Sunday, December 9, 2018

ARC Review: Holiday Island by A.D. Ellis

Holiday IslandBlurb:

No peacocks were harmed in the making of this story.

Rafa’s nautical skills are less than stellar. He’d rather be a full-time artist, but he has a duty to the family business and a fear of standing up to his father and brother.
Carpenter Lucas is determined to rebuild his business after a lover’s betrayal nearly destroyed it. But he runs into a snag when he misses the last boat to the job site.
Rafa offers to take him, but Rafa isn’t much of a sailor.
When they end up on the wrong island, fears for survival gradually give way to an appreciation of the beauty around them—and each other. Rafa insists a holiday miracle will save them, and he teases Lucas for being a Scrooge.

In the end, Rafa’s miracle might come from the last place he expects: inside himself.

My rating:

Part of the Dreamspinner "Warmest Wishes Advent Calendar 2018"

In this short, two men are stranded on a deserted island - one an artist who's working for the family boating business but hates it, and the other a carpenter trying to rebuild his business after his ex-boyfriend ran off with most of his customer base.

Overall, this was a cute story, but it tried to cram too much into too few pages. I had a hard time believing that someone like Rafa, who's been working with his father and brother at the family boating company for quite a while, wouldn't know how to drop anchor. He calls it "parking the boat", and I found that quite unbelievable.

Lucas, the carpenter, is a bit grumpy, and probably rightfully so - not only has he lost his boyfriend, but also most of his business, and now he's stuck with a nincompoop on the wrong island.

So the two not only get off on the wrong foot, but are now also in need of figuring out how to survive.

The two men become closer as they find water oh so fortuitously, as they figure out that the fruit growing naturally on the island can be eaten, and as there is a primitive cabin/shelter readily available. And wouldn't you know, Lucas' cheating ex was a smoker so there's even a lighter in one of his rucksack's pockets. Talk about dumb luck, huh? Also, the peacocks may be loud, but at least they're not aggressive.

Like I said, it was cute, and it's a quick read, with an implied HEA, after some homophobia and Rafa growing a backbone. I wasn't bored, and I knew going in that this was going to be a short novella, so my expectations were met. The stories in this anthology are basically meant to be an amuse bouche, an appetizer, and as such this story succeeded.

** I received a free copy of this book from its publisher in exchange for an honest review. **

Get the book:

Get the whole anthology here.

Thanks for stopping by. Until next time, happy reading!

ARC Review: The Christmas Lights Battle by Skylar M. Cates

For a single dad and his neighbor, the Christmas competition is on!

Julian Moss wants to give his children a happy Christmas. Since his divorce, Julian has no time for a social life; he’s been doing the tiring work of two parents while his cheating ex-husband dodges his responsibilities. If that isn’t stressful enough, he has to deal with his new—and ridiculously good-looking—neighbor and his noisy dogs. Christmas used to be Julian’s favorite holiday, but lately all he sees is the cost. Then Julian’s young son tells him about a Christmas lights competition with a much-needed prize.

Leo Adams is going to be alone for Christmas…again. All he’s ever wanted is to be accepted by his family, but he knows that will never happen. Deciding to focus on his career as a personal trainer, Leo develops a boot camp program on the beach, but he needs publicity. The lights competition offers Leo a way to get some free press, and if it annoys his snooty neighbor Julian—all the better.

The battle is on, and both Julian and Leo want to win. The stakes are high, the reward is great, and the neighbors are in it to win it. There’s nothing like a little competition to make Christmas at Shelby Beach extra merry and bright.

Dani's rating:

Leo and Julian don't take the road well traveled. Julian dislikes Leo on sight for no reason except that Leo is stupidly hot and his dogs bark at all hours of the day and night.

Except the dogs belong to Leo's friend for whom Leo is house sitting, and Leo is actually a very nice, positive guy raised by crazy religious parents who were cold and emotionally abusive.

Once Leo and Julian stop fighting their mutual attraction, they become lovers and then friends. Indeed, instead of competing against each other to win the Christmas lights competition as they'd originally planned, the MCs join forces to beat the reigning two-time champion, who happens to be a racist, homophobic old crone.

The story is light on the plot but brimming with sweetness and steam. I do love me a sexy holiday story!

Blogtour: Slow Thaw by J. Scott Coatsworth

Slow Thaw

Please say hello to J. Scott Coatsworth with 

Slow Thaw

Javier Fernandez is a climate scientist living in a research station near the South Pole. Since his husband was killed in a car crash, he’s preferred to be alone, and is less than thrilled to have a junior scientist thrust upon him by his rich patron.

Col Steele is a trans man fleeing a bad break-up, ready for the next step in his career, who is ready to spend Christmas anywhere but at home. When a crack in the ice separates the two men from safety, they are forced to come to terms with their own losses and each other.

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | KoboQueeRomance Ink | Goodreads


Scott is giving away a $20 Amazon gift card with this tour. 


Meme - Slow Thaw

It was the start of the end of the world, but Col Steele didn’t know it yet.

The rhythmic whomp whomp whompof the helicopter’s rotary blades matched the beating of his heart.

I’m here. I’m really here.

He pressed his face to the glass, eagerly taking in the landscape below, capturing the view in his phone. There was no cellular network here, of course, and he had his Sony A73 packed away for the real work, but his phone was good enough to record his own personal memories.

The sparkling blue and white of the Ross Ice Shelf spread out before him, almost indescribable in its frozen beauty. The ice seemed to stretch on forever here in the South, as they called it. On the ice.

The copter had left the Southern Explorer a few minutes earlier, taking off from the grey deck and passing over a span of cold ocean water where a waddle of penguins played in the Ross Sea.

The cliffs of The Ice were white enough—and tall enough—to put the cliffs of Dover to shame with their splendor.

Col checked the temperature gauge on the console. It was a relatively balmy Antarctic day, with the temperature hovering just below zero Fahrenheit.

"First time?" His pilot, Joseph, steered the copter over the ice field with practiced ease.

"Yes. Not yours, I assume?"

"Nope, I’ve done the run to Amundsen–Scott more than a dozen times, people and cargo. Been out to Bettancourt three times now."

Col nodded. Paul Bettancourt was his benefactor—a billionaire who was keenly interested in the science and effects of global climate change.

He picked me.Out of more than two hundred research scientists, the man had chosen Col to be the next fellowship scientist to join Javier Fernandez at Bettancourt Station for a six-month internship.

It was still sinking in.

The timing couldn’t have been better. Col had no desire to be home for the holidays this year. After a bad breakup with David, he was nursing a broken heart, and was in no mood for Christmas trees and candy canes. Far better the frozen tundra of Antarctica, to match his frozen heart.

The Ross Shelf was much more varied a landscape than he’d expected. The smooth white ice near the shore gave way to a variety of landforms, the result of the ice being pushed and pulled around by gravity and shaped by wind and snow and rain for millennia.

There were mountains and valleys, the peaks white and the shadows a beautiful blue.

In other places, the wind-blown snow created long scallop shapes along the ice.

In at least one spot, a wide, shallow pool of melted water almost glowed turquoise in the sunlight. Not a good sign.

"You see a lot of melting out here?"

Joseph nodded. "More every year. It's been a slow thaw, but every summer season it goes a bit faster. Lots more icebergs too. Seeing one of those calve off the main shelf is something else. Crack! Thunder!And a great splash of water as it hits the ocean."

Col grinned. "I’ve seen it in the Arctic. I spent a year based out of Whitehorse, studying the ice sheets up north."

"Never been. Though I hear the girls in the Yukon are wild."

Col snorted. "I wouldn’t know." What he didn’t say was that he’d been one of them, once. On the outside, at least.

That was a lifetime ago.

Now this new life was laid out before him, and he just wanted to move forward.

He captured as much of the landscape as he could manage with his phone, awed that he was finally here. Then he tucked it away to just take in the experience.

"Might wanna get your phone ready," Joseph said at last. "We’re almost there." The pilot pointed off to starboard, and a small speck appeared in the distance, alongside a long line in the ice.

"It’s bigger than I imagined."

Joseph’s eyebrow went up. "Bettancourt?"

Blogtour: Rebellion by Naomi Aoki

Rebellion is a story that evolved out of a Chinese History assignment where we’d been asked to write an essay on a rebellion/conflict that occurred in China. The examples were of course the Taiping and the Opium wars, which most of the class had chosen as it’s what the bulk of our lectures had been on. I, however, don’t always like to be a sheep and instead chose to write it on The Boxer Rebellion, a conflict I knew very little about. The information I uncovered about the Qing Dynasty and the politics with the nations leasing land off them, and the behaviour of the missionaries was both fascinating and horrifying. But it wasn’t until the following year that the first scenes were written for a Creative Writing paper I took. At the time I thought they’d form the middle chapter of a finished manuscript, except nothing ever goes to plan. By the time the first draft was completed earlier this year, that initial scene ended up as one of the last chapters. 

Research become an important part of the writing process; a distracting one that lead me down various rabbit holes, some of which had nothing to do with the story at all. I scoured journal articles, books, websites to locate the information I needed, often double checking it too make sure it was accurate and the horrifying details of the conflict I learned continued to grow – some that made it into the story and others I had to leave out. But it wasn’t just the details of the conflict itself that I had to research. Technology was moving fast by the end of the Victorian era when Rebellion was set and I needed to make sure what was already available and what was not yet.

Here is a list of a few things I needed to research…

  • When were zips used in clothing?
  • What oils were available in China that were safe for…um…internal use?
  • What type of naval vessel would the Royal Marines be attached to and numbers aboard?
  • Could a dildo be made of Jade?
  • How did one become a Royal Marine?
  • What colour where their jackets? Red? Blue?
  • What was the Chinese equivalent rank to Captain?
  • What was the legal status of homosexuality in the Qing Dynasty?
  • Were interracial marriages common?
  • What was a common breakfast food in Shanghai?

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK

Length: 51,835

1899, political tensions are rising with the emergence of the Boxer Movement in Northern China, straining ties between the Chinese Imperial Government and the Eight Nations with stakes in the country. As a Captain in the Royal Marines, Alfred Cartwright is deployed to Shanghai, where he discovers more than he'd dared to dream of – Love. Not even the struggles with language or the fear of reprisals if their relationship is found out, can stop Alfred from falling for the Chinese man he encounters. But as the ant-foreigner sentiment of the Boxer Movement grows in strength, their relationship will be put to the test.

Where do Alfred's loyalties lie? With the man he loves or his country, as they stand opposite each other on a battlefield neither can escape.

Dec 6 - We Three Queens 
Dec 8 - Drops Of Ink 
Dec 9 - My Fiction Nook 
Dec 11 - Love Bytes 
Dec 12 - Valerie Ullmer 
Dec 13 - Bayou Book Junkie 

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