books

Book Reports (69-74)...

For those of you who happened to Google your title and ended up here, please know that one star is not a bad thing in Robin's world — just the fact that I picked up your book and started it means that somewhere it's getting good buzz (or that your blurb was really cool).

* I didn't make it beyond the first 20 pages.
** I made it to the end, but I either skimmed or skipped large sections.
*** I might have skipped/skimmed, but I liked it and might read it again.
**** I read at least 95% of the book and it was good — probably will be reread.
***** I read every word, and I loved it! A favorite and definite reread.

This year, I'm only going to list the stars and a brief recommendation for the type of readers I think will enjoy the book [(R) means it's a re-read; [ ] means it's an ARC; DNF means *did not finish*].

****+
Coach's Challenge, by Avon Gale -- highly recommended for those who like m/m romance, those who like hockey settings, and those who like older MCs -- Dreamspinner Press, 6/17

(I enjoyed this, despite a couple of minor issues. I'll definitely look for the next one.)

****-
Lost in the Outcome, by Rowan McAllister -- recommended for those who like m/m romance, those who like mysteries, and those who like determined heroes -- Dreamspinner Press, 8/14

(This was okay. I really liked one of the MCs (Nate) but didn't love the other (Tim), so every section from Tim's POV kind of grated on me after a while. All in all, Nate made this an entertaining read, though.)

****-
Love and Murder, by W.S. Long -- recommended for those who like lawyer tales, those who like m/m relationships, and those who like distanced MCs -- Createspace, 3/14

(The writing here is good, but the MC (Jake) isn't overly likable to me. He wasn't horrible or anything, but he was wishy-washy, and he certainly had no issues with cheating (unless someone did it to him, LOL). I probably won't look for anymore of Long's books.)

***
Love in the Line of Fire, by Michael Murphy -- recommended for those who like m/m romance, those who like Secret Service agents, and those who like dual-POV -- Dreamspinner Press, 1/17

(I had some huge issues with Jonah near the end of the book -- he was incredibly self-centered, and he didn't really understand how horrible he'd been. Even though Benji also irritated me a bit (he was overly cocky and kind of a know-it-all), he didn't deserve Jonah's callous treatment. And the writing style included a ton of telling, which also annoyed me. Not really my thing.)

***-
My Roommate's a Jock, by Wade Kelly -- recommended for those who like NA m/m romance, those who like snarky MCs, and those who like more surface-y characters -- Dreamspinner Press, 12/12

(I didn't love this one. I actually enjoyed the opening 1/3 of the book, and I found Cole's voice fun. However, Ellis seemed much younger than early 20s, and the constant POV switching (between not only Cole and Ellis but a number of extraneous characters, as well) and time jumps (both forward and back) were confusing and annoying. All in all, it was a jumble of a tale, and although the overall romantic arc was sweet, it didn't make up for the other issues.)

****
No Such Thing, by A.M. Arthur -- recommended for those who like m/m romance, those who like good guys, and those who like dual POV -- Carina Press, 2/14

(I like Arthur's writing style, and this was no exception. I found both Ale and Jaime to be likable and complex characters, and I like the realistic way their relationship progressed. The tension in the story was a little awkward to me (and seemed unnecessary), but all in all, I enjoyed the romance.)

We're off to Glacier NP this weekend (for a week), and I have books in my TBR pile that I'm taking along -- yay!

books

Book Reports (56-68)...

For those of you who happened to Google your title and ended up here, please know that one star is not a bad thing in Robin's world -- just the fact that I picked up your book and started it means that somewhere it's getting good buzz (or that your blurb was really cool).

* I didn't make it beyond the first 20 pages.
** I made it to the end, but I either skimmed or skipped large sections.
*** I might have skipped/skimmed, but I liked it and might read it again.
**** I read at least 95% of the book and it was good -- probably will be reread.
***** I read every word, and I loved it! A favorite and definite reread.

This year, I'm only going to list the stars and a brief recommendation for the type of readers I think will enjoy the book [(R) means it's a re-read; [ ] means it's an ARC; DNF means *did not finish*].

**
Aria, by Shira Anthony -- recommended for those who like male/male romance, musician tales, and grief recovery -- Dreamspinner Press, 12/12

(I didn't love this, so I skimmed most of it. Neither character really worked for me, and although I liked reading about an opera singer, there just wasn't enough about that to make up for the lackluster storyline and characters.)

***
A Kind of Home, by Lane Hayes -- recommended for those who like male/male romance, those who like musician tales, and those who like childhood crushes becoming adult relationships -- Dreamspinner Press, 6/17

(This was okay. I liked the premise, and I found the band aspects interesting. The romance was kind of tentative (more like a one-night -- one-month-ish -- stand than a mature relationships), and I felt like Isaac's issues were a little overdone.)

****-
Candy Man, by Amy Lane -- recommended for those who like male/male romance (specifically Amy Lane), those who like second chances in life, and those who like opposites attracting -- Dreamspinner Press, 12/14

(I liked this and only skimmed a bit. It's not quite a typical Amy Lane book, in that it's not very angsty. Sure, Adam is struggling, but he's such a good guy, and it's clear he's going to get it together. And Finn is so upbeat and positive. My only real complaint was in the speed of the romance and how Finn is so confident that it's a 'forever' love when he just got out of a long-term relationship and this one is so much shorter...but still, very sweet.)

*****
Rockton novels, by Kelley Armstrong -- highly recommended for those who like romantic suspense, unique settings, and unusual murder mysteries -- Minotaur Books, 5/16 - 2/19

(Yay, I've found a new author/series!! I really like these, and it's a combination of Casey and Eric (and their relationship), the secondary characters, and the unique mysteries and setting. Having a small town that's 'hidden' from the rest of the world (in the Yukon, no less) for safety but which also houses criminals who buy their way in...it's just well done, creative, and some great reading. I can't wait for the next one!)

****-
Deeds & Confetti, by Brandon Witt -- recommended for those who like male/male romance, those who like Colorado settings, and those who like drag queens -- Dreamspinner Press, 9/17

(This was entertaining. I liked the main characters, and the May-December romance is sweet (though it's slightly weird that Ryan has had a crush on Steven since he was a young teen). Some of the secondary characters seemed a little over-the-top to me, but this is the fourth book in the series, I believe, and I didn't read the others. I'm sure they're explained better there. My favorite part was Steven and the familiar Denver landmarks.)

****-
Creative Process, by Jodi Payne -- recommended for those who like male/male romance, those who like tales about artists and their process (obviously), and those who like emotive writing -- Dreamspinner Press, 9/17

(I really enjoyed the writing here, but I had a couple of issues with the other aspects of the book (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2851108078). Still, there are some definite positives to this.)

***+
Darling James, by Tinnean -- recommended for those who like historical male/male romance, those who like spy tales, and those who like understated relationships -- Createspace, 11/15

(This was interesting, and even though I skimmed the middle portion, I liked the romance and hints of mystery between James and Remy.)

****-
The Perfect Alibi, by Phillip Margolin -- recommended for those who like complicated legal mysteries/thrillers, those who like understated romance, and those who like a more distanced writing style -- Minotaur Books, 3/19

(I enjoyed the mystery and procedural aspects of this very much, even though the writing style is weak (and choppy). There's a fair amount of telling, and at the sentence level, it's just clunky (to me). Still, I found the mysteries pretty compelling, and I enjoyed it (and will probably look for the next one, if there is a next one).)

****
Finding Jake, by Bryan Reardon -- recommended for those who like psychological suspense, those who like male POV, those who like parent-child tales, and those who like emotional stories -- William Morrow, 2/15

(So full disclosure: I 'know' Bryan -- from LJ, actually, many years ago. We lost touch about that time that many people left LJ, and when I saw him on FB (on a mutual friend's feed), I looked him up and discovered that he'd been published. I read a couple of his YA manuscripts, so this isn't a surprise...and I found this very compelling and hard to put down. I wouldn't say I 'enjoyed' it, as the story is very intense, but it was engaging and well written. I already have a hold on another of his books. :D)

***-
Little Wolf, by R. Cooper -- recommended for those who like male/male shifter tales, those who like some mystery, and those who like many different kinds of beings -- Dreamspinner Press, 5/15

(This frustrated me, I will admit. I did read the last chapter or two, but the rest was just too many details with very little value. And I didn't think Tim and Nathaniel fit that well together (basically because Nathaniel deserved so much better). Tim was annoying, and I just couldn't get past that. Not my cup of tea, sigh.)
books

Book Reports (47-55)...

For those of you who happened to Google your title and ended up here, please know that one star is not a bad thing in Robin's world -- just the fact that I picked up your book and started it means that somewhere it's getting good buzz (or that your blurb was really cool).

* I didn't make it beyond the first 20 pages.
** I made it to the end, but I either skimmed or skipped large sections.
*** I might have skipped/skimmed, but I liked it and might read it again.
**** I read at least 95% of the book and it was good -- probably will be reread.
***** I read every word, and I loved it! A favorite and definite reread.

This year, I'm only going to list the stars and a brief recommendation for the type of readers I think will enjoy the book [(R) means it's a re-read; [ ] means it's an ARC; DNF means *did not finish*].

***

[Dream Daddy, by Leighton Grey, Vernon Shaw -- recommended for those who have played the video game (I guess -- I'd never heard of it before) and those who like graphic novels/comic books (with a m/m slant) -- Oni Press, 5/19]

(This was an e-galley, and I honestly knew nothing about it. I thought it would be more of a graphic novel male-male romance -- it's not. It was fine, but I didn't love it.)

**+

[Arctic Wild, by Annabeth Albert -- recommended for those who like male/male romance, those who like Alaska settings, and those who like May-December romance -- Carina Press, 6/19]

(This was also just okay. I liked aspects of it a lot -- such as Reuben, who's a great character -- but I also really struggled with some of it -- like Toby's injuries and how they were handled. All in all, the lack of research and understanding regarding what it would take for Toby's care added to Toby's overall selfishness and immaturity kind of ruined the whole book for me, despite how much I enjoyed Reuben (and perhaps because of it -- Reuben deserved a LOT better than Toby). Even the cool setting couldn't make up for those weaknesses for me.)

***+

The Devil's Breath, by A. Nybo -- recommended for those who like Australian characters (in a Canadian setting), those who like mystery (or some semblance of one), those who like successful vengeance (or justice), and those who like male/male romance -- Dreamspinner Press, 1/19

(Even though this is pretty much insta-love (after insta-hate, LOL), I still enjoyed it. I really liked Birch and his laid-back and compassionate approach to life. And even though Henri was quirky, I felt like the explanation for that made sense. The 'mystery' was a little odd and over-the-top, and I definitely had to suspend my disbelief for a lot of the set-up and execution of that aspect of the story. But the romance between Birch and Henri was actually quite sweet and thoughtful, so I enjoyed it for that alone.)

****

Blind Spot, by Maggie Kavanagh -- recommended for those who read the first two, those who like solid mystery/thrillers, and those who like male/male romance -- Dreamspinner Press, 1/16

(I only read the first of this trilogy, but it was enough to have me invested in Sam's and Nate's future, so I had to pick this one up too. It's definitely engaging, and although there are a couple aspects I didn't love, overall, it's a solid story, and I like the growing relationship between Sam and Nate. Plus, I like how the mystery really strings together all three books, and that was definitely worth reading.)

*****

[Made for You, by Anyta Sunday -- highly recommended for those who like male/male romance, those who like New Zealand settings, and those who like realistic kid tales -- self published, 4/19]

(I really enjoyed this one. And even though it's set in New Zealand, the only aspects that specifically pointed that out involved the birding (which I also love), so anyone could enjoy it, I think. The relationship between Milo, Ben, and Jack is really great, and the romance between Jack and Ben seemed very realistic and thoughtful. My only real complaint was how long it took Jack to really step up -- but even that was handled mostly well. And I loved the epilogue. :D)

****+

La Famiglia, by Deanna Wadsworth -- highly recommended for those who like Italian families, those who like male/male romance, those who like coming-out tales, those who like small-town settings, and those who like MCs with disabilities (deafness, in this case) -- Dreamspinner Press, 1/18

(This is a good read. I really liked Forrester and his family, and I especially enjoyed how Wadsworth gave us glimpses into each of his brother's lives and their own insecurities. I thought all the characters were well-rounded and realistic, in fact, and the story itself is rich and filled with little aspects that make you glad to visit this place and these people. My only minor complaints all circle around Kyle -- he's a good character, without a doubt, but I felt like his story really took place before this one...in other words, he feels a bit like a cut-out character, someone Forrester can fall for and use as motivation to come out to his family. Despite Kyle getting his own POV, it still felt very much like Forrester's tale, and honestly, I think it would've been stronger *without* Kyle's POV. Still, I liked visiting this group of people, and I'd enjoy meeting up with them again. :) )

****

Afraid to Fly, by LA Witt -- recommended for those who like military-life settings, those who like male/male romance, and those who like overcoming PTSD tales -- Riptide Publishing, 1/17

(This was good, although it didn't have a strong climax/resolution. Instead, it's kind of a gentle (though intense) build to the end with one brief mis-step by Travis. I liked the dual POV (as always), and I thought both men were mature and thoughtful characters.)

****-

Refraction, by B.A. Tortuga and Jodi Payne -- recommended for those who like male/male romance, those who like artists, and those who like angst -- Dreamspinner Press, 6/18

(I enjoyed this mostly because of Tucker and the romance between Tucker and Calvin (even though Calvin wasn't my favorite person all the time). Tucker's a bit of an exaggeration when it comes to the 'tortured' artist aspects, but he's still incredibly lovable. I enjoyed their relationship, although Calvin wasn't as strong as I wanted him to be for Tucker -- still, their connection was palpable and drove the story.)

**+

[The Rumor, by Lesley Kara -- recommended for those who like slow-developing mysteries, those who like a cast of characters (but only one POV), and those who like family drama -- Ballantine Books, 6/19]

(This was a little too slowly developing for my taste. Plus, I just didn't love Joanna (the MC) enough to want to spend time in her head. She wasn't distasteful; she was simply uninteresting to me. I ended up skipping to the end and felt like I hadn't missed anything...the mystery aspect was good, I'd say, though I had my suspicions (accurately so). Basically, I just didn't care enough about any of the characters to truly care about the outcome.)

Whew -- I really need to keep up with these better. ;) I'm currently reading two more (both library books), so I'll try to post those right when I finish (ha).
books

Book Reports (41-46) ...

For those of you who happened to Google your title and ended up here, please know that one star is not a bad thing in Robin's world -- just the fact that I picked up your book and started it means that somewhere it's getting good buzz (or that your blurb was really cool).

* I didn't make it beyond the first 20 pages.
** I made it to the end, but I either skimmed or skipped large sections.
*** I might have skipped/skimmed, but I liked it and might read it again.
**** I read at least 95% of the book and it was good -- probably will be reread.
***** I read every word, and I loved it! A favorite and definite reread.

This year, I'm only going to list the stars and a brief recommendation for the type of readers I think will enjoy the book [(R) means it's a re-read; [ ] means it's an ARC; DNF means *did not finish*].

****-

Loveblood, by MJ O'Shea -- recommended for those who like New Adult shifter tales, those who like m/m romance, those who like teen angst/drama, and those who like dual-POV -- Harmony Ink Press, 7/16

(So I read this in one sitting, which tells me it's very engaging and compelling. Unfortunately, part of what drove me forward was the hope that Jonah would pull his head out...and man, it took a long time for that to happen. Here's my review on GR, if you're interested in my pros and cons: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22707725-loveblood.)

**

All the Things I Didn't See, by Cindy Sutherland -- recommended for those who like soap operas/actors, those who like angst/drama-free m/m romance, and those who like recovery tales -- Dreamspinner Press, 4/12

(This was okay. I thought the premise sounded intriguing (two actors, one straight and one gay, attacked by someone who thought they were their characters), but the execution left a lot to be desired. I'd guess that Sutherland is perhaps a newer writer, as the prose itself is weak and inconsistent. Plus, she jumps from head to head throughout the book, and the dialogue and inner narrative is choppy and stilted. Meh. The tension never really delivered, and the pacing was weak -- so yeah, didn't love it.)

**+

Kissing Lessons, by Susan Laine -- recommended for those who like New Adult gay version of Some Kind of Wonderful (though without all the complexities) and those who like pretty easy friends-to-lover romance -- Dreamspinner Press, 4/17

(I didn't love this one, either. I adored Some Kind of Wonderful -- who didn't? -- but this definitely didn't live up to that standard (and too bad -- I'd love a gay version of that movie). For a more detailed look at my pros and cons: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34694796-kissing-lessons.)

****+

A Solitary Man, by Shira Anthony and Aisling Mancy -- highly recommended for those who like male/male romance, those who like police procedural mysteries, and those who like slow-burn -- Dreamspinner Press, 11/15

(I really enjoyed this one. Of course, I'm a huge Law & Order fan, and this had mostly police work but also a touch of lawyering, as well. Even though the two MCs jumped into bed together on their first meeting (a pick-up at a bar), the romance was actually very slow to build and, imo, very sweet. I liked both characters and felt they were realistically portrayed, and even though I suspected the bad guy right out of the gate, I still greatly enjoyed the journey. I wish this duo had written more together -- I've read Shira Anthony before, and I didn't love it...but together, they make it work.)

**+

BFF, by KC Wells -- recommended for those who like angst-free male/male romance and friends-to-lovers -- Dreamspinner Press, 6/18

(Yeah, I didn't hate this, by any means, but as I mention in my GR review, it's like floating on a still lake -- pleasant but not that exciting. Here's that review, in case you're interested: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36296868-bff.)

****

No Quick Fix, by Mary Calmes -- recommended for those who like male/male romance, those who like security/police tales, those who like Mary Calmes (ha), and those who like kids in stories (even if they're unrealistic kids) -- Independently Published, 3/19

(I enjoyed this, even though it had some of Calmes' usual issues (the most annoying of which is the time thing -- I'm not sure why she can't seem to figure out a timeline for her books...it's really irritating). But I liked both MCs, and even though the girls (6 and 8) act nothing like girls that age, they were fun to read. All in all, I will probably pick up the next one in the series. ;) )
books

Book Reports (31 - 36)...

For those of you who happened to Google your title and ended up here, please know that one star is not a bad thing in Robin's world -- just the fact that I picked up your book and started it means that somewhere it's getting good buzz (or that your blurb was really cool).

* I didn't make it beyond the first 20 pages.
** I made it to the end, but I either skimmed or skipped large sections.
*** I might have skipped/skimmed, but I liked it and might read it again.
**** I read at least 95% of the book and it was good -- probably will be reread.
***** I read every word, and I loved it! A favorite and definite reread.

This year, I'm only going to list the stars and a brief recommendation for the type of readers I think will enjoy the book [(R) means it's a re-read; [ ] means it's an ARC; DNF means *did not finish*].

***+

One True Thing, by Piper Vaughn and MJ O'Shea -- recommended for those who like m/m romance, those who like men who communicate, and those who like family drama -- Dreamspinner Press, 10/12

(So, it turns out I've read the first one in this series too, and I liked that one more than this one. This one is fine, especially the first 3/4 (which I based my rating on). I like both Dusty and Asher, but Asher's relationship with his twin brother didn't work for me. The drama between them and because of Archer jumped the shark with believe-ability, and it ruined the whole story. *sigh*)

****-

Beware of Geeks Bearing Gifts, by Charlie Cochet -- recommended for those who like sweet m/m romance, those who like short tales, and those who like insta-love -- Dreamspinner Press, 8/15

(This was cute. I liked both characters, though Quinn was pretty self-absorbed (or just unaware?). It's definitely a *short* story, so be prepared for quick everything (including falling for one another). I thought the drama was a little forced, and both Spencer and Quinn were total idiots for allowing the culminating problem to peak, *but* I guess there had to be something, right? I still liked it. :) )

**

Dawn and Dusk, by Dirk Greyson -- recommended for those who like mysteries, those who like weak m/m romance, and those who like family tales -- Dreamspinner Press, 5/15

(So I marked this one a little inaccurately -- I read the whole thing, though I skimmed through much of it. It just isn't for me. The characterizations were so weak that even though you get both guys' perspectives, it didn't make much different. The romance was...barely a romance. And the mystery wasn't a mystery -- I guess it was more of watching the two guys work through finding the bad guy? I don't know...it just didn't work for me.)

****

Newton's Laws of Attraction, by MJ O'Shea -- recommended for those who like m/m romance, those who like boyhood friends-to-lovers, and those who like teacher tales -- Dreamspinner Press, 1/13

(I read this really quickly. I loved the pacing and Ben's perspective, and I loved Ben's friends. All that kept me hooked, but I will admit a huge downside (and the reason I didn't give it five stars) is Rory. Rory is a neat character, but man, he used Ben for a looooong time, and Ben just let him. I get that Ben felt guilty for what happened when they were teens, but for me, that didn't justify Rory's actions as an adult. I actually teared up reading Ben's distress, and Rory's eventual forgiveness just wasn't enough *for me*. Others might not have any issue with it. :) )

***-

Hook, Line, & Sinker, by Piper Vaughn -- recommended for those who like m/m romance, those who like childhood friends meeting again, and those who like long-distance romance -- Dreamspinner Press, 11/14

(I checked this out because it's by Piper Vaughn -- who wrote my new favorite hockey book -- but this wasn't as great. *sigh* I liked the set-up (with Cas and Blake), and I could kind of see their romance (I wouldn't say the chemistry was obvious, but it worked). But when Cas had to work from a different city and their new relationship was tested, I just didn't love how Cas reacted (well, how he reacted to Ben's reaction, LOL). Here's the thing: spoilerCollapse ) So that kind of ruined this book for me too, LOL.)

****

Dogwood Days, by Poppy Dennison -- recommended for those who like southern romance (m/m), those who like settings that are almost like characters, and those who like loyal families -- Dreamspinner Press, 10/15

(This is just a sweet book. I happen to love small-town settings, and even though the romance kind of took a backseat to everything else, it worked for me. Jefferson Lee is a fun character to live with, and his narration kept me entertained throughout. I also liked his uncle, his bff Clover, and his love interest. All in all, it's fluffy but fun.)

So can you tell I discovered a new ebook checkout at my library? :D It's be awesome, and although I've read some not-so-great books, I'm also enjoying the freedom to read without having to buy first.
books

Book Report (27-29)...

For those of you who happened to Google your title and ended up here, please know that one star is not a bad thing in Robin's world -- just the fact that I picked up your book and started it means that somewhere it's getting good buzz (or that your blurb was really cool).

* I didn't make it beyond the first 20 pages.
** I made it to the end, but I either skimmed or skipped large sections.
*** I might have skipped/skimmed, but I liked it and might read it again.
**** I read at least 95% of the book and it was good -- probably will be reread.
***** I read every word, and I loved it! A favorite and definite reread.

This year, I'm only going to list the stars and a brief recommendation for the type of readers I think will enjoy the book [(R) means it's a re-read; [ ] means it's an ARC; DNF means *did not finish*].

***

Jar of Hearts, by Jennifer Hillier -- recommended for those who like suspense, those who like creepy characters, those who like background romance, and those who don't mind violence against women -- Minotaur Books, 6/18

(I didn't love this. It was interesting, but the creepy factor overwhelmed the rest for me, and I just didn't like the main characters enough, either, to get invested in the story. It was okay but not great.)

**-

No Exit, by Taylor Adams -- recommended for those who like impossible situations, those who like antagonists with no conscience, those who like fiery heroines -- William Morrow, 1/19

(This definitely wasn't for me. The mystery wasn't that strong, and the 'bad' guy truly had no conscience at all. Plus, there was a child involved, and that just doesn't work for me. Blech.)

***+

Family Man, by Heidi Cullinan and Marie Sexton -- recommended for those who like male/male romance, those who like Italian families, those who like coming-out stories, and those who like family drama -- Dreamspinner Press, 3/19

(I liked aspects of this a lot, but the on-going drama with Trey's family (his mom is an alcoholic) and the frustration that never really got resolved regarding that drove me crazy and made reading the story tedious to me. But I loved Vinnie and his family, and I liked the relationship between the two...mostly. It was an interesting read, but not one I'm likely to return to.)