveland and that naturally brings in Rogan, Lucas, and their family. There are a few subtle characters that become much more involved in Hope, which may suggest that there might have been at least 1 more book in this series. Fortunately, the personality of the assumed future-book-leading-man was still such that he wasn’t really ready for a relationship so there was no obvious set-up or cliffhanger where he is concerned.
I am a huge pain in the butt about reading things in order. Can’t help it. No matter how many people tell me that one story doesn’t really influence the next too much, I have to start at the beginning. I’m always afraid I’m going to miss some obscure detail or important moment that will limit my enjoyment of the current story. Crazy, I know. But when I received a request to take a look at Hope, I had not read the rest of the Home series. I had only read a couple of his short stories. So, of course, I had to start at the beginning … Hence, my 3 day weekend with William Neale. What I found impressive was the complete wrap-up he accomplished with each book. Repeating characters and situations where dealt with so smoothly that I can honestly say that Hope can be read without having read the previous books. I’d recommend them whole-heartedly, however, not because Hope is incomplete without them, but because their journeys are just as colorful and engaging.
I think there are two defining themes in all of William Neale’s novels. The first thing might be the most obvious – sweet, romanticized characters and dialogue. The second being his knack for targeting themes that get overlooked, serious aspects that might make people uncomfortable because of the injustice and horror. How he was able to balance the sweetness with the darkness was a true talent.
As stated in his own bio, William Neale knew that not everyone appreciated his characters getting along so well. Very few of the conflicts are between the romantic couple. In a theme I enjoy very much, most of William’s pairings are between friends or rivals who shared a long history and were finally ready to make the leap. Hope was a little different in that Spencer, our main hero, was relatively new in town and was meeting his love interest(s) for the first time. What had already been established, though, was Spencer’s romantic nature and his desire to find a lasting lover. I love that we see him “date” instead of just sticking with the first guy he meets. I found that to be more realistic.
As issues would arise, Spencer (or one of the supporting cast) would know just what to say. This more than anything, is where the “sweet” shows up. On one hand, I applaud the character’s maturity. On the other, I wonder if I would have been so level headed. The result is a thought provoking guide that might help young gay men, and probably people in general, in dealing with similar situations. I did notice, though, that Hope had a few instances where characters would go with a gut reaction first and then have to do a little damage control before the situation got too out of hand. This may have been a compromise between William and his readers.
In complete harmony with the romance are some really tough subjects. Like with his other novels, Hope is heavily couple-based for the first 40-50%. The second half of the story is the couple, along with the rest of the cast, dealing with some really important and horrifying realities. It is what I’ve come to expect from William Neale’s books but is unlike so many of the “sweet” stories that fill the M/M genre. Hunter is in real danger of losing his son, Spencer finds legal and moral trouble at his new job, Thomas remembers his horrific past and tries to reshape his future. A high school student decides if he even has a future. These aren’t new topics, but the depth and conviction in which these events are handled makes me want to put a copy of Hope (and all of the Home series) in the hands of every person over the age of 16 who may be struggling with their sexuality and/or identity.
I have only 3 criticisms. -The first is that I would have preferred some of the dialogue to have been broken up more. Same words, just some indication of tone/attitude changes so that it was more conversational instead of run-ons. -The second is that there were many more abrupt scene changes than any of his previous novels. Was that intentional? A style purposefully chosen to highlight the struggles of the character most often abrupt? Or because William didn’t get a chance to put his final touch on it? I don’t know. -And the third is the maturity of a couple of the kids. Granted, the kids have always been characterized as being mature for their age, but I felt that adding their bit of news at the end was a little rushed. It was good since we won’t get to see more of them later so it was nice to see them so settled, but had there been an opportunity for more stories then I would have been upset that they weren’t given as much time on page to develop as the other characters.
Overall, I am definitely impressed with Hope and will be adding it to the books I highly recommend.(less)
I've been waiting on this book since it was teased in the six-sentence-sunday blogroll a few months ago. I was not disappointed! Light, funny, and mys...moreI've been waiting on this book since it was teased in the six-sentence-sunday blogroll a few months ago. I was not disappointed! Light, funny, and mysterious, Bartender, PI is a very entertaining that I think everyone will appreciate.(less)
This is one of those books you are going to want to sit and read in one sitting. The characters involved are well-defined, dynamic, and mostly drama f...moreThis is one of those books you are going to want to sit and read in one sitting. The characters involved are well-defined, dynamic, and mostly drama free. I think the romance between the couple was very believable and kept my interest because it felt genuine in it's simplicity. And the mystery/conflict of this story was very original, allowing the reader to guess at some things and be surprised about others. Every time I thought I knew where it was going, it went somewhere else completely.
The Characters: There are a lot. Anyone following my reviews knows that I like a good supporting cast since love very rarely thrives in a bubble. There were friends, roommates, bosses, pseudo-adopted family, other "subjects", doctors, military, scientists, reporters, and a crazy ex and his wife. Everyone had a part to play, either in support or as a catalyst to keep pushing for answers. I'm glad that there were times when they disagreed or got in each other's way, but it didn't fall into a grudge match or become part of some big misunderstanding that derailed the story.
The Romance: I have to be a little vague since, like most of the Ethan Stone's stories I've read, it is not 100% clear who the main character will end up with until more than halfway through the book. I think that is because of his realistic approach to coupling. Luke finds out his very long-time - but very in the closet - boyfriend has a very public fiancee in a town 2 hours away. Left with a broken heart and no strings for the first time since puberty, yeah, Luke has some screwing to do.
It would have been understandable if Luke had gone totally off the rails here ... as his inner dialogue told us he wanted. But small towns have a way of limiting opportunities so he was able to find a release without going completely nuts. And while individually these resulting sex scenes were great fun, well written and provided needed insight into Luke's personality as he tried to be honest and generous with his lovers, I would have preferred a few of them to have faded to black a little sooner ... leaving the hottest scenes for later.
But once Luke made sense of what he was feeling and who he was feeling it for ... it was game on. Ethan has a way of cutting through the needless drama and laying it all out there. It isn't that Luke and his Man are easy, far from it. They definitely have a few freak out moments. But they deal with it instead of dragging it out. There are plenty of "aww" moments for the overly-romantic types without being too fluffy for us more cynical types.
And it is all kept honest ... no lying, or sneaking, or cheating from the main players. Which goes for the mystery/thriller, as well.
The Story: After a personal shock, Luke begins having nightmares he hasn't had since he was a child. Convinced it is more than just his imagination, Luke is determined to find answers. I think it begins as a way to get his mind off the ex, but quickly becomes something more. Explanations come slowly at first, seemingly random and vague. I quickly got the "blue man" connection but almost everything else after that was a complete mystery no matter how I tried to look at it. A few hunches, but otherwise just along for the ride. I was surprised as one secret after another was revealed. Looking back, I can see where the clues were cleverly hidden in plain sight, but in all the twists and turns I didn't see them coming while I was reading.
The story wraps up with a satisfying ending and a nicely done, subtle cliffhanger that has me craving a book two.
In the Red is a wonderfully complex story that keeps readers guessing right through the very end.
Starting deceptively slow, the story begins about a...moreIn the Red is a wonderfully complex story that keeps readers guessing right through the very end.
Starting deceptively slow, the story begins about a year after forensic accountant, Brian Foster, was recovered after 9 terror filled days of captivity. As Agent Murdock familiarizes himself with the limited details in Foster's case file, the reader is able to gauge the situation without being dropped right in the middle of that harrowing experience. And from Agent Murdock's position outside the house, we get a front row seat for some of the idiosyncrasies in Foster's new life. The subtle way all this is tied together creates a solid foundation for the rest of the story.
The breakthrough scene that gets Agent Murdock into the house is cleverly done. It picks up the pace and ups the intensity, escalating with each scene after. The push and pull between the two men never stop. Neither man seems like the hearts-and-flowers type, so their romance builds in less obvious gestures. The bdsm element plays a huge part, not so much in deed, but in the fundamental principles it represents. Foster is no where near emotionally ready to participate in the level of play he once enjoyed. Murdock had zero experience prior to meeting Foster so it gives them a chance to find their way together, showcasing each other's strengths and weaknesses. I liked that Foster, as the sub, had so much obvious control, that Murdock took care in insuring both physical and emotional boundaries were respected, and the amount of communication and negotiation that appeared within the text. I loved that those same regards were not limited to sex since their sexual relationship was not the focus of the story. We see them getting closer, but more importantly, the psychological shifts create just as many questions as it gives answers. An unsettling feeling for any reader looking for predictability but a treat for those wanting something more suspenseful. Every scene is thorough, unexpected, and incredibly smart.
Right about the time they seem to have things figured out, everything collides. On one hand it seems to set them back. On the other, so much becomes clear. There is a lot of ugly to get to the truth, but the journey is definitely worth it. The ending is episodic in the way it ties up 99% of the current conflict while giving the next installment a healthy start. The second book can't come fast enough for me.
A nice follow up, coming about a year or two after Taction. Another slice of life story except where the 1st story was told from just Evan's POV, this...moreA nice follow up, coming about a year or two after Taction. Another slice of life story except where the 1st story was told from just Evan's POV, this one hint's at a possible second couple by sharing a tiny bit of young ranch hand, Derrick's POV.
As far as Evan and Cam's story, we see how far they have come, and how far they have brought the ranch and therapy business. A few setbacks by way of snotty sponsors and old army buddies allow this story to remain interesting and fresh. Assuming future additions keep up this pace then I see their romance having plenty to hold my interest for a long while.
The second (possible) romance may have some readers scratching their heads. It had me toggling between 4 or 5 stars. In the end, though, I can see how things could happen exactly as they did so I am very ok with how it was written.
Reo, an old army buddy of Evan's comes to the ranch in hopes of regrouping. He eventually settles in, but has a few snags along the way. Derrick is one of the original "Hooligans" at the ranch and is instantly attracted to him, but uncomfortable with Reo's loud personality. Throughout the story there are many opportunities for something to happen between them. Assuming that the entire reason for Derrick's POV in the story is to see his HEA, you may be disappointed to see that it is just a HFN ending for Derrick (and Reo) individually, not together.
The way I see it, Derrick's POV tells me that he is important ... that we will eventually get a HEA for him. Maybe with Reo, maybe with someone else. As he is only 19, Derrick has plenty of time and story. By starting his POV now, we as readers can follow his journey as it happens, instead of having to backtrack when he finally meets/gets his man. To that end, I am glad that his (and maybe Reo's) story wasn't rushed.
I love when a short story is done well and Taction is a great example.
You know from the blurb that the main character is coming home after an injury...moreI love when a short story is done well and Taction is a great example.
You know from the blurb that the main character is coming home after an injury and the pace of the story allows everything to flow without mashing all the plot points together at one time. The slice of life method of the story shows Evan getting stronger over a period of months and reconnecting to the life he had prior to the Army. And even though Cam isn't overly thrilled to meet Cam at first, I would describe their eventual relationship as comfortable, subtly romantic and solid.(less)