#BookReview: Hennessey’s Handler by Pandora Pine

Hairy Harmony. Another solid entrant into this series, this time featuring the one natural child of the unifying parents of all five brothers this series revolves around. As with every other entrant here, if you don’t mind minor (and sometimes not quite so minor) spoilers about previous books, this one is perfectly fine as an entry point into the series. Solid MM romance with a rather shocking ending given how this series has been built to this point, and as with every other book in this series introduces the next brother and features him fairly prominently. (Including a rather interesting revelation about that particular brother’s mysterious past.) Very much recommended.

This review of Hennessey’s Handler by Pandora Pine was originally written on April 15, 2021.

#BookReview: We’re Not Broken by Eric Garcia

Mostly Solid Work A Bit Misguided By Its Own Biases. This is one of the more comprehensive books I’ve found about the actual issues facing Autistics in the current world (circa 2020) – well, in the US anyway. Discussions of education, gender, housing, personhood, etc are mostly solid and mostly problem free, focusing on numerous interviews the author has conducted over several years combined with well documented (roughly 32% of the text of this Advance Reader Copy I read) research.

It even has two *extremely* good points:
1) “We don’t know what Autism in and of itself looks like. We only know how autism informed by trauma presents itself.” -Cal Montgomery
2) From the close of Chapter 9: “People who are not Autistic often assume they are acting benevolently by hand-holding those on the spectrum. But despite their best intentions, there is an element of condescension in thse actions because it assumes that non-Autistic people know what’s best. But it is Autistic people who live with the condition of Autism – for all of its positives and negatives – as well as the consequences of any collective action meant to help them. If there is going to be policy that has seismic impact on their lives, they deserve to have a say it in, no mater how they communicate. Furthermore, while many parent advocates, clinicians, and other “experts” may have good intentions, centering their voices continues to give them power that should lie with the Autistic community. To achieve any true sense of freedom, Autistic people need to take this power back.”

HOWEVER, the fact that the discussion routinely ignores and even outright dismisses the needs and challenges of white Autistics and/ or Autistics who *do* find meaningful employment in the science and/ or technology sectors means that the book fails to have truly the comprehensive discussion of the condition that it seems to seek to have. In ignoring these facets, it doesn’t truly “change the Autism conversation” in any truly helpful manner, as it blatantly ignores and dismisses a key component that can actually do quite a bit of good in trying to address all of the other issues the narrative does go in detail on. We Autistic technologists can create the very technologies Garcia sometimes points to as being needed, in part because we ourselves truly do live with these very same issues – and thus, we don’t actually need a neurotypical trying to approximate some solution, as we can create a solution that works for our own particular case and allow for it to be customized to fit other cases as well.

Ultimately this truly is a very strong look at the state of Autistic society today and the issues Autistics face in trying to fully integrate into larger neurotypical societies, it simply missed its potential to be so much more. Very much recommended.

This review of We’re Not Broken by Eric Garcia was originally written on March 14, 2021.

#BookReview: Dead Secret by Noelle Holten

Intriguing Mystery. Explosive Ending. This was my first book from Holten, and thus obviously I hadn’t read the prior three books in this series. And yet this book totally works. Yes, there are references to prior events, but they are explained enough to keep the current story going without overburdening the current story with prior details. If you’ve ever started in the middle of a military technothriller series ala Tom Clancy or Dale Brown – similar feel here.

Overall, the world is interesting in that you get a typical-yet-not detective and an entire cast of well developed characters all working together almost in an ensemble fashion that works so well in so many mediums. Holten shows herself adept at the technique of using the final sentences of a chapter to hook the reader into reading the next, and indeed uses the final chapter of the overall book to similar effect – the reader is left almost breathless in desperate need for the next book.

If you’re open to police procedurals at all, particularly those set in the UK, you’re going to enjoy this book. Even if you’re not, you should really give this book a chance – the characters are that strong. Very much recommended.

This review of Dead Secret by Noelle Holten was originally written on March 10, 2021.

#BookReview: His Mistake by Pandora Pine

Opens With A Bang. Ends With Promise. If you read MM romance virtually at all, you pretty well know that porn level sex is almost a requirement of the genre. Even then, I’ve rarely if ever seen a book actually open in the middle of a sex scene… and yet, this one does. ๐Ÿ™‚ So you know up front what you’re literarily “walking in on”. ๐Ÿ™‚ Beyond that, this works well to set up a series that can in theory run as long as Pine wants it to. There *seem* to be a couple of (possible) connections that more trivia-minded readers might know the specifics of – the Inn in Vermont where half of the couple works for a time seems to be tied into the Valentine’s Inc stories that Pine has taken part in, and another scene takes place in Salem, MA – home to Pine’s long-running Cold Case Psychic world, though it could also be a tie in to her less-paranormal oriented Protect and Serve series. One character in particular seems particularly well set up for Book 2, but Pine may choose instead to continue letting that particular storyline simmer in the background a bit longer – even though that particular character has one of the more interesting ideas I’ve seen in my (admittedly scant) reading of paranormal books over the years. In other words, truly solid story here that has a lot to carry – and manages to pull it off. Very much recommended.

This review of His Mistake by Pandora Pine was originally written on March 6, 2021.

#BlogTour: Best Laid Plans by Roan Parrish

For this blog tour, we’re looking at another Book 2 of a series that again can be read as a standalone and again features a pair of brothers. This week we’re looking at Best Laid Plans by Roan Parrish.

Here’s what I had to say about it on Goodreads:

Solid Romance, Animals Again Nearly Steal The Show. This was a solid romance featuring one guy that never really had a chance to find himself, and another that perhaps had too much time to find himself. The connection to the prior book is fairly loose, in the way that many romance series are these days, with Charlie of our primary couple here being introduced in Book 1 (Better Than People) as the brother of one half of that book’s couple. We get a touch of his back ground in that book, mostly as it relates to the brother, but here we get even more. And yes, the brother and his boyfriend from Book 1 show up a few times, even to the point of the new guy in this book befriending the boyfriend of Book 1 – which apparently is common when dating siblings. (At least according to what I’ve observed of my wife and sisters-in-law.) But in addition to the new guy, we are also introduced to a new *cat* in Chapter 1… and this cat damn near steals every scene it is in. Even moreso than the cats and dogs (including Charlie’s own cat) of the first book. For me, this book completely worked. There were far less issues reading it than the first book, as while I identified with different elements here, it wasn’t to the point of knowing all too well what certain … sometimes “debilitating”… issues are like. But, yeah, blog tour – I also knew I had to finish this thing soon no matter what, anyway. ๐Ÿ˜€ Still, truly at least as strong as Book 1 (I could see a strong debate on which tale is “stronger”, and I could probably argue either side of it), and at least for this cat-lover, with its emphasis on cats over dogs, I’ll give this one a *slight* edge on the first one. ๐Ÿ˜€ Very much recommended.

After the jump, about a page or so from Chapter 2 (IIRC), courtesy of the publisher, Carina Adores. And then the book information from the publisher.
Continue reading “#BlogTour: Best Laid Plans by Roan Parrish”

#BlogTour: Unforgotten by Garrett Leigh

For this blog tour, we’re looking at Book 2 of a series that can very much be read as standalone (and totally works that way) yet which together with its predecessor forms one of the more courageous romance series I’ve ever come across. For this blog tour, we’re looking at Unforgotten by Garrett Leigh.

Here’s what I had to say about the book on Goodreads:

And Now, Part 2. In the second part of this courageous series of romance books, Leigh goes from MF romance in Book 1 (Forgiven) to MM romance here, a genre she is apparently much more well known in. And given the vitriol for MF romance in so much of the MM world, I expect this book to be received better than the first book was – and at this moment, the early Goodreads reviews are at least trending slightly in that direction.

Here, we get the full-on romance of two characters first introduced in Forgiven – the brothers of both of that book’s leads. And it is again a fairly standard gay/ bi romance. Fairly high degree of angst, lots of issues for both men to work through, sex scenes later in the tale given the inexperience of one of them, etc. If you like MM romance generally, this one will be another solid one for you. If you’re just exploring the genre, this is a good one to try out – and maybe even read Forgiven first, if you’re more comfortable in the MF romance space.

While I don’t see where this series goes from here, if indeed it is to continue, I’m not opposed to coming back to this world. Leigh does a truly solid job of establishing it and allowing her characters to live mostly real lives within it, including the added tag of drama near the end of this one – which can happen to most anyone. Very much recommended.

Below the jump, we get a little over a page from – IIRC – Chapter 1 as an excerpt, followed by the book information provided by the publisher. ๐Ÿ™‚
Continue reading “#BlogTour: Unforgotten by Garrett Leigh”

#BookReview: Better Than People by Roan Parrish

Animals Really Are Better Than People. Up front: It took me a month to finish this book, and even then it was a large degree of forcing myself to finish it so that I could get to its sequel, which I have signed up to do a blog tour for. That noted, however, it actually was a strong story of two men both trying to overcome their own limitations – which are largely both in their own heads. (With a physical bone break being one of the only truly physical limitations either deal with.) The main difficulty for me was that Simon’s anxiety was portrayed so similarly to some of the more “severe” (God I hate that term) aspects of being an Autistic, with the constant mind-fight of what people are expecting vs what you feel capable of, being a bit of a misanthrope and (in Simon’s case, and perhaps not Parrish herself’s) not really realizing it. Other than this though, the romance itself seemed to work, and both Simon and Jack were solid characters that worked well together. But the dogs… the dogs damn near stole the show at times. They truly were better than people. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Very much recommended.

This review of Better Than People by Roan Parrish was originally written on February 15, 2021.

#BookReview: Forgiven by Garrett Leigh

Forgive the Low Star Reviewers, For They Know Not What They Do. Apparently I had a *completely* different experience with this book than most of the other ARC readers, because while this thing wasn’t mind blowing in the slightest, it was a solid romance with a crap ton of sex, characters who both despised and loved each other, and a solid concept for at least a short series. Really, it was fairly standard ish romance – which is all that I really expected here. If you’re looking for LGBT romance, this isn’t it – and never claims it is, despite the author being more well known in that space. If you’re looking for sweet or clean or tidy… this isn’t that either. There is a lot of hard core, rough, passionate, hate filled sex – because that is the space these characters are in after the way life has treated them over the last decade, and the last thing either of them wants to be dealing with is the one that got away all those years ago. And yes, there is an out and proud gay brother – and another brother whose sexuality is less clear in this text – who will be the foci of the next book in the series. Which alone merits reading this series, as *extremely* few authors have the balls to combine different sexualities into the same series – or even write books outside a set sexuality. I’ve actually already started the other book, since I’m also reading it early – for a blog tour, in fact – and so far it continues in the same tone as the others.

Ultimately, I would’ve read this one from the hate filled reviews alone – just because when a book gets *so* heavily panned, I find myself reading it for myself just to see if indeed the hatred is warranted. It wasn’t in the most personally-famous case of me doing this (reading DIVERGENT trilogy because ALLEGIANT got this same level of hatred over its ending), and it isn’t in this book either.

This book, and so far this series, is a refreshing change of pace in so many ways, and is therefore very much recommended.

This review of Forgiven by Garrett Leigh was originally written on January 22, 2021.

#BlogTour: Feel The Fire by Annabeth Albert

Welcome back to yet another Blog Tour from Carina Press, the first of two this week in as many days. Both feature excellent though very divergent tales, and we’re gonna see my own reviews of each, a couple of pages from when the characters first see each other in each, and all of the relevant details to make it really easy for you to jump over to your eBook market of choice and buy the dang books. ๐Ÿ˜€

First up, we have the most recent entry (and possibly last, if it is a trilogy?) in Annabeth Albert‘s High Heat series, Feel the Fire.

Here’s what I had to say about it on Goodreads:

Feel-Good Finale. This second-chance romance tale, seemingly the last book of this year’s Hotshots series, was a solid way to go out. It is *very* loosely coupled with the previous two books – both prior couples make cameos – but can largely be read as a standalone. Fans of the MM genre will like this one, as it contains pretty well all of the standard elements of the genre. But that actually gets to one of my quibbles with the book. One of the guys here is alternatively described as both demisexual and asexual – which are both elements of the spectrum that don’t get mentioned as much, and thus it is always awesome to see. Yet in playing too much into genre expectations, to me it felt like Albert did the asexual aspect a disservice in almost making it seem that an asexual may just turn out to be a horn dog… with the right person. Similar to a character described as being comfortably childfree winding up with a kid at the end of the tale. (Note, that is just an example – in this particular tale one of the two is actually already a father.) The other quibble? Not enough actual firefighting in this book, particularly relative to the other two books in the series. Though the jobs here are actively away from the front lines, and for what they are, the jobs seem well represented in and of themselves. Still, a solid tale and a satisfying conclusion. Very much recommended.

And after the jump, a 2 page-ish excerpt from near the beginning of the book, when one of our leads learns he is about to run into the other for the first time in many years:
Continue reading “#BlogTour: Feel The Fire by Annabeth Albert”

#BookReview: Undeniably Yours by Brittany Cournoyer

Slow Burn Yet Ultimately Satisfying. This is a friends to lovers book where *everyone* can see these two guys belong together… except one of them. The deep friendship is apparent from the first words of the book, and Cournoyer does a particularly good job of establishing that up front – to the level that at times it feels like this book should be deep into a series with these two characters as recurring secondary characters, rather than an apparent standalone. Ultimately it hits all the notes fans of MM romance will expect, with a fair amount of drama and fun thrown in. Very well done, and very much recommended.

This review of Undeniably Yours by Brittany Cournoyer was originally written on June 16, 2020.