A MelanieM Audiobook Review: Crocus (Bonfires #2) by Amy Lane and Nick J. Russo (Narrator)

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

 

Saying “I love you” doesn’t guarantee peace or a happy ending.

High School Principal “Larx” Larkin was pretty sure he’d hit the jackpot when Deputy Sherriff Aaron George moved in with him, merging their two families as seamlessly as the chaos around them could possibly allow.

But when Larx’s pregnant daughter comes home unexpectedly and two of Larx’s students are put in danger, their tentative beginning comes crashing down around their ears.

Larx thought he was okay with the dangers of Aaron’s job, and Aaron thought he was okay with Larx’s daughter—who is not okay—but when their worst fears are almost realized, it puts their hearts and their lives to the test. Larx and Aaron have never wanted anything as badly as they want a life together. Will they be able to make it work when the world is working hard to keep them apart? (

 

I fell deeply in love with these character in Bonfire, the first story in this series.  Amy Lane made it so easy because, as it’s often the way with her contemporary romances, it’s an ensemble piece.  We don’t just have a couple to focus on, but, just as in life, Amy Lane gives us growing and grown children  on both sides to deal with, separate households, pets, jobs, and even coming out to mesh and deal with.  Life is messy.  Amy Lane gets it and writes the hell out of it.  Same goes for the complexities of family dynamics, let alone two.  Then throw in kids you end of taking in and making a part of a sort of paramecium ever growing family, extending  little  arms out into a community that needs it so badly.

Talk about a book I wasn’t ready to let go of.

Now comes Crocus.  And it’s everything I could have wanted and hoped for.  More even.

Our families are back, still adjusting to each other and all the events of Bonfires.  As with all families, there’s no downtime, no respite.  And  the first upset to deal with is a pregnant, and clinically depressed daughter returning to the households.  This whole element, from baby daddy (which has some wonderfully humorous and serious elements ala Amy Lane) is folded beautifully into the story, never overwhelming the many other themes here, including the foundation love story of Larx and Aaron, who center and ground each other as well as their expanding family.  Boy, are there other serious story threads!  Child abuse, PTSD, gang violence, substance living, just to name some of the issues the author deals with here. Yet all work together in one tapestry of a novel, weaving together so many threads that combine to become an incredible story.

There are new dramas and emergencies as you might expect with Larx’s job as Principal and Aaron’s in the Sheriff’s office.  New members are slowly melded into the combined Larkin/George family outfit and seamlessly into your heart.  Jaime, who I fell in love with immediately, his broken brother Berto, Elton (not the name you will remember him by)…all welcomed and loved, all understood and embraced.  Each and everyone not characters but people that stick with you, get under your skin, and remain in your memory of those that you care about and love.

That crocus poking its head up out of the snow, offering up its promise of new life and growth?  Of hope?  Perfect for this family and story.  How I love it and them so.

I read Bonfires but listened to Crocus.  Narrator Nick J. Russo did an amazing job with such a huge cast of characters. He switched effortlessly between ages, teenagers to men in the middle ages, genders, and accents even held no issues for him.  It felt like a number of people narrating this story instead of one, the flow was so even and the acting so excellent that I lost myself instantly in the story and forgot about everything else.  I highly recommend him as a narrator, not just here but in other audiobooks.

If you haven’t already read this series, start with Bonfires and then come to Crocus.  This is a beautifully written series, with fully realized characters…a true ensemble cast that’s unforgettable in every way.  I loved listening to the audiobook version.  It makes me want to experience Bonfires in the same format.  And yes I highly recommend them both.

Cover art:  Reese Dante.  I adore this cover.  The artwork combined with the title and imagery within the storyline is shear perfection.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Audible |

Audiobook Details:

Audible Audio, 9 pages
Audible Audiobook
Listening Length: 8 hours and 32 minutes
Published September 11th 2018 by Dreamspinner Press LLC (first published April 17th 2018)
Original Title Crocus
ASIN B07H51CDSN
Edition Language English
Series Bonfires #2

A MelanieM Audio Review: When Everything is Blue by Laura Lascarso and Michael Mola (Narrator)

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

When they were kids, Chris Mitcham rescued Theo from the neighborhood bullies and taught him how to “be cool.” Now, years later, Theo’s developed feelings for his best friend that arise at the most inopportune times. Theo hates lying to Chris, but in coming out, he might lose the one person who understands him best, a risk he’s not willing to take.

When a relationship with another young man goes south, Theo is forced to confront his own sexuality along with his growing attraction to Chris and his stunted, tenuous relationship with his father. Will Chris abandon Theo when he learns the truth, or will he stand by him in this tumultuous season of self-discovery?

In this quirky coming-of-age romance, Theo’s path to manhood is fraught with awkward firsts and a few haters, but also the unexpected comfort of a friend turned lover.

I fell hopelessly in love with this story, with Theo from the moment narrator  Michael Mola ushers  us into his gentle, brilliant interpretation of Laura Lascarso’s teenage character discovering his love for his long time best friend just before his birthday and beginning of school.

From the accent, to the confused musings that sound exactly like they would come from a teenager, When Everything is Blue by Laura Lascarso is that new adult coming out story that hits every high mark you expect in such a novel and rarely get.

The characters are beautifully nuanced, believable, and ones that grab at your heart.  Theo’s home situation rings especially true where the father has a new younger family (also a layered portrait where the new wife is struggling and deserving of our compassion), a twin sister desperate for her father’s approval, and a quietly supportive mother whose Puerto Rican culture has contributed so much  to who Theo is becoming as an adult.  It’s understated in some ways and so much of the character’s foundation at the same time.  A beautiful job by the author and the narrator as seen by the gorgeous accent given to Theo in the audiobook.

In tandem with Theo is Chris, Theo’s best friend,next door neighbor, and the boy he’s in love with.  They’ve been joined at the hip for years, surfing, skateboarding, just being with one another, until now Theo has his “sexual awakening” and knows that it’s Chris that he’s not only attracted to but in love with.  His straight best friend and that causes all sorts of confusion and heartache.

There is so much here in this story much of which I can’t relate without venturing into spoiler territory.  And that would be unfortunate for this is a journey I recommend readers take for themselves as I’m putting this book (and this audio version) on my Best of 2018 List.  The beauty of the friendship and support between Theo and Chris is one to be remembered and treasured.  The strength of Theo as a young man finding his way through coming out and establishing himself as a gay youth to his family, friends, and community is also not to be missed.

Lascarso has done a tremendous job in creating not only a compelling story of teenage young love and relationship dynamics (between love lovers, siblings, and family) but also in making a realistic unfortunate use of the media part of her storyline.  That is something teenagers deal with every day.  It’s almost routine and here the consequences have the same devastating effects.

Reading it?  Brings the issue vividly to life.  Hearing it?  The emotional toll becomes so cuttingly real, so heartbreaking that you immediately think of all the others dealing with the same issues in schools everywhere.

Never fear, the ending is as remarkable as the rest of this story.  How I love it so.

After having listened to the marvelous voice of  Michael Mola, his range of diversity when it comes to the cast of characters of this novel, I can’t imagine just reading When Everything is Blue by Laura Lascarso.  I highly recommend you listen to the audiobook version and settle in for an outstanding evening of contemporary listening pleasure.  As I said this one is high on my list for Best of for 2018.  After you listen, I believe you will agree as well.

Cover Artist: AngstyG.  Along with the perfect of the writing and the narration, we have the great cover which has major elements from the storyline and is just beautiful to look at.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon | Audible | iTunes

Audiobook Details:

Audible Audio, Length 07:01:00

Published August 13th 2018 by Dreamspinner Press LLC (first published March 6th 2018)
Original TitleWhen Everything Is Blue
ASINB07G9RJBB7

A MelanieM Review: Dragon Consultant (Supernatural Consultant #1) by Mell Eight

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Dragon ConsultantThe FAA has been struggling with dragons attacking their planes, and hire Dane, a supernatural consultant, to look into the matter. What Dane finds in the woods is not quite the problem he expected: a group of dragon kits and their sick father.

When he learns the real reason the family was in the woods, his case only grows more dangerous, and while Dane is plenty experienced at watching his own back, taking care of baby dragons and their handsome, distracting father almost makes danger look easy.

I love Mell Eight.  This author’s imagination never fails to take me places guaranteed to hold my attention and make me wonder about the boundless possibilities that could exist if magic were let loose.  And of course, there would be dragons.  All sorts of dragons and in this case dragon kits.

Dragon Consultant is really one set of mysteries after another.  A mystery of identities, a mystery of espionage and government coverup plus so much more.  Unbelievably so, it all takes place in 101 pages.  This story is crammed full of things that cry out of fuller explanations and more details.  But what the author delivers is so wonderful, so compelling, that all I can do is beg for a prequel to go along with the sequel that I know is coming.

Most of that has to do with the character of Dane, the supernatural consultant hired to deal with the dragons attacking the planes at the airport.  Of course, he is much more than that, as are the dragons attacking the airport and the situation they are in.  Nothing is as it seems, including Dane.  It takes a while for some of who he is to come out and then it only makes him more intriguing because of the gaps its leaves. Oh, the layers Mell Eight has in store for the readers here.  Peal one back, and there are five more waiting to be discovered.

I think I feel that way about the characters.  There is a mystery about them that we are still waiting to uncover, their backstories are missing  and I think the author has done that purposely so. The father?  His background still spotty. The kits?  They too have histories waiting to be filled in and I am hoping that means that this will be a long and satisfying series.  I am so eager to settle in for the long haul to find out what each kit and/or new egg will mean to the story and universe the author is building.

There is action, suspense, and plenty of drama.  Some of those scenes towards the end?  White knuckle indeed.  But I can’t give out  details because its such a short book it will go into spoiler territory.  The tale moves so quickly, you will fall in love with the individual dragon kits with a swiftness that will make you blink,  and then the you are moving towards an alarming conclusion, then its over…for now.

That one of those layers I was talking about.  You see from the cover, its seem like this might be a goofy, sort of humorous tale of dragon children and their foster father.  Not really.  That aspect is there, of course.  But things are chillingly scary,  there are evil loose ends flapping about at the end of the story (why else would you need sequels), so remember those layers when opening these pages and be prepared for a darned wonderful story!

Its one I definitely recommend, along with its author.  Now I just have to wait for the next book to arrive.  Grab this one up, catch up with me and lets see what the next one has in store for us, the dragon kits and…oh that would be telling.

Cover art by Aisha Akeju is unexpected.  Cute, whimsical but lacking just that touch of dragon magic I have come to expect from this artist.

Sales Links:  Less Than Three Press | All Romance (ARe) | Amazon | Buy It Here

Book Details:

ebook, 101 pages
Published December 9th 2015 by Less Than Three Press
ISBN139781620046777
Edition LanguageEnglish

Series: Supernatural Consultant 

A MelanieM Review: With This Bling (Romano and Albright #3) by L.B. Gregg

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Rating: 5 out of 5 stars ★★★★★

With This Bling coverCaesar Romano’s catering career is doing better than he’d ever dreamed. And so is his love life—even if his boyfriend’s house in Staten Island is way too far from civilization for his liking. But then in short order, Caesar is duped into helping his cousin propose, is tricked by his best friend and business partner into appearing on live television, and is harassed by a thug-like personal trainer and his far too beautiful wife. In fact, Caesar is almost too busy to notice that something is troubling his PI boyfriend, Dan Albright.

Almost.

Laid-back, open, charming—that’s the impression hunky former NYPD Detective Dan Albright gives everyone. Caesar can add sexually adventurous and a bit of an exhibitionist. But he also knows that Dan is hiding something—something dark and a little dangerous—and when Dan’s silence over his mysterious past threatens to harm them both, it’s Caesar’s turn to save the day.

But then again, a break-in, a gallery party, an heirloom ring, a new suit, and a stalker with bad BO are all just a typical week for Caesar Romano.

In 2010, L. B. Gregg released a story, Catch Me If You Can (Romano and Albright, #1) which introduced me and so many other readers to Caesar Romano and P.I. Dan Albright.  And I fell in love.  The second novel, also 2010, saw that love affair deepen and become an addiction.

Then the stories stopped.

But I was hopeful.  And patient.  Now I’ve finally been rewarded along with all the other fans of this author and amazing series.  Romano and Albright are back and better than ever!

We dive right back into confirmed city dweller Caesar’s life.  He’s out on Staten Island, staying in boyfriend Dan’s house.

“Sunshine poured into the kitchen, warming a row of spiny potted herbs on the windowsill. Outside, the neat suburban backyard burst with green shrubbery and midsummer flowers. A plump gray bird sat on the clothesline and a squirrel frolicked in the grass, both a reminder that I needed to get the hell back to the city because honest to God, it was like the country out there.”

Yep, nothing suits Caesar so well as the smell of the city and the congested, exuberant life he leads there.  To him, the quiet of a Staten Island neighborhood screams country, even though his beloved city is with well within eyesight.  From that wonderful start, L.B. Gregg’s lively, snarky narrative takes off, her dialogs a perfect match for each and every one of her memorable characters.  A mystery popped up almost immediately (this is Caesar and Dan) and we are off on another case and misadventure.  I was grinning from the very beginning in anticipation and L. B. Gregg didn’t let me down!

Dan’s personal background has always been a bit of a question for Caesar (and the readers).  Some of those are answered here. I had to double check the timeline and it appears its still been about 6 months since the first time they met, so that feels about right in a relationship still working on its foundation.  The author’s characterizations are so good, her plots so well thought out, that everything just comes together just as it should.  We know that Dan and Caesar belong together…no matter how scary it gets.  And yes, it can get plenty scary here.  But the action and suspense never overwhelms the relationship between Caesar and Dan, or any of  the other interpersonal ties going on at the moment.  Plenty of those too.  The connections here are all about the family.

New York City and its neighborhoods is easily not just a setting but a character all of its own.  Gregg’s familiarity with each borough and their unique “feel” gives this book another layer to flavor.  This also carries over to  Gregg’s characters, all of the Romano family (and they are many and varied) to the Albright upright clan and everyone in between.  Lots and lots of in between.   His cousin Joey and Caesar’s business partner, Poppy, uncles Tino and Vito, among the large and hugely entertaining cast.  How I love them all.

But the heart of the series and this story will always be Caesar and Dan, a relationship that continues to flourish and grow.  Here Caesar makes enormous emotional strides forward…even if it comes at the end.

I whipped through this story because I was starved for it, then started through once again.  It got even better the second time around.   I’m not sure I would call this a standalone.  I’m sure you could read it that way but why would you?  Don’t you want to see how it all started?  Watch Caesar meet Dan, watch Dan loosen up Caesar more than a little?  Watch Dan (a ex NYPD Detective) meet the huge Romano family whose connection to the law is somewhat loose and shaky?  The humor in these novels will have you laughing out loud in places.  Romano and Albright!  A couple that sexy, intelligent, fun and full of action in the best sense of the word.  What more could you want?

I highly recommend this story and all in the series.  Now begins the wait for the next story.  I can be patient.  I know it will be worth the wait.

Cover art by L. C. Chase is absolutely perfect.  Whether its Joey or Caesar (they look almost identical).  Chase has them down.

Sales Links:  Riptide Publishing | All Romance (ARe) | Amazon | Buy It Here (other links to come)

Book Details:

ebook, 264 pages
Expected publication: December 7th 2015 by Riptide Publishing
original titleWith This Bling
ISBN139781626493599
edition languageEnglish

Series Romano and Albright