A MelanieM Review: Baked Fresh (Portland Heat #2) by Annabeth Albert

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Baked Fresh coverFrom its famous coffee to the mouthwatering fare at its cafés, restaurants, and bakeries, Portland, Oregon, has a lot to whet the appetite, including the hard-working men who serve it all up—hot, fresh, and ready to go—with no reservations…

Vic Degrassi is a baker on the rise, and it’s all thanks to his rare ability to make—and keep—his New Year’s resolutions. Whether it’s losing weight, giving up smoking, or graduating from culinary school, Vic goes after what he wants—and gets it. This year? He wants Robin Dawson, the sweet-hearted hottie who volunteers with him at the local homeless shelter. When he learns that Robin is suddenly single after being unceremoniously dumped, Vic is more than happy to offer a shoulder to cry on—or at least a fresh-baked pastry to bite into. But it’s been a long time since Vic’s gone on a date, and he’s nervous about risking his friendship with Robin. So when their flirtation turns into a steamy night together, Vic and Robin have to figure out if they’re friends with benefits or lovers in the making, and if Robin is ready for something more than just a rebound. There’s only one way to find out: turn up the heat…

Annabeth Albert is an author I was unfamiliar with before now. Baked Fresh is my first introduction and its a good one.  The blurb offers up a number of elements guaranteed to pull me in such as cooking, baking, and romance.  But what is not apparent from the synopsis is that Baked Fresh contains one more element that I find irresistable….realistic characters who physically conform more to the norm than to the “Greek god” form of perfection.

Please don’t get me wrong…I do love my romances that contain love between two rugged/stunning/drop dead gorgeous/over the top specimens of the male gender. *fans* But its all about variety for me as well.  I want the guys who are a little worn around the edges, maybe a little bald or plump, maybe a little older or tarnished in attitude or outlook. Or even those men who have worked hard to tone up or better themselves….for themselves.  And its those men that Albert is writing about…heartwarmingly and realistically.  They grabbed at my heartstrings and I hope you will give them a chance.  Let’s take a closer look.

Vic DeGrassi is one of those quiet, surprising men that you might actually meet on the streets, Portland or otherwise.  A family history of heart disease and dying young made Vic take a hard look at his own health and extra (lots of extra) weight that he was carrying.  His answer to his predicament is a stomach band, a brave and often unpleasant operation.  Albert lets us into the fact that this is not the glamourous cure all you might think it is.  There’s the ugly scar, the minuscule list of food items that Vic can eat without making himself ill….it’s not an easy lifestyle to maintain, even after the operation.  But Vic looks at the risks and changes his lifestyle and we believe in him all the way.  The operation is over when the book begins and Vic has already well on his way to remaking himself.  He shaved his head, works out but the image in his mind is still the large, ungainly guy he remembers reflected back at him all those years, from his family included. The man you come to love through his thoughts, conversation and actions is a little more “old world” in manners, and outlook.  Vic’s charming, protective, and a wonderful man.   And he’s perfect for Robin.

Robin Dawson is also that quiet young man working away, trying to make a difference in his community and world.  He’s a little beaten down, lacking in self confidence.  His background is more problematic than Vic’s and it will explain his work at the local shelter, again made very authentic for the reader.  Robin’s pain is never far from the service and we meet him on a downward spiral after being dumped.  I took him to heart as well.

Their relationship is slow to grow, which is great.  We are there as Vic and Robin build something substantial, brick by hopeful brick.  They get to know each other, there are some surprises and quite a lot of very sexy love scenes.  These two, especially Vic, are inventive and fierce when they finally come together.  It’s hot, its sexy and it’s a lot of fun to read.

Is the book perfect?  No, just as its characters, it has some flaws and imperfections.  Not enough background in some cases, too much exposition in others.  And also a tad short…..I did want more of Vic and Robin and their future together.  You will too.

I haven’t read the first story and you really don’t need to in order to involve yourself with Vic and Robin.  But I so enjoyed this story that I will be searching out the first and then waiting for the third story to arrive.  I believe Annabeth Albert has me hooked with her honest characters, heartwarming romance and believable plots.  So consider Baked Fresh by Annabeth Albert a new wonderful surprise and a lovely recommended read.

Cover art by ?, I thought the cover  quiet and simple.  Not over the top which is actually kind of perfect for the men within, neither of which are those models on the cover.  That’s the only shame.

Sales Links:   All Romance (ARe)          Amazon              Buy It Here

Book Details:

ebook, 159 pages
Expected publication: April 13th 2015 by Kensington
ISBN 1601833938 (ISBN13: 9781601833938)
seriesPortland Heat #2

Book in the Portland Heat series:

Served Hot (Portland Heat, #1)
Baked Fresh (Portland Heat, #2)
Delivered Fast (Portland Heat, #3)

 

A Sammy Review: Cronin’s Key (Cronin’s Key #1) by N.R. Walker

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5:

Cronin's key coverWeird and Alec MacAidan tend to go together. From bending bullets to people suddenly turning to ash, his experience on the police force and in life haven’t necessarily been the most normal, but it’s about to get a whole lot weirder when a vampire named Cronin shows up at the station and disappears with Alec in front of a whole bunch of cops.

Alec’s full of questions, but the answers always seem to lead to more. There’s a whole other world out there Alec had no idea about, and Cronin and his coven are all part of that. Alec’s been told most of his life that he’s special, but he just never had this in mind – being fated to a vampire is one thing, but what they discover about just how special he is… well that’s a whole different ball game.

He wanted to be everything to Cronin. And he would be. Everything he needed, everything he wanted, Alec was it.

 As Cronin was to him.

N.R. Walker has always been the author I go to when I need a break from reality. her books tend to provide me with easy escapes and easy reads, and Cronin’s Key is no different. When I had time to read, I flew through the pages and thoroughly enjoyed myself.

This book, which I hope is the first in at least a three book series, provides a great introduction to both Alec and Cronin. They both have distinct personalities that Walker does a great job of highlighting. Furthermore, the way that the connection between them builds, despite there being an instant love factor due to fate, is really great, especially the bits of humor that are laced into it. I had so much fun reading their banter and it kept me smiling.

The side characters were really great too. I enjoyed getting to know them as well as how they laced into the story of Alec and Cronin. They didn’t take away from it, but they added greatly to the depth. It presented a whole new dynamic that I certainly appreciated.

But my favorite part, hands down, is the alternate history and therefore the world that Walker created. Instead of just throwing vampires into society as we know it, she took events such as the Black Plague and reimagined them. I was so giddy over this and so enamored by the past that she built. I really hope that this continues in coming books, as it was such a strong element to the book that it’s something I will remember this book for.

My only complaint would be that I wasn’t immediately drawn in at the beginning, and unfortunately some of the lines were a bit cheesy, especially toward the end in battle scenes. It was just that the villain sounded like they were from a badly scripted series, but besides that, it read very well. In general, this was a fun start to a new series that I will look forward to reading more of.

The cover art by Sara York does a nice job of accenting the story, though I am not necessarily the most pleased with it aesthetically. It fits the story, but looks-wise, it’s not that great.

 

Sales Links:    All Romance (ARe)      Amazon        Buy It Here

Book Details:

ebook, 265 pages
Published March 13th 2015 by Self-Published (first published March 12th 2015)
original titleCronin’s Key
edition languageEnglish
seriesCronin’s Key #1

A Mika Review: You In My Arms (The Sunset Club #1) by A.C. Katt

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Rating: 2.75 stars out of 5 star

You in My Arms coverJason’s priorities are non-negotiable: take care of his sister; keep a roof over their heads; go back to school eventually. Can one club owner make it easier to uphold his priorities and maybe add him to the list? 

Jason Monroe had to leave school to be the guardian of his sister Kitty when his dad and step-mom die in a car crash. He’s working two jobs to keep them afloat, but their boat is leaking much like the roof of their old house. Jason doesn’t have time for love that is until Zach Montgomery, the owner of the Sunset Club, the premier gay club on the Jersey Shore comes calling.

I love kids, and tragedy together. You In My Arms by A.C.. Katt has both.  I honestly liked the characters. Of course we had a crude guy who didn’t do relationships, because hey, that’s what appeals to people. I knew right off the back his tune was going to change once he met the right person. I think it has the potential to be a 4 star book if the author went in with a red pen and crossed out most of the communication between the two. On my goodness, these people TALKED too damn much. It was so scatter-brained between everyone. I mean, come on, one minute one topic then the next it’s tears and run on sentences. I actually didn’t see the chemistry building up between the two so fast. One minute they were in the bar talking, the next Zach bogarts his way into Jason’s life.

I actually liked how devoted Jason was to taking care of his sister. But some things in the story? I don’t know if I believed in them well enough because its as though Jason had blinders on. Zach definitely moved fast when it came to Jason, I mean super fast. All in all, it was okay. I enjoyed the premise more than the execution.

Cover Art by: WinterHeart design. I think the design team got it backwards. Zach is supposed to be the older burnet guy, where as on the cover he looks the youngest. Jason was the 22 yr old blond and he looks middle aged to me. I think it could have been better.

Sales Links:   MLR Books       All Romance (ARe)         Amazon           Buy It Here

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 166 pages
Published March 19th 2015 by ManLove Romance Press
ASINB00UZIXQ58
edition languageEnglish
seriesThe Sunset Club #1

Need A Recipe for Love? It’s Annabeth Albert’s Baked Fresh! (excerpt and giveaway)

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Baked Fresh cover

 Baked Fresh by Annabeth Albert
A Portland Heat Story

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Release Date: April 13, 2015

STRW Author BookSynopsis

From its famous coffee to the mouthwatering fare at its cafés, restaurants, and bakeries, Portland, Oregon, has a lot to whet the appetite, including the hard-working men who serve it all up—hot, fresh, and ready to go—with no reservations…

Vic Degrassi is a baker on the rise, and it’s all thanks to his rare ability to make—and keep—his New Year’s resolutions. Whether it’s losing weight, giving up smoking, or graduating from culinary school, Vic goes after what he wants—and gets it. This year? He wants Robin Dawson, the sweet-hearted hottie who volunteers with him at the local homeless shelter. When he learns that Robin is suddenly single after being unceremoniously dumped, Vic is more than happy to offer a shoulder to cry on—or at least a fresh-baked pastry to bite into. But it’s been a long time since Vic’s gone on a date, and he’s nervous about risking his friendship with Robin. So when their flirtation turns into a steamy night together, Vic and Robin have to figure out if they’re friends with benefits or lovers in the making, and if Robin is ready for something more than just a rebound. There’s only one way to find out: turn up the heat…

Pages or Words: 45,000 words

Categories: Erotica, Fiction, Gay Fiction, M/M Romance, Romance

STRW Spotlight Book Excerpt

“So, what’s your plan this year?” Cliff asked as we unloaded pallets of food for Victory Mission. The stinging December wind whipped through the loading dock, howling against the concrete walls. I had to strain to hear Cliff’s booming voice. “Sky diving? Marathon? How you gonna top last year, Vic?”

“Dunno.” I hefted a box of tomato sauce cans. That’s what everyone wanted to know—how I was going to top last year’s resolution to lose a hundred pounds. Truth was, I was pretty good at resolutions. Four years ago, I’d resolved to go to culinary school. Three years ago, I gave up smoking. And last year I lost 111 pounds. But this year I had a smaller, simpler goal in mind.

“Thought I might try dating.”

“Dating? As in a boyfriend?” Cliff snorted, a dry sound that echoed off the metal loading bay doors. “I’d go with a marathon.”
My stomach churned as I grabbed another box of rolls. I had my own doubts. I was hardly a prize catch. I hadn’t dated anyone in the four years I’d been working for Cliff. Never had a boyfriend beyond the rare three-peat hookup. ’Course, Cliff didn’t know about my hookups, but I hadn’t even had one of those in eight long months. Up until a few months ago, I hadn’t realized what I was missing. Ever since then, this weird, restless longing had plagued me. New Year’s was the perfect excuse to do something about it. Get out there.

“You guys done out here? Whole stack of boxes waiting inside. We don’t have all day.” Robin bustled out onto the dock, bringing a shit-ton of bad mood with him. A far cry from the sunny, talkative guy who made me think crazy thoughts, like that maybe dating wasn’t a terrible idea. He was gone before either Cliff or I could reply.

“What’s up with him?” I asked Cliff once I heard the pantry door shut inside.

“Melissa said Paul broke up with him.” Cliff always found the gossip. The food bank volunteers were like bored high schoolers, passing rumors around their shifts like joints at a party.

“Finally.” I didn’t realize I’d said the word aloud until Cliff laughed.

“Aha! On second thought, I highly approve of your resolution. I’m gonna have to get a bet going with Trish about whether or not you can land your man. Talk about aiming high though, kid.”

“Didn’t say anything about dating Robin,” I mumbled into a sack of rice. The last time Robin was single, I had spent months thinking about him. Wondering if he was out of my league. Knowing he was out of my league but trying to work up the courage to ask him out anyway. Coming to volunteer more often just to be around him. Then Paul swooped in like a star pitcher and sent me back to the minor leagues, where I belonged.

I readjusted my grip on the sack so I wouldn’t accidentally tear the darn thing in two. No, I wasn’t stupid enough to make a resolution to date Robin. I just wanted to get out there. Give myself a chance to maybe meet a nice guy who wouldn’t care about my food issues and my loose skin and my bald-by-choice look.

But now that Cliff had planted the dating-Robin idea in my brain, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Which irked the hell out of me. I’d worked hard to deep-six my crush on him. Finding out he was single was a stupid reason to unearth it. Robin was the nice guy of my fantasies. And fucking gorgeous. He was sex walking around in KEENs and hipster T-shirts. He was everything I wanted and everything I wasn’t ever going to have.

*****
Once Vic resolves to be Robin’s rebound guy, can he convince Robin that they’re meant to be? Find out in BAKED FRESH!

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Goodreads Link
Publisher: Kensington
Cover Artist: Fiona Jayde

Sales Links:  Amazon – Barnes & Noble – Kobo

STRW Author Bio and Contacts

Annabeth 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.

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 toddlers.
Represented by Saritza Hernandez of the Corvisiero Literary Agency

Where to find the author:

Website: http://www.annabethalbert.com
Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/AnnabethAlbert
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/annabethalbert
Tumblr: https://www.annabethalbert.tumblr.com
Fan group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/annabethsangels/

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Tour Dates & Stops: April 14, 2015

Parker Williams, MM Good Book Reviews, Divine Magazine, Fangirl Moments and My Two Cents, BFD Book Blog, Tara Lain, Hearts on Fire, Bayou Book Junkie, My Fiction Nook, Inked Rainbow Reads, LeAnn’s Book Reviews, Love Bytes, Rainbow Gold Reviews, Bike Book Reviews, Molly Lolly, Wicked Faerie’s Tales and Reviews,Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words, Elisa – My Reviews and Ramblings, Cathy Brockman Romances, Cate Ashwood, Three Chicks After Dark, The Fuzzy, Fluffy World of Chris T. Kat, Because Two Men Are Better, Than One, Charley Descoteaux, Foxylutely Book Reviews, Elin Gregory, Andrew Q. Gordon

 

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Contest: Enter to win a Rafflecopter Prize: $10 gift card + a book from Annabeth’s backlist. Must be 18 years of age or older to enter. Link and prizes provided by the author and Pride Promotions.

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In the Spotlight: When The Band Came To Town by H. Lewis-Foster (excerpt and contest)

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WhenTheBandCameToTown cover

When The Band Came To Town by H. Lewis-Foster
Goodreads Link
Release Date: April 8, 2015

STRW In The Spotlight Header

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Cover Artist: Bree Archer

 Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press

Amazon  – Barnes and Noble – All Romance Ebooks – Google Play

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STRW Author BookSynopsis

About When The Band Came To Town:

In the swinging Sixties, life gets rockin’ for Jeff McInnery when a new band plays at the local pub. Caught up in lead singer Danny Speed’s cool, Jeff sneaks a kiss. But being found out as homosexual could stop Danny’s hot career fast, and even land him in jail. With harsh words, Danny leaves to head for fame and fortune while Jeff starts university. On campus, Jeff meets Archie Ballatine, a history student living as openly as possible. It’s an exciting new world of sex and friendship for Jeff, but then the band comes back to town.

Pages or Words: 30,000 words

Categories: Contemporary, Fiction, Gay Fiction, M/M Romance, Romance

STRW Spotlight Book Excerpt

“So what’ll you be studying?”

Jeff prepared for the usual perplexed reaction when he gave his answer. “Philosophy, would you believe? God knows what I’ll do with my degree when I’ve finished.”

“You’ll fathom the secrets of the universe, Jeff.” Danny sounded utterly serious as he stubbed out his cigarette in an ashtray.

Then he broke into a grin. “Now come and have a dance.”

“What?” Jeff was sure Danny must be taking the piss.

“You heard me.” Danny stepped onto the dance floor and was soon moving to the music. His hips were twisting, his knees bending, and his backside gyrating in an unbearably provocative way. “Or do philosophers not lower themselves to such things?”

 STRW Author Bio and Contacts

About the author:

H. Lewis-Foster lives in the north of England and has always worked with books in one form or another. As a keen reader of gay fiction, she decided to try writing herself and is now the proud author of several short stories and a debut novel ‘Burning Ashes’.

H. likes to create characters that are talented, funny and quite often gorgeous, but who all have their faults and vulnerable sides, and she hopes that you’ll enjoy reading their stories as much as she loves writing them. H. has also ventured into playwriting and was thrilled to see her first play performed at the Southend Playwriting Festival.

Where to find the author:
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/HLewisFoster
Twitter: https://twitter.com/HLewisFoster
Website: http://hlewisfoster.wix.com/books

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Tour Dates & Stops: April 14, 2014

Parker Williams, Bayou Book Junkie, Fangirl Moments and My Two Cents, Molly Lolly, Inked Rainbow Reads, Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words, Bike Book Reviews, Love Bytes, Wicked Faerie’s Tales and Reviews, Sinfully Addicted to All Male Romance, BFD Book Blog, Cate Ashwood, Chris McHart, Divine Magazine, MM Good Book Reviews, Elisa – My Reviews and Ramblings, Rainbow Gold Reviews, Wake Up Your Wild Side, 3 Chicks After Dark, Up All Night, Read All Day

 

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Enter to win a Rafflecopter Prize: E-copy of ‘When The Band Came To Town’ by H. Lewis-Foster. Must be 18 years of age or older to enter. Rafflecopter link and prizes provided by the author and Pride Promotions.

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In Our Book Spotlight: Down On the Other Street by Jennifer Cie (excerpt and Giveaway)

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 Jennifer Cie is back in the Spotlight with the second book of Down On the Other Street collection of stories!

Check it all out below, including our exclusive excerpt, and don’t’ forget to enter the contest!

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Down On The Other Street Book Two by Jennifer Cie

Goodreads Link

Release Date: April 13, 2015

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STRW Author BookSynopsis

About Down On The Other Street – Volume Two:

Scars dripping over broken skin and whispers silenced, there can be no point of return. Wrapped in the ripples of warm waters, staring down at unkempt mountains, Stefanie can feel the thrum of the old world’s song. The first conversation, stained into ceramic cups and shadows in the night, gave birth to the last confession. Before metal bars clanged shut or chanting grew quiet, there was the woman with the violet smile. Somewhere in the gaggle of exposed bodies, worn cassettes and children’s fairy tales, he is waiting for the red coat. Woven together through trials of sexuality, political dissonance, and self-discovery, this heady collection of six short stories examines who we become after finding love

Pages or Words: 152 pages, 29,122 words

Categories: Bisexual, Contemporary, Fiction, New Adult, Romance

STRW Spotlight Book Excerpt

Down On The Other Street: Vol 2 Exclusive –From “Ceramic Cups”

The air of confidence that had brought us there from dinner at CK’s diner, the seats of your rattling Oldsmobile, and new indents in your sofa’s cushions had decompressed. You were suffocating under sheets of “I-never-do-this” and “God-you-must-think-I’m-a-slut.” The way you choked on waves of silence as I traced my finger across your collarbone was adorable. I would have given anything to be you—so beautiful, attempting to find poise in uncertainty at twenty-three, and still hungry for the ailment lingering underneath your sheets.

At the inevitable end of your unnecessary confessions of “not-being-the-type,” I didn’t confide that I understood on a personal level. I teased you, mercilessly. I pressed against you with the type of intensity that had made you melt minutes before.

Watching your eyes roll back, straddling the lines of pain and immutable pleasure, I asked if you were sure of your type.

Trailing kisses back down your body, I gave some lengthy whispers of sinners tasting better than saints. Running the thumb of my free hand across your lips, while gripping your hipbone with the other, I reveled in every gasp of your misery.

I think I should have told you then, about the difference. In that moment, rather than ignoring the heart whimpering on your shoulder, trying to overpower your body’s aching, I should have explained the difference between being in love and screwing someone into a wordless stupor.

 

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Publisher: Jennifer Cie
Cover Artist: Najla Qamber

Sales Links: iTunes – Amazon Amazon Kindle  (0.99) – NookCreatespace and Kobo

STRW Author Bio and Contacts

About  Author Jennifer Cie

Jennifer Cie is a Tennessee native who loves taking aimless road trips and diving into social issues through her writing. A fan of poorly playing tennis, using snail mail, and longing for the return of Brach’s Red Twist, when she is not indulging her guilty pleasure of taste testing whiskey and low grade tequila—for science, you can find her rambling about poor life decisions, book formatting, and everything in between on her blog: http://www.journeytopaperback.com

Where to find the author:

Twitter: @JenniferCie1
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/jennifercie/
Blog: http://www.journeytopaperback.com
Goodreads Author Page

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Contest:  Must be 18 years of age or older to enter.  Rafflecopter link and prizes provided by Pride Promotions.

Enter to win a Rafflecopter Prize: E-copy of ‘Down on the Other Street, Volume Two’

Rafflecopter Code:
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Tour Dates & Stops:

13-Apr

My Fiction Nook

14-Apr

Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words

The Novel Approach

15-Apr

MM Good Book Reviews

16-Apr

Nephylim

Love Bytes

17-Apr

Prism Book Alliance

20-Apr

Bayou Book Junkie

21-Apr

Book Reviews, Rants, and Raves

22-Apr

BFD Book Blog

23-Apr

Inked Rainbow Reads

24-Apr

Molly Lolly

27-Apr

Rainbow Gold Reviews