Reading Highlights from February 2015.

February has been another awesome month for reading and listening.  The first book I read was:

Black John (Johnnies #4) by Amy Lane        LYLBTB 50 star     amazonBuyButton Black John by Amy Lane

Blurb: John Carey is just out of rehab and dying inside when he gets word that Tory, the guy who loved him and broke him, has removed himself from the world in the most bitter way possible—and left John to clean up his mess. Forced back to his hometown in Florida, John’s craving a hit with every memory when he meets Tory’s neighbor. Spacey and judgmental, Galen Henderson has been rotting in his crappy apartment since a motorcycle accident robbed him of his mobility, his looks, and his boyfriend all in one mistake. Galen’s been hiding at the bottom of an oxy bottle, but when John shows up, he feels obligated to help wade through the wreckage of Tory’s life. The last thing John needs is another relationship with an addict, and the last thing Galen wants is a conscience. Both of them are shocked when they find that their battered souls can learn from and heal one another. It doesn’t hurt that they’re both getting a crash course on how growing up and getting past your worst mistakes sure beats the alternative—and that true love is something to fight to keep if your lover is fighting to love you back.

Review: Amy Lane has once again brought me into the lives of her Johnnies characters. I felt anger, sadness, frustration, guilt, tenderness, compassion and forgiveness just to name a few. What I am trying to say, it she makes me feel. Her characters are real to me, not the part where they are porn stars or porn magnate (lol) but they are people who make mistakes, aren’t perfect, figure out what to do to fix it and sometimes need help. Some work it out, some don’t. In Black John, It had been long enough that I had forgotten what John had put Dex and Kane through. I enjoyed watching John figure out what love is, what real friends are and what makes family. Galen was a wonderful character and good match for John. Galen’s journey was poignant and his determination to be the best man he could be for John (and himself) showed so much strength. The back story for John and Tory helped me to understand why John behaved the way he did – not to make his behavior acceptable just where he was coming from. John’s friends Brandt and Zion were also a nice addition and I enjoyed seeing them grow across the time span in the story and they helped flesh out Tory’s character too. If you have not discovered the Johnnies series, I highly recommend it. It will rip your heart out sometimes, but don’t worry, it will be ok. bludrgn

Next is:  Just Jack by Meridith Russell      4-star     amazonBuyButton Just Jack by Meredith Russell

Blurb: When the line between fairy tales, magic, and the real world become blurred, can love really conquer anything? Leo Marsh is having a bad day. He just caught his boyfriend cheating on him, and not for the first time, then he falls, quite literally, for a man who has to be too good to be true…. When Leo slips and falls on some ice in front of Jack, Jack sees something all too familiar in Leo’s eyes. For over fifty years, Jack has existed in a solitary life of ice and bitterness. Just like Leo, he was betrayed by a man he loved, and swore no one would ever break his heart again: he gave up on love, and it seemed love had given up on him. But if by fate or magic, Jack and Leo find their paths crossing for a second time, and with a little guidance from friends, dare to take a chance on each other. The problem is, Jack isn’t the charming and uncomplicated guy Leo thinks he is. When Jack gave away his ability to love, he became something else, someone cold and unloving. He became Jack Frost. As Jack and Leo get closer, Jack is left torn and confused. Jack yearns for anything that reminds him of his humanity, but the truth is, he feels nothing, not warmth, not love, and he knows he might never be able to love Leo the way he deserves to be loved.

Review: This is a wonderful cover. It is beautiful and captures Jack. I enjoyed the take on the Jack Frost mythology. Jack is not a very likeable trickster in the beginning, but after he manages to hurt a man and actually feels compelled to help this person, something changes. He sees some of who he was before. The characters are not perfect and they made mistakes and there were moments I wanted to shout at them, but overall, they managed fine without my help and I enjoyed experiencing their journey with them. It is a sweet, romantic tale, with a bit of magic.

bludrgn

OK – Looking for fun, sweet, feel good romance?  I saw this novella mentioned by  someone whose reviews I respect and has similar taste in books. I decided to give it a go. I was very happy I did. If you are not familiar with Goodreads, it is a book review site that you can list your books, review them, make friends, see what others are reading, etc.  They also have groups.  One of the Groups is the  M/M Romance Group.  Every year they put together a theme and authors will have a prompt, a letter and/or photo, then they write a short story about it in the theme of the series.  These are published to the group , then as a collection and sometimes they wind up on Amazon.  Five Dates by Amy Jo Cousins is one of those.  It was written for the Love’s Landscapes Series 2014   You need to be a member of the M/M Romance Group to be able to access these unless the author publishes them to another site once the series is complete.

Five Dates by Amy Jo Cousins  4.5stars    amazonBuyButton Five Dates by Amy Jo Cousins

Blurb: Helping his sister Lucy raise her kid has put Devin’s love life on hold. When he loses a bet to her and the penalty is to go out on five dates with men she’s chosen from Guys4Guys.com, he thinks that’s bad enough. Finding out she used a thirteen-year-old picture of him to score a date with a young guy who looks like a rock star? Epically bad. Jay thought he wanted to fall for an older man. But his last boyfriend left him feeling humiliated and determined to stick to guys his own age. When he realizes he’s been conned into a date with exactly the kind of man he’s sworn to avoid, he’s ready to walk away on the spot. Only Devin’s swift apologies convince Jay to accept dinner to make up for the deception. “The date doesn’t count for the bet unless you get a goodnight kiss.” After one not-a-date dinner with Jay, Devin isn’t worried about his sister’s rules. He just wishes he could convince Jay to go out with him for real. Jay wants no part of Devin, but Devin wants every part of Jay . . . so he asks Jay to help update his look for the rest of his dates. But once Jay’s made Devin over into the perfect date, will he be able to let him go?

Review: This is a fun, light, humorous romance, with very little angst. This is my first story by this author and I enjoyed her writing style and the voice she gave her characters. It flowed easily and the banter between the characters felt natural. Jay and Devin and their “not dates” were fun. Perfect for a quick romantic, feel good read. ❤

bludrgn

Guarding Morgan Sanctuary #1 RJ Scott

I entered a drawing from RJ Scott celebrating her upcoming 75th book release.  I had a choice of books and after much debate I chose:

Guarding Morgan (Sanctuary #1) by R.J. Scott   4-star    amazonBuyButton

Blurb: Morgan Drake is the only witness to a murder in an alleyway. Nik Valentinov works for Sanctuary, a foundation offering witness protection to anyone whose safety is compromised. Morgan discovers a bodyguard’s arms can offer more than protection. Morgan Drake witnesses a murder in an alleyway. He is the only person who can give evidence in prosecuting the cop responsible for the crime. When the FBI safe house where he’s being held is compromised, he follows the instructions of the agent in charge and runs. Nik Valentinov works for Sanctuary, a foundation that offers witness protection when FBI security is questionable. When Morgan’s handler sends him to Nik for safety, neither Morgan nor Nik could imagine that two weeks alone in a cabin in the woods would have their hearts racing with something much more than merely trying to keep Morgan alive. Love.

Review: Guarding Morgan is an enjoyable, mystery/suspense romance. Despite it centering around a character that is in witness protection because he witnessed a brutal murder, the story is not heavy. Morgan’s FBI bodyguard sends Morgan to find Nik, his ex partner, who now works for a group called Sanctuary, when Morgan’s safety is compromised. Morgan’s character is sweet and nerdy while Nik is tough and serious (but apparently a softy for Morgan) The build up of the relationship is nice and the ending left us with a mystery to resolve with out it being a cliff hanger. Overall, I really enjoyed this story, the writing style and liked the characters. I definitely plan on continuing with the series.

bludrgn

On a whim, I saw this book recommended and I had read a book that he co-authored a while back.  I had enjoyed that book and decided to buy this one.

Chance of the Heart by Kade Boehme      LYLBTB 50 star       amazonBuyButton Chance of the Heart by Kade Boehme

Blurb: The path to happiness isn’t always the easiest. Chance Becket’s life was mapped out. He’d one day own the ranch he grew up on, have a family, and be the son he was raised to be, like all good boys in Small Town, U.S.A. When his high school sweetheart calls for a break during her last semester of college, the last place Chance thought he’d end up was in his old friend Bradley’s bed. Bradley Heart blasted out of the closet before his family could name him heir apparent to his father’s church. After six years away, a job layoff has him coming home to work behind the scenes. He and his father have little interaction and he’s fine with it staying that way when he returns home. Going back into the closet, for any reason, is not on his list of things to do. But Chance may prove too much a temptation, especially with the simmering feelings they’ve had for one another since they were teens. Confused over his sexuality, Chance has to decide what’s more important — loyalty to his family and the path set forth, or the promise of happiness with not just the only man, but the only person, he’s ever really wanted. Includes a very toppy accountant, a cowboy who’d rather be in the kitchen, porn positions, some spanking, and absolutely zero religion other than worshipping… You know.

Review: Love the play on names for the title. I enjoyed the setting being in central Texas where I’m from. The growing up doing what is expected, hiding oneself because it is just what one does, then finding that reason to live out loud made for a beautiful, sweet and very sexy story. The angst was minimal. I love the mix of foodie and cowboy, country life and urban living. The characters were easy to like and I read the story in one sitting because I did not want to put it down. *** I also want to note that this book was edited by Ally Editorial Services  .  If you are an independent author looking for editing services, be sure to go to her website and take a look. ***

bludrgn Off Campus (Bend or Break #1) by Amy Jo Cousins Off Campus by Amy Jo Cousins  4.5starsamazonBuyButton

Blurb: Everyone’s got secrets. Some are just harder to hide. With his father’s ponzi scheme assets frozen, Tom Worthington believes finishing college is impossible unless he can pay his own way. After months sleeping in his car and gypsy-cabbing for cash, he’s ready to do just that. But his new, older-student housing comes with an unapologetically gay roommate. Tom doesn’t ask why Reese Anders has been separated from the rest of the student population. He’s just happy to be sleeping in a bed. Reese isn’t about to share his brutal story with his gruff new roommate. You’ve seen one homophobic jock, you’ve seen ’em all. He plans to drag every twink on campus into his bed until Tom moves out. But soon it becomes clear Tom isn’t budging. Tom isn’t going to let some late-night sex noise scare him off, especially when it’s turning him on. But he doesn’t want any drama either. He’ll keep his hands, if not his eyes, to himself. Boundaries have a way of blurring when you start sharing truths, though. And if Tom and Reese cross too many lines, they may need to find out just how far they can bend…before they break.

Warning: This book contains cranky roommates who vacillate between lashing out and licking, some male/male voyeurism, emotional baggage that neither guy wants to unpack, and the definitive proof that sound carries in college housing.

Review:

4.5/5.0

When I finished reading Off Campus I had mixed feelings. I enjoyed the book. The characters are both struggling with what life has thrown at them. Tom’s father is in prison for a scheme that left many people destitute and Tom homeless. He has gone from a life of privilege to sleeping in his car and driving a taxi to get by. He doesn’t trust anyone and this includes himself at times.

When he is allowed back into university, he is happy to have a room in a dorm for older students. He is not expecting to find a younger man, openly gay with a caustic attitude as his roommate. Reese, the roommate, does not want Tom there at all and goes out of his way to run him off.

Gradually we get to know Reese better and see why he has built this persona around himself. It is easy to care for these characters. There are times I wanted to tell Tom to stop. Stop the self-doubt and lack of trust in others and in his self. Everything centered around the turmoil of his father’s criminal trial and the way his father taught him to interact with people. These were a constant soundtrack for Tom as well as the badgering from the media after his father’s arrest, that forced Tom to become reclusive.

If it had only been the two main characters it would have felt pretty angsty, but these guys have some good friends and Cash and Steph are awesome, “I have your back”, best friends. I think Cash was my favorite character when it was all said and done.

The back and forth between Reese and Tom, the careful dance they did with one another felt realistic. It was sweet and beautiful with sexy moments that were tender and raw with emotion. They were both brave and fragile and I wanted things to work out for them so much as I was reading.

I also loved the contrast between Tom’s father and Reese’s father. I have to say, Reese’s dad was awesome.

I guess the mixed feelings came from the angst but after I sat and thought about those feelings, I came to the conclusion that I really enjoyed this book, it captured my heart and made me care for the characters. This is my second Amy Jo Cousins book, it will definitely not be the last.

bludrgn

 

How to Howl at the Moon by Eli Easton  How to Howl at the Moon (Dog Shifters of Mad Creek #1) by Eli Easton 4-star

amazonBuyButton

I started this one on the last day of February and finished it on the first day of March.  I could not leave this for a march Highlight.  It was just too much fun.

Blurb: Sheriff Lance Beaufort is not going to let trouble into his town, no sir. Tucked away in the California mountains, Mad Creek has secrets to keep, like the fact that half the town consists of ‘quickened’—dogs who have gained the ability to become human. Descended on both sides from Border Collies, Lance is as alert a guardian as they come.

Tim Weston is looking for a safe haven. After learning that his boss patented all of Tim’s work on vegetable hybrids in his own name, Tim quit his old job. A client offers him use of her cabin in Mad Creek, and Tim sees a chance for a new start. But the shy gardener has a way of fumbling and sounding like a liar around strangers, particularly gorgeous alpha men like Sheriff Beaufort.

Lance’s hackles are definitely raised by the lanky young stranger. He’s concerned about marijuana growers moving into Mad Creek, and he’s not satisfied with the boy’s story. Lance decides a bit of undercover work is called for. When Tim hits a beautiful black collie with his car and adopts the dog, its love at first sight for both Tim and Lance’s inner dog. Pretending to be a pet is about to get Sheriff Beaufort in very hot water.

Review:  I saw a couple of reviews for this book and being a fan of Eli Easton’s writing, I decided to give it a try.  You would think being a fan would be reason enough (I have loved everything I have read from her so far) My issue was shifters, not my favorite sub-genre, but this was dogs.  I love dogs and I thought it would be fun.  It was!

I enjoyed the way the author took a dog breeds characteristics and mixed them into the personalities of the Quickened (Those that are shifters) There is also a twist to the ability to become a shifter that I thought was nicely original.  It was also the source of some of the more somber moments in the book. Overall, the story is humorous and playful.  Tim is a sweet, damaged man who although cautious, is optimistic, hopeful and easy to like.  His shyness and love of gardening are endearing.  Sheriff Beaufort was less loveable in the beginning, all business and protective of his town, his pack.  When Lance allows his inner dog (a gorgeous Border Collie) to come out, we gradually get to see another side of the Sheriff, and I liked him.  The romance is sweet and gradual and does not follow the usual shifter mythology.  The Sheriff’s mother was a bit over the top as the meddling mom with good intentions. There are some rough spots in the relationship, thanks to mom and some misunderstandings but it was not overdone and I thought it helped show Tim’s inner strength. There are some interesting secondary characters, Daisy – a retriever shifter, Gus, a bulldog shifter, Fred Beagle who I assumed is a Beagle shifter and Roman, a German Shepard shifter.  Of the secondary characters, Roman was my favorite and I hope to see his book soon.

If you are looking for a fun, sweet story with an unusual take on shifters, I recommend How to Howl at the Moon.

Happy Reading,

Melyna

coffee and books 1 smaller