#BlogTour: When Sparks Fly by Kristen Zimmer

For this blog tour we’re looking at a solid young adult/ new adult tale of lesbian love in high school. For this blog tour we’re looking at When Sparks Fly by Kristen Zimmer.

First, here’s what I had to say on Goodreads:

Solid Lesbian High School Romance. This one has the metric shit-ton of angst one would expect from teenage girls – you’ve got the foster kid trying to fit in. You’ve got the spoiled rich kid hating herself over something the foster kid knows nothing about (but finds out about eventually) who leads one group of friends. You’ve got the spoiled rich kid’s ex-girlfriend who shared in the tragedy and the guilt… and who leads the other group of friends. You’ve got the foster kid trying to fit in with both sets. And along the way, you get all kinds of will-they/ won’t-they teasing between the three… which *also* leads to quite a bit of angst. ๐Ÿ˜€ But yes, somewhere along the way it becomes a bit like Sky High’s *awesome* final line, and you do in fact get an actual romance as it does so. Zimmer also did an excellent job of making this a shared universe with her first book, but while making it effectively a standalone book rather than a true “series” book. So if you’re into high school and/ or LGBT/lesbian romances, give this one a try. Even if you’re not, this one is a good book to experiment with. As is typical of many high school based romances, there is less sex than many/ most older adult romances and more kissing. Though there is an eventual rounding of the bases. Or several. It just primarily happens “off screen”. Not for the “clean”/ “sweet” romance crowd, though I’ve seen little evidence of that crowd looking to the LGBT romance arena anyway. Very much recommended.

Below the jump, the publisher information, including the book description, a bit about the author, and some direct buy links.
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#BlogTour: Up In Smoke by Annabeth Albert

For this blog tour we’re looking at the latest book in Annabeth Albert’s year-long tale of MM romances set in the hyper-macho world of “hotshot” firefighters. For this blog tour, we’re looking at Up In Smoke by Annabeth Albert.

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

Another Solid Entry In Series. This is another solid entry in the series Albert has created over the last year featuring MM romances set in the hyper-macho world of western US “hotshot” firefighters and smoke jumpers – the front lines of any wildfire containment efforts. Here, we finally get smokejumper Brandt’s story, and it is at least as good from the romance angle as any of the other entries in this series. Maybe even better, since it runs a bit smoother with lower angst, minimal separation, both equally hoping for the other’s success, etc. Has an almost A Star Is Born vibe to it at times, though without the more depressing elements of that tale. But the biggest thing that will be hit or miss depending on exactly what you feel about it is the baby stuff in particular. Even as a childfree married male who generally doesn’t like babies (older kids are much cooler, though I’m always grateful that I can leave when I need to :D), I didn’t find the baby aspects *too* detracting, even for my tastes. Because the story really did focus on the interactions of the adults, with the baby providing the realistic distractions that adults having to care for a baby would actually provide. But if you’re particularly opposed to anything remotely baby related… well, you were told in the description that this one had one. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Overall a truly solid story, and very much recommended.

Below the jump, about a page long excerpt from the very first scene of the book, when Brandt and Shane first meet. Followed by the publisher information. ๐Ÿ™‚
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#BlogTour: The Choice I Made by Cynthia Ellingsen

For this blog tour, we’re looking at a remarkable book about the murky real world choices so many of us face. For this blog tour, we’re looking at The Choice I Made by Cynthia Ellingsen.

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

Choices Are Rarely Clear Cut. Ellingsen does a remarkable job here of showing the tensions between competing choices so many of us face. Spouse vs genetic family. City vs rural. What I wanted to be vs what society made me into. Finding myself vs keeping what I have. And so many more. All within a solid tale ostensibly about a childless married woman trying to help save her family’s Dirty Dancing-style wilderness resort… and stumbling across a secret that could bring it all tumbling down. Excellent work layering so many issues into a readable and average ish length (circa 300 page) story. Very much recommended.

Below the jump, all of the publisher information, including a description of the book, contact links, and buy links.
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#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.
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#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™‚
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#BlogTour: The Vineyard At Painted Moon by Susan Mallery

For this blog tour, we’re looking at a long, drawn out, soap opera type tale that still manages to work quite well and tell a solid story. For this blog tour, we’re looking at The Vineyard At Painted Moon by Susan Mallery.

This is a book that on the whole, worked quite well. For those looking for in-depth character building, slower paced tales, and drama along the lines of a Dynasty-type story (but with wine, rather than oil), this is going to be *exactly* the type of book you’re looking for.

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

Slow Start, Sordid Middle, Solid End. This is one of those soap opera type books that starts out *slow*. There’s enough to keep most readers hooked, but dang, the pacing could have been a bit tighter. Indeed, the titular Vineyard doesn’t even get mentioned at all until at or after the halfway point in the tale. Instead, quite a bit of detail and most of the story is given to the fall of McKenzie Davis – who the description labels as the primary protagonist, but who never *really* feels as such. This is because so much attention is given to two other characters – Stephanie, McKenzie’s sister-in-law and best friend, and Barbara, McKenzie’s mother-in-law. So to my mind, these three were the core of the story, though McKenzie’s own plot did indeed drive the other two’s for the most part. McKenzie’s story works well, Stephanie shows a great deal of development, and Barbara… starts out regal, yet falls to her own madness to become a character clearly intended to be despised. Still, overall this story could have been shortened by 50-100 pages and still worked just as effectively, maybe moreso with a bit tighter plotting such a reduction in page count would have required. Yet there is nothing technically wrong with this story or the storytelling, and therefore the tale overall gets the full five stars. Very much recommended.

Below the jump we get the first 2.5 or so pages of the book, plus all the relevant information from the publisher. ๐Ÿ™‚
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#BlogTour: We Could Be Heroes by Mike Chen

For this blog tour, we’re looking at a solid Book 1 of a potential new superhero fiction series. For this blog tour, we’re looking at We Could Be Heroes by Mike Chen.

This is a book that feels very much at home with the kind of superhero world the CW’s Arrowverse has built out – and indeed this world could fit in right alongside that renowned universe.

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

My First Foray Into Superhero Books. As much as I’ve read scifi for literally decades, this is actually my first foray into the actual superhero fiction genre. Yes, I’ve read a few comic books in my day and am a big fan of most of the major franchises, but this was my very first superhero fiction novel. And y’all, I found it quite compelling – even as a 38 yo married male reading about two people closer to that Young Adult / New Adult category. While the Arrowverse inspirations for this project were quite clear in so *very* many areas, Chen still managed to create an intriguing and interesting story that could plausibly hold its own against any of those shows – and maybe even be better than some of them. This book definitely feels like a Book 1 for a potential new series, and this reader for one would be down for that. Very much recommended.

Below the jump, we have an excerpt from Chapter 3 of the book along with all of the relevant information from the publisher. ๐Ÿ™‚
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#BlogTour: The Patriot by Nick Thacker

For this blog tour, we’re looking at a remarkable book showing many real-world issues on Puerto Rico while still telling a kick-ass mystery with an explosive ending. For this blog tour, we’re looking at The Patriot by Nick Thacker.

I’m actually going to turn my normal approach on its head and give you the Goodreads review first, with my confession underneath. Here’s the Goodreads review:

Excellent Story With Explosive Ending. So some people of late have decried reviews that even mention anything at all about the ending. If you’re such a person, stop right here. I’m not going to give away any spoilers- not my style at all – but that ending deserves a mention: It sets up what could be one HELL of a book 3.

Beyond that though, this book does an *excellent* job of showing the dichotomies of life on Puerto Rico and the nearly-as-divisive-as-mainland-US-politics issue of whether PR should be granted Statehood, maintain the status quo, or become an independent nation. Even while the main thrust of the actual action and mystery actually revolves around Big Pharma, how they are treating the citizens of PR, and terrorism. Indeed, we pick up not far after the ending of the first book, which was explosive in its own right and which set in motion the events here, at least as far as Parker’s involvement in them.

Truly an excellent mystery with plenty of action in a cool tropical setting (and with the requisite hot, mysterious woman), I’ll have a bit more to say about my own story that actually blends well with the overall story here when I participate in the publisher’s Blog Tour on my blog (BookAnon.com) on release day. So you might want to check that out – I even have a picture to share. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Obviously, I can’t wait for Book 3 – even if it is a possible finale, it should be an epic one. Very much recommended, both this book and the series.

And while you really should go buy the book already, here’s my confession, the story I promised in the review ๐Ÿ™‚

The date is Martin Luther King Jr Day 2017 – so Monday, January 16, 2017. Just four days before Donald Trump would be inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States of America. I am on a cruise aboard the Carnival Sunshine out of Port Canaveral with my wife – a fellow experienced cruiser who actually got me into cruising – and three friends, none of whom have been on a cruise before. On this day, we’ve stopped in San Juan – a port I’d stopped in once before and loved, particularly for its two centuries old forts. We’d just been at one of the forts – Castillo del San Cristobal – when we walk through the plaza right outside of it – the very plaza you see in the picture to the side here. Apparently it is a popular political demonstration spot, being just blocks away from the Capitol Building there. And that particular day, it was indeed hosting a political rally. As we walked by, all we could tell was that it was very obviously a lot of Puerto Ricans – there were numerous PR flags all over the plaza – and we were obviously… not Puerto Rican. The crowd sounded agitated, the speaker was very enthusiastic… so I made it a point to guide my group swiftly along the edges and away from this crowd. We wound up walking down a street of shops nearby, one I had been on in my previous trip. We went into one store, and when we asked the shopkeeper what was going on up the street, he went into a very passionate diatribe about it being a Puerto Rican Independence rally and that Puerto Rico should be free of the mainland US. So we quickly left his shop as well, and when we went across the street to another shop had a much more pleasant experience. Showing me that day the very dichotomies Thacker brings to life to well in The Patriot, just how very divisive the issue of Independence continues to be in Puerto Rico. Personally, I don’t have a position on the exact issue of Puerto Rican Independence, but I *do* believe it is time for the US to give up the “territory” system. Either grant every “territory” its full independence (even if under a Commonwealth type system such as the British have where the nations are independent officially, yet closely linked economically) or bring them in as full States of the United States of America. Even there, I don’t have a real preference, I just believe an action of one of those two types needs to be made.

But enough about my confessions. Seriously. Go buy the book already!

Oh, and here’s a blog tour poster that Bookouture (the publisher) provided. ๐Ÿ™‚

Now. Go. Buy. The. Book! ๐Ÿ˜€

Featured New Release Of The Week: The Last To See Her by Courtney Evan Tate

This week we’re looking at a solid escapism tale where virtually none of the characters come out likeable. This week we’re looking at The Last To See Her by Courtney Evan Tate.

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

Solid Story Full Of Unlikable Characters. This is one of those stories where *none* of the characters come out looking overly rosy. The characters that are developed well are either assholes or idiots, and the characters that aren’t developed so well seem to barely be caricatures. That said, the story is solid enough and compelling enough that once you get into it, you’re going to want to finish it. And sometimes, that level of escapism is really all you need. Particularly with when this book is slated to release, barely a week before Christmas, it could be near-perfect counter-programming escapism for the season. Recommended.

Below the jump, the first 2.5 ish pages of the book! ๐Ÿ™‚
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#BlogTour: The Secret Ingredient by KD Fisher


Once again we come to a Carina Adores Blog Tour, which are always awesome. Seriously, I haven’t encountered a bad book in this program yet, and I’ve found several authors doing this that have taken me to places I’d never been before – and that is always awesome. ๐Ÿ™‚

This time, we’re looking at The Secret Inredient by KD Fisher.

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

Fun Foodie FF Romance. This is a lesbian romance where the two ladies are about as opposite as it gets – one is a trained chef working for a corporate restaurant group, the other is a legacy baker who took over and revitalized her mom’s shop. As a short romance, it works well in that it hits all the requirements of the genre (yes, including sex) and executes each solidly – but you’re not going to get the conflict and growth of a 100 page longer book. Though there are still significant, more complicated than Hallmarkie, conflicts here. Ultimately a fun book that hits all the right notes and even manages to highlight the particular region it features very well. Very much recommended.

And below the jump, a page-ish excerpt from near the front of the book (Chapter 2, IIRC):
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