Book Review: Acceptable Behavior, by Jenna Byrnes (DNF)

byrnes-acceptable-behaviorAcceptable Behavior, by Jenna Byrnes
Series: Marked Men, Book One
Publisher: Pride Publishing
Release Date: January 26, 2016

DNF at 33%

I received a copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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Blurb:

Dr. Travis Nelson has a passion for ink but keeps his many tattoos covered by long sleeves and trousers. He’s aware that as a pediatrician he’ll be judged not only by the other physicians in his practice, but also by the parents of his young patients.

When Sam Madison takes his young nephew, Levi, to be seen for an ear infection, he’s immediately attracted to Travis and the feeling is mutual. But Sam’s sister Melanie is going through a rough time and caring for Levi, and covering her obligations, keeps Sam occupied. He feels like he’s in no position to start a relationship.

Travis sees things differently, though he’s unable to truly understand the deep bond and connection Sam shares with his twin. As Melanie’s life goes from bad to worse, Sam is forced to make difficult decisions. Is protecting Levi enough of a reason for the two men to stay together, or will fighting for the child ultimately tear them apart?

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Blog Tour: Rock N Soul, by Lauren Sattersby (Excerpt & Giveaway!)

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Hi, I’m Lauren Sattersby, and this is the blog tour for my very first novel, Rock N Soul! I’ll be featured on various blogs over the course of the tour, and I’ll be sharing deleted scenes, playlists, answers to questions, and some of my thoughts on what it’s like to write a ghost story and make it both hot and romantic. Comment on each spot to be entered in a drawing for a $25 gift card to buy some books from Riptide Publishing!

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Rock N Soul, by Lauren Sattersby
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Release Date: January 18, 2016

My Review of Rock N Soul: “a heck of a lot of fun!”

Buy Links: Publisher / Amazon

Blurb:

RockNSoul_600x900I’m Tyler Lindsey, and until recently, I had an okay apartment, an okay girlfriend, and an okay job as a bellboy at a respectable Boston hotel. Then rock star Chris Raiden died right before I brought his room service—stiffing me on the tip, by the way—and my life went to hell. My fifteen minutes of fame was more like five seconds, and my girlfriend left me in disgust.

But even worse—Chris is haunting me. Not the room where he died, like a normal ghost. No, somehow he’s stuck to me and is insisting on taking care of a bunch of unfinished business in California. So now I have to traipse across the country with the world’s most narcissistic ghost.

But . . . I keep having these weird thoughts. Thoughts about how much I like the way he makes me laugh. Thoughts where I kind of want to kiss the emo-narcissist, even though he’s a ghost and an asshole and I can’t touch him anyway. And even if I could, what will happen when he finishes his business and nothing’s keeping him here anymore?

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Book Review: Rain Shadow, by L.A. Witt (Rating: 4/5)

witt-rain-shadowRain Shadow, by L.A. Witt
Series: Bluewater Bay (Stand-Alone)
Publisher: Riptide Publishing (October 19, 2015)
Page Count: 230 pages
Genre: Gay (M/M) Romance

Rating: 4 out of 5

Buy Links: Riptide’s Website

* I received an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review. * 

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Jeremy Rose came to Bluewater Bay to work as Anna Maxwell’s bodyguard, not to escape his increasingly bitter relationship with his estranged kids. He just wants to focus on his job and be alone for a while. He’s done with love, especially now that three years after his long overdue divorce, he’s got a front-row seat to the rapid deterioration between Anna and her girlfriend. Cynical doesn’t even begin to describe him.

Then Anna and Leigh’s attempts to reconcile put him in the crosshairs of marriage counselor Scott Fletcher. Scott’s exactly what Jeremy needs right now: gorgeous, hot, horny, single, and 100% uninterested in a relationship. The problem is, too much no-strings-attached sex — and too much time in each other’s company — inevitably builds emotional connection.

Except Jeremy refuses to seek counseling for his broken family, and Scott refuses to get seriously involved with men who work dangerous jobs. They both need to realize they can only hide for so long from the pain they came here to escape. They must face their pasts before they lose their shot at a happy future.

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With the “Bluewater Bay” universe, I never know what I’m getting in advance. Every author has a completely different point of view, and sometimes I just click with characters better in one book than in another. But Rain Shadow is definitely one of the more enjoyable books in the series! Jeremy is a really interesting character, and his point of view is incredibly well written… especially since it’s a first person POV, which has a lot of potential to isolate the reader from the plot.

Of course, this is L.A. Witt, who consistently puts out top-notch romances, so I shouldn’t be surprised!

My favorite part of this novel was how real Jeremy feels. He’s complex, he’s flawed, and he’s 100% human. I love characters that you can relate to as a reader. How many people have rough relations with their families, or past relationships gone sour? Jeremy is tough, good at his job, but also fragile and scrabbling to keep hold of his crumbling relationship with his kids, who live in L.A.

Once I was sure the call had disconnected, I let fly a string of profanity. I didn’t know which was worse– accepting that Haley wouldn’t be coming this summer or facing them in Vegas in a few weeks.

What the hell happened to us? (ePub pg. 97)

I did struggle with Scott’s character at times, though. He was very interesting, but some of his actions and decisions seemed to come a bit out of nowhere. I understand that this is because we didn’t get his train of thought, so to Jeremy they seemed to come out of nowhere as well. But it just made it harder to relate to him.

The relationship though! AHHH I LOVED IT! Two men who insist that it’s only sex. Really. Just sex. Nothing more. Maybe friendship. But mostly sex. And some emotions. But they’re not dating! Really!

Alarm jolted through me. Was I getting too close to him? Needing him in ways I had no business—

Of course not. I was getting more than just sex, but that didn’t mean it was love or anything like that. I’d been starved of human affection for too fucking long, and Scott gave it. He gave it in spades. (ePub pg. 71)

Watching these two ridiculous men fall in love with each other, without actually realizing it, was an absolute delight! Scott the relationship counselor should have known better, and Jeremy is King of Denial. Witt writes the relationship progressing really organically, and with some very steamy bedroom scenes.

The background relationship with Anna and Leigh was also excellent to read… and can I take a moment to share how excited I am about Anna’s story coming in December! Stuck Landing sounds like it’s going to be AMAZING! (Link to Pre-Order)

A really great read, and another excellent book in the “Bluewater Bay” universe!

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Book Review: “How To Be A Normal Person” by T.J. Klune

How To Be A Normal Person, by T.J. Klune
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press (October 16, 2015)
Page Count: 290
Genre: Asexual (M/M) Romance

Rating: 5 out of 5 (★★★★★)

Buy Links: eBook / Paperback

* I received an advanced copy of this novel from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. * 

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klune-how-to-be-normal-personGustavo Tiberius is not normal. He knows this. Everyone in his small town of Abby, Oregon, knows this. He reads encyclopedias every night before bed. He has a pet ferret called Harry S. Truman. He owns a video rental store that no one goes to. His closest friends are a lady named Lottie with drag queen hair and a trio of elderly Vespa riders known as the We Three Queens.

Gus is not normal. And he’s fine with that. All he wants is to be left alone.

Until Casey, an asexual stoner hipster and the newest employee at Lottie’s Lattes, enters his life. For some reason, Casey thinks Gus is the greatest thing ever. And maybe Gus is starting to think the same thing about Casey, even if Casey is obsessive about Instagramming his food.

But Gus isn’t normal and Casey deserves someone who can be. Suddenly wanting to be that someone, Gus steps out of his comfort zone and plans to become the most normal person ever.

After all, what could possibly go wrong?
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Before I’d even opened this book, I could already tell that I was going to love it for three reasons:

1. It’s a novel by T.J. Klune.
2. The main character, Gus, is the kind of weird and fantastically unique character that I love to read.
3. It’s an asexual romance.

(I don’t talk about myself on my blog often, so this is weird to type… but I am asexual (and biromantic), and I almost cried when I saw a novel by one of my favorite authors with a character that I can relate to on a deeper level than usual. While there are dozens of ambiguously asexual characters in fiction, there are shockingly few books with openly ace relationships.)

Okay, the novel…

“Oh Gus,” Casey said, wiping his eyes. “You are a delight. I am delighted by you.”

Gus is cranky and opinionated. He is “abnormal and weird and strange”. He hates Michael Bay and hipsters and people in general. And he carries his pet ferret around with him everywhere he goes.

But he is, without a doubt, delightful!

Klune is known for his quirky characters with their train-of-thought rants and strong personalities, and Gus is typical Klune in all the best ways. But he’s not all “Grumpy Gus” all the time; he’s fiercely loyal, to his friends and the memory of his father, and will go way outside his comfort zone to make sure his friends are happy.

I was worried at times that Gus might be a bit too much for me. He’s overwhelming in some ways, the kind of person who seems almost too strange to be real. But then I realized that it was refreshing to read about a character who doesn’t give a damn about what strangers think of him!

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“What do you identify as?”

Identity is a big issue in the novel. Casey is asexual, and he makes sure Gus knows that very early in their friendship-slash-relationship. And Gus… doesn’t care! THIS IS WHAT I’M LOOKING FOR IN AN ACE ROMANCE! I mean, Gus has questions, and he’s not certain that he fully understands what being asexual means, but he accepts that this is who Casey is, and moves on. It’s not a point of conflict. It’s not a big deal.

“Are they all… you know. Like you?”
Casey arched an eyebrow. “Asexual?”
“What?” Gus said. “No. I don’t care about that. Are they all hipsters?”

Gus himself isn’t sure what he is, but he’s content to be an oddball. He lives a carefully scheduled life that allows him to be comfortable, and doesn’t care about anything else. That changes when he overhears a conversation about him, though. Gus has very few people who he cares about, and their opinions of him do matter, even though he pretends otherwise.

That stung. It shouldn’t have. They were things he’d thought about himself. They were things he knew others thought about him. But to hear it said so carelessly hurt more than Gus had expected.

So Gus sets out on a quest to change who he is, to find a new identity that he hopes will make him seem more normal. (Spoiler alert, it’s not as easy as he thinks it will be!)

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“Love and shit.”

The relationship between Gus and Casey is really beautiful. Both men are willing to go above and beyond for the other. Casey has to get high because he’s so nervous about hanging out with Gus, but he still manages to be easy-going and determined. He adores Gus, and it’s clear in everything he says and does. And likewise, Gus turns to internet searches to figure out what a “normal” relationship looks like because he thinks Casey deserves someone normal. He is completely out of his comfort zone but continues to push his boundaries for Casey at every turn.

Gus hated feeling anxious. He also hated warm ketchup, loud people, sunburns… and that weird feeling that tattooed, bearded hipsters caused in the pit of his stomach that felt like he had tripped down a flight of stairs into a frozen lake that got lit on fire.

They fit together perfectly. Casey is willing to accommodate Gus’ comfort limits, allowing Gus to set the pace on their relationship, and he never asks Gus to change who he is. When Gus does change, Casey accepts him every step of the way. Gus does the same for Casey, smoking pot with him, talking about his family, and trying new things for Casey.

And their snuggles on the couch, Casey’s hugs and their gentle kisses? Yesssssss, perfect!

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The final word?

This book is amazing. It’s ridiculous and weird and hilarious, and I possibly got a contact high while reading it, but I loved every single word of every single page. T.J.’s writing style is a breath of fresh air, and I can promise that he’ll make you laugh! If you’ve ever felt abnormal or weird or strange, then you should read this book.
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Blog Tour: Lonely Hearts, by Heidi Cullinan (Excerpt, Giveaway, and more!)

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 Lonely Hearts, by Heidi Cullinan (Love Lessons, Book 3)
Publisher: Samhain Publishing (August 11, 2015)
Word Count: approx. 115,000 words
Genre: Gay (M/M) Contemporary Romance

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Today is the release date for Lonely Hearts by Heidi Cullinan, which is the third novel in her Love Lessons series. I’m already certain that this is going to be one of my favorite books of 2015; it’s absolutely stunning from start to finish, with amazing characters that are complex and damaged– but never weak.

I have an excerpt from the novel below, as well as two different giveaways! You can check out the Rafflecopter Grand Prize at the end of the post… but I’m also giving away one copy of Lonely Hearts or your choice from Heidi’s backlist in eBook (PDF, epub, or mobi)!

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Of course, don’t forget to check out my review of the novel here, where I give it 5 out of 5 stars (and ramble about how in love I am with Elijah, Baz, and the rest of their friends.)

Note: This novel picks up shortly after Fever Pitch (Book Two in the Love Lessons series) ends, and includes characters from that and Love Lessons (Book One). You don’t necessarily need to read either of those in order to understand this novel, but it will definitely make the experience more enjoyable… and Fever Pitch was nominated by the RWA for the 2015 RITA Awards, in case you needed further encouragement!

Summary:

Even hot messes need a happily ever after.

With the quiet help of his wealthy family, Sebastian “Baz” Acker has successfully kept his painful past at bay. But as the end of college draws near, his friends—his buffer zone—are preparing to move on, while his own life is at a crippling standstill. With loneliness bearing down on him, Baz hooks up—then opens up—with Elijah Prince, the guy Baz took a bullet for last year. The aftershocks of their one-night stand leave giant cracks in Baz’s carefully constructed armor. For the first time, the prospect isn’t terrifying.

Accustomed to escaping his demons by withdrawing into his imagination, Elijah isn’t used to having a happy herd of friends. He’s even less comfortable as the object of a notorious playboy’s affections. Yet all signs seem to indicate this time happiness might be within his grasp. When Baz’s mother runs for a highly sought-after public office, the media hounds drag Baz’s and Elijah’s pasts into the light. In the blinding glare, Baz and Elijah face the ultimate test: discovering if they’re stronger together…or apart.

Warning: Contains sex in a Tesla, sex in a cupboard, sex under a piano, kinky role play, and a cappella RuPaul songs. Just a couple of boys groping, battling, then finally loving their way to becoming men.

Click through the cut to read an excerpt from the novel, and to check out the giveaways!

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