A Stella Advent Calendar Review Last Day: First New Year’s After the Apocalypse (2016 Advent Calendar – Bah Humbug) by Jessica Payseur

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RATING 3,75 out of 5 stars

first-new-years-after-the-apocalypse-2016-advent-calendar-bah-humbug-by-jessica-payseurWade Turner takes a drunk Jaxxon home after work hoping to get laid. What he gets instead is news that the world as they know it is ending—superbugs are sweeping the nation, leaving high death tolls in their wake, and the president has been assassinated. In this new storm of chaos everyone is referring to as the Apocalypse, Wade decides their chances are better if they stick together.

But when Jaxxon’s ex dies in a hurricane and his daughter goes missing, Wade watches the man he loves slip into despair. Desperate to save his relationship, Wade leaves in the middle of the night on a dangerous journey to save Jaxxon’s daughter—a child he’s not sure is even still alive. If he can put this family back together, maybe there will still be something worth celebrating in the aftermath of the Apocalypse.

I have to be honest and say I was ready to not like First New Year’s After the Apocalypse by Jessica Payseur, me and everything Apocalypse related aren’t on good terms. I’m not a fan of sci fi in general but the blurb  of this short made me curious. And I’m very happy I gave this new to me author a chance.

I struggled a little at the beginning of the story because I couldn’t feel a connection, a chemistry, between Jaxxon and Wade, and the way Wade basically made room for himself in Jaxxon life, made no sense to me. It was clear to me later that he felt something I totally missed and of course he took the right choice. I liked how the author kept me on my toes, I couldn’t wait to see what was going to happen next and I wasn’t expecting the ending but I so welcomed it.

I’m going to see what else Jessica Payseur wrote in the past, I’d like to read more of her works.

The cover art by Catt Ford is very fitting and for this I like it.

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BOOK DETAILS

ebook, 49 pages

Published December 1st 2016 by Dreamspinner Press

ISBN 1635331935 (ISBN13: 9781635331936)

Edition Language English

A VVivacious Advent Calendar Review: Ranger Station Haven (2016 Advent Calendar – Bah Humbug) by S.A. Stovall

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Rating: 4 Stars out of 5
 
ranger-station-haven-by-s-a-stovallCarter is a regular Christmas grump while Owen is the polar opposite. They are both federal park rangers who are spending their Christmas in the Voyageurs National Park Ranger Station when they get a call informing them about six children who are out in the woods with a storm headed their way.
 
As Carter and Owen rescue the kids, Owen gets badly injured. This Christmas is definitely not looking up for Owen but looks like the kids they rescued might just spread around enough holiday cheer to convince even Carter to join in on Christmas.
 
I liked this story. It was an established couple romance and I loved the familiarity and warmth of love these two characters shared. Also Owen and Carter took shape almost instantaneously making this story very appealing. This story focuses on Owen and Carter and sees them embark on a new journey in their life.
 
This story was a pretty unique Christmas story. I loved how Owen and Carter end up celebrating their Christmas with Justin, Casey, Crystal, Melissa, Luke and Edmund. I loved the kids, they were just so precious.
 
I adored Carter, the story is from his perspective and I loved how he left his grouchiness behind to make Christmas special and truly memorable for the kids and Owen.
 
This is a nice warm holiday read with a bit of twist what with a rescue operation on Christmas Eve followed by a very special Christmas morning.
 
Cover Art by Paul Richmond. I loved the cover.
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Book Details:
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ebook, 42 pages
Published December 1st 2016 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1635331927 (ISBN13: 9781635331929)
Edition LanguageEnglish
Series2016 Advent Calendar – Bah Humbug

A Paul B Advent Calendar Day Review: Analog to Digital (2016 Advent Calendar – Bah Humbug) by Posy Roberts

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Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

analog-to-digitalEthan is the owner and creative director of a fashion house in California.  As the holidays approach, he is trying to finish some projects before the end of the year and pursue new ventures for the new one to come.  The last thing he needs is to attend his sister’s wedding vow renewal back home in Minnesota.  However, his long term lover Toby has other ideas.  Toby buys plane tickets for the both of them and insists that they have to go.  Ethan complains that he has too much work to do but the fact that his sister just got married less than a year ago is another reason.  Why should she basically get two weddings in a year when he cannot get his partner to marry him?

The root of the problem is that both Ethan and Toby have both stated that neither of them wan a wedding of their own from the beginning.  But several years on, Ethan would like nothing more than to formally tie himself to Toby through matrimony.  He fears that if he pushes too far then he might lose Toby forever.  When they arrive in Minnesota, Ethan’s anxiety escalates as he is left alone to work on his fashions while Toby, Ethan’s parents and sister all work on last minute details for the vow renewal.  Ethan barely sees his family all day and at night Toby seems distant.  Ethan convinces himself that by the time the return to California or shortly thereafter, his relationship with Toby will come to an end.  He now longer feels that Minnesota is his home but will he have a home with Toby in the long run?  This is turning out to be a Bah Humbug of a Christmas for him.

Posy Roberts once again pens a tale that draws you in.  Ethan‘s paranoia about his relationship with Toby is almost palpable.  As I was reading, I knew that Ethan was probably blowing the situation out of proportion but isn’t that what most people who misinterpret a situation do?  Ethan almost reaches the point where he sabotages his relationship all by himself.  But of course this is a Christmas story so Ethan finally receives the gift he has been secretly wanting all along.  The trip home to California won’t be as lonely as he thought it would be earlier in the week.

The cover art is by the author and has a man’s rear end covered in jeans with his hand behind him with his fingers crossed.  I’m not sure how it relates to the story. 

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Book Details

EBook, 39 pages

Edition Language:  English

Published December 2016 by Dreamspinner Press

ISBN:  978-1-63533-191-2

Series:  Dreamspinner Advent Calendar 2016—Bah Humbug

A VVivacious Advent Calendar Review Day 28: Teddy Bears (2016 Advent Calendar – Bah Humbug) by Brandon Witt

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Rating:  5 Stars out of 5
 
teddy-bearsJames Olsen is a handsome bear of a man who visits the bathhouse where Brian works.
 
Brian is a geeky chubby guy who hates Christmas and can’t wait for it to be over. But an accidental meeting with James at a toy store might just have Brian believing in Christmas Miracles.
 
I don’t know why I ever doubted that this story would not be good, I mean it is written by Brandon Witt and for those of you who don’t know the author should seriously consider checking his books out.
 
This story was 49 pages long (according to my reader), in which the effective length of the story after you factor in the blurb, author’s info, publication details and the cover comes out to be 40 pages and in just 40 pages the author had me so caught up in the story that I was crying by the end of it which was so surprising for me. I only cry in stories that really touch me and it is so rare for a short story to do that for me because of the limitation of their length but looks like I have been seriously underestimating short stories.
 
I loved this story because it caught me so off guard there were just so many little things in this story that were just so unique. I am actually finding it very hard to describe this book with my limited vocabulary.
 
This story is lovely, it transcends the holiday spirit and it leaves you with a warm feeling inside. I really don’t want to say anything more for fear of spoilers but know this, this story was awesome.
 
Cover Art by L. C. Chase. I loved the cover which is a depiction of an actual scene in this story and yes, this book does feature Teddy Bear hamsters.
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Book Details:
ebook, 47 pages
Published December 1st 2016 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1635331900 (ISBN13: 9781635331905)
Edition LanguageEnglish
Series2016 Advent Calendar – Bah Humbug

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Advent Calendar Review Day Review Day 27: Santa for Hire (2016 Advent Calendar – Bah Humbug) by Asta Idonea

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Rating: 3 stars out of 5

santa-for-hireDepartment manager Richard Barratt is less than happy when his department is selected to house the log cabin in which Santa will reside during the holiday season, starting in mid-November, at the large retailer where he works. His thinking about the holiday runs along the lines of bah humbug ever since his boyfriend/fiancé walked out on him on Christmas Eve two years before. It didn’t matter that the man was a cheat—he simply ruined Richard’s holiday celebration forever.

Even after Blaine Ryder, a really cute actor, is hired to play Santa, Richard still wants nothing to do with that section of his department, and when Santa flirts with him, he’s even more uneasy. When Blaine takes it a step further and lures Richard into the cabin for a little after-hours fun, Richard’s reaction is not what Blaine is hoping for.

This is a cute holiday romance, somewhat predictable in its formula, but sweet nevertheless. For those of you who, like me, can’t get enough of holiday romances, this one will definitely fill your sweet tooth and provide some holiday cheer.

Cover art by Paul Richmond is the brand cover for the series.

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Book Details:

ebook, 31 pages
Published December 1st 2016 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1635331897 (ISBN13: 9781635331899)
Edition LanguageEnglish
Series2016 Advent Calendar – Bah Humbug

A Lila Advent Calendar Review Day 22: The Vampire’s Dinner (2016 Advent Calendar – Bah Humbug) by T.J. Nichols

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

the-vampires-dinnerFor vampire Charles Redfort, Christmas is a bitter reminder of the day he was killed by a werewolf. After fleeing the vampire army he was created to serve in, he has lived in exile in England. Once a year he allows himself to tell the truth about his life over dinner. Then he eats the man he’s hired for the night.

Blake Wells is an engineering student by day and escort by night. He works Christmas because he doesn’t want to see his father, and his mother doesn’t want to see him. When he meets Charles, he thinks he’s gotten a bonus present that he can’t wait to unwrap. But as the truth is revealed, Blake will have to think fast to live until morning and convince Charles to give up his lonely life.

The Vampire‘s Dinner is a refreshing change from the standard Christmas story. I liked Charles best. It’s easy to feel all his years of disappear and loneliness as we learned of the events he had lived over the centuries. Even so, he still has some humanity left in him and when meeting Blake, it becomes an obstacle in his well-designed plan.

Blake might be working as an escort, but he has his life organized to perfection in order to graduate from college and get a job in his career field. His life hasn’t been easy, but he had persevered and it’s now closer to his goal. Meeting Charles presents a new opportunity.  

This short story is well-paced, funny, and smexy; all in one unusual plot. The banter and the negotiations between the main characters leaves the reader hoping for more in the future. It does have a satisfying ending with a HFN but it has a lot of potential for a longer story, and perhaps other couples in the same world.

The country descriptions and the food tasting were another great detail integrated by the author. As well as the hotel setting and the characters’ descriptions.

The generic cover is definitely Paul Richmond’s signature style but doesn’t go with the story.

Sale Links: Dreamspinner | AmazonARe

ebook, 39 pages
Published: December 1, 2016, 
Dreamspinner Press
ISBN: 1635331846 (ISBN13: 9781635331844)
Edition Language: English

A VVivacious Advent Calendar Review Day 26: Scrooged Over (2016 Advent Calendar – Bah Humbug) by David Connor

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Rating – 5 Stars out of 5
 
scrooged-overDeke and Dudley are radio jockeys, co-hosts of the ‘Deke and Dudley Morning Show’. When Deke starts of on his post-Thanksgiving anti-Christmas tirade Dudley the yuletide overachiever is shocked. An on-air argument leads to a wager that whoever gets more listeners on their side wins and the loser needs to spend an evening with a blind date of  the winner’s choice.
 
As Dudley gears up to prove Deke wrong, things don’t work out as planned – the Christmas lights don’t work, the cookies go bad, Dudley’s cats puke on his wrapping paper and his holiday cards don’t get sent out. As Dudley’s Christmas looks like it is headed towards disaster, he submits himself to the blind date, all the while hoping that the blind date will turn out to be Deke himself
 
This story makes for an awesome read. I loved how this story set the record straight on what Christmas is all about. I especially liked how the author managed to send out the message despite the consumerism that surrounds Christmas nowadays. I also liked the fact that this story manages to show us that Christmas means the same things to people even if they find themselves participating in its rampant consumerism, even if  they drive themselves crazy trying to get everything perfect because they work that hard because they want to make Christmas as memorable as they can for their loved ones. In this story there is a point where Deke tells Dudley that Deke and his siblings don’t let their parents buy them anything for Christmas because of the one Christmas they ruined by being very ungrateful, so nowadays they send their parents for a cruise every Christmas. This is followed by Dudley’s statement that probably Deke’s mother would love to give them gifts because that’s how she would want to spend her Christmas, making her kids happy.
 
I loved a lot of nuances in this story. I loved how Deke and Dudley end up together. I especially loved how Dudley stood up for himself and for his love when he made it clear that he wanted to be with Deke.
 
This story is really amazing. I loved the characters in this story. They were all very amazing, what with Dudley who fits the phrase yuletide overachiever to a tee and Deke who is busy rampaging against all things Christmas. Also, I loved Dudley’s grandfather he was like the cherry at the top of the cake pushing and prodding Deke and Dudley together without being subtle about it in the least.
 
I really loved Dudley. This story is written from Dudley’s perspective and by the end of the story I had fallen in love with his character, the guy who is trying so hard because he wants to make this Christmas special for the people around him.
 
This story is a splendid take on the spirit of Christmas and it will have you smiling till the very end.
 
Cover Art by Bree Archer. I loved the cover; it really captures the spirit of this story.
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Book Details:
ebook, 69 pages
Published December 1st 2016 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1635331889 (ISBN13: 9781635331882)
Edition LanguageEnglish
Series2016 Advent Calendar – Bah Humbug

A Stella Advent Calendar Review Day 24: How the Supervillain Stole Christmas by Charles Payseur

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RATING 3,5 out of 5 stars

how-the-supervillain-stole-christmas-by-charles-payseurRex Devious (Dr. Devious to meddlesome do-gooders everywhere) can go toe-to-toe with superheroes without blinking an eye. So picking out a Christmas present for his new boyfriend should be no problem. After all, he and Sanjay seem perfect for each other. But with a terrible track record for finding gifts that won’t scare his potential partners away, Rex is paralyzed with insecurity. Until, of course, he decides to change tactics. Instead of having to pick out that perfect present, why not just destroy Christmas altogether? If his nemeses (or his conscience) can’t stop him first, he might just become the supervillain who stole Christmas.

I liked this short very much, the relationship between the characters was really cute, but I especially enjoyed Rex and his inability at buying presents for his ex (and actual) boyfriends. He was so funny and I had a good time at reading about his determination at ruining Christmas or just erasing it from the Earth, as a solution to his problem with gifts. His evil plans were hilarious and brought to a  very sweet ending.

I admit I had just a little bit of hard time with this short since I’m not so into superheroes and AI and everything related to that world, so it took me a long moment to find my feet in Rex’s life. I would have liked to see more of Rex and Sanjay together, but still I want to recommend How the Supervillain Stole Christmas by Charles Payseur, an adorable Christmas story.

The cover art by Paul Richmond is perfect cause I’m not sure why, but I can totally see Rex in the face of the person on the cover, while planning the impossible.

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BOOK DETAILS

Kindle Edition, 33 pages

Published November 30th 2016 by Dreamspinner Press

ASIN B01MYUB1Y6

Edition Language English

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.

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Book Details:

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

A MelanieM Advent Calendar Review Day 21: Iced (2016 Advent Calendar – Bah Humbug) by Jon Keys

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Rating: 3 stars out of 5

iced-by-jon-keysKeith Walker, a mall bookstore employee, is struggling to get through another miserable holiday season while trying to preserve a crumbling long-term relationship. One of his few comforts is his morning coffee made by a good-looking, younger barista. Austin Novak felt an attraction when Keith started frequenting the coffee shop, but he doesn’t think the older man has any interest in him or his graphic novel collection.

A Christmas week snowstorm buries the city and locks Keith’s car into its parking spot. Keith decides to show Austin his gratitude for helping free the car from the ice with a dinner invitation. The meal becomes complicated when Austin meets Keith’s boyfriend, Shawn, and things go downhill from there when Shawn announces he’s heading to Cancún with his coworkers. Keith is caught between keeping his boyfriend happy and keeping his job. But Keith might not need a plane ticket to find the happiness that’s been missing from his life.

Iced by Jon Keys is a well written holiday romance.  It flowed smoothly, the characters felt real as did some of the situations. So why didn’t I connect with it better?

It could be Keith and his awful floormat relationship with his existing boyfriend, Shawn.  We got to see exactly how badly Shawn treated Keith as well as how far Keith would go to ignore the sheer blatant cheating and humiliating behaviors he exhibited towards Keith, especially in front of Austin.  If I had been Austin, I would have been at the door in a heartbeat.  This wasn’t one red flag, it was a truckload.  Yes, the story worked its way through to a romance, but honestly?  It lost me here, and never recovered.

Others, I know are going to see it differently.  For them, the recovery, the meet again through the phone call, all of it will add up to a delightful holiday love story.  I guess it should have done it for me as well.

But it didn’t.  It’s that initial impression that got me and stayed with me.  I could never establish a real connection to their relationship after that.    See what you think and let me know.  I give it 3 stars because its so well written and thought out.   You take it from there.

Paul Richmond’s Series brand cover continues to  delight.

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Book Details:

ebook, 47 pages
Published December 1st 2016 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1635331838 (ISBN13: 9781635331837)
Edition LanguageEnglish

Series2016 Advent Calendar – Bah Humbug