Book Review: Integrity by Willow Scarlett

Blurb: Tyler Kostritch is famous for his integrity. It’s just a pity he’s lying to everyone.
Ty gave up a promising MMA career to focus on his band. As the frontman of Proletarian Yell, he’s famous for the aggression and brutal honesty of his live performances… all while hiding in the closet, and never risking relationships.
After years of hard work, Proletarian Yell finally have their big break: a tour with the hottest metal band around. It’s the best thing to ever happen to Ty.
Until he meets Hale.

“We’re real. We’re part of a movement. You’re just a boy band playing dress-up.”
Hale Tahmid, vocalist of the staggeringly-popular Funeral Kiss, is everything Ty’s not: Showy, flirty, openly gay. Hale’s the quintessential rock star from his staggering good looks to his attention-craving love of social media.
The two bands couldn’t be more different, and their vocalists are opposites. They clash from the moment they meet, a constant verbal sparring and battle of personalities.

But they can’t ignore their extreme attraction. Hale’s passionate and ruthlessly dedicated, facing Ty in a way the ex-fighter never imagined. The temptation is too right to resist.

“I’m nobody’s dirty secret.”
Ty lives in a castle of lies that would come crashing down if he came out. He’d risk losing his band, his family, and everything he’s worked for.

How can Ty choose between his love and the music he’s built his world around?!

One of the things that Tyler was so hang up with is that ‘some gay people aren’t gay enough because they aren’t really showing it’ – I was like, “dude move on already. You just keep on repeating yourself.” I find him very irritating initially but he kinda grew on me. Hale meanwhile is one fantastic character! He’s fun, flamboyant and very much relatable. I loved the diversity of the author’s characters in her books (so far, I’ve only read this and Coin Tricks) and I loved learning so much about their culture – this time, a bit of Bangladeshi culture. I think it’s important that authors are exploring diversity with their characters because it makes their stories more interesting, realistic and getting the feeling of inclusiveness.

A very well-written story and a definite must-read if you’ve enjoyed Coin Tricks. (Read my review of Coin Tricks here)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Kindle Edition, 140 pagesPublished May 12th 2016

About The Author
Willow Scarlett is a queer romance writer from New Zealand. In early 2015, she quit city life and moved to a ski hut at the foot of Mt Doom. She now happily lives and writes in a tiny town which is home to more alpacas than people.
Her greatest joy is in creating holistic romances, bringing characters through friendship and lust to consuming, eye-opening, world-fulfilling love. Her stories often feature punks, rebels and outcasts. Willow is an avid jogger and cyclist, a neocrust violinist and an enthusiastic fan of horror movies.

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Book Review: Given to the Beast by Adam Charles

This one was quite enjoyable. My initial guess about Kyro turns out to be wrong. I was thinking of shape shifter and the likes, but apparently it’s way beyong our world there’s no way for him to return there which is sad. So, he’s become lonely. Enter Michael who volunteered to save his village because apparently, he is the most “viable” candidate. Little did he know that he’s literally out-of-this-world mate-to-be will change his life forever – for the good.

I loved how he totally get Kyro’s quirks and how he encourage him to show himself to the villagers and somehow, try to change their views about him. It’s a lovely read, again, too short for me but as I’ve said, very much enjoyable! Oh, and yes – I was hoping for an MPREG route so I was a bit disappointed that it didn’t go that way. All good though.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Kindle Edition, 76 pages
Published August 16th 2015 by Laud Love Press

About the Author
Adam Charles lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He did this for the man who helped him come out of the closet, and despite his hatred of snow, it has been completely worth it.

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Book Review: Big Love by Rick R. Reed

Summary: Teacher Dane Bernard is a gentle giant, loved by all at Summitville High School. He has a beautiful wife, two kids, and an easy rapport with staff and students alike. But Dane has a secret, one he expects to keep hidden for the rest of his life—he’s gay. But when he loses his wife, Dane finally confronts his attraction to men.

A new teacher, Seth Wolcott, immediately catches his eye. Seth is also starting over, licking his wounds from a breakup, and the last thing Seth wants is another relationship—but when he spies Dane on his first day at Summitville High, his attraction is immediate and electric.

As the two men enter into a dance of discovery and new love, they’re called upon to come to the aid of bullied gay student Truman Reid. Truman is out and proud, which not everyone at his small-town high school approves of. As the two men work to help Truman ignore the bullies and love himself without reservation, they all learn life-changing lessons about coming out, coming to terms, acceptance, heartbreak, and falling in love.

Sadly, the multiple POVs didn’t work for me because as I started to get a feel of the character or at least, about to enjoy that particular moment by the character, it will immediately be cut off by the succeeding timeline with a different character’s POV altogether. This also feels like there’s two separate stories between Dane and Seth’s relationship and Truman’s struggles at school. I guess, the story just didn’t develop the way I expected it to. I thought there was lack of focus with the struggles of each character making the story flat as a result. I think it’s still an okay read – I may not just be the right audience for it.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

ebook, Published May 18th 2020 by NineStar Press (first published April 4th 2016)

About the Author
Rick R. Reed is an award-winning and bestselling author of more than fifty works of published fiction. He is a Lambda Literary Award finalist. Entertainment Weekly has described his work as “heartrending and sensitive.” Lambda Literary has called him: “A writer that doesn’t disappoint…” Find him at http://www.rickrreedreality.blogspot.com. Rick lives in Palm Springs, CA, with his husband, Bruce, and their two rescue dogs, Kodi and Joaquin.

You can also like Rick on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/rickrreedbooks or on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/rickrreed. Rick always enjoys hearing from readers and answers all e-mails personally. Send him a message at rickrreedbooks@gmail.com

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Book Review: Lacuna by N.R. Walker

Blurb: Twenty-five years ago, the hand of fate marked four newborns and sent them to the four corners of the Great Kingdoms. They were schooled and trained as rulers of their lands in preparation for the Golden Eclipse ceremony: a festival to celebrate a thousand years of peace and prosperity since the Great War.

Crow, ruler of Northlands, a skilled swordsman and expert tactician, is as reclusive and stoic as the mountains that surround him. Tancho has spent his life in strict discipline, governing the Westlands with a fair mind and gentle hand. Quiet and unassuming, yet lethal in combat, he is the embodiment of the waters he lives by.

Yet the same hand of fate unknowingly linked Tancho to Crow in ways they cannot comprehend. Ruled by the stars, the brother sun and the two sister moons above them, and marked by an alchemical sorcery as old as time, their destinies were never their own.

As the eclipse draws near and the festival begins, word comes of another threat. Invaders from unknown lands bring a war no one was prepared for, and Crow and Tancho must decide on which side of the battle line they stand.

In life or death, their destinies will see them joined either way.

Lacuna is a story about four kingdoms, each with a destined ruler who have to come together for a once in a a lifetime ceremony, and that is when the shit hits the fan for everyone involved, particularly for the stoic Crow, ruler of Northlands and the feisty ruler of the Westlands, Tancho.

Tancho and Crown are both excellent main characters. They are very charming and from the get-go, despite being forced to be together, the chemistry is there. I do loved the side characters too – the fun that they add to the story, and trust, there are a lot of funny moments. I also loved the development of their relationship over the course of the story.

Although I’ve to say that the best thing about the story is its worldbuilding. The author did an excellent job in taking us into these ‘four corners of the Great Kingdoms’ with such a refreshing interpretation of the elements – the vivid description of each kingdom are just beyond.

The pacing of the story flowed nicely and it also feels very short at 368 pages, so it was definitely a quick read for me that I was able finished it in a day.

I would’ve given this a 5 star rating if not for the hasty resolution, but I’m excited because I feel that there’s more to explore in this world and knowing N.R. Walker, she could easily spin something from this world that would be as good as this story! This is definitely something I’d recommend for those who are into fantasy-romance novels!

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Kindle Edition, 366 pagesPublished October 23rd 2020 by Blue Heart Press

About The Author
N.R. Walker is an Australian author, who loves her genre of gay romance. She loves writing and spends far too much time doing it, but wouldn’t have it any other way. She is many things; a mother, a wife, a sister, a writer. She has pretty, pretty boys who live in her head, who don’t let her sleep at night unless she gives them life with words.

She likes it when they do dirty, dirty things… but likes it even more when they fall in love.

She used to think having people in her head talking to her was weird, until one day she happened across other writers who told her it was normal. She’s been writing ever since.

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Manga Review: Cool Down by Akira Kabane

What a super cute story! Makoto is the son of the President of the company where Hirai works as a secretary. Makoto’s been in love with Hirai since they first met and Hirai feels the same way but their four years age gap hinders Hirai to take action towards the young boy. A company scandal resulted to Hirai getting fired but Makoto’s intervention cleared everything up leading to a promise that someday, he’ll be the one to protect the older guy.

I loved how Hirai totally waited for Makoto before finally doing it (although it was instigated by Makoto himself – very prevalent in Yaoi). The drawing isn’t that polished but they’re cute as well and the writing was simple, but overall very much enjoyable.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

About the Author:
ANBE Akira: かんべ あきら

Likes: Travelling, watching movies, eating.
Hates: Strong, bitter things

http://stj.sub.jp/

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Manga Review: 僕らはそれを否定できない [Bokura wa Sore o Hitei Dekinai] (Bokura #2) by Kyuugou

Blurb: In Spring of his junior high 2nd year, Saitou got in the same class as Suzuki. Receiving Saitou’s help while being bullied in first year, Suzuki smiled shyly while thinking, “what if we became friends”. Saitou is becoming more and more conscious about Suzuki and their relationship starts to change?!

In my opinion, We Can’t Deny has the best drawings out of allthe artist’ catalogue. I loved the sweetness of the story and the whole thing about Saito defending Suzuki. It was just sweet and I feel like giving Susuki a bear hug each time he gets bullied. Poor baby. Good thing, Saito’s always there for him.

Whilst I Can Tell By Your Hand got me confused about Makoto and Shin’s relationship – they are cousins because their dads are brothers – I wonder if the whole holding hands was still a bff thing. It was just odd how it was not properly established.

The storyline of this one is definitely way more solid than the first story of this series, and the art style somehow feels much refined. Will definitely recommend this one!

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Follow the author on Twitter https://twitter.com/coco_no2
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Manga Review: You & Me, Etc. (Bokura #1) by Kyuugou

Blurb: Iku and Keita have been buddies since childhood, and have played sports together their whole lives… until their final year in middle school, when Keita’s baseball career abruptly ended as a result of the severe injuries he sustained when saving Iku from being hit by a truck. Ever since that accident, Iku has distanced himself from both the game and his friend, presumably out of guilt. Can these two friends patch up their differences, and become something more…?

Jeez, the feels of this one! I would have liked a more detailed version of Keita’s accident and not just a recounting of Iku’s mom about it. Overall, I really did enjoy Iku and Keita’s interaction, though, I was grasping to connect well with them because although they have great interaction, they’re just far too few in between. Just the same, this was an exciting pick for me. The ending is specially wonderful! Absolutely sweet and adorable!

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Paperback, 194 pagesPublished February 8th 2011 by Blu (first published November 2007)

Follow the author on twitter at https://twitter.com/coco_no2

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Book Review: The Lightning-Struck Heart (Tales From Verania, #1) by TJ Klune

Once upon a time, in an alleyway in the slums of the City of Lockes, a young and somewhat lonely boy named Sam Haversford turns a group of teenage douchebags into stone completely by accident.

Of course, this catches the attention of a higher power, and Sam’s pulled from the only world he knows to become an apprentice to the King’s Wizard, Morgan of Shadows.

When Sam is fourteen, he enters the Dark Woods and returns with Gary, the hornless gay unicorn, and a half-giant named Tiggy, earning the moniker Sam of Wilds.

At fifteen, Sam learns what love truly is when a new knight arrives at the castle. Sir Ryan Foxheart, the dreamiest dream to have ever been dreamed.

Naturally, it all goes to hell through the years when Ryan dates the reprehensible Prince Justin, Sam can’t control his magic, a sexually aggressive dragon kidnaps the prince, and the King sends them on an epic quest to save Ryan’s boyfriend, all while Sam falls more in love with someone he can never have.

Or so he thinks.

This was from my archive whose review I’ve posted via Goodreads on June 18, 2015. I opted to just post the original here but let me add a few things because because I still remember the story and I do remember how delightful it was, and how I had to finish it right away because it was exciting, it was funny as hell obviously but more than anything, it’s also very affecting.

I just got my heart struck by the super-awesome-goodness of this book! It’s as fabulous as Gary! Super-sweet like Tiggy and as dashing and immaculately [written] like Ryan! Gawd! Sam, why you gotta be so oblivious?!? It’s the funniest book I’ve read this year and perhaps the one that moved me the most as well.

Is it so weird of me that the only thing that’s bothering me until now is when Justin haughtily told Sam that he got Ryan on all fours begging for it…like, super TMI. I didn’t need to hear that seriously….yeah, guess I’m weird like that.

Anyways, again – let me emphasize how I super-loved this one!!!!!!!!!!!!! And I cannot wait for their next adventure!!!!!!!!
Jeez, I almost forgot about Kevin. LOL

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

About The Author
TJ KLUNE is a Lambda Literary Award-winning author (Into This River I Drown) and an ex-claims examiner for an insurance company. His novels include the Green Creek series, The House on the Cerulean Sea and The Exraordinaries. Being queer himself, TJ believes it’s important–now more than ever–to have accurate, positive, queer representation in stories.

tjklunebooks.com

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Review: Synchronicity by Keira Andrews

Prompt: Dear Author,
I could look at him all day. But sometimes, when he thinks I’m not looking, he seems so sad…

Blurb: It’s the opportunity of a lifetime for Tyler Bourne to compete in Olympic synchronized diving with veteran Aiden Oxford. The last thing he expects is to fall head over heels for his gorgeous partner. Friendly but distant, Aiden keeps him at arm’s length, and Tyler knows his feelings are hopelessly one-sided. But as the Games begin, Tyler learns nothing is certain until the final dive.

I totally loved the prompt for this one. I always enjoy reading sports theme story only if they don’t get too technical. Keira didn’t overdo it with this shorty and both MCs are adorable! I loved the ending as well although I’m still yearning more from Aiden because the story was told through Tyler’s POV and it’d be fun to have a follow up and perhaps getting the gold in the next Olympics although Aiden’s pretty old here so a twist is in need if ever the author decided (for some reason) to ever come up with a follow up.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

You can download your copy for free:

This story was written as a part of the Goodreads M/M Romance Group’s “Love Has No Boundaries” event. Group members were asked to write a story prompt inspired by a photo of their choice. Authors of the group selected a photo and prompt that spoke to them and wrote a short story.
Kindle Edition, 52 pages
Published July 14th 2014 (first published June 18th 2013)

About the Author
After writing for years yet never really finding the right inspiration, Keira discovered her voice in gay romance, which has become a passion. She writes contemporary, historical, paranormal and fantasy fiction, and—although she loves delicious angst along the way—Keira firmly believes in happy endings. For as Oscar Wilde once said, “The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what fiction means.”

Book Review: Beauty and the Mustache by Penny Reid

Blurb: There are three things you need to know about Ashley Winston: 1) She has six brothers and they all have beards, 2) She is a reader, and 3) She knows how to knit.

Former beauty queen, Ashley Winston’s preferred coping strategy is escapism. She escaped her Tennessee small town, loathsome father, and six brothers eight years ago. Now she escapes life daily via her Amazon kindle one-click addiction. However, when a family tragedy forces her to return home, Ashley can’t escape the notice of Drew Runous— local Game Warden, reclusive mountain man, bear wrestler, philosopher, and everyone’s favorite guy. Drew’s irksome philosophizing in particular makes Ashley want to run for the skyscrapers, especially since he can’t seem to keep his exasperating opinions— or his soulful poetry, steadfast support, and delightful hands— to himself. Pretty soon the girl who wanted nothing more than the escape of the big city finds she’s lost her heart in small town Tennessee.

I do love this author and I’ve enjoyed majority of her works but halfway through this one, I started skimming a bit because it’s just gotten repetitive. Drew’s stoic characterization isn’t really that far-fetched from the “romance novel” characters Ashley was adamantly avoiding. I was rolling my eyes over Drew’s histrionics and the whole Nietzsche fanboying was just cringe if I’m being totally honest. It’s a shame because Ashley’s character is absolutely interesting and there’s so many aspect of her characterization to really flesh out!

Also, Ashley’s brother pushing her towards Drew just doesn’t make sense to me. It feels exploitative in a way. For me, there was just not enough chemistry for me between them.

Only fun I’ve had reading this were the small bits involving Cletus. He’s funny, very likable and dreamy to boot!

I find Reid’s books usually enjoyable but this one isn’t just for me.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Kindle Edition, 372 pagesPublished July 1st 2019 by Cipher-Naught (first published August 24th 2014)

Beauty and the Mustache is a full-length novel, can be read as a standalone, and is the fourth book in the ‘Knitting in the City’ series.

About Penny Reid
Penny Reid is a USA Today Best Selling Author of romantic fiction. When she’s not immersed in penning smart romances she works in the biotech industry as a researcher. She’s also a full time mom to three diminutive adults (boy-8, girl-6, and girl-4 months), wife, daughter, knitter, crocheter, sewer, general crafter, and thought ninja.

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