A Sammy Review: Where There’s Fire (Panopolis #2) by Cari Z.

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5         ★★★★★

WhereTheresFire_600x900Panopolis is a city of stark colors, folks. Right or wrong, black or white, no shades of gray here. Panopolis is epic battles and soaring rhetoric on both sides, and dirty secrets buried so deep beneath layers of lies that you’d need a map to know where to start digging. Moral ambiguity is for stories, not real life. At least, that’s what we’re told.

But the best stories, I’ve found, are the ones that aren’t so clear-cut. No spoon feeding you Truth, Justice, and the Heroic Way, or telling you that every Villain was born flawed from the start, not made into that. The best stories are the ones that make you think and leave you wondering. I think Panopolis needs a new caliber of storytellers, folks. Maybe it’s time to find those maps and ready those shovels.

Maybe it’s finally time for a change in the narrative.

Edward Dinges was once a normal guy in a city of Supers. He worked at a bank, had a plain life… then he fell in love with a Villain and found himself imprisoned. Soon, normal was a thing of the past.

Though he’s been working to harness his new powers, Edward is still trying to gain control over his life. It helps that Raul is always at his side, but it’s time to step out by himself for his first real job as a villain.

But nothing ever really goes as planned. Soon, Edward finds himself needing to fight for Raul’s life and free him from the hands of a true Super Villain. Whether they make it out alive or not, Panopolis will never be the same.

“You made it back. Not a lot of people do. That makes you interesting, maybe worth forming an alliance with. You need to work on making connections, especially if you don’t love to fight for fighting’s sake.” Vibro sounded tired.

“You don’t like fighting either.”

“I like living,” she corrected me.

So, first off, I want to put it out there that I absolutely loved this. The series is set in such an interesting world that it really pulled me right in from the get-go and I continued to be incredibly interested in it even months after reading the first book. Cari does a brilliant job of building a world that is so unique, but in this book, I really felt it resonated with reality.

I’m not sure if it’s that social justice has been on my mind a lot recently or what, but the way Cari writes about the dichotomy in the city, pitting two sides against each other, having this large body of power that rules over everyone and manages to cast aside the undesirables… the book takes massive and frustrating issues and puts it into an abstract and easily digestible manner. What do I mean with that? I mean people can turn their face to the real world and it’s social justice, but if you really read this, you’ll find yourself feeling everything the SuperTruther conveys and not even realizing how much Panopolis resembles the world just outside your door.

Now, onto the characters. Edward continues to grow on me. At first, I felt like he was just as boring as he projected himself to be, but in the first book we got to see his evolution when it came to morals. Now he’s crossed that line and is trying to find himself within his new powers.

Raul was a lot less present in this, but I didn’t really mind that, as I think this story is so much more than a romance. Sure, the romance is there, but the story is just front and center, adorned with action and alliances and… okay, just, really great story telling.

And new characters – Vibro is just freaking fantastic. I mean, she has purple hair! On top of that, she seems to have such an interesting personality and I would love to learn more about her and her brother.

The only downside I can think of is that the editing was off a bit. There was a lot of misplaced commas and such. But besides that, it was great.

I can’t wait for the next book in the series. Cari set us up for a great sequel.

The cover by L.C. Chase is very nice. It fits the previous book well and has a nice punch of color. Additionally, getting to see Edward is a nice treat. Great job.

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

Book Details:

book, 113 pages
Published July 13th 2015 by Riptide Publishing (first published July 12th 2015)

A Sammy Review: The Ultimate Team (Juxtapose City #4) by Tricia Owens

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5   ★★★★★

“You’re not getting your mythical knight in shining armor,” Parker told him softly. “You’re getting a man who’s trying very hard to be good, but has never been shown how to be. You have to stick by him and show him what’s best within him, Calyx. You have to take his darkness and make it light.”

The Ultimate Team coverFollowing the events of the previous book, Starr is holed up in bad and the team is down a man. That is until the captain assigns none other than Parker to the team. But another psypath on the team, let alone a psypath that has history with Black and knows his secrets? That’s dangerous.

Between the team trying to rebuild again and new threats arising from some unexpected places, Starr and Black have to find a way to balance their secrets, half-truths, love, and duty to the team, all while remaining alive. In other words, just another day in Juxtapose City.

“You don’t need a city, a hiding place, to be happy. I can make you happy. I can take care of you.”

It has been so long since I’ve been able to read a book in this series, and I hadn’t had the time to reread the previous ones before reading this, so I was very nervous that nothing would make sense to me, but it gradually came back to me, and within a matter of pages I was lost in the story yet again.

If you’ve read the previous books (and you should read them in order), you know what a hot mess Starr and Black’s world is, not to mention their relationship that evolved from hate. Adding Parker to the team adds an uncomfortable dynamic, but the author handles it well and doesn’t have the problem go away like magic. It’s there and they have to deal with it.

Unlike the previous books, this one had much more of the romance element to it. Starr and Black spend a lot of time dealing with their flaws, particularly the mean streak of jealousy that Starr has, paired with both of their doubts. And some of it is just so painful, like how Black truly thinks he’s this horrible person, and how sometimes Starr isn’t so sure either, but still manages to love him. It straddles a moral boundary that is so intriguing and wonderful.

On top of it all, Tricia Owens manages to continue to bring the steam. We finally (no, but really) get some penetration, though it’s not quite what I was hoping for or expecting, but it’s a step forward. But it just goes to show that she’s been able to keep up the heat and fire without that.

Black, Jake, Haney and Bee had all killed in the course of their work. But looking across the aisle first at Jake and then at Haney, who immediately gave him an encouraging thumbs up―Calyx didn’t see evil in them, or cruelty. They didn’t look haunted like Black, who carried his sins as if he was half a man without them.

This book also provides some insight into Starr and Black’s pasts. We get to see a bit more of where they came from and what Black went through to get where he is now. There are still so many unanswered questions, but you have to expect that in this series and embrace them.

Not for even a second was I bored. I enjoyed each word and am so happy to get some reacquainted with a favorite couple: Starr and Black.

The cover art is nice in that it fits the rest of the series and is cohesive. Unfortunately, the model for Starr doesn’t quite work for me, but besides that it’s not bad.

Sales Link:  Amazon | Buy It Here

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 207 pages
Published March 24th 2015

A Sammy Review: Tin Man (Bliss #1.5) by Lisa Henry and Heidi Belleau

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Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Everything in his life that should have been profound had been nameless. Life and death, fucking and killing—it should have been profound. It should have resonated. He wanted it to, with Ace. He just wanted something to matter, for once.

Tin Man coverAshoka “Ace” King is known as a crim, as are most people living in District Three. Between Morality Laws and rules that target those without jobs or homes, life in Tophet isn’t easy for those not in the upper realms of society. On top of it all, they all have to be on the constant look out for the ATU, a police force known to kill at random.

One unlucky night, Ace runs into a member of the ATU. He’s forced to make a split-second decision that puts his life in danger and makes him a target for the ATU. What he doesn’t expect is for that decision to lead him to Soren Lau, the ATU agent who just couldn’t seem to pull the trigger when ordered.

After a sordid tryst, the two become irrevocably entwined. But they’re on two different sides, and when fate brings them together yet another time, they both have to make a choice and decide which side they want to end up on.

“What would you do?” he asked. “If you were me, standing at the edge of the world. Would you run back toward solid ground, or would you jump?”

“I caught you once, didn’t I?”

One of my favorite things in books is when they are able to build this world that feels so vivid it’s nearly tangible. I was hoping to get that out of this book, and I did. The authors managed to weave in details of life in Tophet without making the book heavy with them, they intrigued me as a reader and made a society that I felt lucky to get to see and lucky to not have to live in… or do I?

Sometimes I think I can read a bit too much into things. My career involves social justice and advocacy, so upon reading this, bells went off in my head. A society where the people meant to protect us are causing harm, particularly to those in poverty? A society that marks people as criminals like it’s a brand that will forever be embedded in their skin? A society divided not by right and wrong but by the money in your pocket? So yeah, let’s just say I connected with that, and as much as it pained me, it was so wonderfully done. This society that is labeled as dystopian but somehow resembles bits of our own? If that’s not intriguing and thought-provoking, I don’t know what is.

But onto other matters, the characters. Ace and Soren together managed to create this almost devastating couple that shouldn’t work but did. Soren is questioning his role and all he’s dedicated himself to, and Ace is struggling just to survive. But these characters are anything but weak. Being able to watch them in their own battles was a real treat, especially when it resulted in their growth.

My absolute biggest complaint is that I wanted more. It ended just as it was getting good, and while I was satisfied to an extent, I definitely will be wanting more not only of this universe, but also these characters. Where do they go from here? I don’t know. I hope that I’ll find out though.

I really appreciate the cover art by L.C. Chase. It is very simple but provides a stark image and helps me visualize Soren without giving me all the intricacies of detail that readers like to fill in for themselves.

Sales Links:  Riptide Publishing  |  All Romance |  Amazon  | Buy It Here

Book Details:

ebook, 134 pages
Expected publication: July 20th 2015 by Riptide
ISBN139781626493285
edition languageEnglish
seriesBliss #1.5

A Sammy Review: Yours All Along (Loving on the Edge #7.5) by Roni Loren

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Rating:  4 out of 5 stars.

“Would you make a move on me if I wasn’t?” he asked, no jest in his voice.

“No.”

“Not your type?”

Devon closed his eyes. “Nope.”

You’re exactly the wrong type.  I don’t fuck people I love.

Yours All Along coverHunter Riley has always been at his dad’s mercy. Being the son of a conservative politician isn’t easy. It’s all about being buttoned up and smiling when you just want to roll your eyes. But that set an example for Hunter – an example of how not to be. As soon as he’s able to, he moves as far away from his family as he can manage, and that means California.

There he meets Devon, an out-and-proud student with purple-streaked hair. They hit it off right away and soon become best friends and fraternity brothers. Hunter shows everyone, especially those in the fraternity, how being gay doesn’t mean you can’t be a brother by rooming with Devon.

At first it’s just jokes for them, easy laughs and fun times. But somehow they tip over that edge, exploring each other in ways they haven’t before. But one night and a horrible accident brings that all to a stop.

Years later, Hunter hasn’t spoken to Devon since the accident, but when his fiance sends him on a pre-wedding vacation to Texas where Devon lives, Hunter just can’t stay away. Did time ever really matter to them, or is it jut too late for Hunter to wake up from a life that isn’t his own?

And no matter what, he knew one thing for sure: He didn’t want it to end. He’d never had a friend like Hunter. He could find people to warm his bed. That part was easy. But there was no way he’d find someone who got him like Hunter did. That shit was different. Special. And worth protecting.

Roni Loren is a new author for me, as she usually writes M/F, which isn’t really my thing. But I decided to give it a chance. The blurb intrigued me, what can I say?

With the help of Roni, I was able to get my hands on the book and I easily devoured it. The story is short, perhaps a bit too short for my liking (but that just means I enjoyed it and really wanted more of them).

It takes on a few issues, such as having a family that would disown you for being gay or even having a gay roommate, and how far people can go to save themselves from abandonment. It may sound like the book was this big angst fest, but it actually wasn’t. The majority of the story is told in a flashback, handled well and giving us a look at what college life was like for Hunter and Devon. I can easily say it was a much freer time for them, and that shows in those flashbacks. They’re full of life and love, and it contrasts sharply with the characters we meet in the first chapter.

To get a chance to look back at them and how they got to that point was a treasure. It was also hothothot at times. Experimentation? Sign me up, please, especially if it’s in the back of a limo!

In the end, after all of that, this book is really about finding yourself again. I appreciate that. We all get lost sometimes.

The cover art is simple but nice. Who doesn’t like a nice muscular back? I certainly will not raise my hand to that question. The stance and what I see does actually remind me of Hunter too, so it’s not entirely just some random hot guy (or maybe it is, but it’s my Hunter).

While I’d love to see more of these characters, I at the very least hope this isn’t Ms. Loren’s last foray into M/M. I’d love to see what she can do with a full-length novel.

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

Book Details:

ebook
Published June 16th 2015 by Intermix
ISBN139780698411036
edition languageEnglish
seriesLoving on the Edge #7.5

Loving on the Edge series are mostly M/F with this exception.

A Sammy Review: The Right Time (Right and Wrong #3) by Lane Hayes

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

“Nate, you’re a control freak with illusions of grandeur. Bad things happen sometimes. Thank you for sharing your confession. I absolve you. You can go on with your life now, and let go of your guilt.”

I chuckled humorlessly. “That easy, eh? Where have you been all these years?”

“Right here waiting to be your hero and set you free. It all comes down to being in the right place at the right time.”

The Right Time coverNate’s always been the one to run from things. He buries himself in work and deals and things that are easy to separate from emotion. This time he runs to Santa Monica, where with the help of his friends, he rents a beautiful apartment. What he doesn’t expect is for a loud neighbor slash landlord to be anything but annoying. Sweet, funny, endearing, so full of life. Everything about Alex pulls Nate in, and like a spark it lights and sets flames.

But if it were all about the fire and passion, life would be easy. That’s not the case. Nate has his own demons to deal with and Alex has to work his way around a religious father and navigating coming out. But there’s something to be said for finding each other at the right time, and their time is now.

“I want to give you something. A song. A piece of music. Something for you to remember me. I don’t want you to hear Beethoven and feel sad about things that never could be. I want to give you… hope.”

OH GOD. First off, let me just put it out there that this book was like a slow serenade for me. It took me a bit, but I began to slowly fall in love with it and then all at once I crashed and was completely and totally infatuated. Kind of like Alex and Nate’s journey. Slow and tentative at first and then BAM.

Where do I even start? Well, I guess the beginning is as good a place as any. This took me a bit longer to get into, but I think that may have had to do with some life stresses more than the story itself. I found Alex completely charming and authentic and though Nate was completely different from him, I was equally enamored with him and the rawness to his character. It may be cheesy, but they just fit together so well. Nate – who is serious and needs help to let loose, Alex – who is so free but needs someone to ground him, to be there and live in the moments with him. They were each others people. Simple as that.

We had gotten glimpses of them in the past, and it all led very nicely into this one. For those who are wondering, we do get some lovely guest appearances from the other boys (including Mack!) It was really a perfect balance of giving the readers some older favorites but building these great new favorites too (but who am I kidding, they’re all favorites).

I also have to say that I think Lane took the thermometer and cranked that puppy up. This was sizzling. I literally heard it crackling as I was reading! From sex in the dark hallway of a club to a jealous encounter in the gym leading to a sexy laundry room encounter and the truly passionate exchanges in between. There were some simple details that really pulled me in, like when one character would frame the others face with his arms and lean forward. It was just so smooth and wonderful.

And then there was the humor, which wasn’t as rampant as one may be used to with Lane’s books, but was still there and had me smiling (like how there’s no real loser in a bet where a blowjob is being exchanged.)

It was like getting a glimpse through thick fog of something profound, something just out of reach. I was so close. And this time, I wasn’t alone.

When it comes to the conflicts that they were dealing with, while the issue between Nate and Julie isn’t revealed until close to the end, I had a good idea of what it was. As a social worker, I see a lot of things, and how they were feeling was so palpable to me, even without the words behind it. I want to make a note that this does not necessarily mean that things were dealt with in the healthiest of ways, but that’s just so human and so real that it touched me. And really, who prescribes how you deal with that situation? I cannot imagine the heavy burden that comes with it. It, like the rest of the story, felt authentic.

My heart felt this story in the last fifty percent like a consistent beat weighing heavily on it. I felt for the characters in my gut and even teared up when that feeling became so incredibly intense (paired with classical music). In a word, this book left me utterly charmed.

I certainly hope it’s not the last we see of these characters. There’s still more to know and learn. But still, thank you Lane for another great story.

The cover by Aaron Anderson is nice and simple. It easily flows with the other covers in the series. I do have a bit of an issue with the placement of the white and how it makes it look like he has a vanishing arm, but it’s still a nice cover.

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

Book Details:

ebook, 220 pages, also in paperback
Expected publication: June 26th 2015 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN139781634762175
edition languageEnglish
url https://lanehayes.wordpress.com/coming-soon/
seriesRight and Wrong #3

Series: Right and Wrong

A Sammy Review: Out in the Open (Browerton University #1) by A.J. Truman

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

When Ethan thought about it, though, when was the last time he had had real fun? College was supposed to be a party. For him, it’d been more of a dinner party.

Out in the Open coverEthan Follett is a good student. He’s passionate about law and has big dreams, and most of the time you can find him studying or hanging out with his small group of friends – never at a party. He spent his time in high school invisible, and that’s mostly how he’s spending it in college, too.

Greg Sanderson throws a wrench into that plan. Greg is disarmingly witty, always trying to sink further under Ethan’s skin, and it’s working. But when he pushes too far, they both get the shock of their life… something that leads to much more.

Things are changing for Ethan. Between public (sex)capades, new friends, and falling hard, he’s not sure how long he can be someone’s dirty little secret.

“Since when did you become so invincible?”

Since I met you.”

I so enjoyed this. I literally destroyed it, in the sense that once I started to read I could not stop. Come hell or high water (or a 6AM wake up, whatever) I was going to consume this all tonight, and boy did I.

I so fell in love with the characters. I was worried at first that we wouldn’t get to see more of who Greg truly is, but then the author really delivered, especially when they included Sahil in everything. I would’ve liked to get to see even more of Greg’s world, especially with Ethan in it.

ANYWHO. I was surprised at how much fun I had with this. I was wary initially with the stereotypes that Ethan and his friends had towards fraternities/sororities (being a member myself), but with characters like Lorna, I was pleasantly surprised. She summed it up well in saying that some people suck, but not all. Well, her words were much more eloquent, but you get the point.

The cover art by James at GoOnWrite.com is nice and simple. It’s a good-looking guy, so I certainly appreciate that, but it doesn’t say anything special about that story, I’m afraid. Still nice to look at though.

So now that I’ve read this I can go to bed happy and hope for more of Ethan and Greg? Please? I’m quite looking forward to Behind Closed Doors.

Sales Links:  All Romance eBook  |  Amazon  |  Buy It Here

Book Details:

ebook
Published September 25th 2014 by Smashwords Edition
original titleOut in the Open
ISBN139781310110993
seriesBrowerton University #1

A Sammy Review: Where There’s Smoke (Panopolis #1) by Cari Z.

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

I mean, it was one thing to date the guy who’d keyed the principal’s car in high school, but another entirely to get together with someone who was rapidly climbing Panopolis’s Most Wanted list.

Where There's Smoke coverEdward Dinges has always been attracted to the super way of life in Panopolis. It’s a place where the Heroes and Villains meet on a regular basis and the society is as much based on presence as it is the economy. He’d always hoped to meet a hero, but he never dreamed of falling in love with a villain, and one day changes those expectations.

He’s just a guy working at a bank. Except that his boyfriend is a Villain with a thing for bombs and he’s got a Hero who seems to not think that having a boyfriend is a valid reason for the answer “no”. It’s just a matter of time until the world of good, evil, and just plain normal collide.

His eyes were fixed on me, glittering points of light within the matte-gray shadows on his skin. “I’m a bad man.”

“You’re a Villain,” I said. “But that doesn’t make you a bad person.”

So here’s the thing… I loved this! Plain and simple, it was just so much fun that I could hardly sit still from all the giddiness it brought me.

From the very first page (or, well, the dedication actually), I was sucked into this amazing and funky world that Cari Z. created. She took bits of reality and bits of all those fun comic books and movies we’ve all seen and then twisted it into this really fabulous story. In doing so, she was able to both reach deep into this theme and hit some of the topics we all wonder about (like who is the man behind the mask who ever fears) and add in some undeniable humor that again, we all think about (like how completely ridiculous some of the stories behind our favorite heroes and villains are).

She does a beautiful job of mixing characters that we traditionally shrug off as villains and making them real and human. They’re no longer these beings so far off that we can pretend are monsters (well, some of them, because I still think Pinball has some issues), but now they’re people like your brother or sister, your parents, your neighbors.

Maybe it’s not that our Heroes are perfect, maybe it’s that our legal system is broken in the same way they are.

The world felt so tangible to me, especially with the blog posts at the beginning of each chapter, which featured a really sincere and blunt look at the underpinnings of society in Panopolis. They were some of my favorite parts, as they really put things into perspective. I kind of want to know who is behind the blog posts, because I feel like they have an interesting story to tell.

I would’ve loved to see more of the relationship building between Raul and Edward in the beginning, but I was so enthralled by the general plot and world that it didn’t bother me too much. I just wanted to see more of the build up for them. We heard about it in passing, but only got a small glimpse, and I hungered for more. I also think the author could’ve pushed it more at times when it came to how conflicting feelings of love are with knowing what your lover does when he leaves, but that’s just me being picky.

I really hope there’s more than just one sequel, because I could get seriously into this world… like, I could bury myself in it and dance with glee. I’m seriously looking forward to the next one. Great read!

The cover art by L.C. Chase is quite nice. It definitely fits the identity of the Mad Bombardier and helps make it easier to picture him as a villain. My only complaint is the high contrast around the pants, but that’s more of a designers nitpicking than anything else. In general, it’s a lovely cover to pair with a kick-ass story.

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

Book Details:

ebook, 88 pages
Published April 27th 2015 by Riptide Publishing (first published April 25th 2015)
ISBN139781626492967
edition languageEnglish
seriesPanopolis #1

 

 

A Sammy Review: Apple Polisher (Rear Entrance Video #1) by Heidi Belleau

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Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

If this is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

I don’t want to be right.

I want to be happy.

ApplePolisher_400x600Christian Blake has been trying to prove something to his mother for as long as he can remember. It doesn’t matter that she’s not even in the same country, or that he knows she’s wrong. The need to be more haunts him.

His life is all a very delicate balance of situations. He’s going to school to become a teacher, his aunt is sick, and he’s moving into a new place with people he’s never met. He doesn’t expect for the apartment to be full of temptations that could form a crack in his carefully constructed teacher facade. But Max, his roommate, well he’s one of the biggest temptations of all.

And then he’s confronted with more issues – like his aunt’s tanking porn store, and he’s forced to make choices and try to figure out how the balance he’s established can work when he’s a gay man in the teaching profession and working in a porn store. Overwhelming? Just a little.

This wasn’t reckless desire anymore, something Christian only acted upon because his life was going to shit. This was genuine want. He wanted Max. His body, his cock, his smile, his advice, his companionship. All of it.

Going into this, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I absolutely loved the premise behind it. Throw something that’s supposed to be forbidden at me (like a teacher working on a porn store) and I’m game. Some of the reviews made me a bit nervous, but I can honestly say that I’m glad I read it.

I found myself so enjoying the story, even when it made me frustrated. Take Max, for example. I know we’re supposed to be frustrated with Christian in this and his issues with being true to himself, but sometimes I struggled with Max’s method of pushing Christian. Was Christian right about the things he did? No, but I’m not sure it warranted Max’s reactions. Still, it worked for me because that’s pretty realistic of relationships. People suck sometimes. We still love them though.

A lot of the events really resonated with me too. Dealing with a family member with cancer, going to school, having all these stresses pile up at once and then having to worry about your image. It all sounds very superficial, but it’s a real problem so many people face, and I appreciated the author not shying away from that – though I do have some little nagging feelings about how the teaching profession seemed to be portrayed as a whole, and that’s part of what kept this rating from being higher.

But the sex, well that was steamy and delicious. I could’ve even stood to have some more, but that’s just me being needlessly greedy. I did feel the bit thrown in at the end with Max’s side career was a bit out of nowhere, but it was hot, so I got over it quickly. I would’ve loved to see it more fully developed though, especially with how Christian’s role in it comes into play. I feel like we only got a taste, and it was a yummy teaser, but I wanted more.

I also really enjoyed the side characters, who we get to see in future books, and that made me even more excited to read the next two books in the series! I can’t wait to see where she takes it. All in all, this was a fun, easy read that made me smile.

The new cover art by Vivian Ng is a lot of fun and compliments the story. After all, sweater vests play a bigger role than you may expect.

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

Book Details:

ebook, 230 pages
Published July 27th 2013 by Riptide Publishing
original title Apple Polisher
ISBN 1626490341 (ISBN13: 9781626490345)
edition language English

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 Sammy Review: A Way Home (Gay Amish Romance #3) by Keira Andrews

Standard

 Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Anna stepped back just as Eli appeared. She nodded to David and dashed back upstairs with an apologetic smile to Eli, who sighed.

“She reminds me of a horse I once had. Wouldn’t pull the plow no matter how much I coaxed or threatened.”

“What did you do with it in the end?”

Eli shrugged. “Let it run free. What else was there to do? Come now. I’ll take you where you want to go.”

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00067]In the third and final (for now) book of the series, tragedy forces David and Isaac to return to Zebulon, a place they’d left behind just months earlier.

The city has taken a toll on their relationship, but coming back to a place they once called home is even scarier than the chaotic streets of San Francisco. Here, they once again face their parents and loved ones, all who struggle to understand their decision to leave not only their family, but the Amish way, and in turn, lose their ticket to Heaven.

Between family pressure, repairing their relationship, and the threat of losing Nathan for good, this place in their journey is sure to be a difficult one.

He knew they had problems they needed to face, but there was a sense of certainty growing deep inside him that felt sturdy and right. A certainty that despite whatever mistakes they made, this thing between them was solid and sure, rooted deep into the earth like the roots of a tree. No matter what happened, they’d face it together.

This book couldn’t have been more aptly named. It truly was a lot about finding a way home, but more than that, figuring out what home really meant to each of them.

I complained about a loss of something magic in the previous book, and this book gained some of that spark back for sure. There’s just something about the forbidden nature of love in Zebulon and how it all relates to their family that adds a dimension to it. The family, though we did see Aaron, was missing in the last book. Not here, though. They’re all back.

And speaking of family, I can honestly say one of my favorite aspects of this story was feeling like I got to know them a bit better, especially Isaac’s mother. My heart absolutely broke for her and that the author allowed us to see her struggle and be so emotionally raw was truly a gift. One particular scene between her and Isaac felt so incredibly genuine that I almost was afraid to read it, like I was invading a personal moment between them. I had a rough idea of her as a woman before, but now I feel like I know her so much more.

I also really enjoyed getting to see Aaron and Jen come into this world. Like with Isaac’s mother, I feel like I got to know Aaron so much more in this book. Hearing about the love he has for his family, even now, and seeing it, are two completely different things, and we definitely see it here.

And of course, Isaac and David – this wonderfully enticing pair that kept me coming back for more. Love conquers all is such a cheesy thing to say, but in their case, I’d say it’s true. Throw in a dash of patience and understanding, and they really have something beautiful. They grow both apart and together in this book, and it’s a great thing to see. Sometimes in a series, the characters become kind of stagnant. There’s just a new plot line with the same old person, but that’s not the case here. They evolve more with each page.

What keeps this from being a full five stars to me is the ending. While I was mostly satisfied, something still felt off to me. The epilogue just seemed to jump to a random point in the future and try to wrap things up so quickly. The books rolled out so slowly and evenly, and then it’s just thrown together at the end, and I think that’s what left me a bit off. I felt like they all deserved more of a full ending, but hopefully we get to see more of them in the future.

The cover art is very nice and flows well with the others in the book. The only thing I can pick at is that the guy on the left has this skin roll thing happening, which is completely shallow, but it simply sticks out to me in a not-so-great way. He’s attractive, it’s just the angle that’s causing the problem for me.

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

Book Details:

ebook, 240 pages
Expected publication: April 8th 2015 by KA Books
ISBN139780993859892
edition languageEnglish
seriesGay Amish Romance #3

 

Gay Amish Romance Trilogy:

Forbidden Rumspringa coverA Clean Break coverPageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00067]