Hot Hands was by far my favorite story in Erica Pike's College Fun and Gay series, so you can imagine my excitement when she said that she was writing a sequel. Cold Hands is almost as much of an antithesis to that first story as it's title. Hot Hands introduces us to Casper -- a college student who was brutally bullied, more like abused, in high school for being gay -- and his ex-bully and middle school crush Jaime. Casper shows up to college and is surprised and devastated to learn that one of the ring leaders of the guys who tormented him is not only there but also in some of his classes. He does everything he can to avoid Jaime, but doesn't know that a lot of Jaime's bullying stemmed from his own awakening homosexual feelings towards Cass. His physical and emotional abuse for most of his teen years have really impacted him. He's shy and doesn't understand why he's still attracted to one of the men who abused him, which also messes with his head. His attachments soon turn to another man, however, a man he starts to call "Hot-Hands" because of the way the man's hands draw him out and make him feel sexy and interesting whenever he's accosted by this same hard-breathing man in the dark. It's a serious case of having a secret admirer, but Casper has his suspicions and soon finds them proven wrong. All that time, Casper had inadvertently been giving himself up to the man who caused him so much pain and now he's more confused than ever.
Cold Hands resumes this story from Jaime's point of view, which is a serious change in how we understand the story. Cass is a thinker who constantly analyzes his feelings and thoughts, but because of their unique relationship he knows very little about what Jaime really thinks and Jaime's motives. The change in point of view starts this sequel off on a different foot. We immediately see that Jaime has real regret about the way he treated Cass in the past and that his feelings now are genuine, and also that he's a different man now. He understands himself and has grow up in the two years they spend apart. Now, he's out of the closet and over the shame that he grew up with from a conservative family and town. Still, Cass doesn't know that. He's still confused about Jaime's motives and his own. How can he trust himself and his feelings if he's seriously considering having a relationship with his abuser?
The real difference between the first story and the second isn't the point of view, but in the focus of their relationship. If you look at these stories together as one, then this story is the payoff. The first was the setup, the background and the premise -- the meetings in the dark with Casper's "secret admirer" and the subsequent reveal of his real identity -- but, Cold Hands is the meat and bones of their relationship. This story carries on to peel back the layers and find out if these guys have a solid base to build any relationship upon and how they go about doing that. The change in point of view facilitates that because by nature of their relationship as abuser/victim, Jaime automatically sees the bigger picture than Cass. Casper is still mired in confusion about his feelings and dealing with understanding Jaime and his actions and in evidence of how that abuse affected him, he's battling his own self-esteem.
I'm so glad that Erica decided to continue their story because I think that it is only in retrospect that this story feels as if it completed the first. Cold Hands makes the whole story better by giving us a chance to see them work through the consequences of their actions in the first story, and that in turn gives them the HEA they deserve. This also shows in the sex in both stories. So much of the first story takes place while Casper thinks "Hot-Hands" is someone else entirely that a lot of those scenes were exploratory, sexy and hot in a situational way, playing on the mysterious suitor with a dirty and exhibitionist twist. I read that story as a really good piece of erotica with an engaging plot. This story moves their physical relationship into a place of intimacy, so much so that it's often too difficult for Casper to really handle.
I definitely recommend these stories to all of you, though you absolutely have to read Hot Hands first. Well done Erica and thank you for writing this story so I could spend more time with Cass and Jaime!...more
I’ve been so excited for the release of this book! It’s been a long time since I read something by thisReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
I’ve been so excited for the release of this book! It’s been a long time since I read something by this author. In fact, I don’t think I’ve read a novel by this author since I read Finding Zach, a book which remains one of my all-time favorite m/m romances. So I knew going into this book from the blurb and from loving that book that this would most likely be an intense read. In some ways it was, but less so than I think I was expecting. But, it did live up to my expectations and ended up being a good read.
Joshua Chastain is a shade of the man he once was — a strong, confident, healthy and intelligent undercover FBI agent. Those qualities were all taken away from him during his three year undercover mission infiltrating a ruthless and dangerous gang in Chicago that heavily trafficked heroin. And though he did everything he was put there to do — bring down the operation from the inside — he also did other things, made sacrifices to himself and others to get the job done. And now, after leaving the FBI and in rehab for his heroin withdrawal and addiction and the unbelievable depression from his memories of death, Joshua is so far from the man he once was that his family no longer recognizes him.
His mother and his uncle Tucker conspire to bring him out to his uncle’s ranch in New Mexico. It’s a place he frequented and loved as a kid, but it’s also the perfect place for him to start to come back to himself. In an ironic twist, the ranch’s main operation is the rehabilitation of abused horses, a program run by Tucker and the ranch’s foreman, Elian Kelly. Eli is more than a foreman to the ranch, but also Tucker’s good friend. And seeing Tuck’s young nephew is heartbreaking. He sees him as a broken man he can try to put back together just like the horses that he has a gift with helping. The fresh air, good and hearty food, and reliable and loving family are what Joshua needs to put the past behind him and learn confidence in himself again. The connection and eventual relationship between Joshua and Eli wasn’t part of the plan.
Much of this book was what I was expecting from this book and this author. This is a hurt/comfort story of epic proportions, something that was similar to Rowan Speedwell’s other novel, Finding Zach. Joshua is not much a guy who needs a little rehab, but a severely traumatized person, emotionally, physically and chemically, from his forced addiction to heroin. And Eli is the gentle giant, reliant and safe and perfect in a lot of ways. I mean, this makes for a good setup, something that has worked well for this author in the past. And I liked this couple together. I felt like a lot of time went by setting up the story and I would maybe have liked to get to know Eli and Joshua actually together in their relationship for longer than we got, but they have a crazy amount of chemistry that came through for me, and the dynamic works well for them and goes hand in hand with the setting really well.
So the problems that I had with the book didn’t really spoil my enjoyment of the book — it remained something highly enjoyable to read. Maybe it’s that Finding Zach is such a hard book to live up to for me, especially with a character like Joshua who so reminded me of Zach with all of the emotional turmoil he has to work through throughout the book. Still, this wasn’t a perfect read for me. Some of the behavior of the characters seemed a little too… contrived, like the totally happy-go-lucky family atmosphere at the ranch. On the one hand this made the book not overly filled with excess problems but it made Joshua’s problems seem overbalanced in counterpoint, which made their behavior and constant support grating (not their support for Joshua, but just in each other, day to day in the way they act). That probably makes no sense, but I don’t know how to describe it better without making it seem too nitpicky and as if it was a bigger deal than it really was. It just bugged me a bit. The real difficulty I had with the book was the ending.
I was hoping that this book wouldn’t end with (view spoiler)[a resurgence of the gang and the men who would obviously love to come after Joshua if he wasn’t so hidden. Thankfully, that didn’t happen. But, I still would have probably preferred the ending to be a bit more subtle. I liked that Eli and Joshua were getting to know each other and work through their problems and I would have admired the story more if it continued in that direction without needing an outside conflict to come in from seemingly nowhere to act as a catalyst for the couple. And the way it was done made it a little worse than that, with the whole gay basher thing having been written so many times. (hide spoiler)]
So while I wasn’t quite happy with the ending, I still enjoyed the book and I liked the first half in particular. It really held my interest. The fact that the main character is dealing with a shitload of issues is just something that depends on the reader to like or dislike. I mean, on the one hand it does seem a bit much because poor Joshua’s life just kept going from bad to worse over and over again. So much of whether you like this book or not will depend on how you feel about that kind of character and conflict. In general, I don’t so much like that, but as I said before I was interested in seeing how I liked this one since I did like that kind of conflict in the hands of his author previously.
The other early reviews I’ve seen for this book have so far been raving, which is good. I think I’m maybe a little pickier than many other reviewers and that’s fine. Rowan Speedwell remains a great author and I’ll continue to look forward to her books....more
Excellent!! I found the romance a little less exciting this time around, but excitement isn't everything and I thought that overall the relat4.5 stars
Excellent!! I found the romance a little less exciting this time around, but excitement isn't everything and I thought that overall the relationship progressed extremely well after the ending of the first book.
And WOW, a MUCHMUCH better mystery this time around. I really got into this one and I thought that it and the evidence unfolded much more naturally.
I had a love/dislike relationship with the first book of this series, Sky Riders (reviewed here), mostly because though I liked the overall story I found myself drifting throughout the middle of the book. It just didn't keep my concentration (that is, admittedly, hard to do!). So I went back and forth for a few days before deciding if I should accept this book for review. As you can see, I decided to review it in the end. And though I feel like I had some of the same problems with this book that I had in the first, I'm still glad I made the decision I did. Even if most of that reason is that I need to be caught up for book #3, about Jeret, the one I'm really looking forward to!
Killian, "Cookie" as he's known to the crew of the Crux Ansata (or affectionately,"Annie"), is the second in command and has watched his captain and best friend Torin fall in love with bad boy Rain. The two are now happily settled and married, for the most part, and life has gone on as normal. Though he loves them all as family his life is still lonelier than the In Between. That all changes on their next rescue mission. Well, call it a rescue mission if you must, but they're really out for themselves. They're a mercenary crew and though they don't go out of the way to hurt others they're still criminals and happy to take what they can. When they hear of a son of an influential man has been taken hostage and is being kept as a whore on Kalliope 9, they make a plan to rescue the kid and bargain him back to his father for payment.
The plan goes off without a hitch, mostly. They do indeed rescue Neith. The first problem is that he is Rain's ex-boyfriend and the father in question the man who Rain delivered a major fuck-you to at the end of the first book. Besides the fact that Torin doesn't want Neith anywhere on board near Rain, Neith's father isn't going to pay them shit for his son -- both because he hates their whole crew and because he doesn't really give a shit about his son either. Complicating things further, Neith's captives are fast on their heels and they're not sure what they want. Is it Neith, or something he took from them? Neith is keeping secrets. But, it's natural, he's been tortured, raped and drugged to want it all with a new designer chemical called Pandora's Cure, a drug that makes the user crave sex from whoever or wherever they can get it, simultaneously shutting down any worries or fears or ability to think for themselves. With the drug moving out of his system, Neith is dangerous to the crew and to Killian, who wants to be the one Neith wants, even though he mostly wants Rain. Do the drugs affects negate any of the real feelings between the two? Or, is a relationship between rich and beautiful Neith and a big, brawny criminal a pipe dream to Killian?
I had the same problem reading this story as the previous one, in that I just had a hard time keeping my concentration. I'm not sure why. I wasn't sure with the last one and I'm not sure here… if it's my problem or something to do with the books. I think the most likely case is that I need quite a bit of sci-fi plot to get me interested in a space opera type story. That's not the case here. I mean, we do get an overall plot, with the slavers chasing them and all that. But for the most part and for the middle half of the book, this reads mostly like a contemporary romance, just with a few details added in here and there to make sure we remember that they're in an alternate world/spaceship. The setting fades into the background and the focus was on the couple. And there's definitely an internal conflict between Neith and Killian. Neith is mistrustful of his own feelings because of the drug in his system and Killian just wants to do everything to protect Neith, while at the same time hope he realizes that what they have is real and for the long haul. I just had a hard time keeping interest. I noticed that my concentration picked up again as the tension mounted in the chase.
But, for the most part this is a good story. I think that you should definitely read Sky Riders first. Not because you'd be completely lost if you read these out of order -- I don't think you would -- but because these stories are quite similar in theme and style and if you like the first one you'll know that you'll like the second as well. I really want to read the third book, which is coming out pretty soon. It's about the last of the crew, 18 year old Jeret, who is always the guy who seems to draw my attention whenever he's in the scene. I just love him, he's quite a unique character that I can't describe, but you have to read to see for yourself. So even if this book was only so so for me, I'm glad that I read it so that I could read Jeret's upcoming book :)...more
ZA Maxfield is one of those unspoken authors that just natReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
Everyone give a Hell Yeah! for a new ZAM book!
ZA Maxfield is one of those unspoken authors that just naturally seems to go onto my Classic Great M/M Romance Authors list, and I think that this book is a good illustration of why she deserves that spot. I read a lot of likable m/m romances, but it takes a little something extra to sink into the story. The more of this genre that I've read I've realized how that has less to do with how much I like a plot, and more how the author extends the story into wordplay -- one of the biggest reasons that I review a book first on it's execution and only after on the author's choices. The best books use prose like an extra limb, manipulating the reader's emotions not by what they say but how they say it.
Grime and Punishment certainly isn't original, but ZA Maxfield does do something pretty important that allowed me to get closer to the characters. They're playful, both in words and jokes, and in intimacy. And humor and playfulness is important in this story to offset the angst. I've made the mistake in the past of leaping from angst to unpleasant and therefore bad for the story, but whether you're an angst fan or not, angst is really only the angst we talk about when it's overused. In a story such as this, where the characters are working through some pretty heavy emotions and dealing with some seriously unpleasant situations, angst is a natural factor. But, it was needed and balanced nicely with little moments of humor.
Equal parts romance and individual journey, "Grime" is the story of a man who shows up to clean the scene of a suicide to find that the man who killed himself is his first love. Jack is co-owner of The Brothers Grime, a crime scene cleanup company that sees the worst of people's messes, as well as their lives. When Jack receives a call from old friend and fuck buddy Dave about a neighbor's suicide, Jack is thrown headfirst into bad memories that he told himself he'd dealt with. Nick was Jack's first love, and after a betrayal of the worst kind, Jack hasn't seen the man. The last remnants of Nick Foasberg represent closure to Jack, but actually confronting the grisly remains brings up those ugly memories. But even worse than Nick's teenage betrayal, Jack must face his own past: the teenaged boy that lost his idealism and Jack's subsequent lack of progression into adulthood. Worst of all is confronting Ryan, Nick's cousin and the man who was housing Nick and trying to help him get back on his feet. Also, the man who looks almost exactly like Nick.
A walking shadow of his past love is haunting to see, as is the man's anger -- at Nick, at Jack and at himself. A nurse and a beacon for lost causes, Jack is drawn in right away to the man's familiar beauty and his need to shoulder the burden and face the scene himself. The two butt heads from the start, arguing (of all things) over their right to clean the scene themselves. It isn't long before Ryan's anger spills over onto Jack and Jack learns that Ryan doesn't know the full story of Nick's betrayal. But those aren't Jack's secrets to tell, especially a dead man's who isn't there to answer the accusations.
The best part of this story is Jack's own journey toward enlightenment. The romance is sweet at times and poignant at others, but mostly only because of Jack's slow realizations just what romance means to him. Jack is happy to be a hit a run type of guy before the past shows up to haunt him, but spending time with Ryan and bonding, again of all things, over their gruesome task of cleanup shows him the security in having a partner in life instead of only sex. But Nick's treachery is insidious and the rest of Jack's hasn't a piece of cake either. The loss of his other great love, being a firefighter, comes with a major work-related injury. He's floundering in a stagnate life, refusing to accept change. Despite the brief thunderstorms between them, Ryan is fresh air and sunshine in his life and the specter of Nick that has been telling him how love only brings pain slowly starts to drift away. Though I think that a point of view from Ryan could have added some much needed perspective a few times and I didn't really like the manner in which Jack's secrets come to light, I felt that for the most part ZAM made all the right choices here. Though the real charm of the story, for me, came with the several points of epiphany that Jack has as he allows himself to be open to change.
This is a relatively short novel, so there's really no excuse not to pick this one up. For some reason it seems like I read somewhere that this was part of a series called The Brothers Grime, but I have no idea if that's true or not. I'm not sure which characters would move the story forward if it were the start of a series, but I certainly wouldn't complain. I'd never complain about getting a new book from ZA Maxfield :) And this one was definitely satisfying!...more
Honestly, this was pretty difficult to read for me. I was intrigued by Nikyta's review but I found this to be much darker than3.5 stars... I think...
Honestly, this was pretty difficult to read for me. I was intrigued by Nikyta's review but I found this to be much darker than I expected. I was originally swept away by the beginning, the first scene and connection between Genesis and KC, but it soon turned quite dark and threw me a bit for a loop. What came for the next 60% or so of the book was a rather surreal read and I had a very hard time at one point making myself keep reading. I just couldn't take any more of Gene being SO naive and not accepting that he needed to take control of his own life. For a while it made me a bit dispirited with just about the whole cast of characters, pretty much all of whom don't have many redeeming qualities. Reading along with Gene, as he let everyone around him make his choices for him without him knowing anything about what was happening to him and the people around him and him disregarding it all... it felt like being caught in a mosh pit and just letting the crowd sweep you away. It was .. kindof frightening to me.
Thankfully, that changed nearer the end and we started to get some real answers and Gene started to take up for himself, but I felt like it took too long to get to that point. Since this ends with a To Be Continued... then I'm hoping the next book that comes along will present us with a Gene as we saw him in the end of this book, taking charge of his own life and in doing so starting to change those around him. But, even though I could see why the author chose to make Gene act the way he did earlier in the book, it was almost too difficult for me to read...
But, as always I urge you to make up your own mind. In many ways this reminded me of some darker mainstream YA urban fantasy, like some Holly Black or something. And I know that I really liked the style of writing, especially at first. Though it became a bit much after a while... that could be my feelings about Gene though. I will say one thing, however, KC's character is written brilliantly. A brilliantly tortured character.
I'd say... decide for yourself on this one....more
The first thing you need to know about this story is just how different it is from the other stories in the serieReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
The first thing you need to know about this story is just how different it is from the other stories in the series. They've all been heavy on sex and kink but with enough plot not to be fluff. Welcome, Brother has hardly any sex at all and deals with some heavier issues than the others, namely bullying.
I read this story right when it came out a few weeks ago and I have to admit that I didn't write a review for it right away because I wasn't quite sure what to say. Not only was it not what i was expecting, I couldn't quite decide how much I liked it. On the one hand, some of the writing is beautiful and heartfelt. On the other hand, I wasn't quite sure that I'd call this a romance. Maybe an unconventional one, at best. While there is definitely a love story, the story is more about Kyler and his journey to it than about the relationship itself, which develops later in the story. But, it depends up on you as a reader whether that's something you like or don't. I think that I would have liked this a little better if I felt there was more interaction between Kyler and Hunter. Still, I'm not quite sure. It happens pretty rarely ;) but this is just one of those stories that I finished and had no idea how I felt about it, and really, that I felt had a strange tone. I haven't read any of the other reviews, but I'd be interested to see how this is received. It's definitely not my favorite of the College Fun & Sex stories from Erica Pike, but all her stories in this series have been a bit unconventional. It's possible that I just wasn't in the right mood or frame of mind to really get this story and what it was trying to do when I read it.
A bit about the plot and characters:
Kyler Morris (who, incidentally, in my head I kept picturing as Kyler Moss, the twinkalicious porn star!) wants to become a member of The Nova Britannia Brotherhood. It's more than a fraternity, both in the fact that unlike regular fraternities, The Brotherhood is more respectable and less about getting bombed every weekend, and the fact that the brothers are incredibly tight, and entrance into the select group of men means a lifetime family and a leg up in life from other members. But, most daunting is Hunter Kingsley, the President of The Brotherhood and an icon at their school. He's beautiful, perfect and has unbelievable feats to his name, almost to the point of legend.
Kyler is intimidated by the in depth interview, which includes Hunter as one on the panel. But, he's shortlisted and soon becomes a new recruit. Among the brothers, he meets Liu, a straight guy, brother ahead of Kyler, who is dealing with some bullying from other brothers. In some ways, this dose of reality (that all isn't perfect among the brothers), I think, temper's Kyler's already guarded thoughts about coming out, or whether his being gay will hurt his application into the fraternity. Liu, however, is a quick friend, and having a friend who went through what Kyler is right now help him. As Kyler becomes a brother and his friendship grows with Liu, he's forced to face some of the ugliness behind The Brotherhood, and in all this becomes closer to Hunter Kingsley.
Like I said before, it's something I can't really name but something in this story felt like it was missing. I can't even really tell you why I only liked it So So, other than the fact that I felt like I would have liked to see more progression in Kyler and Hunter's relationship.
I would recommend this to fans of the series (with the known caveat that it's quite different than those) and fans of Erica Pike. It's too bad, however, that this is the last of the College stories Erica is writing :( It's a shame and I've enjoyed them all as they each came out over the last year or so!...more
I've been a bit fan of M Raiya's work ever since I read Notice and it's sequels. I like the world's that she builReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
I've been a bit fan of M Raiya's work ever since I read Notice and it's sequels. I like the world's that she builds and her style of writing really seems to draw me in. So I was really excited to see that she was coming out with a new story (hopefully the start of a sequel) that introduced a whole new world. She visited the blog last week to talk a bit about it and after reading the story her guest post made a bit more sense to me (which you can read here). She talks about where she grew up and dreaming as a child and that, specifically, reminded me a lot of this story. It's dreamlike. The plot is less important, I think, than the tone of the story and the characters. Perhaps, as she alluded to in her comments on that post, this will become the first story of a series, and the plot will pick up later. I would very much like that :)
As the story starts, we see Joel standing walking to a clearing in the woods a mile or so behind his farmhouse. He's alone in the world after a terrible attack and rape left him completely shattered and mistrustful of the world around him, and the peace and serenity of the lonely woods is like a balm on his fractured self confidence. He's not sure why he's taken a midnight stroll, something has drawn him deep into the woods. He finds out when a gorgeous and magical unicorn reveals himself and is able to speak in his mind. But even such a beautiful and graceful creature can surprise and upset him and the intrusion into his most sacred space, his mind, is too much to handle. Running through the woods, back to his house, he's confused and can't understand what has happened. A unicorn only reveals himself to virgins, and Joel knows that after what happened to him, he should no longer be able to see such a sight.
The unicorn however, is part of a much larger plan that Joel doesn't understand. When, in the unicorn's pursuit of Joel, a hunter emerges and injures and almost captures him, he makes a drastic decision that bonds the two together into a life that Joel doesn't understand and can't take back.
Apart from the fact that I liked this story and want there to be sequels, I think that this story would actually work better as the start of something much longer. As a standalone story, I think that readers might be a touch dissatisfied. The plot is quite larger than the story can carry, but instead of trying to cram it all into such a short format, the author really just showed us the beginning of the story and an introduction to the characters. It was enough to get me to really like them and want to see more of them, but I think that continuing the story would enhance this story in retrospect, because I do think that there is more to tell and the natural conclusion to the story hasn't come yet.
The unicorns presented here are exactly what you'd expect from such a magical and cherished mythological creature. They're shown with beauty and wonder and there's quite a bit of backstory and worldbuilding presented that we don't often see in m/m romance. Of course, unicorn stories in m/m romance are very few and far between and unicorns are often presented as a less important creature in m/m fantasy romance alongside other creatures that readers are more familiar with, like dragons and wolves. A story about unicorns was what drew me to read the story in the first place and I'm glad that they were treated here as proper creatures and not as little girl fantasy with no real backbone. Perhaps that's why I want to see more of them, because this story offered a bit of fictional authenticity to unicorn lore instead of sparkles and fluff ;)...more
This is the first book I've read by Amelia Gormley, and I found the writing and construction of the novel was donReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
This is the first book I've read by Amelia Gormley, and I found the writing and construction of the novel was done very well, but overall, I found the story to be somewhat no to my liking. This is mostly because of my reading preferences, and I still enjoyed the story. But, I found reading it to be somewhat tedious. There's no real story outside of the relationship between Derrick and Gavin, and I tend to not like very insular relationships in contemporary romance. Unless I find the characters much more engaging that what I normally read, or for some reason the relationship catches me in a way that rarely happens, I just find them a bit boring. Sadly, this happened for me here. It is by no means a reflection of the story, but it is how I felt about my reading experience.
Derrick is very isolated from life and relationships following a breakup with his long-time girlfriend and best friend and from watching the slow decline of his grandparents. He's a somewhat stable and reserved man anyway, he's simple and likes a slow and easy life without complication. That changes when he is commissioned to build a set of shelves for Gavin, who is getting over a breakup with an emotionally and physically abusive man. They circle around each other quite a bit and their friendship and relationship starts and moves slowly. I suppose the reason I found this most tedious was how slowly everything happened. Actually, that's somewhat of a misrepresentation of my feelings, because I do appreciate slow romances. What was less to my taste was the way that Derrick narrated the story, very limited in life because of his fear and his tendency to overanalyze every situation. It's not unrealistic in anyway, but once again, it wasn't to my taste. And last, I felt as if there was no climax. I was waiting for something to happen to wrap up the story and instead it ended, feeling more like part one of a story than book one of a series. And it is a series, so there's no doubt more to come, but I had wished that more had happened in the story, and less internal debate that to me seemed repetitive.
I'd welcome reading more of Amelia Gormley's work because I think she has a lot of talent, but this story wasn't for me, and I probably won't read the second book or any further installments. If you read a cross section of reviews for this book you'll find that many readers agree with me and many more disagree. Many people love this book, probably for the reasons that it didn't appeal to me. So I'd recommend this book to readers that really love contemporary with a central relationship, and with characters that really like to talk and consider their emotions....more
I read this with a friend over Christmas, and while I enjoyed this book, I think that other readers seem to be liReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
I read this with a friend over Christmas, and while I enjoyed this book, I think that other readers seem to be liking it more than me. I've been thinking about it since, and while I've avoided looking at how it's been received since those early few days and from reader and reviewer reviews, at that time it seemed like this was coming off really well. And it deserves it. I'm not really sure what it was about the story that I didn't quite connect with, but I'll try to flesh it out in a minute.
The story starts with a stunner of a prologue (which I'll leave alone, but btw, RF, you are really packing the punches with the prologues and epilogues lately!). As the main story starts, we get to know Miki mostly from Kane's POV as the man who owns the dog that keeps stealing his art supplies. Soon after he gets to know Miki from terse front door words about the exact ownership of the dog, they become embroiled in a murder mystery. Kane finds a dead body in Miki's classic restored GTO, and not just any dead body, but the body of the man who used to torture Miki as a street kid, opening up a past of abuse and cruelty that Miki doesn't want to face.
I suppose it is just personal that parts of this story didn't connect with me. I loved Kane, and I loved Miki to an extent. I had a difficult time going through all of his horrible upturned life with him. He suffer(s/ed) quite a lot at the hands of various people, as well as fate, and as one thing packed onto a another and the dynamic between the two became, at times, very hurt/comfort. The problem for me was in the structure of the story and the pacing, which seemed to relegate most of the action to the first and last 25% and the bulk of the middle to character growth and relationship growth. But that middle part got bogged down for me because the emotions were pretty heavy. And not exactly the emotions but the type of abuse that Miki suffered and his bleak day to day existence was difficult for me to read in one stretch. I kept braking and wishing for some of the investigation to come back and break up some of the tension.
That said, the rest of the story was a treat. Where the white cop/lithe korean man dynamic might seem familiar, the characters are quite different from Cole and Jae, especially in the differences between Kane and Cole (I found Kane much more immediately accessible but not lacking in depth). This book deals with what might seem to be heavier issues (child sexual abuse), I didn't find it any darker in tone than her previous books. I compare the start of this new series to that one because I know that almost every reader who reads this, or plans to buy it, will. And while there are surface similarities, I found them satisfyingly different.
What I can't really figure out from my own feelings is how much my liking of this book is wrapped up in how much I look forward to the next coming book in the series. Because while this book has a lot to recommend it, I didn't ever get excited about it while reading until the surprise epilogue, which immediately made me upset I couldn't read further ;) And while it did feel good to leave on a note that excited me about reading more, I'm not sure I'd be happy if RF ended up relying on this device (not saying she will, just my feelings). Still, I have a feeling that this book is worth reading to get to that second book, and I hope the exploration of that secret will inject some more forward momentum into the story that I wanted here.
So, I'm very much looking forward to the rest of this series, and as always remain an avid fan of this author's work....more
I really liked the first book in this series, Snakeskin Boots. It was typical shifter faReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
2.5 stars (Disappointing)
I really liked the first book in this series, Snakeskin Boots. It was typical shifter fare, but with some rather interesting were animals and also an awesome sense of humor (the eggplant references didn't bother me, lol). It was also incredibly hot. This sequel is a departure from that first book in many ways, which took me by surprise. If that was the only thing about this book that changed, I wouldn't mind so much and I'd be able to get behind this book in it's own way. But… I found that this story had a lot of problems. The only thing that saved it from being a Not Feelin' It rating was the first half which I really enjoyed and the involvement of Jeff and Brad from the first book, who I loved.
Aaron was introduced to us as the sweet, virginal blushing monkey shifter in the first book who had a major crush on Brad. Here, we get to know him not too long after that. He's now a shifter cop and he and some of the enforcers of the were council are working on an undercover operation to discover the maker of a party drug that is causing shifters to lose control of their animal and shift in front of witnesses, usually at the rave where they've been drugged. Though he used to have a major crush on Brad, he's become quite close to him now through his friendship with Jeff and he's now an unofficial little brother.
Along the way we're introduced to his friend Miles, who is a culinary school student and a regular human, a sexy silver fox named Gerry who is an uncle to one of the little boys he coaches in little league, and a scorchingly hot bartender named Iggy. All are likely candidates to his affection, but Aaron is betrayed when one of them horribly assaults him. Aaron has to deal with his embarrassment and his feelings of inadequacy over the attack because of his career as a police officer. As the events related to the undercover case progress, he's horrified to learn that his assault might have something to do with the case they've been working on.
Now, you wanna read the spoiler??
(view spoiler)[There is one HUGE problem with this story that really affected my enjoyment of the story. I don't pay a whole lot of attention to blurbs, because honesty, I usually don't read a book just after reading the blurb, so I forget all but the basic story is about. Looking at the blurb now, I can see which of those "suitors" I mentioned above is mentioned in the blurb and I might have not had to deal with this mess, but I didn't, so I didn't know who to expect. And this is where the problem lies. Aaron is dating Gerry for most of the book and it isn't until the book is almost over, around 70%-75% that we even meet or hear about Iggy, then Aaron feels the pull of the "mating", or a strong connection across the crowded bar (on a date with Gerry) and he dumps one for the other. It isn't callous, because Aaron is so sweet and earnest, but it still bothered me. We don't get to know anything about Iggy or even see them together. And you could say that the story is really about Aaron and his evolution and all that. Sure, it is true -- but I do not want to read the story expecting one character of becoming the romantic interest and finding out that another guy is waiting to take over, especially a character that we've never even hear of before. That really bothered me, and spoiled my enjoyment of the story. (hide spoiler)]
Aside from that one thing (though admittedly big thing) which spoiled my enjoyment of the story in the end (makes you wanna read it now, doesn't it?), I liked the story. The first half is especially good though there is little romance at all and the story is devoted to Aaron and his assault. I like the brotherly dynamic between Aaron and Brad and Jeff. The first book is devoted to showing the sexy side of the relationship between those two and it was nice to see a difference side of Brad here. The whole usual gang was back along with a few new characters. I think the overall problem just stemmed from a lack of direction in the story. It meandered quite a bit and seemed to decide on one path then change and choose another. I wanted it to do as the first story did quite well and choose a path and commit to it. At the very least, I really liked Aaron and his journey was quite interesting to read. I wanted him to find love and get everything that he deserved. Even though he comes across as helpless, I liked that he has a core strength and even though the assault damages it, he regains it over the length of the story. The saving grace of the story for me was the fact that Aaron changes and grows.
I would recommend this for fans of the series and author, but not on it's own. Though it probably could be read as a standalone, it is better enjoyed after reading Snakeskin Boots and I'm not sure if I would have liked the story at all if I hadn't read that book because it doesn't stand up well on it's own. And I think that the problems I had with the book are ones that most other readers will also have. So, read if you want but don't expect perfection. I'm very much looking forward to future installments of this series, but I'm really hoping that the author can turn it around and not make the same mistakes that she made in this one. Also, just a note: there is no sex in this story, which was a HUGE change from the first book, which was packed with sex. That was okay though, even though I was a tad disappointed, because it made sense for sweet, virginal Aaron not to jump into bed and go slutty with wild abandon ;)...more
I know what I'm getting with these books, and this series in particular. The stories are all mostly the same. And I accept that the characteDNF at 52%
I know what I'm getting with these books, and this series in particular. The stories are all mostly the same. And I accept that the characters, especially the Omegas, in this series are usually pretty ridiculous. But the guy in this one was just nuts. I couldn't take it. Just because you've been abused doesn't give you license to hurt everyone around you, then gripe and whine about how no one understands you. It was just too much this time and I kept thinking why am I even reading this?...more
I had high hopes for this book, but ultimately I didn't like it for a variety of reasons, mostly becauseReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
I had high hopes for this book, but ultimately I didn't like it for a variety of reasons, mostly because it needed a lot more work before it was ready to be presented to readers. If it weren't for the fact that I accepted this for review, I probably would have stopped reading it.
Mark is decidedly in the closet. He doesn't really have any friends and is a self-proclaimed math nerd. He meets Bill for the first time when they're forced to unload a truck full of candy bars at the high school over a Saturday. He's known of Bill forever -- they live in a tiny town and Bill is a hottest and most popular guy in school. Bill has never talked to him though, as casually and like friends as on that day. Afterwards, they meet again as the last people leaving the school just as a snow storm hits, leaving Bill stranded with Mark's family for several days. There, Mark starts to question if Bill is really what he assumed he was and if he's gay like himself. The two grow into lovers, but outward best friends, as they and Mark's family take up several public causes against bullying and abuse.
What I first noticed that gave me pause was the rather strained dialogue. The way Mark (as well as the other young people) speak doesn't sound like a high school student. The words were off and while I noticed that the syntax and cadence of Mark's speech and narration was at times made to seem quite young, the words and phrases he uses are at odds with how I remember and expect teenagers to sound (like "my peers", for one example of many).
Perhaps what bothered me the most was that the book is really preachy. Mark and his family continually take up cause after cause, which is fine and they mean well. In fact, the message of the book, the golden rule, is fine and well. I found it difficult to read the same pithy sentiments over and over though, often the exact same quotes. Issues are often explained down to every detail (what is wrong with bullying, etc.) and with melodramatic flair that made it all over the top. A crucial point in the story is a scene where Bill confronts others about bullying and what followed was a quite unrealistic, shame on you speech. It mostly made me feel like rolling my eyes because it seemed a bit callous to treat such really serious issues as if the world just needed a talking to and everyone would go on their merry way, a whole culture changed. Despite the fact that I couldn't reconcile the realism brought to the story by the real bullying and abuse and then the unrealistic treatment of it, iI was sad that a nugget of a great story was presented and then not explored.
The characters fell flat to me for a few reasons. Mark didn't act like a consistent teenager. Bill faces some extremely terrible issues that are dropped halfway through the story without any real lasting affect on his character. The way Mark's parents go about their crusade fundamentally bothered me. Both Bill and Mark often say to jocks who make comments about "faggots" seeing them in the shower that they should be proud they're "hot enough to get attention from women and men". I just kept thinking… what?
I kept wondering if I was taking this book completely different than how it was intended because I just didn't get it. I couldn't decide if all these were deliberate choices by the author. On the one hand, I could perhaps see where some of it is satirical, but that didn't completely jibe. Either way, the book needed more work and more editing in my opinion -- not only for content but also to deal with some sentence problems. Some of the information that is presented over and over (several times an event or scene is told from beginning to end in the retelling to other characters, and without altering or adding new information which would give the retelling purpose) should have been taken out.
Like I said earlier, there's a nugget of a good story in here, it just needed a lot more coaxing out before this was really ready for publishing. I probably won't be carrying on with the series, and I can't recommend this book to readers. I can see where other readers will like this, so please, by all means read other reviews and decide for yourself. This is solely my opinion and my reaction to the book....more