ARC Review: Circle of Ashes (Wish Quartet #2) by Elise Kova & Lynn Larsh

I was sent this book as an advanced copy by the author for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own. 

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Summary:EVERY WISH HAS A COST BUT WILL THE SOCIETY BE WILLING TO PAY IT? 

Once a hacker-for-hire living in the shadows, Josephina “Jo” Espinosa is the newest member of a magical Society. Their mandate? To grant the wishes of mortals. A simple enough task until Jo is faced with an impossible wish – and her inability to grant it might spell disaster for her entire team, if not the Society itself. 

Jo is used to high-pressure situations, but after a string of disasters, the last thing she needs is stakes of this magnitude. Especially given that neither she nor the Society know quite what the consequences of failing to grant a wish might be. 

The only person with answers is the Society’s aloof and cryptic leader, Snow. Yet while Jo is enigmatically drawn to the man, all their clandestine encounters leave her with only more questions about the true nature of the Society, her magic, and her own history. 

Time is running out for the Society, and an executioner will rise from among them to exact the price of failure.

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★★★.5

I liked this book much more than the first one. Almost all the main problems I had with Society of Wishes weren’t present here, so that was definitely a plus.

I enjoyed the plot and it was much easier to get invested in it compared to book one. The stakes were really high and I just wanted to know what came next. I also think there was more than one plot hole, some more obvious than others, so if you’re someone who cares a lot about the plot maybe that would bother you more than it did me.

I think the characters, and especially Jo, were also better fleshed out here. I enjoyed getting to know more about some of them and I have a few theories about some of them, and I’m curious to know if I’m right. Also let it be known that Nico has my undying love.

That said, I’m still not fully invested in the romance between Jo and Snow. I also have theories about it though, so I’m hoping that things will make sense after a future reveal. I still should be able to feel a chemistry between them, something I still don’t feel halfway into the series.

I’m also……….not okay with the way the book ended. It felt very unnecessary and just a way to finally establish a certain someone as the villain (something that so far wasn’t confirmed). I don’t mind when certain events happen, but they need to make some sort of sense and while I can kind of see why it was the only choice that made sense, I also found it to be anticlimactic.

Despite its flaws, I had a good time reading it (I also read it super fast for some reason) and I’m looking forward to the next book!

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ARC Review: Syncopation by Anna Zabo

I was sent this book as an advanced copy by the publisher for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own. 

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I really wish the cover wasn’t Like That

Summary: Twisted Wishes front man Ray Van Zeller is in one hell of a tight spot. After a heated confrontation with his bandmate goes viral, Ray is hit with a PR nightmare the fledgling band so doesn’t need. But his problems only multiply when they snag a talented new drummer—insufferably sexy Zavier Demos, the high school crush Ray barely survived.

Zavier’s kept a casual eye on Twisted Wishes for years, and lately, he likes what he sees. What he doesn’t like is how out of control Ray seems—something Zavier’s aching to correct after their first pulse-pounding encounter. If Ray’s up for the challenge.

Despite the prospect of a glorious sexual encore, Ray is reluctant to trust Zavier with his band—or his heart. And Zavier has always had big dreams; this gig was supposed to be temporary. But touring together has opened their eyes to new passions and new possibilities, making them rethink their commitments, both to the band and to each other.

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★★★★.5✩

Syncopation is a book that I expected to love, and while I did love a lot of it, I also can’t give it the full five stars I was expecting to give it when I started reading. I did enjoy it a lot though and I can’t wait for the sequels.

First off, I had never read a book about a band even though I know there’s a lot of them. This was my first. I loved the music/band element so much! I also loved that Zav came from a classical background, it was kinda cool to see that a musician can do both genres. There was also talk about socio-economical privilege (why Zav could afford a musical school) and I’m glad it was there.

Also, I loved the fact that everyone in the band is queer. Ray and Dom are gay, Mish is queer (not otherwise specified in this book but I really hope she gets her own sequel), and Zav is aromantic pansexual.

I can’t really comment on the aromantic aspect myself but ownvoices aro reviewers have found it great and the representation meant a lot to them. Here’s two reviews you can check out ➝ review by Acqua • review by Min.

I need to say that while in the middle of the book I was struck with a bad case of “oh god I’m so not in the mood for an adult contemporary book”, so a lot of my enjoyment was influenced by this mood. The sex scenes (well, all the bdsm stuff tbh) were also not really for me, but that’s something I was prepared for before starting the book, and once I read the first couple of those I skimmed the other ones because the point they made was clear: this book and Ray and Zav’s relationship is all about the trust between them.

A few other things bothered me and those had nothing to do with my mood. Mainly I found a few plot points predictable and Carl to be a little bit too much of a stereotype of a bad guy for my tastes. I also thought that sometimes the double POV was a bit repetitive; what I mean is that sometimes one character would wonder about something that we already knew from the other’s POV and that was a little annoying to read. But it’s minor flaws in an otherwise great book, and I highly recommend it.

 

Comic Mini-Review: Herding Cats (Sarah’s Scribbles #3) by Sarah Andersen

I was sent this book as an advanced copy by the publisher via NetGalley for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own. 

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Summary:Sarah valiantly struggles with waking up in the morning, being productive, and dealing with social situations. Sarah’s Scribbles is the comic strip that follows her life, finding humor in living as an adulting introvert that is at times weird, awkward, and embarrassing.

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★★★★

I think when reading Sarah’s Scribbles you have to be in a mood where either everything is funny or your life is literally going to shit, and anything in between would kind of ruin your experience with these collections.

As it happens, I loved this third book so much (I’ll let you guess which mood I was in). The little comics made me laugh and the last part where she talks about the issues that online creators face online was very relatable and honest. She also gives advice to artists and writers on how to deal with trolls and harsh criticism, and I basically agreed with everything she had to say and found it to be a helpful reminder.

I wouldn’t particularly care for a star rating in this case because it might just as easily be a 5 stars or a 3 stars, but it made me smile and laugh and I don’t want to be picky so I’m giving it a full 5 because what the hell, I enjoyed it a lot.

ARC Review: Running With Lions by Julian Winters

I was sent this book as an advanced copy by the publisher via NetGalley for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own. 

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Summary: Bloomington High School Lions’ star goalie, Sebastian Hughes, should be excited about his senior year: His teammates are amazing and he’s got a coach who doesn’t ask anyone to hide their sexuality. But when his estranged childhood best friend Emir Shah shows up to summer training camp, Sebastian realizes the team’s success may end up in the hands of the one guy who hates him. Determined to reconnect with Emir for the sake of the Lions, he sets out to regain Emir’s trust. But to Sebastian’s surprise, sweaty days on the pitch, wandering the town’s streets, and bonding on the weekends sparks more than just friendship between them.

Release date: June 7th

Add on goodreads

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★★★★✩

SKSNSKSLDHDSS*

*translation for those who don’t speak Gay: THIS WAS SO SWEET AND GAY I’M SCREAMING

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Right from the description this book sounded right up my alley and it did not disappoint. It’s not a perfect book and you can feel that it’s a debut, but the characters were well rounded and I just wanted to keep reading to see what happened next, and I think the romance was believable. All these elements, paired with how diverse and how awesomely queer this was, made this book a four stars for me.

I want to start by talking about the queer elements in this, because it was my favorite thing ever. Right from the start we’re introduced to Sebastian, who is bisexual and not afraid to say it (well, except to his mom). His best friends are Mason, also bi, and Willie, who’s gay. Throughout the novel we meet at least two more queer side characters, one of which is Sebastian’s love interest (who is also a practicing Muslim), and also one of the coaches is gay and has a husband. This is also not a “everyone is queer and everyone is fully accepted” kind of world. People still have to come out and deal with everyday shit including homophobia, but the soccer team the book follows is open to all queer people and I think that gives a better, more welcoming feeling to the reader because it doesn’t erase our struggles while still delivering a very queer-positive environment.

This is introduction is just to say that this kind of representation was what every queer person deserves in their life.

Moving on to the plot, this is very much character driven and I think all main and side characters were given enough depth for the reader to be able to really feel a connection to them, both individually and as a team. Sebastian is kind of the peacekeeper and he always feels responsible for his team members, Mason is the troublemaker, and so on. I think something like that is really important to have in sport romances and this aspect was done very well.

The romance itself I only started liking after a while. I guess maybe I wanted more of the enemies element but the whole deal with why their former friendship ended was kind of underwhelming. I still enjoyed reading it though and I eventually started shipping it.

I really want more books like these because they feel real and positive and they’re truly catered towards queer people. Please support this book when it’s out!

TWs: Discussions of body shaming, bullying, Islamophobia, and a scene featuring homophobic taunting/language.

Natural Enemies by Roan Parrish: Surprise Release Blitz + Giveaway

Surprise release date: April 17, 2018

Sale: $.99, for one week

Price: $3.99, as of April 25, 2018

On sale at:

AMZ: https://amzn.to/2H2GOvY

B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/natural-enemies-roan-parrish/1128496850?ean=2940155618591

On sale in: ebook and paperback

Pages in print: 150

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Synopsis:

When opposites attract, love blooms in unexpected places.

Buttoned-up botanist Stefan Albemarle has felt like an outsider his whole life. As a result, he mostly keeps to himself—makes it easier not to notice that no matter how he tries, people think he’s a know-it-all and a snob.

Freewheeling urban gardener Milo Rios has worked hard to get where he is, and he’s passionate about his job at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. He can get along with almost anyone, but no one has ever made him care enough to stick around.

When Stefan and Milo meet on Milo’s tour of the Botanic Garden, it’s hatred at first clash. But hatred quickly turns to lust as Milo shows Stefan how exquisite it can feel to lose the control he’s clung to for so long. As Stefan’s mask begins to slip, Milo sees a deep vulnerability in the prim academic. Once he’s experienced Milo’s world, Stefan can admit that he wants more from life than professional success. If they can work together, Stefan and Milo just might be able to cultivate the future they both yearn for.

Natural Enemies Cover FINAL

About Roan Parrish:

Roan Parrish lives in Philadelphia, where she is gradually attempting to write love stories in every genre.

When not writing, she can usually be found cutting her friends’ hair, meandering through whatever city she’s in while listening to torch songs and melodic death metal, or cooking overly elaborate meals. She loves bonfires, winter beaches, minor chord harmonies, and self-tattooing. One time she may or may not have baked a six-layer chocolate cake and then thrown it out the window in a fit of pique.

Connect with Roan:

websitenewsletter  | twitter | facebook | goodreadsinstagram | pinterest

Giveaway:

Win one of three prizes: 1) swag pack of Roan Parrish goodies or 2) 1 of 2 ecopies of any back catalog book by Roan Parrish (reader’s choice!)  http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/88d45f0355/

 

Squared Away by Annabeth Albert: Release Date + Excerpt + Giveaway

Series: Out of Uniform #5

Publisher: Carina Press

Release Date (Print & Ebook): April 16. Print, ebook, and audio all available.

Length (Print & Ebook): 80,000 words 

Subgenre: m/m military romance

Includes: military romance, insta-family, hurt/comfort, angst, interracial, heroes-with-kids, gay romance, demisexual/gray ace hero, first time, loss, reunion, forced proximity
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Links:

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2ptQhFH

Paperback: http://amzn.to/2ptc00A

Audible: https://www.audible.com/pd/Romance/Squared-Away-Audiobook/B07BGJ3FRF

iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/squared-away/id1326105516?mt=11

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/squared-away-1

B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/squared-away-annabeth-albert/1127659238?ean=9781335980809

Carina Press: https://www.carinapress.com/shop/books/9781335980809_squared-away.html

Synopsis:

In the wake of tragedy, SEAL Mark Whitley rushed stateside to act as guardian to his sister’s three young children. But a conflicting will could give custody to someone else—someone Mark remembers as a too young, too hot, wild party boy. Even after six years, Mark can’t shake the memory of his close encounter with Isaiah James, or face up to what it says about his own sexuality.

Isaiah’s totally over the crush that made him proposition Mark all those years ago. In fact, he’s done with crushing on the wrong men altogether. For now, he’s throwing himself into proving he’s the best person to care for his cousin’s kids. But there’s no denying there’s something sexy about a big, tough military man with a baby in his arms.

As the legal details get sorted out, their long-buried attraction resurfaces, leading to intimate evenings after the kids are tucked in. A forever future is within reach for all of them, if only Mark can find the courage he needs to trust Isaiah with his secrets—and his heart.

What Annabeth Albert has to say about this book in her Out of Uniform series:

“I wanted to write a book about the nature of family and how loss and tragedy can shape family, mold it into something stronger, force growth and change. I’m enormously proud of SQUARED AWAY as a result because how I fell in love with this little family.”

“When Wizard first appeared in ON POINT as a secondary character, I was intrigued by him, but it wasn’t until I let myself get into his head that I really saw how complicated he was. I feel honored and privileged to have been able to tell his story.”

“No book gets written in a vacuum and this one is no different. I owe a huge debt on this book to my sensitivity readers who really encouraged me to dig deep.”

Praise for the series:

“Albert delivers a solid hurt/comfort story…” RT Book Reviews on SQUARED AWAY

 “Mark and Isaiah’s budding relationship happens with sensitivity and steamy moments…” RT Book Reviews on SQUARED AWAY

“Annabeth Albert’s Out of Uniform series is a unique look at SEALs’ lives, showing us the insides of their hearts and homes and the love that drives them.” ~Layla Reyne, author of the Agents Irish and Whisky series.   

“Sexy, sweet and heartfelt, Annabeth Albert’s Out of Uniform series is a fresh take on Navy SEALs that will delight and entertain romance readers.” ~Layla Reyne, author of the Agents Irish and Whisky series.

Excerpt:

Thus, it was much later than he’d intended when he rolled back into the driveway at the house. Past dinner. Fuck. And he’d promised to help. He was falling down on the job already. Cursing himself, he entered through the side door, surprised by how quiet everything was. Were they in bed already?

A quick investigation revealed the truth—they were all in the family room, on the oversized sectional. A kids’ movie was playing softly on the TV, and Isaiah was passed out on the chaise part of the sectional, Liam asleep on his chest, girls sleeping cuddled up on either side of him, the blankets they were seldom without wrapped around them. Half a bowl of popcorn sat on the floor.

That seldom-used place in Mark’s chest pinged again, a deep ache that resonated through his whole torso. This was why he’d accepted the instructor position without much fuss. He couldn’t let it all fall to Isaiah. They’re mine now. Like it or not, these were his kids now, and it was time to start acting like it.

About Annabeth Albert:

Annabeth AlbertAnnabeth Albert grew up sneaking romance novels under the bed covers. Now, she devours all subgenres of romance out in the open—no flashlights required! When she’s not adding to her keeper shelf, she’s a multi-published Pacific Northwest romance writer.  The #OutOfUniform series joins her critically acclaimed and fan-favorite LGBTQ  romance #Gaymers, #PortlandHeat and #PerfectHarmony series. To find out what she’s working on next and other fun extras, check out her website: www.annabethalbert.com or connect with Annabeth on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Spotify! Also, be sure to sign up for her newsletter for free ficlets, bonus reads, and contests. The fan group, Annabeth’s Angels, on Facebook is also a great place for bonus content and exclusive contests.

Emotionally complex, sexy, and funny stories are her favorites both to read and to write. Annabeth loves finding happy endings for a variety of pairings and is a passionate gay rights supporter.  In between searching out dark heroes to redeem, she works a rewarding day job and wrangles two active children.

Connect with Annabeth:

Twitter | Facebook  | Facebook Group | Newsletter | Instagram | Website

Giveaway: win 1 of 2 ecopies of any back catalog book by Annabeth Albert: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/88d45f0353/

#QueerLitStories: Autoboyography and Quiet Acceptance

queer lit stories

This guest post series is all about queer people talking about their relationship with queer books, whether they saw themselves represented in them or not. If you would like to write a guest post for me, the rules and info on how to contact me are on this post.

Today’s post is by Hollie, one of the very first bloggers I followed specifically because she talked about queer themes. Her post puts into words some stuff I’ve felt for a while and I didn’t know how to express, so I’m particularly grateful to have read it and to now be able to share it with everybody!

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The first time I came out, it was to my (then) bisexual boyfriend.

He was out to most of the school, and nobody really cared. He had dated boys and girls in the past, and then he was dating me. When I came out to him as bisexual, he was super supportive. Of course he was. It felt scary to say I’m bisexual even to a fellow bisexual who, at the time, loved me very much.

After that, it was still pretty smooth sailing. I came out to my mum in the car and she asked me what it meant. After I told her, she told me that she loved me and that she would relay the information on to my dad. The next time I came out was the second day of my first year at uni. One of the other girls in my dorm, now one of my best friends, shouted “me too!” and high-fived me.

However, I’ve often labelled my experience coming out as ‘quiet acceptance’. As a bisexual, it’s very easy for people to dismiss that part of me – that I like people who identify as girls as well as people who identify as boys because hey, I can happily have banter with my parents about finding a husband and giving them grandchildren. I can genuinely drool over male celebrities with my straight, female friends. I can chat with my one bisexual friend (who is currently planning her wedding to a man) about love and marriage traditions. I don’t feel like I’m faking it, but it’s the ‘quiet acceptance’ that often makes me doubt the people around me and how they feel about me.

Honestly, there are not a lot of characters I relate to, whether they’re women, depressed, or bisexual, I find it difficult to truly see myself in characters. And hey, that doesn’t mean I want less bisexual female characters; I love reading about them and some of my favourite characters are bisexual men and women.

I’ve never felt my situation was understood until I read Autoboyography by Christina Lauren. Autoboyography is, in short, about two boys who fall in love during a creative writing class. One boy is bisexual and one is coming to terms with the fact that he’s gay. Tanner is our main character, and he’s out as bisexual to his family. He’s recently moved to Utah, and while he was completely out to all his friends back in San Francisco, he’s not yet made that move in Utah.

Why? Because his mum doesn’t think it’s a good idea.

When I first read this, my heart sunk. Tanner’s parents accepted him, but to me (and to Tanner), it was quiet acceptance. While he had their verbal acceptance and even their pride, wearing rainbow flag aprons and collecting gay pride bumper stickers, there is always a part of him that worries what his parents might think if he actually came home with a boy. It’s the same with his friends; he may not be out to them, but he fears what might happen if he was. I am out to my friends and to my parents, but to be honest, I rarely mention it, because it’s not really that easy to bring up unless I really push for it to be talked about which, come on, who likes talking about their queerness surrounded by a bunch of straight people? I’ve also had instances when my folks have asked that I don’t bring up my sexuality in front of grandparents. A part of me knows it’s because they probably won’t be accepting and so my parents want to protect me, the same way Tanner’s mum does. But the other part is wondering is it because my folks don’t want it to be a whole thing? Would it be a nuisance? So I end up not wanting to talk about it at all in front of them, not even the boy-attraction parts.

While I was jumping for joy at seeing a bisexual character actually experiencing this quiet acceptance that I feel, it made me feel kinda sad. It made me reflect on my experiences, and how quiet acceptance is not full acceptance. I will always have that worry about how people would react if I started dating a girl. Would my parents not take our relationship seriously? Would my friends not want to talk about her or even invite her to parties/days out even though their boyfriends would be there? It’s just a bridge I’m gonna have to cross when I come to it I guess. For now, the only pro-active thing I feel like I should do is get more queer friends because let’s be honest, would I feel this way if I had more than one queer friend?

But I want to say thank you to Autoboyography and to Christina and Lauren (I know! They’re two people!) for understanding bisexual struggles so intrinsically, and not falling into the many stereotypes that bisexuality unfortunately has.

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Find Hollie:

Blog: https://www.hollieblog.com

Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/hollieeblog

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/hollieeblog

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/10215070-hollie-hollieblog