• More Perfect by Daniel Janaka

    More PerfectMore Perfect by Daniel Janaka
    My rating: 2 of 5 stars

    ***ARC received via NetGalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.***

    Jimmy is in constant search for that elusive something that will magically make his life feel more purposeful and complete. Whether it’s his career, his friendships, or a committed romantic relationship, Jimmy latches on to an idea or a thing that he thinks will be the missing piece.; Sounds pretty typical for someone in their mid-twenties.

    For me, the story was very dry. I struck with it in the hopes that something interesting would happen to catch my interest.

    The chemistry between Jimmy and Luke just isn’t…there. I didn’t get a sense that they really liked each other, other than the fact they were both lonely and had had a history together, making reconnecting not much of a hurdle. They argue a lot–not so much heatedly–and they seem to disagree on many different things.

    I kinda feel bad for Jimmy and Luke. I hate to see characters settle. They each deserve to find that person that evokes passion and love, and that would have made a better story.

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  • Torn (Story Ballads, #1) by Mia Kerick

    Torn (Story Ballads, #1)Torn by Mia Kerick
    My rating: 4 of 5 stars

    ***Copy provided by Embrace the Rainbow in exchange for an honest and impartial review.***

    Torn isn’t a straight forward story of two people coming together; it’s a multi-faceted one exploring how two high school students’ budding feelings for each other effect their families, their community, their faith, and their futures.

    The reader meets Vinny and Tommy during Thanksgiving of their senior year of high school and sees them evolve through graduation and their first semester of college. They are so sweet together and I couldn’t help but root for them along the way.

    My heart broke at their parting and rejoiced with their reunion. The feelings and emotions are raw, and the resolution at the end is heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time.

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  • My Crunchy Life by Mia Kerick

    My Crunchy LifeMy Crunchy Life by Mia Kerick
    My rating: 5 of 5 stars

    ***Copy provided by Embrace the Rainbow in exchange for an honest and impartial review.***

    (Note: This review is going to refer to the trans character by both names (Julian/Julia) and both pronouns (he/her) as is done in the book.)

    My Crunchy Life is told from the unique perspectives of two high school students: one transgender (Julian/Julia) and one wannabe hippie (Kale).

    “But I know I’m a girl, even if my body tells the world a different story.”

    Julian/Julia has to be one of my favorite characters. Jaded and fabulous and more mature than his/her classmates, he/she gives the reader insight into body dysphoria and the process of the early stages of transition. I loved the outward snarky attitude projected along with the moments of vulnerability. Julian is certain that he is Julia, and I admire that bravery.

    “I’m just trying to understand what’s going on with me…when it comes to you.”

    Kale’s confused, naive, and curious. He’s drawn to Julian/Julia and doesn’t know what that means for his sexuality. Kale is very much self absorbed and out of touch with what others are going through. His reaction to Julian in the beginning feels real. making his evolution throughout the book that much more genuine.

    I enjoyed getting to know Julian/Julia and Kale and their journeys of growth and discovery. I think both perspectives were written well, and I wouldn’t say no to a follow up story to see where their lives have gone after high school.

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  • Never Let Me Go by Elaine White

    Never Let Me GoNever Let Me Go by Elaine White
    My rating: 2 of 5 stars

    I don’t think this book was my cup of tea, but I did manage to read to the end.

    I hate the way Bradley treated Rory at the beginning. It’s one thing to dislike someone or not get along, it’s another thing to be a bully and cruel. And cruel is exactly what Bradley is to Rory, hurling awful names at Rory and even punching him in the nose.

    Bradley admits, “Rory might have been a loser but he was the definition of perfection…” This quote pretty much summarizes the entire story. Bradley is one of the most unlikable MCs I’ve ever read. Seems his self-hatred for his own sexuality is projected into his treatment of Rory.

    Poor Rory. He such a doormat. I think I could have liked him had he stuck up for himself more. Instead, he pretty much takes whatever Bradley dishes out.

    While I understand this story is supposed to be about a D/s relationship (and while I have never been in anything close to a D/s relationship nor do I want to be), it doesn’t feel like Bradley and Rory are equals in their connection, something which I think is critical in this type of dynamic. Really, it comes down to my inability to forgive and accept Bradley’s mistreatment of Rory, and Rory’s complacency and lack of self respect.

    The adults in this story were disappointing as well. The parents’ reaction to the two sharing a bed without being clued in beforehand (in the parent’s home, no less!) and one teacher’s candidness of his own sexual experiences to his students put me off big time.

    There were some sweet moments between Bradley and Rory but none could redeem Bradley in my eyes.

    So, while I did not enjoy this book, someone else might.

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  • Undue Influence: A Persuasion Retelling by Jenny Holiday

    Undue Influence: A Persuasion RetellingUndue Influence: A Persuasion Retelling by Jenny Holiday
    My rating: 5 of 5 stars

    This contemporary re-imagining of Jane Austen’s Persuasion was impossible to put down. I will admit, I’ve never read Persuasion so I checked out the Wikipedia article beforehand. I’m glad I did because I gained a better appreciation for Holiday’s story.

    Adam (Anne) is the sweetest, most sensitive character, and I loved him. Freddy (Frederick) is also sweet, more so when it comes to Adam. The reader learns piece by piece of the couple’s meeting and courtship, and eventual parting. Circumstances throw these two together after years apart, and I was rooting for them with every fiber of my being. Freddy’s gentle, caring nature for Adam is so well-written, even the coldest of hearts will defrost. Every page clearly conveys that Adam and Freddy are meant to be together.

    Toward the end, I missed Mr. Collins. I wonder what happened to him as he’s not mentioned after about halfway through.

    Even if you have not read Persuasion, you’ll still enjoy this slow burn, second chance love story.

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  • Blink by Rick R. Reed

    BlinkBlink by Rick R. Reed
    My rating: 5 of 5 stars

    Rick R. Reed has this amazing talent for creating real characters experiencing true-to-life situations. In his afterword, Reed describes how Andy, one of these MCs, is loosely based on his real life experiences, and that makes the story all the more compelling.

    Part of the story is set in the 1980’s, my favorite decade., and I appreciated the 80’s music and style references. Reed perfectly conveys the complexity of being gay and Catholic at that time through Andy. In sharp contrast is Carlos, an out and proud former seminary student.

    I enjoyed reading Andy and Carlos’ journey from missed connection to second chance. The story doesn’t focus so much on these two as a couple and in a relationship; rather, the focus is on each character’s growth and experiences as adults until their eventual reconnection. This allows the reader to get to know Andy and Carlos individually and not as two pieces of a whole. As we all know, life goes on, regardless of one’s attraction to another. Blink is a perfectly crafted story in that respect.

    Life, death, illness, divorce, and failed and successful relationships are not merely plot devices in this story, but events that feel genuine and natural to the telling of Any and Carlos’ story. My only regret about this book is that it took me so long to read.

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  • In The Shadows (Social Sinners, #2) by T.L. Travis

    In The Shadows (Social Sinners, #2)In The Shadows by T.L. Travis

    My rating: 4 of 5 stars

    ***ARC provided by author in exchange for honest and unbiased review.***

    The second installment of the Social Sinners explores Stoli and Joey’s new relationship through Stoli’s eyes. The guys are sweet as a couple and I felt a sense of relief that they were finally boyfriends.

    In the Shadows follows the band on the rest of their tour and the reader gets to know the band members better. I enjoyed reading their adventures and journey as a band. The guys are truly a family, even if they aren’t blood related.

    There was a little more romance in this story than the first Behind the Lights. I enjoyed reading about the band’s realization that they are superstars and recognizable out in public.

    There is more growth as a band and as adults, as they face some serious challenges but come out stronger in the end.

    I’m anxiously awaiting book 3 to see what else these guys get up to.

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  • The James Dean Vintage by Jess Whitecroft

    The James Dean VintageThe James Dean Vintage by Jess Whitecroft
    My rating: 5 of 5 stars

    I’m not a wine drinker. Mostly. In fact, wine is probably one topic that interests me the least. I’ve never watched the movie Sideways, and when everyone else is drinking wine, I go for a bloody Mary. I don’t know the difference between red and white (aside from color), dry and…not dry(?). I mostly think wine tastes gross.

    Despite all of that, I jumped at the chance to read Jess Whitecroft’s new book that is all about wine. It’s a testament to her storytelling and writing skills that not for one moment was I bored or put off while reading this story. Sprinkled with pop culture references and featuring the most amazingly fascinating characters, Whitecroft crafts a stellar love story.

    Dean is one of the most complicatedly lovable characters I’ve ever read. From beginning to end, the reader learns something new about him. And Oliver! Oh Oliver. I loved him too. Dean is a perfect match for Oliver’s unique personality.

    I loved the development of their relationship from a one night stand to a fake marriage to a real relationship. And the humor! Whitecroft is a boss at making me laugh out loud while reading.

    I don’t think there is any topic Whitecroft could write about that I wouldn’t read. She’s an amazing writer and has quickly become my favorite, one-click author.