Monday, September 30, 2013

Illumination by Rowan Speedwell

Title:  Illumination 
Author: Rowan Speedwell
My Rating: A

Genre: Contemporary Romance (m/m)
Release Date: September 2013
Main Characters: Adam and Miles
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Links to Purchase:
Sexual Intensity: hot

Story Overview:
Adam Craig is burned out. Lead singer of the hard rock band Black Varen, he's tired of the empty life of groupies, paparazzi, and hotel rooms. Worse, a life in the closet. After the final concert of their latest tour, he flees the after-party in pursuit of memories of lost summers and carefree days, until he passes out on the patio of a shuttered lake resort.

Miles Caldwell is a brilliant artist, tied by agoraphobia and social anxiety to his family's lodge. Alone but for his parrot, he spends his days illuminating manuscripts and hiding from the complexities of life. When he discovers Adam asleep in a deck chair, he's furious but intrigued. Adam soon charms his way into Miles' bed, and they lose themselves in a summer idyll, safe from the compromises and claims of reality.

But Adam's life, with all its demands, is waiting for him. And Miles, uncertain of Adam's true feelings, is battling demons of his own. Somehow, the man who's never home and the man who never leaves it must find the strength to fight for a future together.

My Review:
This book had me riveted from page one and I can't even pinpoint why, but the story was so completely fascinating. I really enjoyed every minute of reading it. 

The book opens with Adam...hard-rocker, Adam, on the final night of the band's tour in Chicage. He's drunk and stoned and tired of the party in the motel room so hops in a cab to go to Milwaukee....and ends up at a lakefront resort he remembers from his childhood in Illinois instead. The resort is closed now and has been the home of agoraphobic recluse, Miles, for the last ten years.

Miles is an artist who used to be Mike/Michael. It takes a long time for the full story to come out about exactly what happened to him to make him the way that he is now, but as a reader, you can tell that it was horribly traumatic. Miles is an illumination artist. He lives in one of the cabins on the property of the resort that his family owned. He hasn't left the property in ten years and is shocked to find Adam asleep on one of the outdoor lounge chairs. Because of his life now, he's completely socially awkward most the time. He doesn't understand subtle body-language cues or even sometimes the not so subtle ones. He's not the book he's described like someone who has Aspergers or Autism which seems accurate. The thing is, he was never that way before when he was Michael.

Adam realizes the changes to an extent. Michael was actually the crush that let Adam know he was gay when he was a teenager visiting the resort. That boy he knew had been outgoing and fun-loving...nothing like how Miles is now.

So you have one of the most famous lead singers in the country and a person who can't leave their property in the woods falling in love...*sigh* Throughout this book, I had no idea how the author was going to fix it so that they could work out as a couple. But *gah* I wanted it to work for them because when they are together on the property, they both are just right. But separate them, and things quickly fall apart....for both of them, not just Miles. It made for a great story.

I loved this book. The artistic aspect was gorgeous...both with Miles' illumination art and with Adam's song-writing. They both express themselves through their art and it's just gorgeous and romantic and beautiful. They also share a love of old movies that was a really nice detail in the story. There were moments in the story that were pure heartbreak and so difficult to read, but in the end I loved the story and was happy that it was one that I picked up. It left me with a smile on my face.

Northern Light by E.J. Russell

Title:  Northern Light 
Author: E.J. Russell
My Rating: C

Genre: Paranormal Romance (m/m)
Release Date: September 2013
Main Characters: Stefan and Luke
Publisher: Entangled
Links to Purchase:
Sexual Intensity: mild
Story Overview:
Nothing gives art fraud investigator Luke Morganstern a bigger rush than busting forgers, the low-life criminals who dare victimize true artists. But when his latest job sends him to a remote cabin in the Oregon Coast Range, he’s stunned to discover the alleged forger is his former lover, Stefan Cobbe, the most gifted painter Luke has ever known.

Stefan, left homeless and destitute after the death of his wealthy partner, doesn’t exactly deny the forgery -- he claims he doesn’t remember, an excuse Luke can’t accept.

But Luke’s elderly client suggests Stefan may be telling the truth and presents another possibility – a dark presence in the woods, a supernatural fury simmering for decades. Luke must face down his fear of the uncanny – and admit his feelings for Stefan – if either of them is to survive.

My Review:

This book could have been so good, but it needed more. More words. More development. More explanation. More emotion.

Stefan and Luke were lovers once upon a time. They were also both artists, but Luke left Stefan because of jealousy. Jealousy over Stefan's artistic skill and jealousy over the other man in Stefan's life. Now Luke is an art investigator and his current investigation has led him to Stefan's door. The Stefan he knew would never have forged someone else's art. But when Luke left Stefan, his world collapsed in just about every way possible. Now he's just grasping at trying to find his art again...whatever the cost.

Like I said...this book could have been brilliant. The basis was there. It truly just needed more development. Easily, the first 30% of the book is simply confusing because you, as the reader, don't know the history between the two men, how they got to this place, or what in the world is going on now.

The book is a paranormal ghost story and I could see how the author was trying to play on the mysterious side of all that, but it went too far. The result was confusion not mystery. The other problem was that there wasn't enough on the page between the two men so that I, as the reader, felt their connection. The book told me about it, but I never felt it emotionally when I was reading it.

Unfortunately, this book didn't quite do it for me, although I definitely give the author kudos for an overall creative  story. If the book had been doubled in words, without any added scenes, I think it would have been a much better book.

I received a complimentary copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Sunday TBR Check-In #8

I did it this week!!! 
I actually managed to stay within my limit. 
I know, it's a miracle!

My 3 books this week:

1. Strange Case by Lauren Stewart 
(the final book in this UF trilogy that I've adored!)
(I highly recommend this series!!)

2. Steal the Light by Lexi Blake
(a new series by her that I thought I would give a try)

3. Gunmetal Magic by Ilona Andrews
(I've been devouring this series this week, but didn't have this additional book so I NEEDED it. Love Andrea and Raphael and can't wait for their HEA)

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Trace Elements by Kate Donovan

Title:  Trace Elements
Author: Kate Donovan
My Rating: B+

Genre: Romantic Suspense 
Series: Gower and Saxon #1
Release Date: July 2013
Main Characters: Nikki and Josh
Publisher: Beyond the Page
Links to Purchase:
Sexual Intensity: spicy

Story Overview:
Special Agent Annika Trace is the hottest thing in law enforcement—at least on TV. Her long legs, designer suits, and hunky sidekick have garnered millions of fans, one of whom—a four-year-old kidnap victim named Linzie—is refusing to talk to the real FBI. In desperation, Special Agent Trace—a.k.a. actress Nikki Gower—is called in to help.

Special Agent Josh Saxon became a hero when he brought Linzie back safely. Now he’s out to catch the kidnappers and doesn’t need some Hollywood caricature of a federal agent interfering in his case. But when Nikki establishes a rapport with the child, Josh admits she might just get him enough information to track down the culprits. And even as Josh and Nikki spar over the best way to get the job done, another rapport is being established—on a much more physical and decidedly more adult level—as Josh discovers firsthand how Nikki makes the airwaves sizzle.

* Bonus Material! This book includes the pilot episode from Nikki Gower’s hit TV show, Trace Elements. The episode is also available at and*

My Review:
I had received another one of Kate Donovan's books for review (Play by Play and it was also good and creative) and it included the first chapter of this book. I found myself intrigued by the creative story line and immediately purchased and read it (totally ignoring the 1000+ books already in my TBR pile.) This book and this author have definitely been a pleasant surprise.

Like I said, the story line is incredibly creative. Josh is an FBI agent and he's in the middle of a case that's getting worse and worse. He saved a 4 yo little girl from a kidnapping, but they didn't catch the kidnappers. He needs her to give him information, but she's completely clammed up and won't tell him a thing. She's terrified and as the hours and days go by the chances of catching the kidnappers become even slimmer. 

In an act of desperation, they bring in actress, Nikki Gower, who plays an FBI agent on the 4 yo's favorite TV show. They hope the little girl will trust her enough to talk to her. Nikki isn't your typical actress. She fell into her career on the way to actually working for the FBI. The creator of her TV show has used her life as inspiration for the show. But Josh is less than thrilled to have her there meddling, until it starts to work and he begins to realize that she does have a natural talent for this.

This book is just the start of the series and although the book ends well, there's a few loose ends out there that you can see are definitely going to come up in future books. I can't wait!

It's a great set-up for a book and I'm definitely looking forward to reading more. There were a few rough spots in the book (especially in the first half) where the character actions gave me a bit of whiplash in their too rushed changes of heart and actions. But overall, the book was good enough that I could overlook that. Kate Donovan has a great writing voice and I foresee it getting better and smoother as she goes on. Her stories are very creative. The two I've read have been great just in the completely new twists that she includes in her stories. Overall, her books are easy to read and her characters are absolutely fabulous. I definitely look forward to reading more! 

Friday, September 27, 2013

Play by Play by Kate Donovan

Title:  Play by Play
Author: Kate Donovan
My Rating: B+

Genre: Contemporary Romance 
Series: Play by Play novella
Release Date: September 2013
Main Characters: Jake and Sophie
Publisher: Beyond the Page
Links to Purchase:
Sexual Intensity: mild

Story Overview:
Former college football star Jake Dublin’s wildly popular sports blog also details his personal life. And lately it’s all about Sophie, the pretty young woman who just moved into his apartment building. His readers know her only as “Elevator Girl,” and they’re all rooting for Jake to score.

The blog posts and banter with his followers are all in good fun, and he fully intends to come clean with the woman he’s wooing and wowing. That is, until she confides that she grew up in a house full of jocks and even dated a few. Her verdict? Never again!

Jake knows he needs to confess. But somewhere along the line he fell in love with Sophie and can’t stand the thought of losing her. So he procrastinates, and blogs, and digs himself deeper into a hole, until it all leads to a showdown that’s so nail-biting, not even the best play-by-play guy could ever have seen it coming.

My Review:
This is a very short novella, but I really and truly enjoyed it. It only took around an hour to read and I found myself enchanted by the story and this author's voice.

This is the story of Jake...he's an online blogger who has a sports blog. There are several chapters in the novella that are straight blog posts from his blog...and the comments from his readers. I found that these were my favorite chapters in the book. They were sweet and the chatting among the comments was awesome and definitely entertaining.

The twist at the end of the story completely caught me by surprise, but then it all made so much sense. Plain and simple...I liked this story. I liked the characters. I liked the premise. And I loved the humor. The blog posts were fun and humorous. The relationship was great...with fun, snappy dialogue... even with the threat of the secrets hanging over the two of them, I enjoyed it. 

I immediately went and bought another book by this author after finishing this one and will definitely be watching for more from her. I'm especially hopeful that there are more to come in this sports series.

I received a complimentary copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Deep In Crimson by Sarah Gilman

Title: Deep In Crimson
Author: Sarah Gilman
My Rating: A-

Genre: Paranormal Romance
Series: Return to Sanctuary #2
Main Characters: Jett and Lexine
Release Date: September 2013
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
Purchase Links: 
Sexual Intensity: spicy

Story Overview:
Kidnapped by humans and raised in a research facility, Jett was taught to believe his own race of demons insidious and violent. But a friendship with the archangel Raphael shatters Jett’s reality. Caught between two worlds, his first months of freedom find him lingering on the fringes of his home colony, Sanctuary. When the human who stole Jett captures another demon youth from Sanctuary, Jett learns of the real plan—to steal Raphael’s archangel grandchildren. Jett wants to bring his captor to justice, but he must overcome the lies from his past and join forces with the demon Guardians, and the demon child’s older sister, Lexine.

Irresistible attraction grows between Jett and Lexine, but Lexine’s prophetic dreams of being mated to a poacher make her wary. And if Jett goes through the all-consuming process of becoming a Guardian, he may forfeit any chance they have of being together.

My Review: 
I challenge you to read this book and not fall completely head over heels in love with Jett. When he was a child he was stolen from Sanctuary. He's spent years tortured, experimented on, and brainwashed. He doesn't remember his former life. All he knows is the lies he's been told, but when he finally gets free, he can't ignore his guardian instincts. He was trapped in the medical facility with Raphael, the archangel, and has bonded with him. Now he feels an irresistible urge to watch over him and his family to make sure they stay safe. All he knows are the lies and that demons are bad, but at his heart, he is a nurturer and caregiver....something that is obvious when he saves and comforts a five year old demon child in the first few pages of the book. 

Lexine has a gift. She has dreams that are premonitions, but lately they've become more the stuff of nightmares as she keeps dreaming that she's in love and mated with a Poacher (those who kill and maim the archangels). She is terrified of that so hasn't told anyone about the dream, fearing that she will be kicked out of Sanctuary before that comes to happen. But when she meets Jett, there is an undeniable chemistry between them...and a LOT of obstacles too. 

This is a complex world that I fell in love with in book #1 (note: these absolutely work as stand-alone novels as each novel focuses on a different set of characters although their lives do intertwine.) I'm still a bit confused about how the outside world works with Sanctuary since we only see tiny glimpses of it. It seems a bit bizarre. But Sarah Gilman writes a great story. I love that her heroes are vulnerable while still so alpha and strong. And of course the women are even tougher. Lexine is awesome in this book. I love how she doesn't stay back in the background. She is her own force to be reckoned with and I love that. 

Then there's Jett. My heart hurts for him and all that he's lost. He had friends and family in Sanctuary who loved him. He doesn't remember any of that and instead has spent almost his entire life thinking the opposite...that he was unworthy of love and saving. No one knew he was alive. They didn't know they needed to rescue him. It hurts to think about. But I love him and Lexine together. She helps to smooth those mental wounds for him. With her, he finds peace and healing and I just loved that. 

This was another great book in this series. Loved it!

I received a complimentary copy of this book in return for an honest review.