Category Archives: 20th Century

Dumb Jock #1 Audiobook by Jeff Erno Narrated by Tommy O’Brien

Dreamspinner Presents

http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=6748

Bjocklurb

Dumb Jock: Book One

Jeff Irwin is short, timid, and studious. A bit of a social outcast, he lives quietly in the shadows of the popular kids at his school, his life ruled by his ever-present fear of rejection or failure.

Enter high school football hero Brett Willson and the chance for Jeff to embark upon the challenge of educating the world’s dumbest jock.

But what develops between Brett and Jeff proves far more challenging than any tutoring session. In 1983, rural Michigan isn’t ready to embrace love between two men, never mind two teenage boys. If they’re going to make a go of it, Jeff will have to come out of his shell—and Brett will have to prove he’s more than just a dumb jock.

Review

This is a YA book – so you can expect that this has a fairly predictable message – but it’s a sweet and good one. Nerd loves jock. Jock surprises nerd and loves him back. Everyone has to grow up and be brave.

To me this felt like there was a bit of “fantasy” type stuff in here – meaning – the people didn’t necessarily act like I think they would in real life. But… that being said – they could act that way… especially since this shows us only one perspective- Jeff’s and from his adult viewpoint looking back.

I appreciated the lengths the author went to really get inside Jeff’s head and let this story out as one of hope for all those bullied along in high school.  The ending was super, super sweet.  A nice touch after all the heart-wrenching angst.

There are some interesting components to this as a YA book. 1) Off page sex – both are underage and it fits, but it’s there. 2) a bit of a Dom/sub thing – not overworked or “inappropriate” per se – interesting setting for it, though.

Audio

Tommy O’Brien is not my favorite narrator but he did a nice job with the narration, neither really adding nor detracting from the overall experience.

I think my overall impression was one of “good”. It was good. It didn’t “wow” me or make me think “how awful”. It was good. Certainly enough to make me consider more from the series when I’m in a YA mood.

3 of 5 hearts

3

10805469_1500047746947637_197599976_n

Tin Box Audiobook by Kim Fielding Narrated by KC Kelly

Dreamspinner Press Presents
http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=6660

TinBox[The]AUDMEDBlurb

William Lyon’s past forced him to become someone he isn’t. Conflicted and unable to maintain the charade, he separates from his wife and takes a job as caretaker at a former mental hospital. Jelley’s Valley State Insane Asylum was the largest mental hospital in California for well over a century, but it now stands empty. William thinks the decrepit institution is the perfect place to finish his dissertation and wait for his divorce to become final. In town, William meets Colby Anderson, who minds the local store and post office. Unlike William, Colby is cute, upbeat, and flamboyantly out. Although initially put off by Colby’s mannerisms, William comes to value their new friendship, and even accepts Colby’s offer to ease him into the world of gay sex.

William’s self-image begins to change when he discovers a tin box, hidden in an asylum wall since the 1940s. It contains letters secretly written by Bill, a patient who was sent to the asylum for being homosexual. The letters hit close to home, and William comes to care about Bill and his fate. With Colby’s help, he hopes the words written seventy years ago will give him courage to be his true self.

Review

Kim Fielding is an amazing writer, who has a way of combining dark, angsty topics with humor and sweet romance. I guess you’d say this is the “perfect” example of that.

We get the dark, very hard to read at times story of Bill – a patient in an asylum for being homosexual and what he experiences.

Then we get William and Colby’s modern day story, far more light-hearted and hopeful. William learns from “Bill” and finally finds the courage to be the man he wants to become.

“…You said gay people—any people—should be who they really are. Be authentic. You said I should wear a pink tutu and vote Republican if that’s what I wanted. Well, I’ll pass on that part. But Colby, this is me. I’m not a man who sleeps around, always wondering if the ass is greener on the other side of the fence. I’m not someone who wants to meet tons of men in clubs or online. Those things don’t suit me any better than this outfit.” He gestured at his borrowed shirt.

Such a delightful mix of tragic and happy. Well done, Kim Fielding, well done.

**

Audio:

KC Kelly does an absolutely amazing job with this! God! I loved his “Colby” and how well he handles the emotion and the smexy times.
I absolutely recommend his narration as a way to experience this novel.

5 of 5 hearts

5

10805469_1500047746947637_197599976_n

Jack Wolf by Kay Walker


Daily Dose Short Story
Dreamspinner Presents http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=6574

JackWolfBlurb

Henry Dalton is sent across the country by train to the western town of Woolridge in order to investigate the werewolf problem they’re having during the monthly moon cycle. The townsfolk are not forthcoming with information, making it difficult for Henry to solve the case.
Even more distracting is Jack, a handsome older lycanthrope. Known for his rebellious youth, Jack has settled down into life and routine in Woolridge, working as the local blacksmith. He assures Henry he’s no longer trying to stir up trouble, that those days are long gone. Henry must attempt to ignore the spark between them, the indication of their potential to become mates, which is rare because Henry is human. Henry remains professional and focuses on his job, but each meeting with Jack adds to the draw, and Henry isn’t sure how much longer he’ll be able to resist.

Review

This is a unique short story of an investigator who travels to find out about a situation with a local werewolf pack. It’s a combo steampunk/shifter novella set in vaguely old west times.
Henry has previously had a werewolf mate who died years ago, Jack has had two potential mates previously who have also died many years ago.

Though there are some potential hurdles in their way: the investigation, their distance and time; they realize that being given a “second” chance is not something to disregard and that despite their “mate” status, they truly care for the other as well.

**

Steampunk is not my favorite genre, but I really appreciated the unique blend with the shifter lore. I loved the idea of “sparking” and the fact that these men got multiple shots, but that it was still a monumental event.

The writing was crisp and clear and the story very unique with clever world-building. I don’t know if it’s the genre or the author, but it was just a bit too dry to be amazing, but it was very good.

3.5 of 5 hearts

3.5

10805469_1500047746947637_197599976_n

Yes Audiobook by Brad Boney Narrated by Dan McGowan

Dreamspinner Presents http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=6509

YESAUDMEDBlurb

What if youth wasn’t wasted on the young?

On the eve of his fortieth birthday, Ian Parker is looking for a reboot. He may be the proud owner of a trendy coffee shop in Austin called La Tazza Magica, but his love life has been MIA for years. During a trip to Denver with his best friend, Mark, Ian buys an enchanted chocolate from a mysterious candy store—then wakes up from a nap two decades younger. After the initial shock, Ian realizes a quirk of the universe has given him a second chance and, with Mark’s help, he devises a plan to start over.

With a new lease on life, Ian sets his sights on handsome architect Bartley James, a regular customer at La Tazza. He pursues Bartley as Ian’s twenty-one-year-old alter ego, Ryan, with decidedly unexpected results. Joining Ryan on his adventures are Matthew, the dreamy new barista, Jeremy, the geeky high-school math teacher, and Sam, the pizza delivery boy. Even as misunderstandings and expectations collide, Ian remains determined to right his past mistakes and find his off-ramp to happiness.

Book Review (Previously posted on this site.)

I would strongly recommend that you read these books in order to fully appreciate the nuances. Brad does an amazing job of creating this “alternate” world with the Walsh brothers and laying out that time is very non-linear and to ignore all that history is silly.

Sure, technically this is a stand alone – but why? Just read the others – they’re great!

In this story we see – again – people making small decisions that have huge implications which can affect their lives (and other’s lives) and lots and lots of trivia.

I think that you are either a fan of the trivia – in this case old porn – or not – and the rapid-fire game-playing will either charm or repel you.

I find Brad Boney’s writing to be fascinating and I love his alternate world view and though I wish he’d had a different game plan – one where our MCs spend some actual time together – I always enjoy the time I spend on his books.

This was not my favorite in the series – but still an excellent book.

Audio Review

Dan McGowan is new to me as a narrator, and has not done any of the other narrations for this “almost”-series. I appreciated that he tried to make the different voices distinct and he had a lot of enthusiasm for the story, but I didn’t really care for his style, especially in comparison to the others by this author.

Overall 3.5 of 5 hearts

3.5

10805469_1500047746947637_197599976_n

The Eskimo Slugger Audiobook by Brad Boney Narrated by Michael Ferraluolo

Dreamspinner Presents http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=6453

EskimoSlugger[The]AUDMEDBlurb

It’s the summer of 1983, and Trent Days is Major League Baseball’s rookie sensation. Since he was born in Alaska to an Inupiat mother, the press have dubbed him the Eskimo Slugger, but a midseason collision at home plate temporarily halts his meteoric rise to the top.
Sent back to Austin to recuperate, Trent visits his favorite record store, Inner Sanctum, where he meets amiable law student Brendan Baxter. A skip in the vinyl of New Order’s “Blue Monday” drives Trent back to Brendan, and their romance takes them into uncharted territory. As Trent’s feelings move from casual to serious, he’s faced with an impossible dilemma. Does he abandon any hope of a future with Brendan and return to the shadows and secrets of professional sports? Or does he embrace the possibility of real love and leave baseball behind him forever? As he struggles with his decision, Trent embarks on a journey of self-discovery to figure out who he really is and what matters most.

Book review (Previously posted on this site.)

Trent is a baseball player from Alaska, thus the name Eskimo Slugger. He’s at the top of his game when he gets injured and ends up spending two weeks in Austin, TX. There he meets Brendan, a law student/record store clerk. They start as friends but once Brendan tentatively asks Trent “Is this a date?” the two acknowledge the deeper aspect of their blossoming relationship. The two immediately set sparks off one another, though neither has ever had a gay relationship before.

With some pretty funny forays into gay sex, the two explore each other and a relatively unexplored aspect to their personalities. For Brendan, being gay is something he’s pondered but been afraid of, but with the right incentive he embraces the idea and eventually decides to incorporate into his life fully and without secrecy.

For Trent, being gay means possibly (probably) the end of his career, certainly the end of his life as it stands currently, and though he’s always known he was gay, he has never let himself entertain the idea that he could actually live as a gay man.

Brendan enlists the help of Stanton and Hutch (from The Return) as “gay mentors” and together, with Bill Walsh (from The Nothingness of Ben) the group bonds, smoke a lot of weed and begin to form relationships that even death won’t end.

Ultimately, Trent has to make the biggest decision of his life: Choose baseball or choose Brendan. Perhaps the two can be together, but probably it’s one or the other.

**

By now you should have read the first two books (The Nothingness of Ben and The Return). If you haven’t – go! What are you waiting for? Technically this could be a standalone, I guess, but it won’t make a heck of a lot of sense and will leave you very unsatisfied.

If you have read the other books you know that the end of this book is really the beginning of TNOB. That, Brad Boney, is an amazing feat! Mr. Boney has managed to create this beautiful circular set of books that literally bleeds one into the other so that (as a reader) you want to just keep going round and round the merry-go-round.

I found myself referencing both of the earlier books time and again with the “treasures” that were revealed throughout this book. Without completely giving away all the secrets just know that the MCs of all three books are inter-related in various ways and little bits of their stories, past and present are slipped in throughout the story.

In The Return it was all about music – fast paced facts and quips, with Slugger it’s baseball. For me, the music was more interesting, but if you are a baseball fan this will really hit home. (See what I did there?)

I didn’t like the love story as much in Slugger as in The Return or TNOB, probably because it happens so quickly. I just never felt the emotion – especially from Brendan. Trent was invested, you get that feeling so strongly. Brendan was too standoffish for me and it made me a little sad. But… since I know what I know about how things end… he’s forgiven ☺.

I really, really enjoyed these books and was sad to see it end. I can’t say for sure, but I think that if I were to recommend a reading order I would say start with The Return, then Slugger then finish with TNOB. There may be something “missing” with that order, but I think, ultimately, it will be so much more satisfying. Or… do as the author may have intended and read it : TNOB, Return, Slugger, TNOB… and so on and so on…

Just a fantastic book all around, 5 of 5 hearts and for the series 6 of 5!

Audio
Michael Ferraluolo did an excellent job with this! I adored Charlie David and was disappointed he didn’t narrate this, the third of the series. I think the continuity would have been great. But… Michael didn’t disappoint with his performance. He has a great voice that is easy to listen to, did a nice job differentiating the characters, really got into the emotion of the story and even managed to do a nice job with the female voices.

All in all I am sticking with 6 of 5 hearts for this in either book or audio form!

amazing

10805469_1500047746947637_197599976_n

Crossroads in Blood (Partnership in Blood book 5) by Ariel Tachna

Dreamspinner Presents http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=2324

CrossroadsinBloodBlurb

Part of the First Time For Everything Daily Dose 2011 collection

Facing the Germans outside Amiens, Denis was prepared for the possibility he wouldn’t survive the battle. Shot and left for dead, he didn’t expect to open his eyes to a vampire offering him a chance at a different existence. Now newly turned, the hunger for blood grows insistent, but an instinct Denis doesn’t understand presses him to make the right choice for feeding, not the most expedient one. Which will Noël prove to be: a temporary succor or the companion of a lifetime?

Review

This is a very short – almost prequel – to the series, introducing the concept and characters we will see in other books.

Denis is “killed” in the battle then offered life after death. Since he’s only 19 he takes the offer and Noel must show him the ropes and more?

As always Tachna is a wonderful writer, if the story is a bit too short to really delve into.

(The cover has nothing to do with the story.)

3 of 5 hearts

3

10805469_1500047746947637_197599976_n

The Serpent and the Angel (Shifters #8) by MD Grimm

Dreamspinner Presents http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=6201

SerpentandtheAngel[The]Blurb

In the year 1866, Sheriff Tobias Goldstein guards a small mining town in the Colorado territory with a cold and merciless hand. A rare rattlesnake shifter, he lives by a code and expecting others to do the same has kept the peace—until a nameless stranger wanders into town. Intrigued by the lone man, Tobias names him Angel Smith, and sensing he’s trustworthy, he deputizes Angel.

A guardian at heart, golden eagle shifter Angel protects the townspeople, but his dedication is to an ancient scroll capable of great destruction. For generations, Angel’s family protected the artifact with their lives. Now something has returned to hunt down the scroll. Forced to leave his tribe, Angel enjoys the quiet he’s found with Tobias, who hides a warm heart under his aloof exterior. Angel knows the quiet will not last and fears the battle on the horizon. But with Tobias at his back, Angel might stand a chance against his enemies.

 

Review

This is another historical tale, this time in the 1800s Colorado territory.  As with the previous book we get more history of the scrolls and a new pair of lovers who are entrusted with their care.

I really like how MD Grimm incorporates the flashes of history with the bits of scroll history and intermingles it with a new (if not completely unique) love story.

In this case we have two men, one very stoic and one very kind, gentle character.  Together they make a united whole and a great pair for protecting the scrolls.

I highly recommend this book and the series.

4 of 5 hearts

4

10805469_1500047746947637_197599976_n

Claw (Gothika Volume Three) by Kim Fielding, Eli Easton and Jamie Fessenden

Dreamspinner Presents

http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=6254

ClawBlurbs

Gothika: Volume Three 
Beasts lurk in the shadows of wild and forgotten places and in the hearts and souls of men. They are the stuff of dreams and nightmares, but are they feral and savage, or just misunderstood? Creatures of myth and legend stalk these tales of dark desire and animal passions. Three men come face-to-face with such creatures and find they are much more than they seem. While there is danger, there might be unexpected benefits as well, if they can accept the impossible and dare to venture into the primordial regions where nature and the beasts still reign. Three acclaimed authors of gay romance explore the boundaries between man and beast and the place where their worlds overlap.

Isolation by Jamie Fessenden
When Sean’s marriage breaks up, he returns to his hometown, hoping to find the childhood friend who meant everything to him in his teens. He finds Jack living in a cabin, surrounded by the forest he always loved, and the two begin to tentatively repair their damaged relationship. But a large animal has been seen prowling around the edge of town, and soon Sean comes face-to-face with the beast. Jack insists the creature isn’t dangerous—it’s been coming around the cabin for years. It isn’t long, however, before Sean discovers a far more disturbing connection between his friend and the beast.

Transformation by Kim Fielding
After being caught in bed with another male student in 1886, Orris Spencer is declared an abomination by his wealthy father. Orris is promptly banished from their Fifth Avenue mansion and sent across the continent to Oregon. Now Orris must try to find a place for himself on his brother’s farm and figure out how to deal with life as a pioneer. When he’s called on to help protect the livestock from a predator, he’s not at all certain he’s up to the task. Then he meets Henry Bonn, a strange and intriguing man who lives in a cabin in the hills. Orris’s attraction to Henry may not be an abomination—but it may prove a greater danger than banishment.

The Black Dog by Eli Easton
Constable Hayden MacLairty is used to life being dull around the tiny hamlet of Laide on the north Scottish coast. They get occasional tourists, “monster hunters” interested in the local legend of the Black Dog, but Hayden thinks that’s only a myth. A rash of sheep killings, a murdered hiker, huge footprints, and sightings of the Black Dog force Hayden to rethink the matter. With the help of Simon Corto, a writer from New York doing research for a book about the Black Dog, Hayden tries to figure out why the enormous hound is reappearing. Hayden finds himself strongly attracted to another person for the first time in his life. But between the danger stalking the hills, Simon’s inevitable return to New York, and Hayden’s mother’s illness, true love may be more of a phantom than the Black Dog.

Reviews

All three of these stories are very dark but strive to leave us with a happy ending.

In Isoloation two former lovers are reunited but things have changed and the question remains as to what secrets can be told and how will they be handled.

I didn’t care for this story as much as the others – I wanted a more concrete ending to satisfy the romantic in  me.

2 of 5 hearts

Transformation is an historical tale in Oregon (yay!) of farmers and hunters living in the wildneress.  I loved the historical aspect of being gay in the 1800s and though I was sad by the decisions that separated the brothers (both sets) I loved the overall joy that Orris and Henry found together.

4 of 5 hearts

Black Dog was my favorite in this series.  It was a fully fleshed out short story about a man who doesn’t know his own families secrets and when he finds out he has to make some tough decisions.

Eli is one of my all time favorite authors and this story is just as amazing as her longer stories.

5 of 5 hearts

Overall 3.5  of 5 hearts

3.5

10805469_1500047746947637_197599976_n

 

Fire Horse (Polo #1) Audiobook by Mickie B Ashling Narrated by Max Lehnen

Dreamspinner Presents http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=6147

fire horseBlurb

Preston Fawkes is ten the first time he meets fifteen-year-old Konrad Schnell at the San Antonio Polo Club. Captivated by the mystique surrounding the sport of kings, Pres vows to learn the game at the hands of his newly acquired friend and mentor. The hero worship soon grows into something deeper, but the friends are separated when Preston goes off to boarding school in England.

The relationship that follows is riddled with challenges―their age gap, physical distance, and parental pressure taking precedence over feelings yet to be explored. Although their bond goes deep, they deal with the reality of their situation differently: Preston is open and fearless while Konrad is reticent and all too aware of the social implications of making a public stand.

Their paths intersect and twine, binding them as tightly as a cowboy’s lasso, but fate may alter their plans. How will love overcome the divots in the turf as they gallop toward the future—one where obstacles no longer stand in their way?

Review
This book starts with Preston as an injured Polo player being told he should never play again and he’s lucky to be alive. We know he has 2 ex-wives and 2 children, and that Kon is NOT in his life, currently. (This should give you an idea of where things are headed…) Then we get to the flashbacks which take up the bulk of the book.

As a boy of ten Preston meets Konrad, a boy of 15, for the first time and learns from him what it means to be a Polo player. He acts as his groom and Kon mentors him in the sport.

Preston’s hero worship of Kon changes on the night he realizes that Kon is gay and that the feelings in his gut may be more than just friendship. Kon, as he should, rebuffs the now 13 year old’s advances.  He puts him off because a) he’s too young and b) the two are about to be separated by Kon’s joining the American Polo team and Preston’s going overseas to study.  But first the two share a passionate kiss.

Preston meets Ned at Eaton, a boarding school in England. Ned shows Preston how to be properly English and Preston gives Ned Polo lessons. After a while, Ned  becomes Preston’s tutor in gay sex as well as his close friend.

Preston and Ned don’t become boyfriends though, because Preston is saving that for Kon, whom he stays in touch with and occasionally meets.

Finally, when Preston is 17 he and Kon spend a chunk of time together and move their relationship forward, becoming lovers and long-distance boyfriends.

Here is where things go horribly wrong. Their relationship is discovered and Kon is forced to join the military and …. Well if I tell you it’s a big spoiler. Needless to say what happens next keeps Kon and Pres apart until the end of the story and for YEARS.

**
I really, really wanted to like this. I loved the idea. Polo, young love, age gap, geographical gap… It had a ton of potential.

The pre-eighteen year old sex did not bother me – that’s reality for a lot of people and I thought it was mostly handled well.

What did bother me: Kon never really seemed to love Pres as much as Pres loved him. Kon seemed to lust for Preston, but not love him. Preston was a jerk, and hard to like, so I don’t blame Kon. As an adult, Pres only gets worse.

The plot twists were far too many and too hard to believe. At times it was like a soap opera in the way that the lovers were kept from one another – for YEARS. If we have that much angst I need a huge batch of happy to make up for it and the reunion at the end did NOT make up for all the unhappiness. After all the torment we see our MCs through, they get about one paragraph of happy ending and the “celibacy issue”… I just didn’t buy it at all.

I did not like the on-page sex with people not the MC. That, more than the age thing, did really bother me.

I thought the writing was ok, but I didn’t feel a lot of authenticity from the characters. Preston’s dad was practically bi-polar (smacking Preston around then giving him a new pony.) Preston’s step-dad just going out and renting his 16 year old son porn seemed nuts. Preston’s mom even marrying Preston’s dad didn’t make much sense. Ned – putting up with Preston’s crap for so long.  And there are other areas where it didn’t feel real.

I just couldn’t connect well to either MC very well, thought the plot holes were too big to ignore and found the romance lacking.  If you are a fan of drama, you might like this.  There is a LOT of it.  If you want a tender and satisfying, relationship story, this is not for you.

Audiobook
Max Lehnen is hit or miss for me. I have heard him do some nice narrations, and I have heard him butcher some. In this case he had some tall orders. He had to do a wide range of ages, including aging the MCs from 10 to adult. He had several accents to do, Texan, British, and Preston’s odd British/Texas blend, women, kids, etc. I thought for the most part he did a great job handling such a demanding narration, though some of his accents were definitely better than others.

I give Max Lehnen 4 of hearts and the story 1 of 5 hearts which gives this an average of 2.5 hearts

2.5

10805469_1500047746947637_197599976_n

Palace Dogs ( RE Nelson) Book Blast with Giveaway

Final--Palace DogIn April 1975, as the government in Saigon is falling, Michael Andrews prepares to make his way back to Vietnam to find the love he was forced to leave. 

But Michael’s journey begins four years earlier. He joins the Air Force to keep out of the Army and out of Vietnam, but his first assignment is teaching English in Saigon to members of the Vietnamese military in an Army program called Palace Dog. 

As an artist, and a man, before his time in Vietnam, Michael found life lonely and unsatisfying. In the midst of war, Michael searches for direction and meaning. He ultimately finds love and hope with Thao, a young Vietnamese art student, only to have their already uncertain future wrenched from them when he is pulled out of the country. 

For Michael, his return in 1975 is inevitable and without question, though the outcome he hopes for is anything but assured.

Author Bio:
R.E. Nelson was born in Texas and raised in Southern California. He has been writing for as long as he can remember. One of his earliest recollections related to writing is winning an essay contest in sixth grade–something patriotic about the American flag. When he travels, his preference is staying in select areas for an extended period of time and learning about that place. He has lived in both Vietnam (twice, actually) and Saudi Arabia, and also spent time in Egypt, South Korea, Shanghai (his only China visit thus far), and Dubai. Now he is happy to call San Francisco home.
Where to find the author:
Twitter: @RENelson13
a Rafflecopter giveaway