Falling From The Sky by Nikki Godwin

Blurb:
23463189All stability in sixteen-year-old Ridge McCoy’s life crashed and burned in the plane crash that killed his dad. This summer-long basketball camp is his chance to improve his skills and escape his problems back home. But his summer plans take a turn in an unexpected direction when he meets Micah Youngblood, the guy who runs the carousel at the local mall and has a reputation for devouring straight boys’ heterosexuality for breakfast, alongside his chocolate chip pancakes.

Ridge needs a way to avoid the guys at camp, whose only quest for the summer is to drown in beer and hook up with girls. So when Micah offers to explain how the ten unique horses on the carousel are significant to his tribe, Ridge takes him up on it. Still, Ridge can’t decide if this is a bad thing or not. All he knows is that he hasn’t felt this alive since his dad fell from the sky, and as the horse adventures come to an end, Ridge finds himself falling as well – for Micah.

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My Review:
3 stars — I will admit I’m a bit torn on this book.  I actually liked quite a bit of it, but I still felt like there was just something lacking…like it could have been so much better, you know??  And I keep going back and forth on some of the other things that bugged me.  Like they seriously bugged me, but there’s a part of me that can see how characters (especially 17 year old characters) would behave in such a way.

I’ll start off by saying that I chose to move this book up in my queue to fulfill a diversity challenge theme for this month, focusing on Native American History Month.  And this is one of the first parts that both bugged me, but I could maybe see it.  Ridge (our main hero, the only POV we read) is kind of a dick and maybe a bit of a bigot about Native Americans.  Some of the comments he makes/thoughts he has early in the book made me uncomfortable.  But then I kind of thought he’s not praised or shown in a good light for that…so it kind of just shows the kind of prejudices that are pervasive in our society, especially about Native Americans…though while he’s not shown in a good light, he’s not smacked down for it either because it’s in his head.  But how many people out there think the same things?  And we do get to see those things fall away, though it’s never overt.  And overall, I thought that Micah, and his family, and the bit we saw of his (made up) tribe weren’t negative.  Not being Native, I honestly can’t tell you if they’re positive, but they didn’t feel negative to me.  And most of the Native characters were kind of awesome; I really liked Micah, his sister, his nieces, his stories of his Nonna, his Poppa, even his cousins.  So yeah, torn on the representation of this particular diversity, since we never see inside Micah’s head.

And on a similar note with Ridge, this is a bit of a “gay for you” story, and he’s a bit of a bigot about homosexuals too…he has some thoughts that made me uncomfortable here as well (like his comparison to prison inmates being “gay for the stay” — ick).  Part of me gets this, it’s very realistic I think for many young adult males to be terrified of being gay, even if that makes me RIDICULOUSLY SAD.  So I’m torn here…he made me want to smack him, but was he a realistic depiction?  I think I would have been happier here if SOMEONE would have freaking brought up bisexuality ANYWHERE in the freaking book.  Um, hello.  Like seriously.  That’s why this lands more in the irks me category, it doesn’t get as much of a pass as the race stuff.

And since I’m getting things that bug me out of the way, there’s the cheating crap (might be minorly spoilery).  I hate cheating stuff.  I sort of get how confused Ridge was, both about his new feelings for Micah, and how he was just wanting to get away from all the things at home that had become status quo.  But grow some balls.  It shouldn’t take the whole freaking summer to break up…and she didn’t need to be a mean girl in the end, like I’m supposed to accept his behavior cheating with Micah because of that?  Nope.

Well shit, I have more complaints…so I just had to downgrade this from a 3.5 star to a 3 star.  Bummer.  Really, so many of them just revolve around Ridge’s characterization.  So much of him just wasn’t a very sympathetic character…he fell a bit flat a lot of times.  He made decisions that made me not like him, I didn’t really understand what he was really like.  And OK, one last one: I wanted resolution with his family.  I felt like that was so weird that we didn’t ever see them, and it was all very in the background.  So much of this book had a coming of age feel, but for it to truly be, I feel like we’d need to see him with his family.

OK, so things I liked!!  And crap, even the things I liked are with caveats.  This was a bit of a slow burn romance, and I appreciated that it wasn’t fast (especially with all they were dealing with).  Sometimes it would jump around a bit fast, like Ridge would be horrified about a kiss, and then still sleeping over.  I think I think too much.  But I did really think they were cute together.  In general I really liked Micah…he was kind of an oddball, and I really did feel for him and what all he was dealing with.  He felt like a pretty authentic 17 year old gay guy in a smaller town.  I wasn’t always happy with the way he pushed Ridge, but that could be just me.

I did GENUINELY love that we got to see Ridge showing emotions, and feeling things, and crying.  So many times guys aren’t allowed to cry, and that just sucks.  I really loved Zoey and her twins…I thought they added something to the story, and Abby and Jade amused me (I could so picture their very different approaches to Ridge, right to the end).  I thought the little bit we saw of Tuck was cool, I really liked the painting thing…  While I was initially confused about the carousel horses thing, I was so happy with the fact that that was explained in the end…and I appreciated the little things those adventures taught us about our heroes.  And I LOVED Terrance.  We needed more Terrance.  He was pretty much the one character who was 100% awesome in this book, and I think he was underutilized.

So yeah.  Reading all that, I really did have a lot to complain about eh?  Well crap.  I did enjoy myself.  Like I say, I just had reservations.  I’m probably not properly expounding on the good parts of this story.  I’m just conflicted, and it’s always so much easier to talk about the things that didn’t work than the things that did, you know?  So there you go.  My beautiful review.  You’re welcome.

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Get It (Enemies to Lovers #2.5) by Anyta Sunday

34535520Blurb: Unrequited love is a bitch. It sucks you into a narrowly focused world and leaves you blind as a bat to other things…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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4 stars

This was a cute short story.  I loved how we got to see them come together.  It was nice to see Benny finally see what he had right in front of him.

James was quite the forgiving character. I’ve been where he is and I had to walk away.  I’m a huge fan of this author so I expected to love it as much as I did.

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St-st-stuffed (Enemies to Lovers #2) by Anyta Sunday

29241027Blurb: Other than his most prized Lamborghini, Karl Andrews has nothing to his name. He’s down on his luck and his dollar, and his dream of becoming a professional chef is looking more and more like a pipe-dream. Even less than a pipe-dream when restaurants won’t even take him on as a waiter.
And he won’t ever, no not ever, consider selling his one possession. No matter how much he could make from it. Just wasn’t going to happen.
He’d rather . . . rather . . .
Hell, he’d rather apply for that position to be a Girl Friday.

Other than the title, the job sounds all right. Bit of cooking, cleaning—nothing he can’t handle.
Really.
Until he goes to the interview and discovers the man looking for the help is the same man he’d bullied, mocked, terrified as a boy. But Paul Hyte is obviously a better man, gracious and forgiving. And trusting—as the biggest part of the job requires looking after his son.

Despite the initial forgiveness, things are tentative between Karl and Paul, and they’ve both got to reconcile their pasts if they want any type of proper closure. As the two men learn more about each other an undeniable attraction grows between them—but can the two manage to forge a future together on such a rocky past and complicated present?
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4 stars

I really enjoyed this book. I don’t know that I could be the better person in a situation like this one, allowing an old school enemy to help take care of my son, it’s incredibly forgiving.  I thought Paul was pretty awesome for that.  It was what drew me into this story.  At first I thought that Paul was straight and this was gonna be a repeat of the first book but I’m glad that is not the case because I remember not liking that one as much. Paul has a hard time with his feelings (this happened in the last book as well so its a recurring) but the addition of a child added more to this book. Paul’s struggle with his sexuality is wonderfully written and helps Karl come to terms with his past relationship as well.  I though that was a nice parallel in the story.

The child was not a prop either.  He was an integral part of the story.  Children have a way of changing our entire view on the world and what we want from it.  I loved how Charley was the catalyst that brought such happiness into their lives.  Especially after they each had so much heartbreak.

Karl for the most part was exactly how I expected him to be.  I enjoyed his growth as a character.  He starts out a bit jaded IMO.  And I think the fact that his old enemy was willing to start over with a clean slate really helped his pettiness and/or bitterness towards other people.  And it knocked him down a peg.  The Lambo holding sentimental value was a nice touch and I could relate to that so hard.  My husband’s last parting gift from his father was to pay off his truck so he could continue working.  He will NEVER get rid of that truck.  The sentimental value is priceless.  I think I could have benefited from knowing more of Karl’s family background, we just really get a peek-a-boo into it.

All in all a great follow-up and I plan on finishing this series this year. Heck, I’ve already read the next one.

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#FinishLine by Cambria Hebert

Blurb:
34384215
Every race has a finish line.

Where you go after you cross it is what matters most. And sometimes, that’s the most intriguing.

Here at GearShark, we’ve featured lots of drivers. All of them are well acquainted with the finish line. And as race fans, we’re well acquainted with cheering as they cross it. What we aren’t privy to is riding shotgun, seeing where they drive once the race is over.

Our interviews barely scratch the surface, offering just a glimpse of the men and women behind the wheel. The discovery of vanished Motocross sensation Jayson Hamilton, who has been right under our noses for years, proves secrets abound.

It’s time to dig deep. Look beyond the racetrack at the drivers who continue to pique our interest. In addition to scoring an exclusive, all-access interview with the elusive Jayson Hamilton (his first and only since the death of his fellow racer and partner Matt Lewis), we’ve caught up with some of our most popular featured men and women in the racing world.

Where are they now?

Who are they now?

What do these hot commodities do when they escape the spotlight?

Rumors of weddings, babies, and new tattoos swirl through the media on a weekly basis. And though we’re headlining the hashtag #Finishline, we’re far from finished. In fact, we’re just getting started.

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My Review:
3.5 stars — I think I might have enjoyed this one a bit more if I’d had dedicated time to read it, instead of it being broken up in little pieces whenever I had time in between other stuff going on in my life.

That being said, remember how I LOVED #Bae because it was so much more than *just* a huge epilogue??  Well, this one is basically just a huge epilogue.  I kept waiting for twists and turns and more character development, and I really didn’t get it.  We did get a few answers about Hopper’s past, but in general I felt underwhelmed…like I wanted more.

And honestly, while I love Hopper and Arrow together, things got a bit overdramatic in their relationship…over the top declarations and stuff like that.  And I couldn’t help but be a bit uncomfortable with the co-dependency that was their relationship.  In some ways I can see how these two damaged characters might form that kind of relationship, but it’s not my favourite, if that makes sense.

Now, it was not all over the top and crazy, don’t get me wrong.  If it was, I wouldn’t be rounding up.  I do LOVE epilogues, so it was super fun to see them together, loving each other, putting each other first, and actually getting to see the happily ever after.  I loved Hopper and Jace’s conversation near the beginning, I loved the proposal, I loved Arrow’s surprise for Hopper in Las Vegas…well surprises (honeymoon too).  I loved the wedding.

I do remember seeing people mention that this was not just an Arrow/Hopper story, so I wasn’t completely taken by surprise when their story finished at 70%…I kind of still wanted more, but I was satisfied.  And I do remember people mentioning that there is no more Trent and Drew story (though they do have cameos), so I wasn’t surprised about that either (though there was a tiny piece of my heart that held out hope for some reason).

And I actually enjoyed Josie and Jace’s extra bit of story.  I thought they had a bit more to say, and I actually almost got more out of their story than I was expecting.  Though their little bit of conflict was resolved fairly quickly in the end, but I still appreciated that we got to see them hit a stumbling block.  I loved the proposal, I loved Jace’s conversation with Josie’s Dad and the way it played out after that, I LOVED the wedding (and seeing Josie get some girlfriends in Rimmel and Ivy, Trent’s da bomb), and I thought that the hospital scene at the end was hilarious and a perfect end to their story.

So yeah.  I enjoyed it.  Just not as much as I was hoping to.  Trent and Drew remain my faves, but I’m glad that Ms. Hebert didn’t just slap something together for them just because fans were asking.  I hope she gets inspired, but I will wait for gold if it comes, and be satisfied if this is all I get if inspiration doesn’t strike.

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#Blur by Cambria Hebert

Blurb:
32856045Nothing but a #blur…
There’s a new kid in town, and he’s hell on wheels.
From what we’ve heard, it may be because
he knows exactly what hell’s like.
Lonely.
Scorching.
Unforgiving.
You may know his brother, the NRR hotshot
(and former GearShark cover model)
Lorhaven.
It’s only natural a driver with his background and family connections
has sped his racecar into the newest, hottest division.
But that’s not all.
Arrow may be following in big bro’s tread marks,
but he doesn’t plan to stay there.
He’s swerving onto the road less traveled…
and a lot more controversial.
He’s opening up about his private struggles with sexuality
to tell a story that’s gone unheard until now.
One thing’s for sure; Arrow may have a painful past,
but his foot is heavy on the accelerator.
With speed like this, he’s bound to leave everything behind in
nothing but a #blur.
Check out the full feature article inside…

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My Review:
4.5 stars — I will start off by saying that this book should contain a HUGE trigger warning.  I don’t have triggers, but I really don’t get why more authors aren’t putting them on books.  You can be vague, you can just say trigger warning and not explain what kind, but give people who have triggers at least a mini head’s up.

This book broke me, particularly the past sections.  I was trying so hard to contain my bawling in bed because my hubby was sleeping, but even though I wasn’t making any noise, I was shaking so hard he woke up anyways.  And didn’t even comfort me, the bastard.  So yeah, be prepared for a bit of an emotional rollercoaster in parts.

I’ve been fascinated by both Arrow and Hopper from previous books.  And their book was both really fulfilling and left me wanting a bit more at the same time.  We’ll see how I feel after #FinishLine, but this book was a strange dichotomy.  It’s why I’ll end up rounding down, even though I had mega feels while reading it.

I loved both characters.  I felt like we really got to delve into what their shattered souls were like, and I loved seeing them develop strength both on their own, and derive it from each other.  I really loved them together.  There were so many lines that just got to my heart, I loved how they recognized the brokenness in each other, but weren’t put off by it…rather they were drawn to each other almost because of it.

I freaking stood up and cheered with Arrow’s confrontation with his father at the end.  That was ridiculously satisfying.

There were so many scenes that just pulled me in and grabbed hold of me.  I loved the way they loved each other, how they both resisted, were unsure, were afraid, but the connection was powerful enough to keep drawing them back.  I even enjoyed that they had stumbling blocks, but that they overcame them.  And I really felt their chemistry, I especially enjoyed their first explorations of each other.

I will admit that there were things that didn’t quite work for me.  I thought the stuff Arrow dealt with from his father at the beginning was a bit over the top.  I was disappointed that we didn’t really get any resolution on the aftermath of Arrow’s past (I really thought we’d find out more details on what happened when Lorhaven found him, and what happened to the guys).  And similarly I was disappointed that we got NO resolution from Hopper’s past.  What happened to those two guys?  What happened to Arrow’s mother?  She just kind of fell off the radar, that seemed odd.  And while I loved the connection between Arrow and Hopper, it felt a bit rushed at the beginning…  And quite frankly, I thought the development of their physical relationship moved too fast to be believable with Arrow…I wouldn’t have minded something more there.  It seemed like a missed opportunity.  I know people heal in different ways, but…

So yeah.  Those are some mega missed opportunities, but I guess that goes to show how much I loved the parts that I loved.  They overshadowed those things that on a different book would have brought my rating down much farther.  Super curious to see what we get from the final book…

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Pounding Skin by L.A. Witt

Blurb:
35101031A Skin Deep, Inc. Novel

Fighter pilot Jon Russell never sleeps with the same man twice. Known for his lack of shame when it comes to hooking up, Jon has no interest in commitment—even friends with benefits sounds like too much work.

Matt Huffman has slept with lots of women. He’s had loads of girlfriends. So why does the hot as hell pilot getting a tattoo as the result of a lost bet stop his breath? And how come he can’t stop thinking about him, even after he’s gone?

When Jon returns to Skin Deep the second time, he doesn’t want another tattoo. He wants to hook up with the gorgeous artist he spent hours agonizingly close to, and Matt wants to explore some curiosity about men. Fulfill the desire he can’t stop fantasizing over. And he wants to do it with Jon.

As their casual hook up becomes more than just skin deep, both Matt and Jon are faced with questions they don’t want to answer. Matt understands he’s bi—but are these feelings he has typical of hooking up with a man? Or is it only Jon that can make his heart pound? If Jon wanted nothing more than a fling, why does he find himself needing not just Matt’s body, but all of him? And can their relationship withstand the hardships that makes Jon avoid them in the first place?

The Skin Deep, Inc books can be read in any order—come enter a world where gorgeous tattoo artists and hot Navy men find passion, pleasure, and a happily ever after together.

L.A. Witt also writes under the name Lauren Gallagher.

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My Review:
3.5 stars — I received a free copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased review/opinion.

I finished this one last night, but was just so freaking tired I just sort of stream of consciousnessed out some thoughts before going to bed.  Now I need to figure out what I wrote and make it make sense.  All of which I really didn’t need to include in this review, but in case I miss something and it sounds jumbled, that would be why.

This was a solid read, definitely leaning more towards the erotica end of the spectrum…  I can never figure out what the line in the sand is for when a romance is labeled an erotica.  Like, this book definitely had romance, but there is a LOT of sex in it.  I actually forgot just how much sex was in the first book, so it caught me off guard in the beginning of this book.  And funny story, I always bring my Kindle everywhere, and when I was on the bus taking me to the football game on Friday, I pulled it out, but forgot I was in the middle of a sex scene and I had to keep tilting it away from the guy beside me.  I took a picture to show my hubby (because he was standing near the back), and he laughed and told me if they peak over my shoulder, they get what they get!  And what they would get is a LOT of c*ck!!  ROFL.  OK, enough of these asides…

Let’s talk characters!!  I felt a stronger connection to Matt than Jon in this particular story.  I did feel like we jumped into his story at a weird point, I almost wish we’d actually seen the scene where he has the threesome, instead of seeing him ponder it.  Even if it was a flashback.  Then again, maybe not.  It just felt like we jumped into the middle of a story sometimes.  BUT!  I loved how Ms. Witt portrayed Matt’s struggle with coming to terms with his newly discovered bisexuality.  I loved the way his past played into him being in the closet for so long, and being so genuinely surprised when he figured it out.  I loved the discussion about how his father’s toxic masculinity really influenced him heavily.  I also liked that they addressed how his constant vehement denial could hurt people (like Troy).  I will say I was not too keen on the fact that it seemed no one was surprised when he came out.  Not that that isn’t necessarily realistic, but we never really find out what exactly gave it away for them.  Having SOMEONE be surprised would have been nice.  Or at least not sitting there saying “we were just waiting for you to say something.”

I felt like Matt’s financial struggles were added in at the beginning, and then didn’t really go anywhere.  Like the story got too cluttered, so that thread just got dropped unsatisfactorily.  I really hate that, because I was interested in seeing how it was going to be resolved because it seemed to be building up to something, but then it just…fizzled, I guess.  So then why was it there at all?

On to Jon!  Jon was harder to warm up to.  I never could figure out where he got his negative view on relationships.  I guess some people just are that way, but in books it’s nicer to read them having some incidence that leads to it (a rough childhood, divorced parents, no good role models, bad early breakup, SOMETHING).  So that was a bummer.  However, I loved that he was so confident in his sexuality, and very forthright about what he wanted, and very comfortable in his own skin.  I loved that he was very good at his job and loved it, and they conveyed how smart he was.  I also loved seeing some of the interactions with his squadron, but that fizzled a bit too…would have liked even more.

And Matt and Jon had amazing chemistry, and the steamy scenes were spot on (if prolific).  I really did feel their connection and insatiability in the bedroom.  But not at the expense of other connections.  I felt friendship, and even romance too.  I liked that we got to see their relationship slowly developing over time.  You could tell they cared about each other.  Frankly, it made the constant talk of casualness really grating on this romance reader.  I think that was the point, but it’s not something that this reader enjoys.  I get it was the whole conflict of the book leading up to the climax, but it got tiring.  And the turnaround in the end was a mite quick.

As for side stories, the subplot with Nate and his husband really broke my heart.  It kind of threw off my mood, and if you know me as a reader at all, you know I HATE cheating.  So it was hard to see it happening to a secondary character that was so important to one of our heroes.  I get now that it was setup for book 3 though.

I liked getting glimpses of Colin and Daniel, but still wish we knew what happened to Daniel’s family (particularly his relationship with his sisters).  I guess nothing.  That’s the impression we’re given.  And I hated how they made Daniel sound like he was always so calm and cool and there for Colin, when often I felt like he was oblivious to Colin’s problems.  But that’s a problem with a different story in the end.

All in all a solid romance that leans more towards the erotica end.  I think the relationship was more satisfying than Colin and Daniel’s from book one, but I enjoyed the extra elements in the first book’s story a wee bit more, so they kind of balance out in the end.  I will say I’m looking forward to the next book in the series though!  That sneak peak was tantalizing!

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Hello Forever by Sarina Bowen

Blurb:
34223444A basketball game changed both their lives.

When they were only teenagers, Axel and Caxton were caught making out in the woods at church camp. And afterward, Cax had disappeared from all the youth group activities.

Six years later, Axel is astonished to spot his first love’s face in the crowd of a college basketball game he’s watching on TV—at a school which has just offered him a job. It’s a thousand miles away, in a tiny rural town. But suddenly, he can’t wait to get there.

Cax can’t believe his eyes when Axel appears in the same Massachusetts town where he now lives. And he’s still just as drawn to Axel as ever. But he can’t let himself go there again, because loving Axel will mean giving up everything else he holds dear.

Both men have so much to lose. But as far as their love is concerned, it’s Hello Forever.

Hello Forever was previously published as It’s Never Over. This is a stand-alone novel with no cliffhangers. Readers of Goodbye Paradise will get to check in on Caleb and Josh and their clan.

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My Review:
4 stars — I received a free copy in exchange for an honest and unbiased review/opinion.

Another solid M/M romance from Ms. Bowen!!  While I didn’t enjoy this one quite as much as Goodbye Paradise (which is a really hard book to live up to since it was a 5 star read for me and contained so many little things that made it a perfect Lenore book), I was still sucked into this story and stayed up until 2:30 in the morning finishing it.

The POVs in this story weren’t structured in the same way as the previous book, this one was more close to alternating chapters (with some exceptions, as it made sense for the story).  I didn’t mind the change.  It made more sense for Cax and Axel’s story, and I felt like I got what I needed as a reader as the plot progressed.

There’s something about the different struggles that LGBT folks face when deciding when to come out that just rips open your heart, you know?  And Cax in particular had a tough road to walk.  I can’t imagine having to survive an abusive father no matter who you are, but especially as a gay kid when he is ridiculously homophobic and bigoted.  And I really got how his upbringing and experiences and the state of his family influenced his choice to remain mostly in the closet, especially if he wanted to maintain a relationship with his brothers.  Do I believe that he couldn’t have found another way?  I’m not sure.  But for who Cax was, it made sense…he was flawed, but doing the best he could with what he knew.  I enjoyed seeing him grow stronger over the course of the book, with setbacks here and there, but eventually standing up and accepting himself with no apologies.

While Cax’s journey was perhaps more heartwrenching in some ways, I felt closer to Axel in this story.  It wasn’t that he didn’t have his own struggles to go through, even as someone who was able to come out of the closet with support from his Mom.  He really showed that you can be “out and proud”, but still fear the backlash that may come from people he meets.  And how that fear can make for a lonely existence sometimes.  AND how loving someone in a closet can really have adverse affects on you as well.

I loved Cax and Axel together, and loved hearing about their past as children.  If I had one complaint, I wish we’d gotten a bit more from the romance.  It’s not that it wasn’t deliciously steamy, or that they didn’t have chemistry, but it just felt like something was missing to really push it over the top for me.  Honestly, it could just be that it’s hard to follow up the love of Caleb and Josh from the previous book.

The plot took a few twists and turns I wasn’t expecting.  Like, something would happen and I would assume that I knew how it was going to play out, but then it would go in a slightly different direction.  I like that, it felt authentic to the characters.  That’s not to say that there weren’t some things that were definitely foreshadowed and didn’t shock me, but it was nice to be surprised on some things.  Wow, that was really vague and confusing, sorry.  😛

Again, this story is strong in secondary characters, with so many playing important roles.  And I loved so many of them, from the reappearance of Caleb and Josh (squee!), to Boz who was so funloving, to Amy (though I wish we could have seen her a bit more), to Jason (perhaps we’ll see his story in the future?), to even Cax’s brothers.  I love when a book has a great supporting cast.

So yeah.  I always hate writing these last paragraphs, I never know how to end a review.  Obviously I thoroughly enjoyed myself, and what more can you ask for?  OH!  And can I just say that Caxtastrophe and Axeldental were the most hilarious email names??  Loved it!

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Goodbye Paradise by Sarina Bowen

Blurb:
34527470Most people called it a cult. But for twenty years, Josh and Caleb called it home.

In Paradise, there is no television. No fast food. Just long hours of farm work and prayer on a dusty Wyoming ranch, and nights in a crowded bunkhouse. The boys of the Compound are kept far from the sinners’ world.

But Joshua doesn’t need temptation to sin. His whole life, he’s wanted his best friend, Caleb. By day they work side by side. Only when Josh closes his eyes at night can they be together the way he craves.

It can never be. And his survival depends on keeping his terrible desires secret.

Caleb has always protected Josh against the worst of the bullying at the Compound. But he has secrets of his own, and a plan to get away — until it all backfires.

Josh finds himself homeless in a world that doesn’t want him. Can Caleb find him in time? And will they find a place of safety, where he can admit to Josh how he really feels?

Warning: Contains a hot male/male romance, copious instances of taking the Lord’s name in vain, and love against the kitchen counter. This book was previously released under the title: In Front of God & Everyone.

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My Review:
5 stars — OMG guys, I don’t even know what to say except this was so my kind of book.  Like you know how you have those specific kinds of things that just shoot a book over the top for you?  Well this book had them all.  I have an unhealthy fascination with books about characters from religious cults.  I love best friends to lovers stories.  And I adore male/male romances.  Plus a million little things that I could never put into words.

I fell in love with both characters, obviously, but perhaps more for Josh than Caleb.  Josh had such a sweet naivety to him, and he was just so damaged from living in fear that someone would find out his “sinful” thoughts.  The compound did a real number on him, from the doctrines that they were taught, to the people who mentally abused him by tearing him down at every chance, to the family that basically abandoned him.  At times I was flabbergasted at the stark difference between Josh and Caleb, because even with Caleb’s ability to leave the compound, I didn’t understand how he was able to see the compound for what it was so much more than Josh.  But as I went on with the book, I could really tell how the differences in their family situations growing up could make an impact, could allow Josh to believe it more fully with less skepticism.

And Josh just developed even more fully in their time outside the compound, and my heart ached for how lost he seemed.  How everything that drew him in reinforced the horrible things the bullies made him feel about himself.  I was so invested in his growth, in watching him love his new jobs, and eventually come to understand that that was OK.  And seeing him stand up for himself against Caleb was both heartbreaking and rewarding.

Since a larger part of the book was in Josh’s POV, I did feel I got to know him a bit more, but I fell in love with Caleb all the same.  It’s funny, b/c I felt like we got to see more of his damage in the second half of the book, and the effects of the compound on him were more subtle perhaps.  But I loved that he wasn’t as strong and together as we might have thought at first glimpse.  I wasn’t expecting it, I thought his contributions to the story would be more wrt the romance, but it’s funny how those we see as so together can sometimes be hiding great strain and sorrow.  There’s a TINY part of me that perhaps wanted more from him, but I’m also OK with it because I loved the story we got.

The romance was amazing.  Seeing them figure things out together, and struggle against their upbringing and their fears to embrace what they desired was very fulfilling.  Obviously the steam factor was amazing, right from the first kiss.  It’s kind of funny, b/c it’s like taking the fears of most LGBT folks and magnifying it a bit.  Fear of being discovered, shame of their feelings, fear over being accepted by their loved ones, fear of losing their loved ones because of who they love.

And then to top off this amazing story of Josh and Caleb, we got a FANTASTIC set of secondary characters, some of whom we got to see a bit of their own story as well (Maggie and Daniel).  I LOVED the dynamic of a runaway from the cult wanting to help other runaways from the cult.  I truly believed in the bond they shared from their shared experience, and how they became a family.  And I appreciated that Ms. Bowen added more to the story in little bits, like Maggie’s struggle after Chloe’s birth.  I loved how much love they had to give to each other.

And it wasn’t just these more major secondary characters, I also loved the minor ones.  From Washington, to the tiny glimpse of Trey, to Caleb’s work buddies.  They all added something to the story.

So there’s my gushing review.  When this first came out, it pained me that I didn’t have time to read it right away, b/c I had a feeling I was going to be in love.  Thank the baby jesus that Ms. Bowen republished it under her name, b/c what if I’d never discovered it otherwise?  That would have been a travesty.  A travesty I tell you!

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Frat Boy and Toppy by Anne Tenino

Blurb:
13561898Brad is great at meeting other people’s expectations. But his own? Not so much. Take the gay thing. Okay, so yeah. It took a morning meeting with a frat brother’s hairy, naked ass for him to admit it, but he knows the truth about himself now. Let the gay life commence.

Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. He hasn’t quite determined how to come out to anyone, even Sebastian, the geeky-hot TA in his history class. Sebastian is everything Brad is not. Intellectual, suave, hairy. Out. And he doesn’t seem interested in Brad, even when Brad makes a fool of himself trying to catch his notice.

Score one for foolery: Sebastian does more than notice Brad; he takes him to bed. Brad’s been with plenty of girls, but with Sebastian, the sex is something else entirely—hot, mind-blowing, affirming, and a little domineering in a way that drives him wild. But when great sex turns into something more—dare he admit the “L” word?—Brad must face the crushing realization that Sebastian doesn’t feel the same. Unless, of course, he does. After all, even grad students can be idiots about matters of the heart.

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My Review:
ORIGINAL REVIEW: 4 stars — Was better than I was expecting…not saying I was expecting it to be bad, but it was like deeper than I expected. Now I sound like a valley girl. *sigh* Basically I wasn’t expecting much for story, but there was a romance flavour to it all. And I LOVED Brad. He was a really interesting male hero — so many contradictions to him. Loved his story, loved his passions, loved his approach to this new insight into his life. Sebastian was a great complement for Brad too — though I would maybe like to have learned a bit more about him. We got hints here and there, but not enough I guess. The frat boy friends amused me, especially Kyle…

ON REREAD: 4 stars — It’s been a while since I read this one, but it looks like I concur with my past self.  Brad was the real winner of this story for me, we saw so much more development in his character.  I loved learning about how his experiences as a teenager sort of forced him back into the closet, and it broke my heart b/c it left him so confused and unsatisfied with life.  I love how he was never truly ashamed of being gay once he figured it out, it was more that he thought he wasn’t supposed to be.  And once he figured it out, he accepted it pretty quickly, and was only really mitigating the fall out from there on out.  He was kind of a sweetheart, and I loved that he was so different from what people expected, when you really got to see the real him.  I felt sad that people had pigeon-holed him, and made him feel as though who he really was wasn’t ok somehow.  It was so satisfying when he started going for what he wanted, and learning about love and pleasure for the first time.  I loved that he owned up to his bad choices in the past, and felt bad for not realizing how he was hurting girls along the way.  I LOVED that his family was so supportive and a non-issue.  I LOVED that his best friend was freaking hilarious and shocked, but then all in ready to fight for him.  I appreciated him having someone like that in his corner.

Sebastian had growth too, but I can’t say I fell as in love with him.  We just didn’t get to see inside him enough, except near the end when he has his epiphany.

I love that the author challenged the expected roles in our lovers, having Sebastian top and Brad bottom.  And I will say the steamy sections were definitely hot!  But there was definitely more story, and more romance than I had remembered.

All in all, a solid M/M.  Maybe a 3.5 star instead of full 4, but I enjoyed myself, so I’ll go all in, what the heck, why not…

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True Colors (True Love #2) by Anyta Sunday

34284561Blurb: Oskar used to be Marco’s best friend. His everything. His sunshine yellow.

But that was before. Before Marco stopped being a hot jock. Before he learned to live with scars and pain. And before Oskar tore their friendship apart.

Now the boy next door has returned home, determined to rekindle his friendship with Marco, and Marco’s more afraid than ever. Afraid of getting hurt. Afraid of being humiliated.

Afraid of falling in love.

Can Oskar find a way through Marco’s fear, back into his heart?

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Netgalley

4 stars

I ca’t really say much about this book except, it was great.

First of all, I love Marco!  I loved how he attempted to move on but when he realized he couldn’t he accepted it and reassessed his options.  I loved how hard he worked to earn forgiveness.  I loved how determined he was even in the face of his own personal shit he had going on in his life. He put others before himself.  He made mistakes and owned them. And he forgave himself.  I just….:sigh: I love him.

Oskar….not so much.  He came off a bit too whiny for me TBH.  His refusal to forgive and keep holding onto his pain and hatred were a huge turn-off for me. I’ma huge believer in the power of change so that’s probably why I had such a hard time with him.  But he did end up redeeming himself in the end, so he wasn’t so far gone that there was no return from the island of assholes.  He was a great support system for Marco’s sister and he was close with his family so there was some depth to see.

And holy shit, the sex scenes!  I mean, they seemed a bit too intense with this love story but damn I think I may have blushed while reading them, which doesn’t happen very often. 😉

I received this ebook in exchange for an honest/unbiased review.

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