Who We Are

Who We Are - Nicola Haken, Jay Aheer, E Adams

This was such a great read! I wished it were longer - but kind of not, because my eyeballs couldn't have withstood leaking any more than they already were, but since some things were more summarized nearing the end, I didn't feel quite completely satisfied with some aspects of the story. Thankfully, those were minor aspects involving minor characters, so it wasn't too big of a deal.


Anyway, I loved Ollie and Sebastian. This is one of the few instances I found the insta believable, because it wasn't insta-lust but insta-like and we've all been through that, whether romantic or platonic. They actually go on dates, and get to know each other, and the relationship is built up believably enough that when things take a sudden turn for the worse, I actually found the emotions and struggles to be realistic. I also liked Ollie's brother Tyler, even though he constantly abused "init" and acted like a typical moody teen at times, but he really showed how much he cared for and adored his unorthodox big bro.


Plus, Sebastian is bisexual. He said it. He explains the internal biphobia, the problems he faces when datings straight women or gay men. I am so, so glad that more authors are embracing bisexual characters in their books and getting away from the GFY trope.


I do wish we'd gotten to see more of Sebastian's family - even his uncle cuz I want to take that moment at the dining table and frame it on my wall - you'll know that moment if you read the book. And there was this other thing between the besties that happens at the end too, that I'm not sure why it was included at all unless perhaps Ms. Haken is thinking of a potential sequel, which I would definitely read if so.

Pure Bred (Shelter #4)

Pure Bred: Book Four of the Shelter Series - Kate Sherwood

This series has been kind of a mixed bag. I really liked that the focus was on those living in poverty and struggling to make ends meet, and that it was more people of color than your average M/M. However, I also felt that too often the couple got together way too quickly. That happens again here, with Trey and Seb. Trey's been kind of a mystery for the series since he's been mostly on the fringes of the other books. Seb is completely new. He's supposedly a law student but not particularly well-spoken in tense situations. Hopefully, he stays away from trial law. ;)


Mostly, I liked Seb and how he was able to self-assess and realize how easy his life has been once he has his eyes opened by Trey and the others. Seb grew up in a well-to-do family, with supportive parents and sister, a cousin who's also his best friend, and never having to worry about where his next meal will come from. He took it all for granted until he realizes how much harder life is without any of that stuff. And then he stands by his newfound convictions despite everyone else being worried about his safety and future.


What was kind of weird was the extremely weak sauce D/s dynamic between Seb and Trey. On the one hand, I extremely dislike D/s so I was glad that it wasn't a big part of the story and that it was pretty mild, because the little bit that was there left me cold. On the other hand, I'm not sure why it was there at all. There was already a lot going on to examine power dynamics with the class difference between Seb and Trey, so adding this wasn't really needed. So yeah, weird.


The conflict between Seb and Trey was predictable as hell and was resolved rather predictably also. But I liked that the main conflict that carried over from the previous book was handled realistically in terms of the fallout for the neighborhood. And the epilogue from Dodger's POV was cute!

Femme (Audiobook)

Femme - Marshall Thornton
Oh my GAAAAWD! This book was aDORablllleee!

What happens when a super effeminate gay waiter meets a super straight-seeming gay softball player/nurse who's still in the closet to his family? Shenanigans!

"Dog" doesn't make a lot of good decisions, and he's not a fast thinker, but he does eventually always do and say the right thing. And he's very lucky that Lionel is patient with him - sort of. Sometimes. A lot of the times. :D Lionel doesn't put up with much nonsense and is as sassy as he is flaming, so when his fab meets Dog's drab, there's a lot of clashing of the cultural expectations, lol. There's not a lot in the way of Romance (™) but it's a very sweet love story nonetheless.

This is very humorous, and Joel Leslie is the perfect narrator for this story. He really hits all the comedic moments and keeps even the tense moments from getting too tense. He brings life to all the characters and goes back and forth between the POVs smoothly.


Boy Meets Boy (Audiobook)

Boy Meets Boy - David Levithan

Why would anyone eat a lentil burger? What is wrong with you people? That is taking vegetarianism way too far!



But that disturbing moment aside, this was a fun listen. I liked the full cast production, they went into audio play territory, with sound effects, songs and all that jazz. The cast was great, though I was confused at times when Noah or Paul were talking. Not sure why they'd pick two guys who sound so much alike for those roles.


This was pretty much Teen Melodrama and Teen Angst, but peppered with enough humor to make the melodrama and angst more palatable (unlike lentils). I have a feeling that if I'd read this instead of listened to it, though, I wouldn't have liked it near as much.


It was a little too much "ultra liberal paradise" to be believable but I just started thinking of it as a fantasy/AU after awhile. (Cheerleading squad that rides choppers? Who's paying for that?) I also wanted to smack Paul on several occasions, especially when he's complaining about having no one to talk about his problems. I mean, I know he's a teen but dude, your parents??? That's kind of what they're there for.


I liked Noah and Paul and Tony and even Kevin after awhile. I wanted to like Joanie more but her character does this thing and since the story just sort of ends without resolving said things, I'm kind of left waffling on her. Infinite Darlene was a hoot, a real scene stealer.

Blinded By Our Eyes (Audiobook) - DNF @ 33%

Blinded By Our Eyes - Clare London

I always considered Sean Crisden a good narrator. He does what a good narrator should do: speaks clearly, hits the emotional notes, and allows the story to come through. He doesn't necessarily add anything to the material, not for me anyway, but he didn't detract from it either. Until now. I couldn't believe this was him. It was painful, y'all. And speeding it up didn't help. 


And the story was not what I was hoping it'd be. I really enjoyed Ms. London's contributions to the Petit Morts series and have been looking for something else by her to read. This is just a rambling mess, barely worth the mystery elements, and from reviews by others there's not much of a romance element either.

Whistling in the Dark (Audiobook)

Whistling in the Dark - Tamara Allen

This is true Tamara Allen sweetness here: a quiet little story full of hope in a bleak time.


Sutton and Jack are WWI veterans trying to figure out how to get back into civilian life after the war. Jack runs an emporium which is struggling because of the economic times. He's also suffering from PTSD, unable to sleep most nights. Sutton suffered a hand injury that has prevented him from getting back to playing the piano, and he's running out of ways to make it on his own in NYC.


I really liked the way Ms. Allen took her time with this story and building up these characters and their relationship, so that while this is another one-month romance, it didn't feel rushed at all, and it actually felt like a lot more time had passed. She really pays attention to the details, like the "treatments" for PTSD and the "health advice" for influenza, and makes sure the characters feel like they're from the time period. Normally, when this many side characters are tolerable of Jack and Sutton's relationship, I'd bemoan "gay okay" revisionist history in M/M, but Ms. Allen never loses sight of the consequences, not just of the general public but of the law as well, if the wrong people find out or decide to spread the word. Plus, it's New York, where almost anything goes. There's also a variety of different ways that the characters react to it when they find out, so they're not exactly 100% on the Rainbow Train even when their responses are mostly positive.


I also liked that Sutton wasn't the wide-eyed country boy, and that Jack wasn't the "corrupting" influence his friends teased him as being. Though they'd both served in the army, they didn't come out of it tough-as-nails warriors like you see so much of in contemporary stories. You can see the weariness on them both, and Jack especially had a hard time forgetting the things he saw or the people who died so he could do his work. They were tired of fighting and eager to put it behind them.


The narrator, Meral Mathews, has a nice old-timey quality to his voice that suits the story. I do wish he'd made more of a distinction between the various voices, but I was still always able to keep track of who was speaking and which POV we were in.

Knight of Flames (Inheritance #2)

Knight of Flames (Inheritance Book 2) - Amelia Faulkner

You know that feeling when you're reading a good book and you sort of know where it's going and it goes there but it's still okay because you still had a good time getting there? But there's also this undercurrent of weird niggling at you the entire time and then you get to the last page and it sucker punches you in the brain and then you can't figure out if you're really excited or super dreading what's going to come next?



And all of a sudden everything you've read prior to that moment is put into this whole other context and it makes this horrible kind of sense and you don't know what to make of it? Yeah, that's me and this book.


This was going to be a solid four stars, and the first 95% of the book totally is. But now? Gotta raise it up a star. The author is toying with us, just because she can! I bet this is what Ms. Faulkner was doing as she was writing that page:



Laurence and Quentin are still figuring out their psychic powers and their relationship, and how to get past Quentin's various hangups with sex or anything sexual in nature. Along the way, Quentin gets an unexpected visitor, Ethan gets a boyfriend, and we get to meet new psychics. The other really starts to expand on this world while also giving us a little more background on Quentin. We don't get quite as much focus on Laurence, as this one is more Quentin-centric, but we still go back and forth on their POVs.


The flaws exist only because the characters are flawed, and to say more about it would be giving away too much of the plot. Let me just say, you'll yell at these characters like they're in a horror movie but at least Laurence is somewhat genre savvy. Quentin is as always tragically oblivious.


What else can I say? The author's geography of San Diego continues to prove good. Kind of off on our weather. May's usually not that hot, but freak heat waves do happen all year long so I'll give her that one.

Between Sinners and Saints (Audiobook)

Between Sinners and Saints - Marie Sexton

Why did I wait so long to read this?


Well, because I found out there was a Mormon character and I always worry about that being done wrong. And while Levi's family isn't a carbon copy of my own or other Mormon families I know, I can still see this family dynamic existing in real life. It's almost too easy to see it. Even the church presidents spews the "love the sinner but not the sin" nonsense that Levi's family does here. Sadly, the Church isn't contend with just that. The book really gives a fully detailed and nuanced view of the various Binders and how they feel about Levi being gay. It's never questioned that they love Levi, some of them just don't know how to love him unconditionally like the Church also teaches us to do. His family runs the full spectrum of strictly following Church doctrine to believing it's high time the Church get off their high horse and catch up with the times.


Still, I can see how some readers not familiar with Mormonism or Mormons might hate Levi's family, and that's okay too.


Ok, onto the good stuff. Levi starts out a selfish windbag who's only concern is where to stick his dick. Working for a gay night club in Miami gives him plenty of hookups but little else. He doesn't realize how hollow his life is until he meets Jamie. Jamie is a massage therapist who Levi goes to for help with his surfer's hip and Levi, in true douche bag fashion, tries to seduce Jamie. Jamie though has a lot of trauma in his past and he quickly throws Levi out on his keister where Levi belongs. When Levi finally realizes what an asshole he's been, he has a turn around and he and Jamie become friends.


This is a nice slow burn, as Jamie and Levi get to know each other, and Jamie learns that he can in fact trust Levi. Levi in turns learns how to put someone else's needs above his own. It's the start of the change to a better life for both of them.


The romance takes it's time and doesn't rush things, and I didn't feel like Jamie's sexual awakening in the latter half of the book was too easy. It's anything but easy for him, and it's Levi's patience and understanding that goes a long way to helping Jamie become comfortable with his own body and letting himself be vulnerable.


The narrator, John Solo, does a fantastic job with the story and characters. He really brings the story to life, and his voices for the various characters are all well done and feel perfect for each one.

A Wrinkle in Time (A Wrinkle in Time Quintet #1)

A Wrinkle in Time - Madeleine L'Engle

This is very Young Wizards-lite. It's a fun story and certainly very imaginative, but I couldn't help but wonder how much more awesome it'd be in the hands of Diane Duane. It's not very fair of me, I know. These books are aimed at grade schoolers, while Young Wizards books are young adult and delve deeper into their themes. A Wrinkle in Time is a very quick read, jumping from action to action with very little explanation of how or why anything works the way it does. The plot is very straightforward and other than first few chapters that set up the characters and the world, there's very little deviation from the plot once the kids are whisked away on their adventure. At one point, I started to wonder if this was going to end up being a cliffhanger, though that didn't feel right. It might have been 30 years since I read this in grade school, but I think I would have remembered feeling cheated it this didn't have a proper ending. Unfortunately, that means the resolution is extremely quick and rather simplified.

The Dating Game - DNF @ 20% (Audiobook)

The Dating Game - Jay Northcote

I got the ebook free forever ago and cracked it open some months back but quickly decided to shelve it due to the writing. Then I saw this in the Audible Romance Package and decided to give it another go. Ugh! Narrator isn't bad, but really is too posh for the story. And the story itself is pretty standard contemporary romance with little else going on. Just not that interesting. 

Dance - DNF @ 6%

Dance - Teodora Kostova

Well, that is some of the most awkward and clunky writing that I've come across in awhile. I'm already skimming. And that was before the musical numbers. Onto the next book!

Twice Shy (Shelter #3)

Twice Shy: Book Three in the Shelter Series - Kate Sherwood

Since Micah has spent most of the previous two books in a constant drug haze, it was nice to get to know him once he's free of the drugs. He's smart and philosophical, and he's realistic about his situation and the people he hurt with his drug habit. He knows he's got to keep working the program, even the parts that seem silly to him, and he doesn't get defensive when he's called out for veering off the rules. He knows he's got a lot of bridges to rebuild and relationships to mention, especially with his found family who he betrayed in the previous book. So getting know the real him was great.


I also liked that he was just miraculously clean after a stint in rehab. He's still tempted, and he's aware of his triggers and his pitfalls. Being idle is bad for him, so when his fellow rehab friend Austin gets his brother to offer Micah a job, he jumps at it.


Jake, Austin's brother, is a down-to-earth guy trying to grow his landscaping business, but he also has to take care of his younger brother, whose recovery is not going as well as Micah's. And with all his issues with Austin, I really couldn't buy it that he'd jump so quickly into a relationship with Micah. Yes, he questions the wisdom of it several times, and this is one of the few times the mid-book breakup actually makes sense. And even though this relationship develops over a few weeks, as opposed to the first two books which were both over a handful of days, this felt more rushed somehow. Maybe because I didn't really feel the connection, because I kept wondering why Jake, or even Micah, would risk a relationship at this point in their lives, and Austin's just another complication.

Really, this is a massive spoiler. You've been warned.

(show spoiler)

And I kind of felt that killing Austin off was just a little too "easy" for getting rid of that complication. Obviously, not easy emotionally for the characters, but easy narratively for the author.

(show spoiler)


I'm not sure what to make of the gentrification plot that's introduced here and which will be resolved somehow in the next book, which makes this kind of a cliffhanger. I guess I'll wait and see that resolution before deciding on it - though reading the blurb for the next book, I can already guess where that's going to go.


The three little snippets or interludes at the end were more like teasers for the next book than anything else, fun to read but not necessary.


Oh, and no way is that African violet surviving. They're way too picky and finicky to grow under the best of circumstances.

Out of the Pocket (Audiobook)

Out of the Pocket - Bill Konigsberg

I can see why this is compared a lot to Openly Straight, but the differences were enough that it didn't feel like I was listening to the same story all over again.


Bobby's a high school senior and starting QB of the football team when he's outed. He's also got issues at home unrelated to this that he has to deal with at the same time. There was surprisingly little drama. Though Bobby has to overcome some prejudices and deal with some homophobes, he's also got a lot of support.


One thing to note: this is NOT a romance in any way shape or form, so don't expect that if you're going to read or listen to this. Bobby does eventually get a boyfriend, but it's a very small part of the story and not a "forever" boyfriend.


The humor worked for me here more than anything else, and the narrator did a good job for the most part. I have to question some of his voice choices, but that's a personal detail that might not bother others. Also, if you're only listening to the audiobook, the ebook has a bonus chapter of Bobby looking for colleges to play football for that can be considered an epilogue, and a brief "interview" with Bobby's friend Carrie that's short and sweet but doesn't really add much to the story.

Jack of Thorns (Inheritance #1)

Jack of Thorns (Inheritance Book 1) - Amelia Faulkner

A story set in San Diego written by someone who actually knows San Diego.



I was fully prepared to have to relive some really bad geography, ala Everything Changes  by Melanie Hansen, but by the time chapter five or so rolled around, I knew I was in good hands. I even learned something about that ginormous tree in the middle of Balboa Park (because she's right; locals totally don't read those tourist signs, lol). Woot!


Now onto stuff other readers will actually care about. :D The world-building in this book is fantastic and I'm eager to see how she develops this world going forward. This is the way I like my world-building - just enough information that I'm not lost but not so much information that the mystery is ruined. There is no info-dumping here, but we still get a complex world with hints of more lairs hidden beneath. Faulkner borrows from Celtic myths, psychic tropes and even throws in a little bit of mystery, while also balancing themes of classism, abuse and addiction. Warnings re: the addiction storyline:

Laurence drives while high on marijuana several times, which is dangerous but wasn't actually illegal until this year (2018). He also craves heroin several times. Quentin has alcoholic tendencies but those aren't focused on quite as much, though he does get smashed a couple of times.

(show spoiler)

This is a really slow burn. If you're looking for smexy or smut, look elsewhere. The MCs only kiss - twice - and one of those times was not with romantic intentions. Quentin has a lot of hangups with sex, though those reasons are only guessed at here, so this is something that appears will be explored in later books. I love that Laurence never pressures him. He doesn't ignore the issues but doesn't push more than Quentin is comfortable with.


We get both Laurence and Quentin's POVs, and the author actually gives them their own unique voices in their POVs. This is sadly rare in M/M, where all MCs have the same voices, so it deserves recognition when an author is able to do this. Quentin does have this habit of referring to himself as "one" throughout the first half of the book, but this seemed tied up with his many issues.


There were a couple of minor continuity issues and very few typos. I also felt that Laurence's bisexuality was more lip service than anything else. 

Bridged (Callahan & McLane #2) (Audiobook)

Bridged - Kendra Elliot

CW (because I forgot for the first one): drug addiction of a side character (family member of an MC)


So as with the first book, this is dual narration, which is still not my favorite. But also as with the first one, each narrator does a great job with their individual parts. It's a catch-22 any time this situation comes up. *shrugs*


The author is also continuing with the villain POV, though I thought it was better integrated here and the reveals as to why he was doing what he was doing and how he was connected to the victims was handled better. Still don't really care for villain POV in mysteries like this, but she does it better than most.


There was one thought that kept niggling at the back of my mind while listening to this: how much time exactly had passed since the previous book. If they mentioned it, I didn't catch it, but it didn't seem like a whole heck of a lot of time had passed. Yet already Mason and Ava are practically living together and act like they've been a couple for years instead of still getting to know each other. I'm not sure I really buy that level of synchronicity so soon into a relationship. 


Also, Ava was shot in the shoulder at the end of the previous book and she's still going to physical therapy for the injury - but she's already cleared for field duty? Um...if you say so. She should either still be on desk duty (and did she even do a psyche eval?) or there should have been a lot more time between books. There was really no need for this book to pick up so soon after the previous one.

And given all the injuries poor Ava sustains again at the end of this book, there really better be adequate time between books - and psyche evals better actually happen for both her and Mason. Jeez.


Really, is Ava going to be severely injured at the end of every book? Can she not? Surely it's Mason's turn next. :D

(show spoiler)


The mystery itself was interesting up to a point.

It kind of stretches believability that every single one of the victims still lived in the Seattle area after nearly two decades. The congressman and Derrick I can see staying put, and even Joe since he was a slacker. But the other two could have just as easily moved out of state and realistically probably would have given what happened all those years ago.


Also, it was rather convenient that Jane was date one of the potential victims. Because of course she was.

(show spoiler)

Still, it was better paced than the previous book, as I mentioned before, and it was odd enough to keep my attention even after I figured out what was going on. The lead up to the climax looked like we were headed toward Silly Town but the author was mostly able avoid it. And I like how Mason and Ava were able to remain professional (fancy that!) and keep their cool under pressure. 


I'm starting to get annoyed with Jane. Ava reminds me of those parents who constantly bail their kids out of trouble so they don't have to face the consequences of their actions and then are amazed when said kids have no moral compass or impulse control. Ava, you're doing sisterhood wrong. 

Throwing Stones (Glasgow Lads on Ice #1)

Throwing Stones  - Avery Cockburn

I have no idea what curling is and honestly it always looks boring as hell in the Olympics, but it's Glasgow Lads! I'm in!


And now that I've read this, I still don't understand curling, LOL, except to say that it is a lot more complicated than it looks. The author is kind enough to include a crash course at the end and she gave detailed play-by-plays during the competition sections, but as I've never even watched more than a few minutes of any game - and that was years ago - I had a hard time picturing what was going on. Still, Ms. Cockburn was very good at making the stakes clear at all relevant points and that's what really mattered more than anything else.

Anyway, this is another great story from Ms. Cockburn, and we even get a few cameos from the main series. Oliver is an ex-curler from Canada trying to start over in Scotland as a coach for Team Boyd. Luca is the leader of Team Riley, the rival of Team Boyd. He's also the brother-in-law of Team Boyd's leader, Jack. Oliver has ADHD and Luca lives a Zen lifestyle on and off the ice. They appear polar opposites on the surface, but they click immediately and their stories end up paralleling each other in interesting ways.

This is a little insta-love since the story takes place over a week, and it seems especially quick since Luca identifies somewhere on the ace spectrum though he's not really sure where. So the quick pace was a little off but in the end didn't bother me too much since we actually get ample page time of the two getting to know each other since they initially agreed not to start anything because of the conflict of interest. Of course, that doesn't last long - and for those of you who need steamy sex, you're going to be disappointed. There's one sex scene and it's vague on details, focusing instead on the emotional components, which means it was right up my alley. :D

Oliver and Luca have their own baggage and challenges, and some of their decisions, especially Luca's, were frustrating but in a realistic way. I don't need my MCs to be infallible, and these two definitely aren't. I do need them to learn and grow, and Luca and Oliver do that by spades.

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