A book review of Match Day by Mercy Celeste

Match Day (Adventures INK, #1)

I’m not sure what compelled me to read this book, but whatever it was, I wish I’d ignored the urge.  *Rolleyes*  I’ve read other books by this author and some have been great.  I rated Let It Go five stars, and I’ve re-read Crazy From The Heat a number of times.  So don’t let me put you off the author.  But skip this book.

There are two things that let this book down.  Okay, so bear with me here.  The two main characters, Brian and Zack, have been comfortable getting each other off in the shower from when they’re in their early teens.  Their entire relationship builds on this foundation.  Despite this, Brian is 100% sure that Zack is straight.  And when we meet Zack, he’s just about to marry Brian’s sister.  Um, what?  Straight guys don’t jack off or get jacked off by their male friends in the showers.  That’s not a thing that happens in real life.  Straight guys don’t touch each other’s genitals, mkay?

I’d suggest that the author just take out any references to these prior shower sessions, but truly, you can’t.  Their whole relationship builds on that beginning.  *Headbang*

Eventually both Brian and Zack realise that Zack isn’t straight.  Like, no shit Sherlock.  *Rolleyes*  The truth is that he probably isn’t gay either.  The author doesn’t label him, but I’m guessing he’s probably demisexual.  He doesn’t seem interested in men or women, just Brian, with whom he has a strong emotional connection.  Anyway, Brian eventually admits that he’s never had shower scenes with any other friends and they realise that the shower scenes are not a normal part of male friendship.  Like, duh.

The other issue with the book is that it needs editing for correct punctuation.  But I could have overlooked that.  It’s not a major hindrance to enjoying the book.  I guess if you can get past the idea that they think it’s normal for two friends to ‘help each other out’, you can enjoy the book.  I kept rolling my eyes all the way through it.

 

A book review of Protecting Elliot by Sloane Kennedy

Protecting Elliot (The Protectors, #9.5)

So, for week two of my reading challenge on Writing.com, I had to read a book written in first person point of view.  Protecting Elliot is actually book 9.5 (it’s a novella) in Sloane Kennedy’s Protector series. I haven’t read the nine books that come before it, but I have read books #1, #3 and #7 in the series. The great thing about this author is that she writes each book so that it can be read as a standalone book, however characters from other books do make appearances. In this book, rather than featuring characters from earlier in the series (to my knowledge, although I’m sure there are cameos), it features Declan from Saving Ren, which is book #3 in the Barretti Security series. And I know the Barretti Security intersects with with Logan’s Need which is book #3 in the Escort series. *Laugh*

Anyway, this book starts with Declan, who is a police detective, hiring Cruz as a bodyguard for Elliot, without Elliot’s knowledge. Declan was, in a twisted fashion, involved in the death of Elliot’s father, and harbours a lot of guilt over it. Elliot blames Declan, and hates him. So Declan can’t help out in the normal fashion, so he hires Cruz as a sort of undercover bodyguard. When Elliot was attacked in his office, he made a police report, but Declan is sure there is more to the story.

There are immediate sparks between Cruz and Elliot, and an instant connection. I was worried that this was going to be a super obvious ‘You lied to me and therefore everything between us has been a lie’ thing since that seemed obvious and predictable. Whenever you’ve got a guy going undercover or acting without the other person’s knowledge, that seems to be how it works. Cruz does acknowledge that their connection means he’s going to have to tell Elliot the truth, sooner rather than later.

There is a small part of that ‘You lied to me and therefore everything between us has been a lie’ but it was significantly overshadowed by everything else that happened. Which is good. I can’t say the book is predictable. I knew there would be a bad guy, because obviously someone attacked Elliot, but I didn’t predict who it was or why. I couldn’t have predicted quite how that whole scene went down, and I didn’t predict how it would resolve some of the drama between Elliot and Declan.

The relationship between Cruz and Elliot was rock solid within the space of…what, a day? That’s a bit ridiculous. This is a novella though, and we get an epilogue that gives us the impression that they continue to get to know each other and strengthen and deepen their relationship.

I gave it three stars. It was a good read.  Because it was a novella, it lacked a little depth, but I enjoyed it. It made me want to read other books in the series, which is always a good thing. I probably wouldn’t re-read it, because I think it gained something from the unpredictability, which would be lost on a re-read. But yeah, a good read, and I think if you were reading the series, it’d be well worth including.

A book review of A Temporary Situation by H L Day

A Temporary Situation

I’m doing a reading challenge on Writing.com, and the first challenge is to read a book where the title starts with the letter A.  I read A Temporary Situation, by H L Day.  It was the first book I’ve read by this author. It’s a pretty cliched romance, with the PA falling for the boss. I wasn’t expecting much out of it. It was very funny though, and that made up for the cliche.

Tristan was like the human equivalent of a puppy – loyal, excitable, enthusiastic, loving, sweet, forgiving…  Dominic was gun shy. He had preconceived opinions about Tristan, he was stubborn, he was grumpy, he was defensive, he was difficult, he was downright rude at times…. but he was hilarious. Very witty. I know what you’re thinking, but Tristan was the boss and Dominic was the PA. Weird, huh?

The spider scenes were my favourite. Tristan had a true phobia about spiders, like he experienced real physical fear reactions when he saw one, no matter how small. It was used to good effect in the book. I cracked up when he freaked out after Dominic disposed of one. “WHERE HAS IT GONE?” *Rolling*

I rated it four stars. It wasn’t the kind of book you get lost in, but I really enjoyed it. Sometimes I wanted to slap Dominic upside the head. He clung to his preconceived notions even when all the evidence pointed to the exact opposite. It got ridiculous. And I saw the hospital visit coming a mile off. *RollEyes* But I still enjoyed it. It made me laugh out loud, and it wasn’t a hardship to read all the way to the end.

My year in books

So, it turns out I read 118 books in 2017.  That’s considerably less than the 159 I read in 2016 and the 141 I read in 2015.  It’s also below my goal of 120 books, which is based on maintaining my average of 10 books per month.  Sigh, only two books away from my goal.  Ah well, I won’t be crying in my Weetbix about it.

44% of the books I read in 2017 were m/m romances.  52% were m/f romances and the remainder didn’t fit in either of those two categories (including transgender romance and menage romance).

92% of the books I read in 2017 were contemporary, and the remainder were historical.  That’s probably the biggest proportion of contemporary books ever for me.

Two of the books were anthologies, which makes me want to count them as multiple stories/books, but I haven’t.

Approx 22% of the books were paranormal, and one was science fiction.  Actually that one science fiction book wasn’t even a romance.  That was Pegasus in Flight by Anne McCaffrey, and it was the only non-romance book I read all year.

The author I read the most of was Dianne Duvall, by a long shot.  I read 10 of her books.  After her, it was Maya Banks and Katie Ruggle with 5 books each.  Then Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell at four books.

Most interesting read of 2017: 
Static
I was absolutely fascinated by the idea of shifters who, instead of changing species, change genders.  In the story, Alex is a shifter and can change gender at whim.  Alex is not male nor female, but both.  Alex’s shifter nature is an integral part of Alex’s identity.  But while shifters are a known phenomenon, they are a minority and not as accepted in society as Alex would like.  So when Alex falls for Damon, a straight man, Alex stays in female form around Damon.  Over time, this puts a huge toll on Alex, and eventually on their relationship although Damon doesn’t know why Alex is so troubled.  Alex’s parents are not accepting of shifters, and urge Alex to undergo an operation to get an implant that would force Alex to be static.  When Alex refuses, they use drugs to force the operation without Alex’s permission.  Alex wakes up as a male, unable to shift.  How will Alex cope as half a person, and what will Damon do when his girlfriend is suddenly…a guy?

The author had not just an amazing idea, but they pulled it off too.  It’s well written and easy to read.  I’m not 100% sure that Damon’s actions and reactions were always realistic, but that didn’t really stop the book from being enjoyable.  The coworkers added enormously to the realism factor.  Definitely recommend it, especially if you’re interested in m/m or transgender reads, and don’t mind a touch of the paranormal.  There’s really nothing paranormal beyond the whole shifter idea, but you’ve got to take that with the rest of the otherwise contemporary book.

If you enjoy books where characters don’t fit a traditional male or female stereotype, you could also check out Enemies Like You by Annika Martin and Joanna Chambers, Hard Wired by Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell, and Ghost by J M Dabney.

My average rating for books was 3.4.  I have a system.  Yup, I do.
*Star**Star**Star**Star**Star* – This means I got totally lost in the book, to the point where I forgot I was reading.  I cared about the characters.
*Star**Star**Star**Star**Starw* – A great book, one I’d be happy to re-read.  For whatever reason, I didn’t get ‘lost’ in the book, but I really enjoyed it.
*Star**Star**Star**Starw**Starw* – A good book, but nothing special.  Nothing wrong with it, it was just nice.
*Star**Star**Starw**Starw**Starw* – Something prevented me from enjoying this one.  It could have been poor editing, a crappy plot, whatever.  I didn’t like it.
*Star**Starw**Starw**Starw**Starw* – Seriously, how did this book get published?  This is ridiculous.

So it’s not bad actually, that my average rating was between good and great, huh?

Books I rated 5 stars and recommend:
A Mended Man by Jaime Reese
A Worthy Man by Jaime Reese
Enemies Like You by Annika Martin and Joanna Chambers
Pegasus In Flight by Anne McCaffrey
Never Seduce A Scot by Maya Banks
Keep Me Safe by Maya Banks
Give Yourself Away by Barbara Elsborg
A Sorceress of His Own by Dianne Duvall
The World As He Sees It by A M Arthur
The Heart As He Hears It by A M Arthur
Burning Bright by Melissa McShane
Hold Your Breath by Katie Ruggle
The Harder He Falls by Lynda Aicher
Tall, Tatted and Tempting by Tammy Falkner

Books I rated 1 star and suggest you avoid:
Head Hunter by Alexis Angel
Just One Touch by Maya Banks

It’s bizarre that Maya Banks is on both my five star and my one star lists.

There are less one star books, because I often read a sample before I buy the book, so if it starts off crap, I just don’t bother buying it.  I’m sure there are a few ‘did not finish’ books too, but those are harder to track.

What were your favourite reads of 2017?  Do you have any recommendations for me to read in 2018?

Books read in November

Inarticulate by Eden Summers *Star**Star**Star**Starw**Starw*

Enemies Like You by Annika Martin and Joanna Chambers *Star**Star**Star**Star**Star*

Tell Me by Abigail Strom *Star**Star**Star**Starw**Starw*

Highland Spring by Elizabeth Rose *Star**Star**Star**Starw**Starw*

Twin Passions by Miriam Minger *Star**Star**Starw**Starw**Starw*

Chase by Candice Blake  *Star**Star**Starw**Starw**Starw*

Lachlan by Hazel Hunter *Star**Star**Star**Star**Starw*

Locked in Silence by Sloane Kennedy *Star**Star**Star**Star**Starw*

Royally Screwed by Emma Chase *Star**Star**Star**Starw**Starw*

Enemies Like You by Annika Martin and Joanna Chambers
Seriously, if you like m/m romance, read this book.  Don’t read it for the spy theme or the ‘enemies to lovers’ trope.  Read it because it’s unique and hilarious and sweet and easy to read.  A perfect book to get lost in or to lounge by the pool with or to read on a rainy day.  Okay, whenever.  Ha ha!  I enjoyed it, can you tell?  The very beginning had me thinking ‘Wait, is this the book I thought it was?’ and then I was like ‘Oh damn!  That’s different.  Love it!’  From then on, I was in.  Let me know if you read it, and if you do, if you enjoy it!

Twin Passions by Miriam Minger
I didn’t have particularly high expectations of this book, but I did come away with a few grumbles.  If you can believe that a man can’t tell that the stable lad is actually the same lass he’s sleeping with, when the only thing to change is the clothes, then that’s fine.  I had my doubts, but you suspend your disbelief with books like this, don’t you?  I did feel the ‘disguise’ needed a little more substance, but whatever.  The thing that really bugged me was the head hopping – literally different points of view from paragraph to paragraph, and the fact that the author kept referring to things from a character’s point of view that the character couldn’t or didn’t know.  For instance, we’d be in the hero’s point of view, and the author would refer to him calling out to the girl working in the stables, but the hero didn’t know it was a girl and so it should have been referred to as the hero calling out to the boy working in the stables.  That makes sense, right?  I think if the book was written so we stayed in one character’s point of view completely for a whole chapter at a time, the book would be a decent three star and have potential for a fourth.  I think it would be a light, easy read.

 

The Phoenix

Prompt: Pink

The door chimes to indicate a customer, and I stroll out to the front desk. He’s a young guy, maybe late teens, although I suppose he could be early twenties. He looks to be a little shorter than me, maybe a fraction under six feet, with his straight brown hair cut conservatively. Jeans, t-shirt, hoodie and sneakers. Pretty typical for this neighbourhood, but he doesn’t look like trouble and that’s something.

“Can I help you?”

His eyes flick to me, then back to the designs plastered all over the walls. He seems nervous. Fuck, I hope he’s not high.

“I want a tattoo,” he mumbles.

No shit Sherlock. I roll my eyes, though he’s not looking at me. “Any idea what you want?” It always amazes me when people come into the shop without any idea of what they want done. Don’t they realise a tattoo is permanent? Well, I suppose there are ways and means these days of removing them, but still…

He shuffles his feet, and glances at me from the corner of his eye. “I need it on my back. I’ve got…” He drags in a deep breath and I raise an eyebrow in expectation. “Scars,” he whispers. He clears his throat. “I’ve got scars on my back,” he says a little louder. “I need a tattoo to cover them.”

I nod. Scars are tricky to tattoo, but it’s doable. “Sure. Any idea what design you want?”

He shakes his head. “I was hoping you might be able to come up with something for me. I don’t know what will work, you know?”

I gesture to a small table flanked by cheap metal chairs. “Take a seat.” I grab a pad of paper and a pencil and sit opposite him. “Take your shirt off.” I gesture with my chin to the t-shirt and hoodie he’s wearing.

He hesitates, his mouth turning down, before he shrugs and tugs the sleeves of the grey hoodie. He drops it on the floor, then reaches over his head, grabbing a handful of his t-shirt and drawing it over his head. He turns without looking at me, his gaze lowered to the floor.

“Oh wow,” I breathe. I stand and let my gaze wander over the extensive scarring that covers two thirds of his back. “What happened?”

“Burns.”

His tone doesn’t invite further questions, but I can’t resist. “What happened?”

Turning, he draws his t-shirt back on and shrugs. “Some guys took a disliking to me,” he mumbles.

I wave him back into his chair. “Seriously? Someone did that to you on purpose? What sort of a fucked up person do you have to be to do something like that?”

His shoulders move again and I roll my eyes. I pick up my pencil and start tapping on the paper pad. “Listen, I can do a design for you. Tattooing scar tissue is different to tattooing regular skin, and it takes longer. The ink doesn’t absorb the same way. But I’ve done it before, and we can certainly come up with something for your back. But a tattoo is personal, man. And a tattoo that big? You don’t want something generic. You want something that’s you, that’s right for you and you alone. Okay?”

He makes a face at me. It might as well have been another bloody shrug.

I sigh and lean forward, resting my elbows on the table. “Talk,” I say, pointing the pencil at him. “Tell me about yourself, and I’ll create something for you.”

His lips curl in a sneer. “Like what? I don’t have some sort of speech prepared. What do you want to know?”

“How long ago were you injured?”

“Is that relevant?”

“Yes,” I reply.

“How?”

“Because,” I explain, “the more I understand about what you’ve been through, how long it took you to get to this point, and how it changed you, the better your design will be.”

He leans back in his chair, stretching his legs to one side of the table and tipping his head back to stare at the ceiling. “About a year and a half ago. I had to wait for it to heal properly before I could come and see about a tattoo.”

“Did you know them? The guys who did it?”

“Sort of,” he grunts. “We weren’t mates or anything, but I knew who they were.”

“Why’d they do it?”

He glares at me. “They said I was gay. Some kind of faggot who likes other boys.”

I raise my eyebrows. “Do you like guys?”

“Fuck off,” he snarls. “I ain’t a faggot.”

“That’s an awful word. And I don’t care whether you like boys or you like girls or you’re not into anyone at all. What difference could it possibly make to me?” I wait for his reply.

“It’s sick,” he hisses.

“Is it?” I ask mildly. “You might wanna reconsider where you’re getting your tattoo from then, because I’m gay.”

His eyes widen. “You…what?”

“I’m gay. I like other boys.” I smile. “Men, really. Not into boys so much,” I grin.

He stares at me, then glances around the room. I’m not sure if he’s checking to see if there are hidden cameras or people waiting in the non-existent wings or what. “You’re…gay?” he questions.

“Yup.” I turn my arm over, exposing the tattoo on the inside of my wrist. I hold it out towards him.

He stares at it before looking back up at me. “I don’t get it. It’s a card?”

“The ace of spades,” I smirk. “My mum was horrified that I was gay, but my dad, he’d just tell her to get over it. ‘That boy’s as queer as the ace of spades, Ruth, and there ain’t nothing you can do about it.’ Hence,” I gesture at the card inked on my arm, “the ace of spades.”

He opens his mouth as if he’s going to speak, then closes it again. His eyebrows draw down in a frown, like he doesn’t quite know what to make of me. “You’re… You’re okay with being gay?”

I laugh. I can’t help it. “Wouldn’t make a bloody bit of difference either way, would it? I could spend my days hating myself, or I can accept it. I don’t like women. I like men. All the denial in the world won’t change that, so yeah, I’m okay with it. I figure God wouldn’t have made me this way if he didn’t want me to be this way.”

He nods slowly.

I take a chance. “How about you?”

His eyes meet mine, but he doesn’t answer.

“What sort of person do you find attractive? Men? Women? Both? Neither?”

He shifts in his chair, looking away from me. “I dunno.”

“Really? You’re how old?”

“Fine!” he snarls. “I like…” He screws his eyes shut. “I like men,” he whispers.

“Cool. Me too.” I smile and he gives me a weak smile in return.

I look down at the pad of paper and screw my mouth up. “How about…a phoenix?”

“What’s that?” he asks with narrowed eyes.

“Don’t be so suspicious,” I chuckle. “A phoenix is a mythical bird which is reborn out of fire. Which seems appropriate, don’t you think?”

“A bird? That sounds a bit…” I can see him searching for another word other than ‘gay’.

“Trust me.” I start sketching, and can feel his eyes watching me.

“Have you ever… had a boyfriend?” he asks quietly.

I nod, continuing to draw. “Yup. I’m no different to other guys my age. They have girlfriends, I have boyfriends. They have sex, I have sex.” I grin, but don’t look up from my work.

“Have you ever been with a girl?”

I grimace. “Er, no.” I scrunch up my nose. “Not my thing.”

“Not even a kiss?”

“Nope. I always knew I was gay. In high school I was eyeing up guys’ chests in the locker room while they were all talking about boobs.” I hear a breath huff out of him like he’s amused. “You?”

“I’ve kissed a girl.”

“Did you like it?” I ask, trying desperately not to break out into a Katy Perry tune.

“It was okay.”

I hum a response. “What about a guy?”

“Naw,” he says, shifting in his seat. “You’re the first person I’ve ever told.”

I lift my head then and look at him. “I appreciate your trust.”

He smiles. “How do you know if another guy is gay? You don’t wanna be making the moves on some straight guy, right?” He leans forward, waiting for my answer.

“This is a big tattoo,” I say, tapping my pencil against the drawing.

He leans back and folds his arms across his chest. Geez, the guy is an open book.

“It’s going to take a while to ink this onto your back. We’ll have lots of time to talk. I’m happy to tell you whatever I can.”

His arms relax. “Really?”

“Yeah. Now what do you think?” I hold the pad so it’s facing him.

“Oh, that is wicked,” he breathes. “Dude, you are crazy talented.”

“You like? Not too girly?” I smirk.

His eyes meet mine. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome. Now, I was thinking about doing it in bright pink.” I laugh and duck as he reaches out to smack my head. “No?” I laugh harder at the scowl on his face, but I see a little tilt to his lips that says that just maybe he’s going to be okay.

Sock It To Me

Someone knew. Gabe picked up the bright, rainbow-colored sock from where it was resting on his gym bag and tossed it over his shoulder without looking to see where it landed. After gathering his clean clothes he glanced around, but no one seemed to be watching him. Even if they were, that would hardly be an admission of guilt. Damn it. Gabe shrugged wide shoulders with a nonchalance he wasn’t feeling and got dressed before trudging out of the changing room with his bag.

It wasn’t the first rainbow sock he had found. The first had been on top of his locker, but he hadn’t paid much attention. It was obviously misplaced, or at least he had assumed so. Tossed up on the lockers by someone who couldn’t be bothered handing it in to lost property…which would cover about 90% of the school’s population. There had been nothing indicating it was placed on his locker in particular, although the end of it had been hanging over his locker door.

The second had been under his desk in his chem class. But that was easily explained away too, he was far from the only student to use that desk during the day. Of course, it had been the first class of the day, and he always sat in that seat…but he hadn’t thought anything of it at the time. This was different. Someone had placed it where it couldn’t possibly be mistaken as anything other than a message specifically for him. Someone had gone to the trouble of posting it into his gym locker. Someone knew.

Gabe worked hard to keep calm and stop his dark eyebrows from dropping into a scowl. Whoever was leaving the socks wanted a reaction from him, and he refused to give it. He breathed deep and nodded to people he saw as he made his way to the student parking lot.

He stowed his gear in the passenger seat of his truck, which was a manly black. No fucking frou-frou rainbow colors in sight. Fuck! He thumped the steering wheel before gritting his teeth and reminding himself to get the hell out of the school grounds before losing it.

Someone knew. Jesus. Was it really too much to ask that he finish college with his dignity intact?

For now, it was just socks. But there was no doubt the socks were a message. What the fuck was next? He’d got the message loud and clear; someone knew his secret. Would they expose him? How? And why? And why fucking socks for god’s sake? Gabe growled, glaring at everyone on the road.

He took one hand off the steering wheel to run it through his short, damp hair, trying to think. Anyone could have put the sock on top of the lockers. That was hardly an unrestricted area, and it wouldn’t have taken more than a moment’s work to toss the sock up there. The one in chem class… Surely only someone who was in his chem class would know which seat he always sat at? That narrowed down the possibilities. Was it more likely to be a guy? Maybe, maybe not. It didn’t make sense either way. Gym – it had to be someone on the team. No one else would have had access to the gym lockers between the time he’d put his bag in his locker and then returned to access it again. Someone on the team who was likely in his chem class. Mark or Tony.

Mark was loud and brash, always the center of attention. And he liked the ladies. Gabe chewed on his lower lip as he thought, keeping just half a mind on his driving. Tony was quieter, someone Gabe wouldn’t have minded as a friend, but hadn’t he had a girlfriend for ages now? They’ve been together for a year or more hadn’t they? The little blonde thing that laughed easily and seemed to be friends with everyone. Surely it wasn’t him.

But, Gabe tipped his head in acknowledgement of his own thoughts, he was only assuming the person leaving the sock messages was hiding his own secrets. That wasn’t necessarily true. Still, Tony was the logical choice. Mark would have stood up and announced to everyone in the cafeteria if he’d even suspected. But the question still remained….now what?

Once he was home and had made himself something to eat, he sat down in the ugly, squishy armchair that was his favorite and tried to think the problem through. The most important thing was to figure out why someone was leaving messages at all. Okay, so they knew his secret. Why did they want him to know that? What were they going to do about it? It wasn’t hard to assume they weren’t going to out him, or they could have done that already. No, this was between him and the messenger. Was it some sort of weird secret admirer thing? Gabe wasn’t out for a reason, he sure as shit wasn’t going to get himself a boyfriend. Maybe they wanted someone to share their own secrets with? That seemed the most logical answer to him.

Gabe glanced around the room, then stood up and walked back into his bedroom. Somewhere on the mess that was his desk, he had a list of all the team members, complete with phone numbers. Gabe sifted through piles of paper and books but didn’t find it. Damn it! He yanked open a drawer, nearly dumping the contents at his feet, and saw the list tucked under another piece of paper. Perfect.

He took the list and his phone back to the armchair. There was Tony’s number. Gabe thought for a moment and then sent a text. Got the socks. Wanna talk? He figured that was innocuous enough that if he’d made a mistake and it wasn’t Tony after all, he wouldn’t have given too much away. His phone beeped with an incoming message.
Yeah, you free? Grab a coke at D’s?

A few hours later, Gabe parked his truck again, feeling far more relaxed than after his drive home from college. It had been nice to talk to someone else who understood. He marveled at Tony’s arrangement with his mock girlfriend – that was a sweet deal, and he wished he’d had an understanding female friend who could have helped him out like that. There’d been no weirdness between him and Tony, and he appreciated that. He didn’t need a boyfriend, just a friend.