Review Hodgepodge (#6)

Review Hodgepodge

Well, this is me, so as usual, I picked up one M/M book fully prepared to move on to something else when I was done. That rarely happens, and it sure as heck didn’t happen this time. I don’t know what it is about the genre (sub-genre?) that grips me. Once I’m in, it’s hard to find my way out. I find M/M to be brimming with emotions that don’t feel forced and filled with angst that is beautifully done. I found some really good (and funny) reads with this bunch. And one full-on bust. 🙁

Flair Divider 2


Adulting 101
Adulting 101 by Lisa Henry
Genre: LGBTQIA / Contemporary Romance
Publication Date: August 15th, 2016
ARC provided by Riptide Publishing and Netgalley

Synopsis from Goodreads: The struggle is real.

Nick Stahlnecker is eighteen and not ready to grow up yet. He has a summer job, a case of existential panic, and a hopeless crush on the unattainable Jai Hazenbrook. Except how do you know that your coworker’s unattainable unless you ask to blow him in the porta-potty?

That’s probably not what Dad meant when he said Nick should act more like an adult.

Twenty-five-year-old Jai is back in his hometown of Franklin, Ohio, just long enough to earn the money to get the hell out again. His long-term goal of seeing more of the world is worth the short-term pain of living in his mother’s basement, but only barely.

Meeting Nick doesn’t fit in with Jai’s plans at all, but, as Jai soon learns, you don’t have to travel halfway around the world to have the adventure of a lifetime.

This is not a summer romance. This is a summer friendship-with-benefits. It’s got pizza with disgusting toppings, Netflix and chill, and accidental exhibitionism. That’s all. There are no feelings here. None. Shut up.

3.75 Stars – B

After a rocky start, this book turned out to be a pleasant surprise for me. I almost set it aside, but there was just something about this story that I couldn’t walk away from. The first chapter was from Nick’s POV, and that introduction was enough to give me whiplash. This kid can’t keep a thought in his head, and it was very disconcerting. Luckily, the second chapter gave us Jai’s perspective, and the story settled somewhat. I have to admit, it was a long time before I really started warming up to Nick, and it was seeing him through Jai’s eyes that did it. I love how Jai was able to relax him with kind words or a simple touch. This was an opposites attract story, and it Nick and Jai were polar opposites. I loved Nick’s best friend, Devon, and I think it says something about Nick that he draws all these genuinely kind people to him. Of course Nick was kind, too, but sometimes it was hard to see anything but his scatterbrain. Devon and Nick were completely co-dependent on one another, and their texts back and forth were hilarious. I adored their friendship. I also liked Jai’s family. They were struggling trying to make ends meet, but like Nick and his friends, they were nice people who liked to heckle each other. My biggest issue with this book (after I was able to finally acclimate myself to Nick’s POV) was that I felt like this author had a list of every social issue under the sun sitting next to her and was checking them off as they made an appearance in the book. If they fit the story, it works, but there were times when I wasn’t sure why they were thrown in; it jarred me from the story and just made my mind wander. When all was said and done, though, Adulting 101 won me over, and I finished it with a big ass cheesy grin on my face. It would have been impossible not to with the adorable gesture from Jai at the end. I’ll be looking for more from this author!

Rating: 3.75 Stars

Thank you to RIPTIDE PUBLISHING and Netgalley for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

~*~

StagedStaged by Kim Fielding
Book #3 Belonging
Genre: LGBTQIA / Contemporary Romance
Publication Date: July 18th, 2016
ARC provided by Netgalley and Riptide Publishing

Synopsis from Goodreads: Once the second-prize winner on My Slave’s Got Talent, Sky Blue has spent the past few years singing at a failing New York nightclub. While Sky has never had control over his fate, his life seems to take a turn for the worse when he’s torn from the familiar comfort of performing and sold to a rich and enigmatic man.

Morgan Wallace takes his newly purchased slave to San Francisco, his intentions unclear. On the one hand, he treats Sky with more kindness than Sky has ever known—treats him like a real person. On the other hand, he shares Sky at parties hosted by his sadistic new friends.

A confused slave is an endangered slave, and Sky isn’t even sure of his master’s real name. Is he Morgan Wallace, wealthy and cruel, or Mackenzie Webster, caring and compassionate? Caught between hope, fear, and an undeniably growing attachment, Sky struggles to untangle which parts are real and which are merely a performance. His future, his heart, and even his life may depend on it.

Reader discretion advised. This title contains the following sensitive themes:

dubious consent
explicit violence
non-consent

4 Stars – B+

Just seeing a BDSM novel at this point makes me want to yell my safeword, so I’m not sure why I requested Staged. But I’m glad I did. BDSM may have played a small part in this book, but the bigger picture was being trapped in your circumstances with no way out. Sky was an interesting character. In a world where slavery was legal, he’d never known freedom and didn’t even know why he was enslaved. With the voice of an angel, Sky was forced to perform night after night for a dwindling crowd. But that wasn’t all Sky’s slavery entailed. When his owners are in a financial bind, they’re forced (I use this term loosely) to sell Sky, and he’s taken away from all he’s ever known. It’s obvious that Morgan was a more complex character than Sky, even without Morgan’s point of view – though I wish we’d gotten it. There was enough foreshadowing in this story to know what Morgan was doing (lacking the mystery the author may have been going for,) and I think his POV would have added a lot to this story. It was easy to see why Sky was enthralled with Morgan. He’d really been the only person who had ever shown any kindness to Sky, and I think that adoration may have been what drew Morgan right back to him. I liked the pacing of this story, and while I think each character was fleshed out nicely, again, I think Morgan’s POV could have really added depth to this story. Morgan’s torment, even through Sky’s eyes, was tangible, and his desperation to do what was right made him such a good man. I thought this story ended in a realistic way, and I would definitely go back and read more from this series, and from this author.

Rating: 4 Stars

Thank you to RIPTIDE PUBLISHING and Netgalley for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

~*~


Starting NewStarting New
by S.C. Wynne
Genre: LGBTQIA / Contemporary Romance
Publication Date: August 8th, 2016
ARC provided by Netgalley and Riptide Publishing

Synopsis from Goodreads: Life hasn’t been good to Francis Murphy. He’s survived twenty-one years of homelessness by hooking and taking handouts where he can find them. When the local shelter is vandalized, he’s forced to seek food at the Grace and Light Church, where he runs into the pastor’s son, Randy.

Randy Wright believes the best in others. He’s immediately drawn to Francis, even though Francis is hardened and wary. When Francis is attacked by one of his johns, Randy and his family take him in and offer him temporary work. Randy always thought he was straight, but something about Francis has him yearning for more than just friendship, and realizing he might be bisexual.

Francis is attracted to Randy too, and Randy and his parents say they’ve always believed in gay rights. But talk is cheap. What are the odds that these Christian parents will remain open-minded when it’s their own son in a relationship with another man?

3.5 Stars – B

One thing’s for sure – Starting New didn’t pull any punches. It was raw and gritty, and the author didn’t just tell us how desperate Francis was; we were shown from the very first page. When Francis finds himself in dire straits, he heads to a local church event in hopes of finding food only to meet the pastor’s son, Randy, who can’t just let Francis walk away without trying to help him. But having Francis around has Randy questioning his feelings, and before long, his sexuality. What I really liked about this book was that I feel like it stepped out of the box and didn’t fall into the ‘evil Christians who hate gay people trap.’ Yes, sadly it’s out there, but there are also Christians who are accepting of the gay lifestyle, and for some, it’s been a struggle to get there. This book is much more than Francis and Randy finding their way together. It’s about walking the walk that you teach and preach, and I think this book explored that in a realistic way. I also thought Francis’ feelings were believable – that it couldn’t be possible someone would help him for nothing, and his old lifestyle kept calling to him. There is, after all, a certain comfort in the familiar, no matter how uncomfortable it can be. Overall, I thought this was an enjoyable, realistic read, and I’d read more from this author.

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Thank you to RIPTIDE PUBLISHING and Netgalley for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

~*~

 

The Given & the TakenThe Given & the Taken by L.A. Witt
Book #1 in Tooth and Claw
Genre: LGBTQIA / Paranormal Romance
Publication Date: January 3rd, 2012

Synopsis from Goodreads: 

After pleading his case to his wolf clan’s Elders, Levi is granted the right to bond with Ian, his male human lover, on one condition: they must spend one year apart. Then Levi must use only their spiritual connection to find Ian, or the deal is off.

Tracking down his lover is easy, but Levi isn’t prepared for the changed man he finds.

The agony of separation was too much for Ian. In a moment of weakness, he reached out—to a vampire. Now he’s a vampire himself, and Levi’s devastation—and rejection—is like a stake to his heart. But it’s nothing compared to the fury of the clan that wants Ian brought to justice for desecrating their most sacred ritual.

Afraid for Ian’s safety, Levi puts the pain aside and races to get to Ian first, but he faces unexpected competition: Darius, Ian’s maker. When they come together, all hell breaks loose, Ian is on the run…and the only way Levi and Darius can save the man they love is work together.

If they don’t kill each other first.

1 Star – F

I am going to be honest; this book pissed me off so much I’m not even sure I can write a decent review for it. So warning: rant ahead. I should have walked away and been done with it, but I was at work and didn’t have another audio to listen to, so I stuck it out. I loved the premise of this book, but the execution left a lot to be desired. Here is my biggest beef with this book – it makes a mockery out of mates. Yes, I know mating isn’t ‘a thing,’ OK? It’s a tool used in paranormal stories to create a bond between characters. (And for more than that, but for the purpose of this ‘review,’ that’s the part I’m focusing on.) I feel like this book took everything that was sacred about mating and chucked it into outer space. I didn’t find the sex in this book to be the least bit sexy. I thought it was disgusting and did little to add to the plot, and besides all of that, I thought Levi was a selfish prick. That’s all I can really share without giving any spoilers, but I think it goes without saying that I won’t be picking up the rest of this series. The narrator was OK, but he wasn’t given much to work with, and I’d like to hear him narrate a different story before I really form an opinion on whether or not I like his work.

Rating: 1 Stars

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