Saturday, 30 March 2013

Homecoming, Rick R. Reed

A man discovers how to live again after suffering a devastating loss.

- Review by Cindi


Chase has just lost his long-term partner.  The way this happens is described up until the exact moment of that loss.  To say it was heartbreaking would be an understatement.  What was supposed to be a day of celebration ended with the death of Toby.  Two months later Chase is invited back to Chicago by Toby's best friend Mike to attend the International Mr. Leather Competition.  It has a been a few years since Chase has been to his hometown and the thought of going again without Toby terrifies him... will he see Toby at every corner?  Will he be overwhelmed by memories to the point of nothing else?  After a bit of persuasion Chase agrees to go if for nothing else to spend time with an old friend.

This book started off very emotional.  When I say the exact moment of Toby's death I literally mean the exact moment of Toby's death.  Without giving it away I can't say more than that.  Suffice it to say that it was a very emotional scene that I doubt anyone could read without getting atleast a little misty-eyed. 

Follow Chase's journey as he crosses the country and tries to start living again with the help of the old friend Mike.  There is an anonymous hook-up, lots and lots of leather, orgies.. .among other things.  But through it all Mike is always there in the background as a friend and maybe more.

I am a huge fan of friends-to-lovers books so this one was right up my alley.  I am also a huge fan of this author so I knew going in that I would enjoy this.  My only complaints are one, I wish it would have been longer (especially toward the end), and two, I kind of had an issue with how quickly Chase jumped right in (so to speak) after Toby's death.  I understand that people mourn differently but I personally felt that two months was a little too soon.  Of course, this in no way took away from the story as a whole.  Another good read by Rick R. Reed.

This book was provided by Dreamspinner Press in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Kieran & Drew, L.A. Gilbert

A nice, though often predictable, coming of age story.

- Review by Cindi

*** Kieran & Drew is tagged as Young Adult in various places as both main characters are in high school.  While it definitely reads in some parts as a typical teenage story I feel that a lot of the content is more appropriate for an adult reading audience.  I do not feel comfortable placing this review on our Young Adult sister reviewing site for that reason, Greedy Bug Book Reviews. ***

Kieran Appleby is desperate to graduate high school and disappear from the small town where he lives, Keys, Florida.  He's lonely.  His only friend is a janitor at his high school.  His father is too busy with his own life to notice his only child.  He is labeled a freak by his peers and has been bullied since he was a freshman.  He hates school.  He hates his life.  His only goal is to graduate from high school and go off to college as far away from Keys as he can get.  He wants a new life.  He wants friends.  He is tired of being alone.  A fresh start away from his father and those who treat him poorly is all he thinks about as he struggles though the last months of his senior year.  

Drew Anderson is a star baseball player on the high school team, The Squids.  He's popular and well liked by pretty much everyone.  He is surrounded by friends, most notably his best friend Matt.  He puts on a good act around others but in reality he is sad, at times miserable.  His mother is agoraphobic and has not left their home in years.  His father disappeared from Drew and his mother's lives years earlier and started a new family leaving his old one behind.  The only saving grace for Drew is his uncle who is deployed in the military.  Drew is very close to his uncle and when the man is at home, Drew's mother does better, sometimes even managing to walk outside into her yard for short periods of time.  Drew is counting down the days until his uncle returns.  He loves his mother dearly but the strain of being a teenage boy with teenage issues on top of taking care of his mother gets to be too much.  He is eighteen, only a few months from graduating high school, but yet he is forced to be the parent in the relationship with his mother.  It's difficult but he never questions it.  He makes no plans for his post high school life outside of Keys.  There is never a question of what he will do with his life.  He will study locally to be a fireman and he will remain as close as possible to his mother who will most likely always need him.  

Kieran & Drew
Kieran is different.  He dresses different.  He acts different.  He does not attempt to socialize with any of the kids at school because he knows he is considered a freak.  One boy in particular bullies him at every turn.  Why?  Because he can.  It's done cruelly and viciously.  During one of these times Kieran is saved by none other than Drew Anderson, Kieran's secret crush.  The same boy who sits next to Kieran in his art class but who Kieran is scared to speak to.  One day in Art class Kieran is caught doodling in his notepad by his teacher and the teacher demands that he hand over the notebook.  Kieran is mortified.  All over the page in question are his and Drew's initials.  Instead of handing over the notebook, Kieran rips off the offending page and shoves it in his mouth.  Unfortunately, Drew saw what was written in black and white.  Kieran gets put in detention, his punishment being cleaning out a large art supply closet for the teacher after school.  This is where the story begins.

Drew is shocked when he sees his initials intertwined with Kieran's all over the notebook page. Feeling bad for Kieran's humiliation in front of the class, he makes a point in seeking Kieran out as he is cleaning out the storage room to tell the other boy that it's okay that he has feelings for Drew.  Drew is not a homophobic bastard and he wants to assure Kieran that he is fine with whatever he feels.  What Drew doesn't expect is to start feeling the same way toward Kieran.  Sure, he's suspected that he might be gay.  Girls have never done much for him and he never bothered to date much like his friends.  But now? Kieran?  He's almost positive.  After the first visit in the storage room, Drew keeps going back.  What starts off as an apology turns into fumbling around and getting each other off.  This goes on secretly for weeks until something happens that makes Drew run in the opposite direction.  Not just run but turn into a bigger bastard than those who have always bullied Kieran.  The other people didn't matter.  Drew matters and for him to rudely disappear and then later treat Kieran as a nothing devastates Kieran more than anything else ever has in his life.  His heart is broken and his goal to get the hell out of Keys is only more firmly seated in his mind. 

I enjoyed Kieran.  I felt so much sympathy for him from his introduction.  He has done nothing to deserve his treatment by others and my heart broke for him on many occasions.  His father is absent during the most difficult times in his life and he is literally left with no one.  For a few wonderful weeks he had Drew then Drew angrily and harshly threw Kieran and all they had out the window.  I can honestly say that I hated Drew during these times.  I also grew to see Kieran as much too needy but yet I completely understood why.  He never had anyone in his life before Drew and then for that to be ripped out from under him in the manner in which it was was cruel and heartbreaking.  It took a lot of reading for me to get beyond Drew's treatment of Kieran and even toward the end I was still feeling the residuals of it.  It takes a lot for Drew and Kieran to get beyond their issues.  Kieran must decide whether leaving town is the right thing for him.  Is he willing to leave Drew behind?  Drew is determined to fight for the man he loves.

The first half of this book is predictable and what I have read in countless other books.  Straight boy jock who is secretly gay.  Gay nerd who is bullied often in school.  I am in no way making light of bullying under any circumstances but I found myself feeling like I was right in the middle of 90% of the other teenage-type books I have read.  Thankfully the story got more unique around the 50% mark and it improved more for me.  More characters were introduced and the stories of each teen went in different directions.  Parts remained predictable but the author did manage to change it up a bit.  Toward the end I was rooting for both teens to finally get it together whether it was with their families or with the issues they faced as a couple.  There are a lot of emotional moments as well as those that left me smiling.

There is quite a bit of sexual content in this book.  I personally had no issue with it as the characters were either eighteen or close to it and a majority of the books I read are considered adult books.  I could, however, see where it would be an issue for anyone looking for a light Young Adult type of story.

Overall, this is a good coming of age story.  I have read other reviews where readers have been adamant about their love for Kieran's father.  I'm sorry to say that I am not one of them.  I understood him to an extent but he kept a secret from Kieran in order to protect him that would have, if revealed earlier, made Kieran's life much different.   I also feel little sympathy for any parent who chooses his own personal wants and needs over that of his or her child.  He redeems himself at the end but I found myself thinking too little, too late.  I recommend this for those who don't mind a bit of predictability.  Everything ended well so I have to say that it was an enjoyable read overall.  I appreciate that the author threw in a quick Epilogue at the end showing Kieran and Drew five years later.  Too often books of this type end with a happy-for-now ending due to the ages of the characters.  I was happy to see these guys further down the road in their relationship.

This book was provided by Dreamspinner Press in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Lover At Last (Black Dagger Brotherhood, #11), J.R. Ward

A somewhat disappointing end (for this reader, not the series) to a series that I once loved.

- Review by Cindi

*** This review contains a lot of spoilers.   J.R. Ward fans are known to be brutal so if you are not interested in what I have to say about Lover at Last, do not read my review.  We all have a right to our opinions and this review contains mine.   If you are interested in J.R. Ward squeedom,  read someone else's review.  You will not find that here.  I also apologize in advance for the length of this review and the occasional sarcastic comment.***

This book was supposed to be it.  Blay and Qhuinn were finally getting their story.  No more back and forth.  No more "Will they?" or "Won't they?"  They were finally going to get beyond their past issues and stubbornness and finally find their happily-ever-after together.  So what happened?  Oh, they did eventually get their HEA but am I happy with how it happened?  Not even close.  
Lover At Last (Black Dagger Brotherhood, #11)
Blay and Qhuinn are the sole reasons why I read the books I read these days, LGBT.  Had I not been curious when they were first introduced many books ago in the Black
Dagger Brotherhood  series I may not have ever discovered my love of gay romance/fiction.  I would not be a collaborator on this blog.  I never would have met my closest friend in the world.  So I give the author credit for that.  Oh, and then there were the first few books of this series that I considered phenomenal.  Dark Lover anyone?  Remember back when the author was more concerned about writing a good story than a large word count?  Yes, it's hard for me to remember that far back too.  While reading Lover At Last I tried to remind myself of those days.  The days when I could look forward to a new book in the series coming out with excitement.  I planned my life around Black Dagger Brotherhood releases.  On release day I shut myself off from the rest of the world.  I even admit to being extremely excited when I found out that Lover at Last was finally.. finally being written for Blay and Qhuinn.  I should not have gotten my hopes up.  Especially after the fiasco (in my opinion) of Tohr's book, Lover Reborn.  Looking back, I should also mention Payne's story (an entire book about a non-brother that read like a sappy romance novel) and Phury's... ah, Phury.  I won't even go there.  But yet... I was eager to see Blay and Qhuinn finally get together.  Again, Tohr's book should have prepared me for what was to come (my Goodreads review: Lover Reborn).  Though I can't say I hated Lover at Last as much as I did that one, I can say that I am extremely disappointed in how everything played out.  (Each time I reread that review I am tempted to knock off another star in my rating).

So where to begin?

Let's start with the cast of characters shall we?  No, not Blay and Qhuinn.  I will come back to them.  It is their book after all, right?  Yeah well, not really.  It was more about characters that I personally had no use for and their own particular stories.  Back in the day I enjoyed the back stories because they cohesively brought the rest of the story... and the Brothers... together.  Blay and Qhuinn were two of those former secondary characters so I obviously didn't mind some of the secondaries or their back stories.  In this book, however, Blay and Qhuinn were not center.  Everyone and their mother (so to speak) were.  

- Trez and iAM.  I always adored these two guys.  They were two of my favorite non-brother characters.  Unfortunately the author gave Trez too much time in this one.  Trez, who has always been all about sex, was constantly fucking or thinking about fucking.  Sure, his behavior was as a result of other issues hanging over his head but I lost interest in his sex life after reading again and again and again about him being inside yet another psychotic, drugged out woman.

- Assail.  I have no real opinion of him but he was also given too much time here.  Then there is Sola (Marisol) who will ... in a future book no doubt... be Assail's love interest.  Dear God every time I thought that maybe we were going back to Qhuinn and Blay what do you know?  More Assail and Sola and their back and forth and the sexual tension between them.

- Xcor.  Just give him his Chosen already.. or better yet, find him another woman.  When an author takes a total bastard character (who just happens to be the leader of the Band of Bastards) and makes him out to be a killing machine early on only to have him later fall into mush as a result of Layla?  I don't mind Xcor.  I really don't.  I actually felt a little bit of sympathy for the killer but half of the stuff going on with him and the Band of Bastards was unnecessary and to be honest, boring.

- Layla.  Where to begin?  Are there actually readers that like this character?  I obviously don't.  Granted, the author went a different direction with Layla in Lover Reborn and I am grateful for that but each time she came up in this book (and oh does she come up A LOT) I wanted to skim over pages because she tried to come across as this good girl, sweet person who "Oh poor me!  I'm in love with the biggest enemy of the Brothers!" but I remember her too well from previous books.  Thankfully I won't still be around to see her have her so-called happily-ever-after with Xcor.  

Note that I am not going into details in regards to Layla's pregnancy in this review.  That would be too telling for one thing.  Another, I am not willing to give her anymore time in my review.

- Qhuinn's brother.  I didn't see that one coming and I'm not sure how I feel about it.

- The Brothers.  Where were the brothers????  Oh sure they were in the book in passing and even in a couple of important parts but I wanted more.  I wanted more Rhage, V, Butch, Z, Wrath... all of them.  I read these books for the brothers not for characters who have no (direct) connection with them.  Or even Lassiter.  He's not a brother but he's a favorite of mine.  I wanted more of him.

- Saxton.  Poor guy but yet he knew going in what he was in for with Blay.  It was always known where Blay's heart was and it wasn't with Qhuinn's cousin.  Thankfully, Saxton wasn't dragged out too much though Blay and his lack of honesty (with Qhuinn and the others) in regards to him dragged out 600 pages.

Now to Blay and Qhuinn, the characters the book was supposedly written about.

In earlier books we watched as Blaylock's heart broke over his love for his best friend.  We watched as he was shot down again and again because he was convinced that his feelings were not reciprocated.  We watched Qhuinn as he had sex with dozens of females and males alike right in front of Blay.  Qhuinn knew this hurt Blay but yet he kept doing it anyway.  Blay finally moved on with Saxton.  The readers hated where that was going but it was good to see Blay happy even if it was not with the man he loved.  Qhuinn eventually grew up and realized that what.. who ... he wanted had been directly in front of him for years.  At this point it was too late and he was forced to watch Blay have a life with his cousin of all people.  

In Lover at Last, they finally hook up a few times.  These times, of course, were scattered amongst hundreds of other pages in the book where other stories were going on.  I have to give the author credit for one thing.  Blay and Qhuinn do have sex on-page.  I was surprised at this because of the so-called flak that she got over bringing two gay characters together sexually.  Was it great sex?  Nah, not really but I do give her credit for not having it occur off-page as I expected.  Had she done so considering the amount of hetero sex going on my comments in regards to it would not be flattering in any way and this review would read much differently.  

One comment that I actually found funny and I have no doubt it was not meant to be... to set it up, Blay had just given Qhuinn a blowjob and Qhuinn was eager to reciprocate.

"So will you give me something to suck on as I recover" Qhuinn asked.
"I said I'm thirsty.  And I need something to suck on." At this, Qhuinn bit his lower lip, his bright white fangs sinking into this flesh.  "Will you help me?"

It should also be noted that Qhuinn had an orgasm that lasted literally twenty minutes.  Lucky guy. :)

The back and forth between Blay and Qhuinn went on entirely too long.  Blay and Saxton broke up before Blay had sex with Qhuinn the first time but yet he refused to tell Qhuinn this until literally the very end of the book.  The amount of time the two men actually spend together is minimal which was frustrating as the book was supposedly about them.  I wanted more interaction between the two men. I  wanted to see them work together to become a couple.  When it finally does happen it happens during a very emotional moment for Qhuinn and it is rushed.  Yes, this was very nice and I admit to getting a little emotional there for a second as Qhuinn poured his heart out and Blay finally admitted that he was and had always been in love with Qhuinn.  This was given like 2 pages?  All of that leading up to this moment....... all the previous books leading up to this moment... and it is reduced to only a couple of pages?  To say I was angry would be an understatement.  Then let's fast forward to an epilogue two weeks later.  The ending was beautiful.  I will admit that freely.  But what about the previous two weeks?  They finally profess their love for each other and "Okay that's done.  Let's fast forward to two weeks from now without giving any information of what occurred during those two weeks?"  Unbelievable.  

Other issues with the book:

- Rats without tails.  I didn't do a count to see how many times that was used in the book but it was a lot.

- I felt that I was reading bad word porn throughout and I do not mean with Blay and Qhuinn.  There was a gang bang and lots of graphic sex by others (I mentioned Trez).  I read this book for Blay and Qhuinn not to read the equivalent of a poorly written erotica novel about other males and females having sex all over the place.

- There was a two day publishing delay for international readers.  This almost prevented me from reading it.  I have yet to understand why this delay occurred.  2 days  makes a hell of a lot of a difference when you are waiting for a book in a series to come out.  Not to mention the spoilers that are posted by everyone in America who is reading the book two days before you.  I live in the U.S.  My blog partner does not.  While I was reading this book I had to avoid Goodreads and other social networking sites like the plague due to eager fans putting spoilers in their updates.  I got the book the day it was released.  What about those who had to wait an extra two days?

- Product placement got ridiculous.

- Editing.  There were two misspelled words.  Only two out of thousands but my eagle eye caught them.  This would not have been an issue for me had I not spent close to $16.00 on an e-book and had it not been published by a major publisher.  Petty?  Probably but I expected more from a J.R. Ward book.

What I loved (and yes, there are a few things I loved about this book):

- Qhuinn. Watching Qhuinn as he came to terms with not only his feelings for Blay but with his past and his finally coming to terms with the fact that he is, in fact, a gay man.  It was a long time coming but when it came it was sweet.

- Blaylock.  He no longer bent over backwards (well, he did but not in that sense) to get Qhuinn's attention.  His character got stronger and he made Qhuinn work for everything.  He refused to fall back into the Qhuinn trap until he was 100% positive that Qhuinn's mind was in the right place.

- The cover.  I may be a minority in this one but I absolutely love the cover.  With the exception of no tattoos being shown, this is how I pictured Qhuinn in my head.  The same can be said about Tohr and his book as well.

That pretty much sums it up.

Final thoughts.......... Today on March 28, 2013,  I say goodbye to a series I have loved for years and an author who has always been an auto-buy for me. I will forever be grateful for the series and Blay and Qhuinn as I never would have discovered my love for the LGBT genre without them. But there comes a time when an author can take a series too far and that is the case with the Black Dagger Brotherhood series. I am disheartened as I had high hopes for Blay and Qhuinn. This is the book the fans have eagerly awaited. How J.R. Ward could destroy that is beyond me. I am disheartened and I am extremely disappointed. For those who will continue to read the series after this book... good for you. I hope you continue to enjoy the BDB world. As of this very moment I am officially out.  I get adding other characters and back stories so a series can go in different directions.  I do not fault an author for doing that.  What I do fault her for is taking two of the  most beloved characters in a series and reducing them and their relationship to what she did in this one.  

Relatively Speaking, Allen Mack

Relatively Speaking
Cute cover.

Sexy, short 'n spicy!

-Review by Kazza K

I think I should use a pictorial review format here as there's not lots to say about Relatively Speaking that the official blurb doesn't cover. However, there is plenty of viewing material, but I must behave :)

Dan's nephew's college room mate is coming to New York for two weeks. Dan has volunteered to let him stay with him and his partner, Greg, until Curt gets settled. Greg doesn't think it's a good idea. He thinks Curt is probably straight and they will have nothing in common. WRONG!! You know where this is going, right? Sexy college guy + two guys who like a third, yep. It was all good, dirty fun.

Dan and Greg are a pair but they like a third 
The guys Dan, Greg and Curt end up getting it on. Greg and Dan are in a long term relationship but they like to spice it up with a third if they find one that is both their type. I like a liberal attitude in my ménage reading, where no one feels like a third wheel, pardon the pun.. Dan is older, more bearish, than Greg, and Curt = yummy twink third. Normally Dan is all about the twinks and Greg is all about the more mature man. But Curt is cute, he is hot, he likes being naked, and he is up to the task at hand. No complaints from me. If you look at my Goodreads shelves I have my fair share of M/M ménage books on there. Why is that? Hmm, Kazza is all kinds of pervy.

Curt likes being naked and to join in.
Dan, Greg + Curt = fun ménage.
I enjoy Allen Mack's ebooks because he uses terminology I like, he infuses his short stories with a load of raw sex and the characters are more than two-dimensional. They don't come off as either sleazy or dull. They have fun, everyone is happy, and its sexy. Not always easy to do with what is intrinsically a short fuck-fest.

If you're looking for declarations of love and romance then Relatively Speaking is probably not for you. If, however, you are like me and appreciate some short, spicy man-ménage, then this is a good short to read and I recommend it to you. I had fun and it picked me up.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Tarnished Gold, Brita Addams


A beautiful piece of historical writing about dreams, Hollywood and genuine love. 

- Review by Kazza K 

Tarnished Gold
A wonderful cover.
Tarnished Gold spans the period of 1917, when a young Jack Abadie leaves home with dreams of making his mark in Hollywood in the flickers, until the end of the book in 1955. Jack starts out  in California at a boarding house for men. He pays a months rent in advance and, with the help of one of his fellow boarders, Tommy, gets work waiting tables. Things are not so glamorous for Jack and there are no instantaneous breaks. He has an initial  relationship with Tommy which ends in friendship. He is waiting table for five years when he has a change of luck. Whilst working he comes to the attention of the older and debonair Eric Ballance.

Eric introduces Jack to Marlowe's, a men's club where gay men can associate, have sex with paid boys. or pick up a like-minded man in discreet circumstances. It's a meeting place for plenty of Hollywood's gay community. Eric is very much a part of the Hollywood community as a movie director. Jack fancies Eric. Eric certainly likes Jack, but seems to see him more as his protégé, setting him up as an extra in movies, organising his wardrobe, the way he speaks, throwing his ever-popular parties ,moving him into his home and getting Jack generally noticed. A lot of what Eric does confuses Jack as he seems to send mixed signals. Does he or doesn't he want Jack? Their relationship is a complex and interesting one.

Jack is an attractive man and soon enough there is an offer for him to star in a serial that ends up becoming incredibly popular; and before you know it Jack Abadie becomes a leading man and a heartthrob all in one. He has friends, a great career in the making and yet he is terribly lonely. The serial leads to a movie deal. To promote his serial, and garner interest for his upcoming movies, Jack is sent on a gruelling junket with his leading lady, Mary, who, ironically, happens to be a lesbian. It is on this trip, at the Millionaire Theatre, that Jack meets the theatre's PR manager, Wyatt Maitland. They only have a small amount of time together but neither seems to be able to forget the other. They take opportunities to talk on the phone while Jack is on tour and catch up as soon as Jack is back in town. They feel a strong connection from the outset.

Jack and Wyatt's relationship nearly ends before it starts, though, as Jack heeds some of Eric's unhealthy relationship advice. I loved that Wyatt wasn't star struck and willing to put up with anything from Jack. That he was definite about having a communicative and loving relationship or nothing at all. Their relationship was wonderful, beautiful, sexy and romantic -

Wyatt's warm breath in his ear set Jack's blood on fire. "Come home with me?"

I loved reading about these two men and how their relationship grew and developed over the decades. How they both liked certain activities in the bedroom. How they looked out for one another. You could see why they worked so well as a couple. There were no games, just genuine love and affection. I appreciated that there were no silly pet names for one another. Wyatt called Jack heart on occasion which was sweet and endearing -

"Open your eyes, heart."
Jack did and their eyes met, a world of communication between them. Wyatt's spoke of love and trust, and Jack hoped his said the same.

There are quite a few things covered in Tarnished Gold that included real celebrities of the time, studio politics, deaths, and lavender weddings, where a gay actor would wed a female to cover their sexuality for the studio. All of these factual topics, people and events are beautifully intertwined with Ms Addams fictional characters, including the MC's. I loved the mention of the 4th Annual Academy Awards and the way that was handled.     

This book is a delight to read and is written so well. The American language of the period, the absolutely charming style that shows you how different it was between small town living and the bright lights of Hollywood. The reverence given actors when there was no such thing as a television set. A snap shot of a boy from Louisiana who made it big. How Jack Abadie stayed grounded. Who grounded him, and why he could stay that way. How far he came from groping with his first love, Emery, who passed him over to stay at home in Louisiana, to living with and openly loving Wyatt Maitland in a period that was not gay friendly.

One of the most beautiful aspects of this book, for me, were the letters - the letter from Eric to Jack, which nearly broke my heart, from Wyatt to his parents, and their return letters to him were a highlight for me.

Jimmy Shields, Bill Haines and Joan Crawford
Two things that I loved. How wonderfully Ms Addams makes the ever timely point that love is love. Jack and Wyatt were devoted. They had their close circle of friends, they were home bodies and they loved each other deeply and with utter respect. This book is inspired by actor (later entrepreneur) William Haines who would not cover up and keep the love of his life, Jimmy Shields, his dirty little secret. In reality Haines and Shields lived and loved together for nearly fifty years. Joan Crawford called them "the happiest married couple in Hollywood."

Lord, how I loved Eric. Written so perfectly by Brita Addams, I can't begin to tell you just how perfectly. Eric, who was mostly generous, but at times mean spirited, so loving but cold. Who gave a piece of his heart away every time he did something kind and acted as though it was business and nothing more. Who said everything was fine just as it was in his world...and the reasons why they weren't. If you read it I hope you allow Eric into your heart.

I ran the gamut of emotions reading this book, from happy to sad to angry and full circle. I loved Tarnished Gold. It is a wonderful story that drew me in and didn't let me go until the end. I wanted happiness for many people in the book, but ultimately it was Jack and Wyatt's love that kept me turning pages. Highly recommended reading for those who love old world Hollywood, a period piece, the right amount of sex to story ratio, a very romantic read that is beautifully written with wonderful leading men.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Into This River I Drown, TJ Klune

"Sometimes I float along the river, for to its surface I am bound.  And there are times stones done fill my pockets, oh Lord, and it's into this river I drown."

- Review by Cindi

Into This River I Drown
Benji Green, now twenty-one, lost his father when he was sixteen.  Big Eddie was killed when his truck ended up in the river on a stormy day.  It was ruled accidental but Benji knows better.  He knows in his gut that something else happened that day.  He has spent the past five years immersed in grief so severe that he only barely manages to survive day-by-day.  He gets up.  He goes to work at Big Eddie's, the gas station he owned with his father.  He gets through the day, goes home to bed and gets up and does it all over again.  Benji doesn't live, he merely exists, his father never out of his thoughts even for a little while.  
"Fifteen words.  Fifteen words is all there is to describe the man who was my father.  Fifteen words are all that is left of him.  Fifteen words that do nothing.  They do nothing to show what kind of man he was.  They do nothing to show how when he was happy, his green eyes lit up like fireworks.  They do nothing to show how heavy his arm felt when he'd drop it on my shoulder as we walked.  They do nothing to show the lines that would form on his forehead when he concentrated.  They do nothing to show the immensity of his heart.  The vastness that was his soul.  Those fifteen words say nothing."
Big Eddie was a bear of a man.  Everyone loved him.  Everyone respected him.  But no one more than his only child.  Without Big Eddie, Benji is alone... so alone.  He has his mother, Lola. He has the Trio, his mother's three sisters who moved in the day Big Eddie died.  He has Abe, an elderly man who has known loss and who is Benji's only friend in the world.  But he doesn't have Big Eddie, the only constant in his life... the only person who understood Benji.  Without Big Eddie, Benji cannot be happy.  He can't move on.  Big Eddie is always there even in his dreams each night.  He dreams of that moment when Big Eddie crashes into the river.  The dreams are so real.  There are blue feathers everywhere.  There are signs marking where Big Eddie's truck went into the river.  There is the river swallowing Benji as he tries to reach his father, knowing his father is drowning.  But someone... some thing... always pulls Benji back right as he is about to reach his father. 

One day he reaches his breaking point.  

"I fall to my knees and cover my ears, the feather in my hand stabbing my skin.  I can't do this anymore, I think, my own voice lost in the storm.  I can't do this anymore.  I can't face this on my own.  I am drowning in this river and I am haunted in this house my father built and my mind is breaking.  It is shattering.  I am broken and alone and afraid.  Please.  Please.  Help me.  Help me.  Oh. Oh, someone please help me.  I can't do this on my own.  Not anymore.
Then it happens.  Benji's prayers are answered when Calliel suddenly drops into Benji's life.  Calliel is Benji's protector.  His guardian.  He eventually becomes his lover.  But there is more to Calliel than meets the eye.  Calliel is not like Benji or the other inhabitants of the small town of Roseland.  It is his job, his duty, to protect those of Roseland, most notably Benji.  

There are those in Roseland who know the details of Big Eddie's death and they will stop at nothing to keep those details hidden even if it means destroying Benji and the rest of his family.  Veiled threats are thrown at him at every turn but he won't stop searching for answers even if it means losing his own life in the process.... even if it means losing the man he is growing to love and the first bit of happiness he has felt in five years.

There is an interesting cast of secondary characters.  There is the Trio of Lola's sisters:  Mary,  Christie and Nina.  Nina is a sweetheart.  She is a breath of fresh air in a story that is so heartbreaking at times that it literally brought tears to my eyes.  Nina knows things.  She feels things.  She sees nothing unusual in Calliel, the man she calls Blue who suddenly appeared during one of Benji's weakest moments.  Nina is wise though she is quite different from her sisters.

Then there are the residents of Roseland:  The sheriff who may or may not have something to hide.  The mayor who is most likely not on the up-and-up.  I've mentioned Abe, the elderly resident who is Benji's only real friend in the world. I absolutely adored him.  There is Rosie who owns a diner as well as various other typical small town residents.

There is so much that I could say in this review but I'm not going to.  Too many times I have had this author's books ruined for me by a comment here or there by an eager fan who has felt the need to give details that should only be seen by one reading the book.  This entire book is a spoiler.  Everything from who Calliel really is to the mystery behind Big Eddie's death.  There is a reason that the author kept specific details close to the vest and for that I am grateful.  Nothing in this book is as it appears early on.  It would be unfair to have it ruined for those who have not yet read it.

This is not your typical TJ Klune book.   The author's trademark humor is evident but it does not take center.  The heartbreak of loss and grief do.  This is told from Benji's point of view so the reader is given inside knowledge of his all consuming grief.  You feel what he feels.  You hurt for him as he desperately seeks answers for what really happened to his father.  You feel for him as he knowingly puts himself in danger in order to avenge his father's death.  Around the 50% mark on my Kindle, I found myself wondering "What's left to tell?  I have an idea what happened to Big Eddie.  Benji is being given the chance of happiness with Cal.  Where else can the author go from here?"  It did not take much reading before I realized that the story had only really just begun.  I had also managed to only get misty-eyed to this point.  By the time I got to 60% on my Kindle I was grabbing tissues as fast as I could.  My heart literally broke for Benji.  It broke for Big Eddie.  It broke for Cal.  It broke for Lola.  Having experienced this kind of loss (my sister, not my father) I could sympathize so deeply with what Benji was feeling and the way the author described it was real.  Very real.  It took me back to the time not long after my sister's death and I related to Benji in ways I wish I could say I couldn't.  No one gets it unless they've lived it.
"They understand my pain even if not its depths.  I don't know how deep their own pain goes, but I know it's nothing compared to my own.  Selfish, yes.  I know.  I know that through and through.  But pain is selfish.  Grief is selfish.  It demands attention, and the more you focus on it, the more it wants from you."
The resolution is unexpected and emotional.  I can honestly say I did not see that coming.  This made the story so much better for me.  About the time I was convinced I knew what was about to happen, the author threw me for a loop.

There are a couple of references to other books by Klune in this one.  My personal favorite and one that infused a little bit of humor into a very serious story:
"Maybe it's a bear, I thought.  Or maybe an otter. That would be kind of neat to see."
There is also mention of characters from another of his books but I won't elaborate as it would be too telling.

Overall, this is an another outstanding read by one of my favorite authors.  I admit to wondering early on where the story was going but it did not take long before I was completely engrossed, eager to see how everything would play out.  I laughed. I cried.  I ended it with a smile on my face.  This is not a book for everyone but it was definitely for me.  It touched me deeply.  Also, make a point in not skipping over the dedication.  It is very touching.

It should be noted that an advanced copy was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.  This, after I had pre-ordered (and paid for) the book the day it became available for pre-order. I was given the opportunity to read it early and I pounced on it.  Those who follow me on Goodreads or this blog know that I am a huge fan of this author so the fact that I was provided an advance copy in no way affects my views or opinions of Into This River I Drown.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Just Call Me Kris, Allen Mack

...a three-way frenzy of unrestrained sex, throats filled with cock. assholes stuffed, cocks bursting. Oh yeah, I love a kinky sex-fest ménage!!

- Review by Kazza K

Mike and Karl are together
So, hmm, the heading went in because that is what to expect in this short. Holy shit! it's hot. Sure, it is Christmas themed but I read this in March and I didn't care. Uh, uh, no way did I care.
This is a fun story which is pretty big on the sex and not quite as big on plot but it is surprising what you get out of the story.  Certainly enough is in place to enable you to like the MC's, know that the third brings a new found depth to this couple's bedroom that they can utilise later. So it makes it just that bit hotter. 
Mike and Karl are both doctors, away from home New Orleans and living  in New York. It is their fifth anniversary as well as Christmas Eve and they are both feeling a bit blue -
"I hate being away from New Orleans at Christmas time. And being here, with millions of people. when you don't know a single one of them...well, it makes you feel like an alien."

They may be away from home but they are expecting a gift from their good friends Bill and Hank. The doorbell rings and there is a very sexy southern Santa decked out in traditional gear and his sack of goodies in hand. The sack of goodies is pretty darn interesting and as the night wears on the sack :) gets used and the goodies get tried out, as does Santa, or as he says -
...and along comes Kris, mmm
Just call me Kris
So Kris and our anniversary couple, Mike and Karl, get down and dirty and deck the dirty halls as they smoke up their NY apartment in ways that I approve of.
I really like a ménage and I'll take it any way it comes but a good M/M/M is hard to beat. In Just Call Me Kris there were tongues, rimming, cocks, fingers, dildos, nipple clamps and BJ's left right and centre. Allen Mack knows his three-way action and I liked the rawness of it, it wasn't tame. These were three gay guys going at it. Thank you very much....

So...Mike, Karl and Kris make it a merry Christmas Eve
It was also funny in parts and I laughed out loud, as did my son when I read a few lines to him.  The prose could hit the purple side and I loved it. The characterisations were cute and funny. There was also a twist at the end which I liked, a lot. I thought is was nice and made for an interesting short read.
If you like a ménage, if you like enough character development to say, "okay, these guys are nice, let's get on with it now," then I recommend Just Call Me Kris. Sexy three-way action and fun reading. I will be looking for more now from Allen Mack.
This book was supplied to me by the author in return for an honest review.    

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Our Young Adult LGBT Blog Spot is Now Here.

On Top Down Under Book Reviews is proud to announce it now has a sister review spot dedicated to LGBT YA books and readers.

Both Cindi and I, Kazza K, felt it was time to give LGBT YA books their own spot. A safe haven with age appropriate books, reviews, pictures and, most importantly, a safe place for readers of YA LGBT books to be. We know there are quite a few YA book sites out there but this is specifically targeted at LGBT readers. Often the YA LGBT books are thrown in amongst books meant for an older readership, and that has certainly happened here as well. But not any longer! Now these YA books will have a place all of their own with a connection to a Facebook page where people can chat and look at pictures, jokes and some current and important topics. If you click on Kazza K or Cindi's picture on Greedy Bug it will direct you to Greedy Bug's Facebook page.

If you are interested in LGBT YA books you can go to Greedy Bug book reviews or click on the link on the side of the screen with the smaller banner photo and it will take you directly to Greedy Bug Book Reviews.

We are very excited to extend our book review blog site to embrace Greedy Bug Book Reviews. We hope you choose to join us there and please, if you are interested in LGBT YA books, join us as a member. Or just pop on in. We wold love to see you there and hear from you.

Just remember Greedy Bug is in its infancy so bear with us while we build up our YA site and add more books and current topics


Cindi and Kazza K

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Click the above link or email us at with the following information:

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Do not send e-copies of books without first sending a query to On Top Down Under. While we strive to read and review as many books as we can, there will be those not suited for the site or the individual reviewers. Not every book will be accepted for review.  Expect a response back in regards to review requests within 24-48 hours.  Kazza K and Cindi live in two different parts of the world so allowances for time differences should be noted and expected.  

On Top Down Under Book Reviews is all about posting honest reviews and this should be noted when submitting a review request. We do not love every book we read but we strive to be fair and constructive. We certainly never attack an author in a review. Reviews are opinions and not all will share them.  Do not send a book for review in exchange for a good review.  On Top Down Under Book Reviews will deny those requests.  Expect honesty or submit your book elsewhere.

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On Top Down Under Book Reviews will welcome those interested in being guest reviewers. Contact us with what book (s) you are interested in reviewing and any other information you deem necessary.  A sample of previous reviews may be requested.   A decision will be made quickly and the guest reviewer will be contacted via email.  In order to be a guest reviewer on On Top Down Under Book Reviews the reviewer must be a follower of the site.

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On Top Down Under Book Reviews is an adult reviewing site and content posted is not meant for viewing by those under the age of eighteen.

Changes are happening to On Top Down Under Book Reviews.  We have now branched out via social networking sites. We have also recently added a brand new Young Adult reviewing site separate from our adult site (see below link).  

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Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Not Letting Go, Danni Keane


LBGT YA that may be short on wordcount but not on depth.

Not Letting Go
He doesn't ring the doorbell, just gives a soft knock against the door. I wonder if it's some unspoken Morse code for 'someone died.'

- Review by Kazza K

Joshua is seventeen. he's bright and he's planning to go to the University of Leicester. He's also just made it to Lieutenant on Black ops, pretty cool. He has a nice boyfriend, Bradley, and when they go to Leicester they are going to share a room and finally be together in every sense of the word. He has a nice mum and his mum and Bradley's mum are comfortable with the fact that their son's are a couple; as long as they leave the door open when Bradley sleeps over. That's okay with the boys as they don't want to push it too far too soon. And, oh yeah, Josh's dad has just this minute died after a battle with a terminal illness.
Josh's first reaction is to be with Bradley. He doesn't feel like crying, he doesn't seem to be thinking much about his dad just having passed. He seems to thinking more about his life, his relationship, and the future he has mapped out. Although that isn't quite true, he is affected, When you're young you understand love, anger, and strong emotions but you don't necessarily understand numb -
"Julie's coming around....Mike's staying at home with the twins. They're too young. They won't understand." I nod, and wish I was two years old instead of seventeen.  
Nothing has changed. I'm still the same Josh Roberts. An insignificant speck on planet earth. The first thing I want to know is, "Can Bradley come 'round?" 
It's natural to want to be with someone you have love and affection for in times of death. And teenage love is nothing if not all encompassing. It keeps someone solid in a difficult time, but Josh seems to feel like it's just about Bradley, and Josh and Bradley, nothing more. Which is not the truth.
There are some lovely observations about life after death seen here through the eyes of seventeen year old Josh -
"Sue, we're really sorry. If there's anything we can do ..." It's what people say.
"Thanks. We'll be okay." She blurts out so quickly I have no idea if she really believes's what people say. 
I check Facebook. I still have two hundred and twenty three friends, still chatting to each other, still doing homework, and playing games and watching telly. I don't update my status. But if I did it would say: Josh Roberts. Reached Lieutenant II. My dad dies. I fell in love.
There is a lovely relationship here between the characters. Nobody is homophobic, nobody is getting thrown out of home and Josh's mum understands Josh's need to be with his boyfriend after her husband, his father, has died. Bradley proves to be a good, caring boyfriend.
The expectations we have about what grief entails and when that should occur, and how, is beautifully done here. The fact is, we all have our own ways of coping. We all have own own time line of when it will hit us. Josh feels like he is a bad son because he can't cry. He doesn't even cry as he walks down the aisle of the funeral home, while his paternal grandmother is wracked with sobs. Bradley thinks his Joshy is brave. Josh thinks himself a bastard. Realisations come and the truth Josh's own time. It is hard to let go. Meanwhile it shows that life does indeed go on no matter what. Bradley is stressed over Josh's ease at school and the definite possibility that he may not be able to get a mark good enough to get into university. Then their plans are null and void. It causes tension. This is life. This is what happens, nothing stops, everything stays the same...but doesn't
This ebook is approximately 27 pages but it's what gets shown in those 27 pages that makes it impressive. I like a shorter read from time to time. I like to be able to just read something quick and move on. I have expectations that the lack of pages won't interfere with my enjoyment. It shouldn't, but it can. Not here. There are some very good exponents of the short story. Danni Keane might just be one of them if Not Letting Go is anything to go by. Very real and touching. Cleverly written for the mid to older teen on.

A Simple Romance, J.H. Knight

A Simple Romance

After being burned by his long-term partner a man must get over his fears in order to love again.

- Review by Cindi

Skip is a happy man.  He has been married to the perfect man for eight years.  He has a teaching job he loves, the perfect apartment and even the perfect pet cat.  Everything is going well in Skip's world until one day suddenly it's not.  His partner, Monty, has decided that he doesn't want the domesticity any longer and he packs up leaving Skip hurt and miserable and with a stack of papers stating the domestic partnership is over.  Skip is completely blindsided having never considered that Monty might not be every bit as happy as he was.  They even talked about adopting children. After a few weeks of hiding away from everyone including the sister he is close to and his two best friends he makes the decision to walk away from everything and move back home to his mother.  His 'Ma" always took care of him and Skip is in desperate need of being taken care of... at least for a little while until he is able to get beyond his misery so he can start living again.  He promises to never allow himself to be put in the same position that he had been in with Monty... no more serious stuff and definitely no love or commitment.  He will never allow himself to be hurt like that again.  

Paul is a Skip's former classmate.  Paul had been the only openly gay student at their high school and Skip had always had a secret crush on the other boy.  At that time, however, Skip was dating Faith (his now best friend) and had not come out with anyone though he did later with Faith and his mother.  Paul had left home shortly after high school graduation as did Skip.  Paul, also like Skip, is now back in town and is teaching at the same high school the boys had attended.  When Skip gets a position at the same school it is inevitable that the two men will bump into each other.  When they do, Skip's former crush hits him right between the eyes all over again.  A dinner date here, a meeting for drinks there and the two men suddenly are all over each other and inseparable.  Like Skip, Paul has had experience with losing a long-term lover but unlike Skip Paul is eager to move on with what he is feeling for Skip.  Skip makes this difficult as he is in constant fear of caring too much... getting too comfortable... only to have that taken away from him suddenly as it did with Monty.  Paul is patient but after awhile that patience wears thin.  It takes a little bit of time apart for both men to figure things out.  They do eventually and it's very sweet when it happens.  

Overall, this is a very good book.  The sex between Paul and Skip is written very well and frequent though not so frequent that it took away from the rest of the story.  Monty makes an appearance as I knew he would.  The secondary characters are priceless.  Skip's mother takes the meaning of accepting to a whole new level as does Paul's mother.  Skip's sister and her man are hilarious.  Throw in Faith and her husband who are both Skip's best friends and you will be laughing out loud quite a bit.  The ending is nice as is the quick epilogue thrown in.  

I highly recommend this for those looking for a nice love story, hot sex, hilarious secondary characters and two men who are obviously meant for each other.  A very entertaining read.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Intercession, Pepper Espinoza

A vampire determined to keep a promise.  An angel sent to help him.  A lonely man with a death wish.  Each must battle between what's right and wrong in order to survive.

** There are no real spoilers in this review with the exception of what some might consider to be one in regards to the ending.  No details are given that will give the story or resolution away but some comments at the end of this review may be more than the reader wishes to know.  Keep that in mind before reading this review. **

- Review by Cindi

David Derringer made a promise.  He promised his mother at the moment of her death that he would take care of his little brother Danny.  This is a promise he was unable to keep so he spends 50 years searching for the brother who disappeared on that horrific night so long ago. 

David is a vampire, created by monsters on the night of his mother's death. He was turned at the young age of eighteen.  Fifty years later he still walks in the young body but nothing else about him is eighteen.  He has been forced to kill to survive and his very survival depends on him constantly being on the run. There are those who hunt him and his kind and he must always stay one step ahead as he actively searches for the brother taken away from him.  His life is constantly in danger as these men will stop at nothing to destroy him.  The leader of the organization created to eradicate his kind has taken David on as his personal mission.  He will stop at nothing to see him turned to dust and if innocent victims are taken out in the process, he believes their loss is collateral damage in the name of God.

Frustrated and feeling like he has reached a dead end with his search for Danny, David does something he has not done in over fifty years... he goes inside a church and prays, asking God for guidance in finding Danny before David is caught and destroyed.  His prayer is answered in the form of an angel, Jophiel.  Jophiel is not your typical guardian angel and the reader learns this little by little as the story plays out.  His assignment to return to earth to help the vampire is given with few details from his superiors.  He must go in blind, at all times wondering why an angel of God would be sent to earth to assist one of Satan's children.  Jophiel's work deals with souls.  Vampires don't have them as they leave their bodies on the moment of the change from human to demon with their souls dying and going to Lucifer.  With zero knowledge of what he is about to embark on, Jophiel follows the orders given and returns to earth to meet one angry vampire.

David and Jophiel reluctantly embark on a journey in search of Danny.  Along the way they meet  Arthur.  Arthur has a death wish and this is proven when he knowingly picks up David in a bar and takes him home for sex.  Arthur is very aware of what and who David is which is why he singled him out.  He wants to die and the vampire is the perfect way for him to meet his end.  But something happens.  The killer who has killed thousands without thought is unable to harm Arthur.  Never has he walked away from a kill.  David's plan to have sex with Arthur then drain him of his blood allowing him to die slowly goes out the window.  He wants to kill him.  He wants his blood.  But he can't.  After a night of passionate sex David and Arthur fall asleep in each others arms on the couch of Arthur's home.  They are interrupted the next morning by one pissed off angel who knocks the door down in order to get to the two men.  Jophiel has discovered something about Arthur that somehow connects all three men.  Arthur, a man picked up by David at random for a quick meal and sex, is the key to finding Danny.  Arthur reluctantly joins David and Jophiel in their search for the missing brother. 

There are obstacles constantly thrown in the path of the three men.  There is violence, kidnapping. bloodlust, sex, sex and a little more sex, angry angels, and many other things.  What happens if Danny does not wish to be found?  What if Danny is not who David wants him to be?  He made a promise to his dying mother that he would take care of his little brother but what if Danny is now, as an adult, someone that David should be running far away from not to?

David is not your sparkly vampire who feels that killing is wrong.  He is a very dark character who has no qualms doing what he must to survive.  Jophiel is an angel of God who has secrets.  Coming to earth he never expects to feel something for not only a human but a product of Lucifer himself.  Arthur is a lost soul.  He desperately wants to die and not only must deal with those emotions but the emotions of falling in love with two very different beings.  

Arthur and Jophiel
This is a menage story between three very different men.  The sex (with the exception of David and Arthur early on) is not written as simply one giant sex scene about three men getting off.  It is written beautifully and the reader is given the knowledge that there is much more than sex between the three men.  

There are so many things that I wish I could say about this book in this review but I can't.  Anything I say beyond what is already stated would be a spoiler.  Secrets come out in regards to all three men.  Some will having you shaking your head and others will give you that "Aha!" moment.  

Overall, this is an excellent read and exactly what I needed at this time.  The story is written very well and the love story between David, Jophiel and Arthur is written beautifully.  

This ends with a major cliffhanger.  This would not be an issue for me had I known going in that it was the first of a series as I would have expected the abrupt ending.  Don't get me wrong, it was brilliant.  Seriously brilliant.  But I would have appreciated being aware of what was coming... or not in this case.

I have an issue with buying books that are not listed as part of a series. I would like to know this information going in so that I will have an idea of what to expect.  I assumed wrongly when I purchased this book that it would be a stand-alone story with everything tied up nicely at the end.    In normal instances I could follow an author's blog or on Goodreads or some other way in order to find out when the next in a series will be released.  After a lot of Googling I finally gave up.  All information for this author that I found is outdated (even the sites where she co-writes as Jamie Craig).  If  anyone reads this knows something I don't, please share that information with me.  Granted, I may have overlooked something in my search and it could have been right in front of me the whole time.  I really enjoyed this book and I am eager to see what happens next.  So many things are left undone and I would hate to miss out on the next story because I am not seeing updates from the author.

This is a beautifully written dark romance between three men.  Do not read this book expecting everything to be happy and sweet.  That is not the case with this book at all. There are sweet moments.  There are violent moments.  There are moments that will have you in tears.  Keep that in mind before reading it.  For those wishing to read something different from your average vampire and angel story and who don't mind knowing it ends with a cliffhanger, I highly recommend this book.

My thanks to my blog partner for sharing a photo of a vampire who doesn't sparkle. :)