Review: K.J. Gillenwater – Acapulco Nights

Acapulco Nights
K.J. Gillenwater

Suzie’s current lover is pushing her to set a date for their marriage. The only thing stopping her is the fact that she is already married to a man in Mexico. When an old school friend is planning to go there, Suzie jumps at the chance to set things right, and move on with her life.

AN-KindleCover-FinalRomance. Romance, romance, romance. I forget that I generally don’t enjoy the ‘smoking’ sex scenes or powerful erections. I appreciated the differences between James and Joaquin’s love-making styles, but I wasn’t left asking for more. I read other great romances (Deep Blue) lately, and they just have an individual spark that makes them great. This novel attempted to keep me interested in Mexico, specifically Acapulco, but it just didn’t happen.

I struggled to finish this, and left it sitting on my bedside table, half read for more than a month. When I picked it back up again, I finished it off in half an hour. There just wasn’t enough substance for me in there.

Isn’t Suzie an adult? She is a complete and pathological liar. Poor Suzie, she has to choose between two smoking-hot men, and to do that, she has to insist on having a divorce from a mistimed earlier marriage. Excuse me for not feeling more sympathetic. If you can afford to live in a house by yourself and buy an overpriced coffee once a week, I’m pretty sure you could afford the trip to end the marriage yourself.

I didn’t find myself satisfied with the Mercedes-Suzie dynamic at the ending. I also couldn’t have cared less about who she ended up with. James might be a soft-touch, but I don’t think he’s blameless either, even if he isn’t the total user of Joaquin-standards. Perhaps I would have enjoyed reading it from different perspectives instead.

Didn’t love it. Unless you have a thing for Mexico and love triangles, don’t worry about reading it.

2star

Review: Kathleen Duhamel – Deep Blue

Deep Blue
Kathleen Duhamel

Claire is a struggling artist haunted by her ex-husband’s pleas for return and threats of money. A chance encounter with an ageing rock-star opens her heart to love again – but also opens other areas of her life to danger. Denise, her BBF, has other things going on in her life, besides being Claire’s buddy.

26192938 (1)Oh man, oh man. Where do I get started with this? The jazz and soul music promised to me by the author, or the attractive cover? Or both? I found myself hooked in, with the music and lyrics speaking to me and tying in nicely with the delicious cover. I didn’t feel ashamed of taking it out in public, and in fact read it instead of doing house renovations!

The perspective between the older women changes mid-way through the novel. It took me a bit to get adjusted, and I still felt more attached to Claire. However it didn’t then continue swapping back and forth, so I wasn’t disturbed.

I think a lot is made of the addiction problems in the blurb, which is unrepresentative of the actual contents of the novel. We do see some struggle going on, and it fleshes Rob out nicely. It does make a nice change from not having any issues, and adds some interest. It’s not just the ‘love story’, it’s also real people problems.

Could it have kept going with no sex scenes? Yeah, I think so. But at the same time, it’s cute how they are all over each other all the time. Did I just write that? It is a romance after all.

I’m really looking forward to a sequel. I didn’t feel done with Denise. I’m going to give it 4 stars, a chick/hen-lit that gets my approval.

4star

Review: Kyra Davis – Just One Lie

Just One Lie
Kyra Davis

Mercy/Melody is the lead singer in a band that’s just gotten a new drummer. When she sees an old one-night stand in the audience she feels like things have come full circle. The jobs and friendships she has to hold down next could be her undoing.

23492689This is the sequel to Just One Night. But I didn’t know that when I picked it up to read it (or otherwise I probably wouldn’t have started it at all). It reads perfectly well as a stand-alone, which is good enough for me with the waiting-line of other novels I want to read!

I can’t say I was particularly interested in it to start off with, just another tale of a poor band that has a lead singer that gets recognition. But then I was hooked in, with plenty of action and variety to keep me there.

I didn’t see this as a love-triangle, otherwise I would have put it down immediately. Often in those situations the guys end up as caricatures, and here they are fleshed out (haha) and actually have their own roles to play. Yes, Mercy feels drawn apart between them, but it doesn’t feel set-up.

There was sex scenes in this. Now, that’s not in the least a bad thing. They’re well-written, not particularly ‘porny’ and add to the sexual and emotional frustration of the characters.

This is quite an emotional novel, or perhaps I was just feeling particularly emotional already when I read it. The things that happen to Melody/Mercy are cruel, dangerous and tempting all at once. I felt myself inhabiting her character, both her triumphs and her falls.

What I would have liked to see more of was the period of her solitude/recovery. I didn’t get a whole story there, and I felt like it could have been a novel all on its own. So many juicy details missed out on!

For a mainstream novel that seems to be way too popular with the heartthrob romance loving crowd, I actually really enjoyed it. It had a spark to get me, and some grit to pull me along. 4 stars from me.

4star

Review: Leah Raeder – Cam Girl

Cam Girl
Leah Raeder

A car accident can change everything – your future, your past and your work. Vada is a talented artist before it is taken from her. And she loses her best friend and partner at the same time. Broke, facing eviction, she will face anything to get her life back.

23430483Ellis is a tortured soul who is only trumped by Vada’s nightmares. Vada is the protagonist, and we see everything from her perspective. What wasn’t obvious to me was why Ellis pulled away after the accident. The blurb is misleading for sure. Just ignore the comments there, and jump into the novel.

This is a properly gritty novel about being one of the LGBT*. It came into my inbox and I ummed and ahhed about whether to request a copy. I had previously read Black Iris, and I hated it. The characters were unrealistic, it was filled with violence and just generally bad. This one is far better, even if it still has some violent scenes and tumultuous sex acts.

I appreciated the positive portrayal of the sex work industry. Time and time again I run into feminists who complain that sex work isn’t treated like a real job. Here it’s no worse than any other job, and it’s a particularly well paid job! Cam girls probably have one of the safer sex work jobs.

The ending didn’t creep up on me too much, and it left me feeling quite satisfied and as if I had just run a long race. Phew. I’d been ripped apart, put back together again, and I was happy-sad.

I’m going to give it 4 stars, which is a complete change from my opinions on her writing before.

4star

Review: Kaz Delaney – The Reluctant Jillaroo

The Reluctant Jillaroo
Kaz Delaney

Harper and Heidi are identical twins that are anything but alike in personality. After an accident at the last minute prevents Harper from going to her dream summer week, Heidi steps in to create instead a week of awkwardness.

27161175There’s too much reliance on obvious differences between Heidi and Harper to get some good characterisation happening. I couldn’t have cared less which one wore the pants or the skirt (and isn’t that cover awful? There wasn’t a pink tutu to be seen, thank goodness). Or which one is epic with guys, and the other is completely oblivious.

The guys themselves are just as predictable. There’s the comic duo, fighting over one unlikely lady, and the dark, steely Chaz who Heidi of could has to fall for. You could tell from the first page that he was going to be the love interest, and you would have been super disappointed if they didn’t get to be together.That’s not even a spoiler.

I would have really enjoyed more depictions of outback life, which would have made it possible for this novel to provide some interest to USA or UK markets. The things referenced weren’t in nearly enough detail. I think that could have been made more of in the campfire scenes, but Heidi was too busy staring at the sexy Chaz to pay attention.

On a final note, I’m not sure why there was intrigue added. It honestly didn’t do much for the novel, and I would have given a lot to have some more realistic characters in that page space. Or more character background. Or different perspectives.

What frustrated me the most was the too-neat, super annoying ending. Of course! Ah yes! Why didn’t I see that? Oh, because it wasn’t hinted about at all. Or it wouldn’t fit the romance. Before that point, I might have been generous to the novel, but that just dropped my opinion completely. I’ll give it 3.

3star

Review: K.A. Tucker – Chasing River

Chasing River
K.A. Tucker

River is the bad boy in town, and Amber the single-wanderer idiot. After an explosive first meeting, Amber finds herself wanting more of River, even as he tried to chase her away. Amber goes against her usual self and decides to grasp him anyway, finding herself getting more deeply involved every day.

23522253First things first – I didn’t read this as part of the series. I picked it up, hid it from my girlfriend, and promptly sat down to read it. Once she caught me, she tried to ruin it for me by telling me it’s the third book in a series! But it was too late, I was already hooked in. I did spend some time away from it thinking about going back to reading it, but no real in-depth wondering about what was happening to the characters while I was away.

I found myself frustrated by Amber and her naivety, but this was something I believe the author crafted. As the novel progressed, Amber became a bit less stupid – a bit more world-wise as her teacher would have wanted her to be. Still though, how could she be so stupid in the first place? Sure she was travelling Europe. But still, that she hadn’t been taken up and raped yet? When she’s happily wandering around where no-one else is?

The novelty of this book to me was that I never got many history lessons about Ireland, and this had a briefing on the Irish potato famine, which I had only ever heard of as a ‘joke’ by less politically-correct-minded friends. There were some really good discussions about the IRA (google it – or just be taught about it by the novel in a relatively unbiased manner) and references to Ireland’s oral culture. I could have done with more of this!

There seemed to be a lot of focus on how different Ireland was to Oregon. I’ve never been to Oregon, and I wouldn’t be able to tell you the difference between that town, and any other one. Amber constantly thinking about what it is like in her old home town isn’t useful, and doesn’t actually add to the storyline. More solid comparisons would have done the trick for me.

I’m putting this under the category of Young Adult, but only because of the sex scenes in it. Granted, they are brief, but they are slightly graphic. Otherwise I’d be putting it down as teenage fiction because its storyline isn’t that gripping, and I simply didn’t feel any depth – typical romance blah blah. At least Amber was smart enough to take some of her father’s advice….

I’ll be giving this a solid 3 stars, just because it wasn’t as ‘grabby’ and believable as I could have hoped. I remain willing to read more of this author, and see if this is a typical example of her work.

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Review: J.D. Watt – Burnt

Burnt
J.D. Watt

Michael meets Simone at a bar, and finds himself suddenly smitten with her, despite being 20 years older. Their relationship develops through text messages, skype and emails, until Michael finds himself deeply in love with her. There’s a rival for Simone’s affections though, and what the men don’t know could harm them both irrevocably.

burntHow much do you love this cover? I absolutely loved it! It’s one that is going to get people talking, particularly if you’re reading the novel out in public. That can only be a good thing. There’s plenty of talking points to be gotten from this novel, particularly that both men and women can be unfaithful, even if it always seems to be the man’s fault to other popular fiction! These days, I think it’s equally likely in both sexes, even if men have gotten away with it with a pat on the back so far.

The blurb is probably what destroyed the novel for me. I found myself completely uninterested in the early dating stages of Michael and Simone, simply because I was promised that things would get messy and there was no chance this was actually going to work out. I wanted to see the ‘train-wreck’ happening faster! Particularly since once I worked out what was going on, it was obvious what the next stages would be.

The text message dialogue didn’t work for me at all. I found myself skimming over it, which is never a good sign. It seemed highly repetitive, and I would have much preferred traditional text. Even emails would have been preferable, as the text wouldn’t have jumped around so much, and I would have gotten more out of each dialogue exchange. Also, the sex scenes could have just been left out – they weren’t necessary to the text and I felt vaguely offended that they had been included without a real purpose.

I came away from this novel wishing that it had just somehow been ‘more’ in a way. I didn’t connect enough with the main character. I feel like that in the writing, the author’s attempts to continue distancing himself from his painful past hindered the reader’s understanding of it. Maybe it would have worked better had it not been so autobiographical?

I was lucky enough to receive this copy in return for a review. Despite my complaints about this novel, I think there is still some real writing potential and I can’t wait to see how the future pans out. 2.5 stars from me. I can’t tell you not to read it, because it truly is a one-of-a-kind book, particularly in Australian fiction, and there’s a good chance it will resonate better with someone else.

2star

Review: A.C. Burch – The HomePort Journals

The HomePort Journals
A.C. Burch

Marc longs to be an author, but the words never seem to come to him in the city. After he breaks up with his abusive partner, he flees to Provincetown, where he’s taken in by an old woman and her enigmatic companions.

25244093The novel is well realised, with scenery which I can vividly picture right now. There was only one inconsistency towards the end of the novel, when the Captain’s journals appeared in two places at once. I can see them walking down the beach, and Marc trying to write in his tower, complete with the art workshop on one of the middle floors.

I like that in this novel, all of the characters are ok with being one form of queer or another. This is a world I dream of, where it’s ok to be yourself! Everyone in the novel has a role somewhere, even if it’s not where you expect. They were lovely, three dimensional characters that reached out to me through just Marc’s perspective – a mark of a strong writer.

I spent most of the novel in suspense that Brandon would track down Marc. I knew he would eventually, but I didn’t know how much Marc was going to be able to stand up against him. Marc draws people to him without even knowing it, and those people think he’s worth a lot more than he gives himself credit for.

The romance that occurs in this novel is subtly layered and sort of incidental. What threw me was some of the comments of Marc to himself about being extrainged from love. He had been so badly hurt (which is mainly just alluded to intriguingly through the novel), and yet he can’t open up when someone else is trying to help! If the romance was the main theme, the reader wouldn’t keep going.

Instead, the mystery and suspense of the plot grips the reader. I wanted to know the history, and how all the competing interests would be served. I loved the ending. So happy, and yet, bittersweet, and arg, why didn’t they fix things earlier.

At some point recently in my reading, I have moved into the pure fiction genre. I never expected it to happen, usually finding those sort of novels boring and repeditive. But add a hint of mystery and a strong queer element, and you’ve got an avid reader on your hands.

I give this novel a very solid 4 stars, moving up to 5 stars. It’s just not a 5-stars for me because I don’t have a strong desire to read it again. But by all means, go out there and buy it, it’s awesome!

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Review: Karelia Stetz-Waters – The Purveyor

The Purveyor
Karelia Stetz-Waters

Helen and Wilson have been forcibly separated in the wake of The Admirer‘s thrilling conclusion. As Wilson suffers from a disorder with no cure, Helen finds herself increasingly lost and uncomfortable, not knowing why Wilson is not returning to her college.

23120239This novel is just as entrancing as the first novel. It is written more from Wilson’s perspective which is a refreshing change after Helen’s insecure narration in the first novel. At the same time, it is obvious that Wilson suffers from the same insecurities. I felt frustrated that they weren’t communicating well, because surely they should have gotten over it in the first novel? But that is what makes this novel more life-like and less like a fiction.

That being said, the things that go wrong that are really random things that get wrong. How likely is it that these things would happen in real life? The whole hierarchy in Wilson’s family seems off, but then again, these atrocities to occur in modern life, and what better way to expose it than in a novel? Her family is seriously interbred and messy, made more so by the questionable sexualities of its members. I wonder how much of this actually goes on…

I had such differing levels of disgust and horror and discomfort all about one person, but I didn’t know that they were someone else until it was too late! I didn’t feel tricked, instead I felt like I’d had an actual expose go on, just like Wilson feels. It’s a clever technique that Karelia uses with expertise in both of her ‘Wilson and Helen’ novels.

I couldn’t make the final connection for what happened to the girls. They’re basically surrounded by myth the whole time. They’re completely legendary, and remain that way. I’d love to hear more from them. I want to know whether they are both happy, whether they decide to study more, and what the collector wanted from them (if it wasn’t sex or religious purposes).

Once again I was left feeling like I’d been walking along hot coals and found myself loving them so much that it felt more painful when it ended. I was pushed along by how things were interconnected and messy and yet not obvious all at the same time. Love, love, loved this novel. Not only did I connect with the characters, the plot didn’t miss a beat and kept moving forward with no inconsistencies.

When I interviewed Karelia, she mentioned that many people seem uncomfortable with the sex scenes in her novels. I think that the majority of them are tastefully done, and actually offer insight into the characters. That is particularly the case in this novel. It’s certainly not a gratuitous pledge to her readers.

I bought this novel for myself after reading Karelia’s other novels, The Admirer, Forgive Me If I’ve Told You This Before and Something True. Let that be a mark to you that I now proudly own all these novels after buying them with my own cash, and would confidently promote them to everyone.

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