Boy Shattered, Eli Easton

Boy Shattered by [Easton, Eli]

A tragedy beyond comprehension visits The Wall.  The survivors are left to wonder all the hard questions that don't really have answers.  For Brian Marshall, the old version of himself died and the new version is still just as afraid, but of more than just discovery.  The shooters weren't caught.  His lifeline both literally and figuratively was Landon, the proud and out gay boy in school he's always admired.  As they become closer while trying to make sense of the madness and grief they each find more: their calling, their fears, and love.  But if they can't find a way to reconcile it all they'll find themselves, and their relationship, in the crosshairs of an enemy that hasn't finished delivering their message.

While some of the side characters felt more like place-holders or just a side-note to fill in some gaps around the growing relationship between Brian and Landon and the surrounding drama, it was clear that we were meant to focus solely on those two things.  The political motivations and stances included in the story were there but I felt they were more of a tool rather than a statement for the author.  Not to say there weren't some clear statements in there, just that they were more used as a tool for the characters than a soapbox for the author.

As for the MC's themselves, I was drawn to Brian more than Landon.  Maybe because he had such pain inside and had a harder time dealing with it.  Maybe because of his evolution as an individual.  Mostly I think it's because of a combination of those two things with his drive to get answers, to make sense of what happened in order to bring justice.  Landon was a good partner for him, someone who could look beyond the facade and into who Brian is and is meant to become.  As for his advocacy, that was just kind of a part of his character.  We saw a lot of the results of his activism but not a lot of the steps in-between like we got with Brian's investigation.

Those poems.  Those poems!  Those poems hurt my soul!  Some a good pain, some not, but they each produced some kind of ache in me.  This is probably another reason I felt so strongly for Brian.  To have been the quintessential All-American boy but to have words like that coming from inside him was a wonderful surprise.

The who-dunnit was slightly surprising in a good way.  Meaning that I was glad it didn't play out exactly like I assumed it would after meeting all the characters.  I did think the whole resolution was a bit rushed and not just because of the urgency of the situation, but that there wasn't enough settling at the end for all the changes in various characters and everyone's interactions.  By the end there was hope for Brian and Landon's futures as individuals as well as a couple.  I do wish there had been more therapy as well as compromise or discussion between them regarding fears and goals and how they could meld them together to move forward.  But despite all that, I was moved by the story, the poems, and the characters' evolution.  Through tragedy they found one another, their career goals, and a true acceptance of self.

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 Boy Shattered, Eli Easton
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Winter Rising: Coldharbour Chronicles Book 1, Richard Amos

Winter Rising: an Urban Fantasy Novel (Coldharbour Chronicles Book 1) by [Amos, Richard]

Grief and revenge go hand-in-hand for Jake Winter.  His world has gone from good chaos to bad chaos with no rest between.  When he has his moment of revenge so close to him it's quickly turned on its head and he follows a strange white-eyed man toward a destiny he never could have imagined.  As a weapon of the supernatural world meant to break a curse he's thrown head first, ass over tea-kettle into a world he never knew existed.  He finds allies and enemies in his new world and a mystery where he's the center and the turning-point, but there are more pieces to the puzzle to find before he can carry out his role.

Well.  I certainly wasn't expecting what we got.  I was so confused from the first page and that feeling never really went away.  While that was pretty annoying, I also found that I kind of grew to like it.  As if I were just as flummoxed as Jake at every step.  Despite that, I do wish that there were more given to the thinking things through, getting everything out in the open, making connections, and actually attempting to figure things out rather than reacting to everything thrown at them and being forced to find answers.

Jake was an interesting character with his very complicated past and personal motivations.  His reactions were a bit heavy on the "act first, think later" and it caused quite a few situations that should have been handled differently, but it added to his jumbled mess of a life which I found believable.  That the gift he was given didn't automatically make him a different person, fully in control of his emotions and reactions.

His guardians were compelling in different ways.  I really loved Naomi.  She was fierce, fun, smart, and loyal.  Greg was a comfortable presence as well as a strong ally.  Dean, though, has me on the fence, much like Jake.  Sure, he's hot and makes Jake's pulse race with his moody, broody ways and randomly affectionate moments, but it doesn't change the whole scene with the detective, the split-personality, and the fact that nothing moves beyond the weird moments for the two men.  I'm not really rooting for that non-relationship, to be honest.  Let's hope the rest of the series gives me something more there.

Overall the story was confusing as freak, interesting, and it drew me in despite my reluctance.  By the end I was totally won over with all the crazy.  I really, really want to read more...and soon!

*$2.30 on Amazon or FREE on KU!
 Winter Rising: Coldharbour Chronicles Book 1, Richard Amos

The Christmas Window, Melissa McClone

 The Christmas Window, Melissa McClone

 The Christmas Window, Melissa McClone
Release Date: October 18, 2018

A matchmaking aunt wants her nephew to find love under the mistletoe…

All doggy daycare owner Callie Andrews wants for Christmas is to win first prize this year. The annual window display competition is a huge event in Silver Falls, and she’s determined to showcase her success when her family visits her small town. It’s time for her parents and three older brothers to realize the “baby” of the family is thriving on her own.

The last thing Brandt Winslow wants to do is rehash the past, but returning home to Silver Falls means confronting the reason he left. His vacation, however, takes an unexpected turn when his well-meaning aunt meddles in his love life, and he finds himself caught up in her misguided efforts at matchmaking.

Despite their reluctance at being paired up, Callie and Brandt discover the holidays are full of surprises…and romance. But is the magic of Christmas strong enough to keep the couple together through the new year?

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 The Christmas Window, Melissa McClone

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 The Christmas Window, Melissa McClone

Author Bio

With a degree in mechanical engineering from Stanford University, Melissa McClone worked for a major airline where she traveled the globe and met her husband. But analyzing jet engine performance couldn’t compete with her love of writing happily ever afters. She’s now a USA Today Bestselling author and has also been nominated for Romance Writers of America’s RITA® award. Melissa lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, three children, two spoiled Norwegian Elkhounds and cats who think they rule the house. They do!

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Rivals: Gaymer Guys Book 1, Alison Hendricks

Rivals (Gaymer Guys Book 1) by [Hendricks, Alison]

Proving your worth is more than just doing your job.  For Finn it's giving all his time, talent, and focus to the Cyclones.  They're his family and being successful in the gaming world is what he's dedicated himself to.  But there's one big distraction: a hot yet annoyingly antagonistic rival.  Ryker, along with proving to his father that gaming is a legitimate career, is obsessed with Finn and his bids for attention become inflammatory more often than not.  Hooking up at a convention becomes more when they end up on the same team but nothing is ever that easy.  With something to lose on either side of the rivalry Finn and Ryker will have to focus on what's most important if they want success both on and offline.

It was really difficult to like Ryker in the beginning.  He was childish, arrogant, irritating, reactionary, and pessimistic.  He was also vulnerable, yearning for love, fun, and intelligent.  By taking a little while to see his better side we got to know all his facets really well and I couldn't help but feel for him.  There was a bit of him that needed to be loved, cared for, and carried before he could settle and meet his true potential.  As the story came to its conclusion it was clear that it wasn't just Finn that needed to be his home, it was the whole team and we got to see him really blossom.

Finn, on the other hand, was the most giving soul and I hoped so hard that he'd find the latitude necessary to achieve his life balance.  He gave all of himself and rarely stopped to fill his own reservoirs.  While I wasn't exactly thrilled that he was so easily distracted during the gaming situations, I wasn't too upset because it was honestly the first time he was so consumed by not just attraction, but hope for someone else that he was bound to need a longer adjustment period.  By the end he got his own version of settling as he and Ryker found love, family, friendship, and belonging.

Together they were crazy hot.  There were sparks all over the place, both the antagonistic kind as well as passionate.  I don't really feel their relationship got enough in the way of give and take though.  Ryker needed his hand held a lot so more time and attention was given to his evolution and it felt like Finn's was more of a byproduct of the situation instead of a driving force behind both of their goals.

It's also important to mention that the whole thing was heavy on the gaming terminology, world, and just about everything else you can imagine.  I was quite lost in the beginning until I accepted that there are just some things I wouldn't understand.  When I took the story as a whole rather than trying to grasp all the gaming stuff, I found that it was much easier to read.

With a slow start I was wary of how much I'd end up liking the story but both men and the concepts of family and forgiveness drove it deep, drove it home.  I was surprised to have enjoyed the story as much as I did.

*$3.99 on Amazon or FREE on KU!
 Rivals: Gaymer Guys Book 1, Alison Hendricks

Dream: Rosewood Bay Book 4, Carly Phillips

Dream (Rosewood Bay Series Book 4) by [Phillips, Carly] 

When the past you were trying to protect turns out to be your son's handsome new teacher, it'll take a lot more than new-found attraction to sort through all the tangled feelings he inspires.  Andi made a mistake, a few of them, and she's determined to live life for herself to atone for those bad choices.  Her devotion is to her son first and her independence second.  There's nothing else on that list.  Kyle has other things in mind, but only if he can move beyond how badly Andi hurt him a decade earlier.  When Andi's biggest bad choice shows up and threatens their budding romance they'll both have to make concessions if they hope to weather the storm together and come out stronger on the other side.

This story really tackles a big issue and does so with aplomb.  In this relatively short novel all the biggest points of spousal abuse from the victim's perspective were included without making the entire story a mission statement of sorts.  Valid points and key thoughts and emotions those who've been abused think and feel were well-covered and portrayed.  It was subtle in its approach and the focus was kept on the path to healing, recovery, and love.  But most of all, it is the strength on the other side that was kept in the forefront of our minds as we watched Andi deal with her situation.

And when things really went down I wanted to cheer!  Andi did the smartest, bravest thing she could have possibly done.  I was so proud of her and the wisdom she employed rather than her stubborn insistence on independence and a misplaced sense of responsibility and accountability.  When Kyle chose to have her back it showed a different kind of bravery that I completely respected and admired.  To choose to support instead of suppress, it takes someone with immense love and faith to give in to the situation as it was presented.

Both of these characters were strong, forgiving, and eager to act on the chemistry that was absolutely palpable.  This was a riveting story full of healing, hope, love, and no small amount of sexy, dirty-talking steam.  An excellent addition to the Rosewood Bay series.

*$4.99 on Amazon!
 Dream: Rosewood Bay Book 4, Carly Phillips

Holding: Tripping Book 3, Ariel Bishop

Holding: MM Hockey Romance (Tripping Book 3) by [Bishop, Ariel]

Mikey and Tolly are roommates, d-partners, and besties.  From their first moment on ice they had flow and chemistry, but when Mikey is injured it throws them both for a loop.  Recovery is never quick and with Tolly always around to help it opens up feelings in both men they each thought they'd properly buried.  With tenderness and passion it's clear they have chemistry off the ice as well as on.  But when trade rumors start floating around there might be nothing either of them can do to stay together.

I've always got a soft spot for a "mother hen" personality from a tough guy.  When the marshmallow center starts oozing out I'm a goner.  This is definitely true in the case of Tolly.  He's got such a big heart and it shows in everything he does.  His care and concern are allowed to deepen to something wonderful when he and Mikey move to a more intimate arrangement with their friendship.  From there it's pretty much game over.  There's nothing that will stop his feelings or hopes for more.

Mikey, on the other hand, is more of a goof as well as a sullen, stubborn child when faced with interminable couch time.  It's understandable for sure, but his attitude lasts for most of the story and kind of grates on me after a while.  I do love his humor though, and it helps to loosen Tolly up considerably when he's in his more serious moments.

There's pretty much no angst in the story at all.  But I will say that it felt a bit juvenile.  It could have been their ages, but mostly it just came across as kind of a sexy YA story the way their thoughts and concerns were written.  Same for the interactions with the other players.

With "coming out" completely taken off the table with off-the-cuff remarks by both of them, the story was allowed to focus on the relationship moving from friends to lovers to more as well as the career aspect of Mikey's recovery.  Except it didn't really focus heavily on either of them.  Well, I guess that's not completely true.  Both of those things were the focus, but it felt mushed together and a bit scattered so neither aspect felt like it had a complete evolution.  Something in the beginning/middle was missing to make them stand out as something to draw and keep attention.  There was more focus given to the avoidance of trade talk and not enough depth regarding choices and consequences.

The flow of the story was actually quite nice.  I liked the parallel "flashbacks" that gave greater foundation, understanding, importance, and meaning to the more current events.  It gave the story a feeling of resolution despite being a shorter story.  Overall the characters were likable, their chemistry was great, and the sweetness of their interactions made it an enjoyable read.

*$4.98 on Amazon or FREE on KU!
 Holding: Tripping Book 3, Ariel Bishop

Dark Rivers: Witchbane Book 2, Morgan Brice

The Witchbane series continues
with Seth and Evan.
Enemies of the past return...

One hundred years ago, a sheriff’s posse killed dark warlock Rhyfel Gremory, but his witch-disciples escaped, and their magic made them nearly immortal. To keep their power, each year one of the witch-disciples kills a descendant of one of the men in the posse, a twelve-year cycle that has cost dozens of lives, including that of Seth Tanner’s brother, Jesse.

Seth uncovers the cycle of ritual killings that feeds the power of the witch-disciples, and he's hell bent on getting vengeance for Jesse and stopping the murders. His fledgling romantic relationship with Evan Malone complicates his mission, but Seth can’t walk away. Seth and Evan are learning to navigate their partnership—as lovers and monster hunters—while they chase the next witch-disciple and avoid attracting the wrong kind of attention.

When the hunt takes Seth and Evan to Pittsburgh on the trail of the next killer, they’ll have to save the intended victim and take down the powerful witch. If the skills they possess and the bond between them isn’t enough, the evil will remain unchallenged, and more people will die...

About Morgan... 

Morgan Brice is the romance pen name of bestselling author Gail Z. Martin. Morgan writes urban fantasy male/male paranormal romance, with plenty of action, adventure and supernatural thrills to go with the happily ever after. Gail writes epic fantasy and urban fantasy, and together with co-author hubby Larry N. Martin, steampunk and comedic horror, all of which have less romance, more explosions. Look for her other books—Witchbane, Burn (a Witchbane novella), and Badlands.

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