A MelanieM Release Day Review: Acting Up by John Inman

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Rating:  3 stars out of 5

acting-up-by-john-inmanIt’s not easy breaking into show biz. Especially when you aren’t exactly loaded with talent. But Malcolm Fox won’t let a little thing like that hold him back.

Actually, it isn’t the show-business part of his life that bothers him as much as the romantic part—or the lack thereof. At twenty-six, Malcolm has never been in love. He lives in San Diego with his roommate, Beth, another struggling actor, and each of them is just as unsuccessful as the other. While Malcolm toddles off to this audition and that, he ponders the lack of excitement in his life. The lack of purpose. The lack of a man.

Then Beth’s brother moves in.

Freshly imported from Missouri of all places, Cory Williams is a towering hunk of muscles and innocence, and Malcolm is gobsmacked by the sexiness of his new roomie from the start. When infatuation enters the picture, Malcolm knows he’s really in trouble. After all, Cory is straight!

At least, that’s the general consensus.

Acting Up by John Inman has been a hard book to review.  I love John Inman.  I find his books hilarious, his characters by turns gut wrenchingly funny, full of self doubt, sometimes followed by the pain of their pasts or present, nerdy, shy, verbose, hormone driven, dog loving….characters that I could always  connect with and love.  Then came Malcolm.

Connecting with Malcolm took some doing, especially as the book’s in his pov.  For about the first 25 to maybe even 30 percent I really struggled to like Malcolm. So snarky as to be self involved, he had just one too many traits that he threatened to derail his his own story.  Even Cory showing up didn’t exactly help.  Not immediately.  Which was probably a good thing.  It wouldn’t have felt believable.  Malcolm had some thinking and growing to do.  So did Cory.  And right when you wanted to pack this story in, a funny thing happened, the characters turned themselves and it around.

Just prior to Cory making a confession, Malcolm had started to realize that his feelings were changing and therefore, his behavior should follow.  And instead of a snarky hard to read story, Acting Up becomes a wonderful, sweet contemporary romance it really could have been/was all along.   This includes Malcolm’s hilarious mother who always is there for surprisingly good advice (along with her latest beau) and Cory’s sis and Malcolm’s roommate.   As John Inman swings us into the end of the story, he wraps up the romance with a finale that leaves us all smiling.    I just wish it hadn’t taken so long to get it all started.

So I don’t know what to tell you.  I loved 3/4th of this book and thought  that made up for the beginning.  But some of you might not be able to get through that 25 percent.  That decision I will leave up to you.

Cover art by Reese Dante is wonderful and a perfect representation of the characters.

Sales Links

        

Book Details:

ebook, 200 pages
Published December 23rd 2016 by Dreamspinner Press
Original TitleActing Up
ISBN 1634773551 (ISBN13: 9781634773553)
Edition LanguageEnglish

A MelanieM Advent Calendar Review Day 23: Mele Kalikimaka by B.G. Thomas and Noah Willoughby

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

mele-kalikimakaBeing rich has its advantages, but it is also rife with suffocating pressures and family telling Chandler Buckingham how to live his life. When his assistant offers to help him escape the mounting obligations of the holiday season by running away to Hawaii, Chandler jumps at the chance. Only to find nothing is quite as he’d expected.

Micah Keolu has lived in Hawaii all his life. He has to work two jobs and has little time for a social life, but his loving family and the island beauty around him have given him a heart as big as the ocean. And then one day he rescues a man trapped in an elevator in the building where Micah lives and works maintenance.

The unexpected happens as they find themselves drawn together, only to learn there is more to each other than meets the eye. Can two men from very different worlds find a way to enrich each other’s lives? Maybe the magic of the holidays just might bring them lasting joy!

Mele Kalikimaka by B.G. Thomas and Noah Willoughby grew on me.  The beginning was a little scattered in my opinion, and the main character of Chandler comes off in a less than promising light. If that was the authors intent, it worked.

However, from the moment, he lands in Hawaii in a small apartment and starts having to fend for himself, he turns around…slowly.  That makeover is due to Micah Keolu, the second main character in this holiday romance.   He’s nicely layered and comes across as “Hawaiian” enough to  feel believable and centered in the culture and the location.

I will admit that any story that features Hawaiian characters and locations  runs the disadvantage of comparisons with another author whose  stories and main characters just remain the Hawaiian read and series due to extraordinary understanding and use of local colloquialisms and culture. Within his stories that usage is seamless and so much a part of his characters and storylines that its elemental.  So when I say these authors do a nice job in the short length they chose?  Well, yes it works.

The romance builds nicely, including when the revelations about Chandler pop out.  It would have felt wrong had he continued to hide who he was.   However, some of what did  bother me was the HFN ending.  Its  addressed here, thank you authors for doing that.  Its has to be because the reality of Chandler and Micah is something they need to face as well.  Perhaps a followup story will be coming.  Neither author seems to shy away from the hard questions  that these men will need to address.  Maybe a second story will see them on their way to finding those answers.  That’s another story I would love to read.

Til then Mele Kalikimaka from B.G. Thomas and Noah Willoughby is another strong story in the Advent Calendar series from Dreamsinner Press.

Cover art by Catt Ford is cute but  she totally get the characters wrong other than the hair coloring.  Chandler doesn’t look like a clueless pampered rich man,and Micah doesn’t come close to resembling the mix of races that makeup being Hawaiian.

Sales Links

Book Details:

ebook, 95 pages
Published December 1st 2016 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1635331854 (ISBN13: 9781635331851)
Edition LanguageEnglish
Series2016 Advent Calendar – Bah Humbug

An Alisa Review: Unlikely Companions by Harold Mason

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Rating:  4 stars out of 5

 

unlikely-companions-by-harold-masonRobert Saddler is drowning in debt, so he decides to join the United States Army. His aim is to experience the world but also make some money to pay off his college debts and get a GI Loan to further his education. After basic training, he’s deployed to Germany, where he joins a unit where his skills as a draftsman are in demand. He also has to serve as driver to First Lieutenant Tony Stryker.

 

Tony Stryker is not an easy man to get along with. The word in the barracks is that he is a spoiled brat. Their first encounter isn’t auspicious, but once the two men get to know each other better, things improve drastically.

 

Tony is a career Army man, but Robert eventually wants to go back to San Francisco to study architecture. What will happen to their budding relationship when Robert’s tour of duty ends in eighteen months?

 

This was a nice story.  Robert and Tony meet Robert’s first day of deployment in Germany and things don’t get off to a great start.  The next day is even worse until Robert snaps back at Tony for his attitude.  Unfortunately they both know there is an end date to their time together.  Tony is probably the only pacifist army lieutenant to exist and it takes him getting the courage to speak to his father (another career army man) for their future to be possible.

 

This story is told from Robert’s point of view which helps show how hard Tony is to get to know (as everyone in barracks says).  They open up with each other when they are stranded away from base during a storm and have to stay in a hotel overnight.  I liked the fact that they became good friends before anything is a big help to making it a last relationship.

 

The cover art is cute and shows the characters connections to each other.

 

Sales Links: JMS Books | Amazon | ARe

 

Book Details:

ebook, 86 pages

Published: November 12, 2016 by JMS Books

ISBN: 9781634862233

Edition Language: English

A Lila Review: Galaxy’s Heart (Sutter’s Bay #3) by Shawn Lane

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

galaxys-heart-by-shawn-laneTen years ago, Galaxy Winthrop had a one-night stand with the hottest guy ever. Galaxy also remembered one other thing from that night — the man’s mention of the Northern California town, Sutter’s Bay, where he once lived. Now, Galaxy has made it his mission to save his troubled little brother, Leo. The once-bright, bubbly kid has become sullen, quiet, and despondent. The quaint, picturesque Sutter’s Bay seems the perfect location to start a new life for himself and Leo.

Adam Colfer returned to Sutter’s Bay to run his dad’s diner. He’d thought he’d left the town behind when he moved to San Francisco, but it seemed Sutter’s Bay had other plans. After an explosive night with Galaxy a decade earlier, Adam had awoken to an empty bed. But now Galaxy is in Sutter’s Bay and Adam can’t help but wonder if this is his second chance to win Galaxy’s heart.

Galaxy’s Heart has the depth of an established relationship even after the main characters’ ten years separation. The opening scenes are more of a collection of vignettes, showing the original meeting between Galaxy and Adam, than a compelling narrative. If you sneeze, you would miss it, and the actual encounter fades to black—which is odd since it sets the rest of the story.

We see Adam in all the previous books, and Galaxy shows at the end of the Twice in a Lifetime. I enjoyed their simple relationship and how grounded they were in comparison with couples in other stories I have read recently. I think that level of maturity is sometimes missing in this genre.

Their reunion was sweet and easy going. The book has a fast pace, like all short stories, but the author packed it with as much plot twists as possible. We get to see most characters from previous books. Plus, some new ones are introduced.

My only problem with the story were the over-the-top events taking place to move the plot forward. They make sense taking into consideration that this is a previously published story and some of the details were consistent with early mm romance books. But, I think some could have been updated to give the story a more long lasting feel.

Overall, this is a nice addition to the series—a quick story to read in an afternoon or between longer books. As always, Sutter Bay brings the best out of the main characters; with a healthy dose of ‘suspend disbelief.’

The cover matches the previous books, with two men and a view of Sutter’s view.

Sale Links: JMS Books | Amazon | ARe

Book Details:

ebook, 97 pages
Published: November 5, 2016, by JMS Books
ISBN: 9781634861434
Edition Language: English

Series: Sutter’s Bay
Book #1: Sweet Reunion
Book #2: Twice in a Lifetime
Book #3: Galaxy’s Heart

 

In Our Holiday Spotlight: Falling Snow on Snow by Lou Sylvre (exclusive excerpt/guest blog and giveaway)

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Falling Snow on Snow by Lou Sylvre
D
reamspinner Press
Cover art by L.C. Chase

Release Date: December 23, 2016

Available for Purchase at

      
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About Falling Snow on Snow

Beck Justice knows holiday sparkle and snappy carols only mask December’s cruel, black heart. He learned that lesson even before he landed on the streets eight years ago, and his recent step up to a tiny apartment and a busker’s permit for Seattle’s Pike Place Market has done nothing to change his mind. But one day in the market, Oleg Abramov joins his ethereal voice to Beck’s guitar, and Beck glimpses light in his bleak, dark winter.

Oleg, lucky to have a large and loving family, believes Beck could be the man to fill the void that nevertheless remains in his life. The two men step out on a path toward love, but it proves as slippery as Seattle’s icy streets. Just when they get close, a misunderstanding shatters their hopes. Light and harmony are still within reach, but only if they choose to believe, risk their hearts, and trust.

Exclusive Excerpt

Lonely.

Most of the time, Oleg didn’t like to think that’s what he was. He was a lucky guy; he knew that. He had a big, loving, accepting family, and all of them had more to be thankful for than many. They’d come from cold, hungry, Russia in the 1990s, and unlike most refugees they had what were called by the welfare people they’d had to depend on when they first arrived, “marketable skills.”

What the family had was music, and it had opened so many doors for them. Now they had made their name in early music circles, had regular bookings for concerts and special appearances as a group and individually, and they had a home. Warm, large, but not so much so that it ever felt too spacious. Never empty. Air rich with the smells of stroganoff, borscht, shashik, or honeycake. Ready laughter, flash-in-the-pan tempers, small favors asked or done. And behind it all, in the Abramov home, always the music: scales ad infinitum, students repeating sixteen measures over and over slow to fast and finally tumbling into the following passage. Sometimes, too, whole beautifully sculpted pieces, perilous to the listening—or performing—heart.

Home, for Oleg Andreyevich Abramov was a luck-laden word indeed. For in Russia, beloved though the country might be in some ways, the family had endured cold and hunger and hate—the former because of political and economic collapse, the latter mostly because Andrei, Oleg’s father, was Jewish. Oleg, youngest by nine years, had only faint memories of the old country. A grandmother sang “Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel.” A tiny room held only a bed, where a faded and frayed diamond quilt of velvet, silk, and wool warded Oleg and his brothers against winter. Snowdrifts loomed taller than a little boy. His mother’s hands gamboled over the keys of a scratched piano. His uncle spun him in circles, smelling of bow rosin and lavender.

But distant and dim as those memories might be, they remained very much a part of Oleg, because the Abramovs had brought the old country with them to Seattle. The mild climate had done nothing to dispel the sense that a family huddled tight together would weather any storm.

One might have expected such a family to resent a child—the youngest and all but a straggler—who was different. But when Oleg had told his mother he was gay, she’d accepted it.

“Yes, I believe I already knew,” she said, her gently accented speech conveying as always a love of life’s surprises. “Or at least I should have.” She laughed and hugged him and set the tone of acceptance for the family. It persisted even now, after her death. He remained their Olejka, a precious member of the family.

Yes, his life was full of home—meaning love and warmth and acceptance.

But that didn’t eliminate the longing. Maybe it changed the shape of the emptiness, made it even harder to fill. Because Oleg wanted more of what he already had.

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About the Author

Lou Sylvre lives and writes on the rainy side of Washington State, penning mostly suspense/romance novels because she can’t resist giving her characters hard times but good love. Her personal assistant is Boudreau, a large cat who never outgrew his kitten meow, and he makes a point of letting her know when she’s taken a plot tangent too far. Apparently an English major, he helps a lot, but Lou refuses to put his name on the byline. (Boudreau invites readers to give their feedback as well!) When Lou isn’t writing, she’s reading fiction from nearly every genre, romance in all its tints and shades, and the occasional book about history, physics, or police procedure. Not zombies, though—she avoids zombies like the plague unless they have a great sense of humor. She plays guitar (mostly where people can’t hear her) and she loves to sing. She’s most often smiling and laughs too much, some say. Among other things and in no particular order, she loves her family, her friends, the aforementioned Boudreau, his sister George, and their little brother Nibbles, a chihuahua named Joe, a dachshund named Chloe, and a slew of chihuahua/dachshund puppies. She takes pleasure in coffee, chocolate, sunshine, gardens, wild roses, and every beautiful thing in the world.

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In The Author Spotlight: Kris T. Bethke on “His Needs” (author interview, holiday story)

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His Needs by Kris T. Bethke
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reamspinner Press
Cover art by Angsty G

Available for Purchase at

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Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Kris T. Bethke here today answering our author questions about writing, and their latest release, His Needs.  Welcome, Kris!

~Our Kris T. Bethke Interview~

 

  • Where do you normally draw your inspiration for a book from?  A memory, a myth, a place or journey, or something far more personal?

The truth, though clichéd as it is, is everywhere. Every little thing in my life can cause a plot bunny. A conversation, a song, a name, a trip. There’s no telling what will set of a spark and what will make it grow. But, there is always a little piece of me and what’s going on in my life at the moment in every book, whether intentional or unintentional. For His Needs, it was my sister being on painkillers after surgery, my love of the holidays, and knitting.

  • Are you a planner or a pantzer when writing a story? And  why?

I’m a combo writer. I start by pantzing, then get a rough outline for where I want the story to go and what I want to happen in general terms, and then I’m back to pantzing for the actual writing of the salient details.

  • Contemporary, supernatural, fantasy, or science fiction narratives or something else?  Does any genre draw you more than another when writing it or reading it and why does it do so?

I almost always write contemporary, because I find that’s where my muse directs me, though I’m branching out into paranormal next! As a reader though, I’m very eclectic, though comtep, supernatural, and sci fi seem to be my biggest draws.

  • If you had a character you’ve written you would write differently now at this time in your writing career, who would it be and why?

I think that would be Jack, from my first published short story Worth It. At his core he’d remain the same, but I would like to explore his motivation more. And I think I’d like to make him less “romantic ideal” and more real.

  • Can a author have favorites among their characters and do you have them?

Absolutely! Just as a reader has a favorite character, it’s easy for authors to as well. I have a particular fondness for Matt and Alex from my short story Hero Worship, which is why I keep revisiting them in my Friday flash fics. And honestly, I still love Travis and Noah, and I’m really glad I get to share them with the world now.

  • If you were to be stranded on a small demi-planet, island, or god forbid LaGuardia in a snow storm, what books would you take to read or authors on your comfort list?

Hard one! I’d need all things Santino Hassel for gritty, real, and hot, some Mary Calmes for fluffy, tropey goodness, and my favorite book The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton.

  • How early in your life did you begin writing?

I was telling myself stories at an early age, but I really started writing in fifth grade. I was ten, there was a creative writing section in our curriculum, and I found out I could actually be good at this writing thing if I worked at it.

  • Were you an early reader or were you read to and what childhood books had an impact on you as a child that you remember to this day and why?

I was read to before I was even out of the womb, and my mom made it a point to read to us a lot. My siblings and I are all big readers, and have been since a very young age. Dr. Seuss, of course, made a huge impression, especially On Beyond Zebra and McElligot’s Pool. And when I was a preteen and teenager, it was all about teen romances.

  • If you were writing your life as a romance novel, what would the title be?

Unrequited

Thanks for having me on the blog today!

Thank you, Kris, for coming.  We were delighted to have you here.

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About His Needs

When State Trooper Travis Kinslow is injured right before Thanksgiving, the only positive is that for once he won’t be working during the holidays. Since he has no family, Travis was absorbed into his best friend, Joe’s, and he considers them as good as his own. Everyone except Joe’s brother Noah. Travis has been in love with the younger man for much of his life, but he’s always kept his distance.

As an ER nurse, Noah is a caretaker by nature. When his brother’s best friend is hurt, he’s happy to help Travis while he heals. He’s only ever allowed himself to think of Travis as the next best thing to an older brother, but by the light of the Christmas tree, Noah finally sees Travis’s true feelings. And in that moment, everything changes.

When faced with opposition and a Christmas nothing like they imagined, will their hopes for the future be enough to carry them through?

About the Author

Kris T. Bethke has been a voracious reader for pretty much her entire life and has been writing stories for nearly as long.  An avid and prolific daydreamer, she always has a story in her head.  She spends most of her free time reading, writing, or knitting/crocheting her latest project.  Her biggest desire is to find a way to accomplish all three tasks at one time.  A classic muscle car will always turn her head, and naps on the weekend are one of her greatest guilty pleasures.  She lives in a converted attic with a way too fluffy cat and the voices in her head.  She’ll tell you she thinks that’s a pretty good deal. Kris believes that love is love, no matter the gender of people involved, and that all love deserves to be celebrated.

Find her on her site https://kristbethke.com or on Twitter twitter.com/kristbethke