Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Book Review: The Hard Way Home by Z.A. Maxfield

From The Blurb:
Dare Buckley has come home—or at least, he’s come back to Palladian, the small town he left as a teenager. After a major lapse in judgment forced him to resign from the Seattle PD, Palladian is the only place that’ll hire him. There’s one benefit to hitting rock bottom, though: the chance to investigate the mystery of his father’s suicide. 
Dare also gets to reacquaint himself with Finn Fowler, whose childhood hero worship ended in uncomfortable silence when Dare moved away. But Finn isn’t the same little kid Dare once protected. He’s grown into an attractive, enigmatic stranger who neither wants nor needs what Dare has to offer. 
In fact, Dare soon realizes that Finn’s keeping secrets—his own and the town’s. And he doesn’t seem to care that Dare needs answers. The atmosphere in Palladian, like its namesake river, appears placid, but dark currents churn underneath. When danger closes in, Dare must pit his ingenuity against his heart, and find his way home the hard way.

Karen's rating:




I think I'd forgotten how much I enjoy reading Z.A. Maxfield. It's been a long time since I've read a book by this author. So when I stumbled across this one sitting on my e-reader I couldn't resist the temptation.

'Home the Hard Way' is a mystery with a definite romance thrown in and I love this combination. The story is set in a small town called Palladian. Small towns are another weakness of mine. I grew up in the country and lived about 5 miles outside of a small town and have spent much of my life living in small towns and anyone who's ever spent any amount of time in one knows that the expression 'if you can't remember what you did yesterday, just ask your neighbour' had to of been created by someone who lived in a small town. Truer words were never spoken. Palladian personifies that phrase. Everyone is in everyone else's business. There are secrets and lies, deceptions, affairs all the stuff that small town life is made of.

Dare Buckley left Palladian as a teenager shortly after his father committed suicide, but now he's back. For Dare, Palladian has become his last chance at redemption. He messed up big time in Seattle and it seems that in order to fix things he needs to go back to the beginning.

Being back in Palladian means a chance not only to fix his professional life but it's also his opportunity to try and find out what drove his father to commit suicide and it means a seeing Finn Fowler again. Finn was just a young kid with a serious case of hero worship when Dare last saw him. Finn's all grown up now and he doesn't need a knight in shining armor to ride to his rescue...Finn has taken control of his own life...total control.


So where do I begin explaining how much I loved this book...let's start with Dare. Dare was the golden child, Finn worshiped him, he was Finn's friend, his confidant, his protector, in a way his everything but that was then and now Dare and Finn have both grown up. Dare's a bit of a mess, he spends a lot of time seeking comfort and answers in a bottle where they can't be found and he's slowly beginning to realize that the Finn he left behind doesn't exist anymore and he just doesn't know the Finn that he's come back to. Which brings us to Finn. Yep, Finn grew up and it wasn't an easy thing but he learned the hard way that the person who was going to take care of Finn...was Finn and no one else. He's got secrets that he guards tenaciously but most of them aren't his, they just seem to revolve around him.

There was host of secondary characters who added to this small town's character. Each one of them somehow connected to the MCs and each other as is often the case in small towns. People such as Finn's Aunt Lyddie, Bill Fraser who is a story unto himself, Denise, Tony, Trent and so many others.

Blogtour: Test Drive by Riley Hart

Test Drive RDB Banner<


TEST DRIVE

A CROSSROADS NOVEL

RILEY HART

M/M ROMANCE


Test Drive Cover
Blurb:

A double shot of devastating news turns Justin Evanson’s life upside down. When he learns his father has cancer, and he has siblings he never knew existed, he leaves everything behind and moves to Virginia to support his dad as he tries to make amends with his family—a family Justin’s not sure he has a place in. Things go from bad to worse when he discovers his recent hookup is his newfound sister’s brother-in-law.
Drew Sinclair never expected to see Justin after their night at the club or to discover their family connection. If anyone found out, it would give Drew’s brother another reason to hate him. But there’s something about Justin that draws him in, and it’s not only because they burn up the sheets together.
One meeting leads to another, and before Justin realizes it, Drew has become the only thing in his world he feels is his. And for the first time in his life, Drew knows what it means to be needed. Being there for Justin and supporting him when things spiral out of control feels right. But with so much happening so quickly, it’s hard to trust their feelings. Is this thing between them real? Or just a test drive before life forces them down two separate roads?



COVER DESIGN: X-Potion Designs

COVER PHOTO: Jean-Baptiste HUONG

RELEASE DATE: 05.30.16

Test Drive Full Cover



BUY LINKS











TEASERS

test drive teaser two

Test Drive Promo 03

EXCERPT
Justin made his way toward his… brother and Landon gave him a quick nod.
“Is this as weird for you as it is for me?” Landon asked.

Justin exhaled. “Yes. Christ. I didn’t expect it to be.” Which didn’t make sense. Of course it would be strange. They were a mismatched family, celebrating his father’s birthday when the man looked like he would pass out at any second.

“What? How could you not expect this to be uncomfortable? Hell, I’m just Landon’s boyfriend and it’s even awkward for me,” Rod said, and Justin glanced up to see Landon lovingly roll his eyes, before he wrapped an arm around Rod’s shoulders and pulled him close. Rod was smaller than Landon. He wore black eyeliner that made his eyes stand out.

“Please, don’t hold back for us,” Landon replied.

“I wouldn’t think of it,” was Rod’s response, but Justin thought he knew what Rod was doing. He wanted to make Landon laugh, wanted to take the edge off, and he found himself grateful that Landon hadn’t let the fact that Rod found out about Justin and his dad before Landon did come between them. They were a strong couple. You could see the love between them.

The three of them chatted for a few minutes before Rod excused himself for the restroom.

“I should probably go talk to him.” Landon crossed his arms and leaned against the wall. There was no doubt in Justin’s mind whom he was speaking about.

“I know he’d like that. I get that it’s hard, though.”

Landon turned his way. “What do I say? Jesus, it’s really shitty that I don’t know how to talk to my own dad.”

Anger burned through Justin’s insides. He was angry at their dad for putting them all in this situation. How hard would it have been to tell Justin and his mom about Shanen and Landon? To be a father to them, too? He bit back the anger and said, “Hi. Happy Birthday. Anything will do.”

Blogtour: North To Zombieville by Meg Bawden



Please welcome Meg Bawden with 

North To Zombieville 




Blurb:

The year is 2028, and Dallas and Raleigh Jenson are torn apart when a worldwide zombie apocalypse ravages their home of Townsville, Australia. After a year of searching, Dallas, a former Australian army rifleman, finally reunites with Raleigh, but it’s not like old times. Not only do they have zombies to contend with, but also other humans, changed by desperation and willing to do anything to survive.

Dallas and Raleigh have changed too. So much so, that Dallas struggles with the idea that Raleigh no longer needs or wants his protection. But they will need to rely on each other and find strength in their love as they are forced to evade zombies and watch their friends die. As they fight for their lives in a brutal landscape where every supply and every step toward a potential cure is a battle to the death, only their trust in each other can keep them from perishing.



Excerpt:

A loud crash and screams from downstairs made them pull away. The diners on the top floor were glancing around worriedly, some of the men showing caution as they stood, but making no move to head downstairs and see what was happening.
Raleigh frowned toward the stairs. “What was that?”
Dallas narrowed his eyes and stood, taking Raleigh with him. The screams were filled with pure fear. It wasn’t just downstairs, though. Distant shrieks echoed through the street as well, but when Dallas glanced over the balcony railing, he couldn’t see anything odd. A crowd had formed on the sidewalk and they were peering around the street in confusion. Glass shattered, and then a rush of people scrambled out of the Strand Delight. One lady fell on top of the glass, her legs dragging over the shards, but whatever scared her was more important than the pain she obviously felt from the glass, because she kicked off her high heels and got to her feet to run again.
Car horns and crunching noises similar to pieces of metal colliding with each other filled the air. A car accident, maybe? But there was more than the sound of one accident. It put Dallas on high alert.
“Raleigh, stay here.” Dallas moved toward the stairs.
“Dallas, I’m coming with you.” Raleigh started to follow him.
“No! I said stay here, and I mean it.” It came out as an angry growl. He hadn’t meant to snap, but if something was going on downstairs, he didn’t want Raleigh in the middle of danger. He had defense training; his husband didn’t. “Please, baby, stay here,” he said, softer than before.
Raleigh hesitated and then nodded. He took a step back toward his seat. Dallas felt eyes on his back as he descended the stairs.
The sight he found nearly made him retreat. Tables were upturned, the glassware and utensils scattered over the floor. Bodies lay on top of each other, blood oozing from holes and torn skin. An older lady’s body was askew in the middle of the room, covering a young boy who couldn’t have been older than ten. His body was twitching, but his neck was in pieces, chunks of meat torn from his jugular. The people left standing were screaming or running toward the exit.
The people who had fallen didn’t look right. Their faces had deep gashes, with blood gushing from their cheeks and down their chins. With some, their mouths drooped on one side, their gums dark and bloody. Their eyes were lifeless, as though they were dead on the inside.
People on the streets ran into the restaurant, pausing as they saw the bodies on the floor start to move and shift as though they were puppets on a string, only missing their master. Upon taking in the scene, they’d run out again.
It all seemed absurd, like a B grade movie that didn’t even make it to the cinemas. Dallas frowned, taking a step up on one of the stairs, farther away from the scene. He stared at one of the women, who rose, her face scratched up badly.
“Ma’am, are you all right?”
She didn’t respond, only groaned in an animalistic way. She started to stumble toward Dallas, her left leg dragging behind her. Her foot was bent backward and she was putting all her weight on her very twisted and broken ankle.
“Ma’am, are you all right?” Dallas repeated, but she ignored him, continuing her walk toward him.
Diners from upstairs came rushing past him, shoving him roughly out of the way.
“No! Don’t go out there!” But it was too late. They weren’t listening to him—fear controlled their every movement.
This had to be a nightmare. It was the night before their anniversary and he was still in bed, he had to be.
He wasn’t watching the lady, and she managed to catch him off guard and shove him to the ground. She slammed herself on top of him, her teeth bared as she dived toward his neck. He raised his elbow, slamming it into her face. She let out a pained squeal and her head jerked back, making her neck crack loudly. But that still didn’t deter her. This time, she went for his arm.
Over the lady’s shoulder, Dallas saw a man clambering out of a door. The man paused, glancing around the room, obviously searching for something. Survivors. Dallas opened his mouth to ask for help at the same time the woman grabbed a piece of wood from a broken table and slammed it against his forehead. Dallas’s head smashed hard against the floor, and his vision flickered for a moment.
By the time he looked again, the man was gone. Dallas would have to deal with the woman on his own. Using all his strength, he shoved at her twitching body, and she went flying backward into a broken chair. She shrieked as Dallas struggled to stand. His legs felt like jelly beneath him.
He stared at her in confusion. How did she keep getting up? It was impossible. But this entire thing was impossible.
“Dallas!”
Raleigh’s voice. He had to get back to his husband. He spun on his heel, but before he could get anywhere, a hand grabbed his ankle and he fell forward.
“Dallas, where are you?” Raleigh’s voice was on the verge of desperation. “Dal!”
“Raleigh!” Dallas called back, but the sound of a car horn close by drowned it out.
As he opened his mouth to call out again, whatever had grabbed him clawed up his trousers. He twisted and stopped in shock. A man this time, but he looked worse than the lady. He was older, with a receding hairline, but his forehead was peeling and blood was cascading down the side of his head. Only part of his teeth remained in his mouth, and even those were halfway out of his gums. To top it off, he only had half a body. From the waist down, there was nothing but his insides dragging behind him.
“No, no, no. I don’t want to go!” Raleigh’s voice sounded distant among the screams from outside. “He’s alive! No. He’s alive!”
“Raleigh!” Dallas shouted again, but as before, his voice was lost in all the other noise.
Anger and anxiousness welled in his chest, and he let the emotions take over. He kicked at the man holding him, slamming his boot into his face. The man squealed as his skull shattered under the force of Dallas’s kick. His body went limp and he released Dallas.
Rising, Dallas quickly retreated back upstairs to Raleigh and made his way toward the balcony. He paused when he found it empty.
Fear curled in his belly, his skin tingling. “Raleigh?”
He was met with silence.
Raleigh?”
But still he got no answer. He spun around, surveying the dining room.
“Leigh, where are you?” He looked out toward the street. More and more people ran out of the restaurants along the Strand, and very quickly the streets filled with running, screaming people. He had no fucking idea what was happening.
Dallas ran to the railing, looking over the balcony. It was then that he realized there was a ladder leaning toward the railing. Raleigh must have climbed down it.
Dallas took two steps at a time. His feet hit the ground and he desperately scanned his surroundings. He pulled out his phone and rang Raleigh. It went straight to message bank. He angrily pressed the End Call button.
“Raleigh!”
The scared crowd ignored him for the most part, though a couple shoved him hard as they ran past. Some tried to get into their cars, but with too many people in the streets, they couldn’t go far. A couple of drivers tried to nudge people with their vehicles, but it only had negative effects. Some of the people in the streets were just like the woman in the Strand Delight. Their eyes were dead, their faces and any other exposed skin bloody and scratched.

Monday, May 30, 2016

ARC Review: 24/7 by J.A. Rock

24/7 (The Subs Club, #4)
From the blurb:

We started the Subs Club to make the kink community safer for subs. Except now the others are so busy chasing their happy endings, it’s like they’ve forgotten what Bill did to Hal and the fact that he got away with it. They used to think I was betraying Hal’s memory by hooking up with the owners of the club where he died. Now they don’t seem to care about any of it anymore.

Maybe I am sometimes angry with GK and Kel for giving Bill a second chance, but they’ve been mentoring me for a year now, and whatever else they’ve done, they make me feel incredibly safe. So I want to try something: I want to offer them my complete submission, 24/7. To serve the people who forgave Bill. That’s the way I want to hurt.

Except I’m starting to care about them in a way I never meant to—and I think they feel the same way. But after Hal, I don’t know if I want to be in love again. Because what I really need, more than anything, is to see Bill brought to justice. Even if I have to do it myself. Even if it means losing GK and Kel.

—Gould





Heather's rating:





24/7 is the fourth book in the Subs Club series, and it is by far my least favorite. This book was very different from the ones before it. It is extremely angsty and serious, without the humor from the previous books. While it fit Gould's character and where his story arc would take him, it was a difficult book for me to read and get through.

A few warnings before I start. This book is a M/F/M story, with the "F" in the middle as the operative word. If you are expecting a relationship where all three partners are equal in their feelings for one another, you would be wrong (more on that later). It also focuses a lot of the grief that Gould is still feeling from Hal's death, including thoughts of self-harm, obsessive thoughts and actions, and many unhealthy behaviors. There is also some pretty heavy humiliation kink, as well as a master-slave relationship.

I could probably talk about this book for a week and not get all my feelings about it on page. I'm a huge fan of J.A. Rock, and this book was another example of how well written and thoughtful her book are. She is a very smart writer, and I could tell that she really examined how she thought Gould's relationship would go with Greg and Kel. There are also tons of interesting themes in this story, including interracial relationships, religion, overweight MCs, and the definitions of sexuality. I admire J.A. Rock greatly for all of that.



I'll start with the discussion of the relationship between Gould and Kel and Greg. Gould is bisexual, a Kinsey five (as he describes himself). However, his primary interest in his relationship with Kel and Greg is with Kel. He wants to worship Kel and be with her, and Greg is more like a friend with benefits that just happens to be long for the ride. Similarly, Greg's interest is in pleasing Kel, and Gould is something like a deep friendship for him.

I found Greg's view of his sexuality to be endlessly interesting. Greg identifies as straight but hetero-flexible. Though he has sex with Gould and kisses him, he still views himself as straight because he isn't attracted to men, as a rule. There is a LARGE discussion on bisexuality and bi-erasure here, before you all jump in, so don't worry on that account. I just happened to find it interesting that Greg says that his self-identifying as straight is simply what he feels most comfortable with. On a personal level, I could really identify with Greg. I consider myself straight, but I could also see becoming intimate with a woman and enjoying it, especially in a charged, erotic BDSM setting. I got Greg's POV, on this topic, totally.

There were also some really interesting discussions on religion and race, as Greg is both Indian and Native American. I really liked when Greg and Gould started discussing all of these issues about BDSM that I've been curious about but never asked.

What I really struggled with in terms of Greg/Kel/Gould's relationship was the fact that all three characters weren't in love with each other, at least not in the romantic way. I have a difficult time with menage books because I find it so hard to believe that three people can make it work between them, even with the issues of inequality and jealousy. Here, it isn't even trying to be a typical menage relationship. It is a really different type of arrangement, one that I've never seen before in romance. Honestly, I didn't find Gould/Kel/Greg's relationship to be very... romantic. It was hard for me to see that these people were anything beyond fondness for one another. It was one of my biggest stumbling blocks with this story.

Although this series has been all M/M up until this point, I personally didn't mind the introduction of a woman. I'm also a M/F reader, so having lady parts be explicitly described didn't bother me in the slightest. Plus, I'll take a book with pegging any day of the week (another of my personal favorite kinks!!).

What I didn't mind, but other people might, is the kink aspect. Humiliation kink and degradation is honestly one of my favorite kinks in BDSM. A good, consensual, verbal humiliation scene is exactly the type of kink I seek out in erotica and romance. I just love it. There is almost nothing in humiliation that is too kinky for me, so I didn't think anything here was very extreme. However, I was worried about Gould because we have an insight to his mind and he is so thoroughly messed up about Hal's death that really none of those scenes should have happened.

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