From all of us here at Top 2 Bottom Reviews, we wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving!
Title: Linear Park
Author: Ken Harrison
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Characters: Sean, Nick
Sean and Nick’s life together was a fairy tale: childhood friends who became lovers, high school sweethearts who married after college, both handsome professionals. Sean always enjoyed a few drinks, but after the death of his father, his alcoholism spiraled out of control… and it cost him everything.
When Sean loses his job and becomes too surly and unreasonable to live with, Nick has little choice but to end the relationship. Sean can’t blame Nick for giving up—not after the arguments and the lies—but he longs for the happiness and love they shared before he spoiled everything. He resolves to get sober and win back his husband. But even if he wins his battle with alcoholism, will it be too late to save his marriage?
I am always drawn to stories that involve established relationships, especially if the two characters knew each other growing up, so you would think Linear Park was right up my alley. And the concept itself was. Sean and Nick knew each other since kindergarten, fell in love, got married, and then ran into some marital problems as a result of a life tragedy. The set-up was great, but the follow-through left me desiring a bit more than was delivered.
When we pick up the story, Sean and Nick have been separated for about four or five months. Over the course of the next 60 pages, we get a lot of backstory on what their life was like before, interspersed with how Sean is focusing on the future and wanting Nick back. The disintegration of their relationship came about soon after they were married. When they returned from their honeymoon, they found out Sean’s dad had cancer and only three months to live. The toll of the ill health, as well as his dad’s subsequent death, caused Sean to turn to the bottle as a coping mechanism. And the more he drank, the worse his home life became. Finally, after Sean loses his job, accuses Nick of cheating, and ends up having to be bailed out of jail, his husband had enough. Nick’s breaking point causes Sean to have to shape up and try to repair his life.
There seemed to be a lot of telling in order to detail the four months of sobriety Sean achieves, going through the motions of attending meetings and fearing the worse when it comes to his broken marriage. Nick only enters the picture again when Sean leaves him a voicemail, hoping his husband doesn’t hate him, and Nick sends back a text message that he doesn’t. But the repair and resolution of their troubles don’t actually get a good focus for me. They have dinner, Sean agrees to go in as equal partners flipping a house with one of his friends from the alcohol support group, and then he sees Nick at a park where they kiss and the story’s over. I feel like I was very far removed from the story as a whole, and especially in having any kind of connection with Nick. Perhaps if these characters were returned to again, and more focus on them together was the intention of the plot, then I could be more satisfied. As it is now, I got a small taste of what might have been, but not enough story for what was.
Reviewed By: Kimberly
Click HERE to enter the Dreamspinner Press Homepage
Title: Taking Shield, Book 2: Heart Scarab
Author: Anna Butler
Publisher: Glass Hat Press
Characters: Bennet/Flynn, Bennet/Joss
Sub-Genre: Series, Science Fiction
Shield Captain Bennet is on Telnos, a unpleasant little planet inhabited by religious fanatics and unregistered miners running illegal solactinium mines. It’s about to be about to be overrun by the Maess. Bennet’s job is to get out as many civilians as he can, but the enemy arrives before the evacuation is complete. Caught in a vicious fire fight, Bennet is left behind, presumed dead.
His family is grieving. Joss, his long-term partner, grieves with them; lost, unhappy, remorseful. First Lieutenant Flynn has no official ‘rights’ here. He isn’t family. He isn’t partner or lover.
All he is, is broken.
Book 2 in the Taking Shield series picks up eighteen months after the events of Gryfalcon.
I love the world building in this series. It’s very well thought out and researched, and makes me feel as though I’m reading about a world with a long and rich history. I loved the links back to their original home world—Earth—and the way Joss, Bennet’s ex-partner thinks about how their ancient rituals replace other even older ones. Joss takes some of the POV in this book, looking back on his and Bennet’s relationship, and giving the reader a different perspective. His grief—and that of other friends and family—felt very real.
I really felt for Flynn, who is not family and therefore has no official rights, but still grieving for someone he truly loves. I don’t think it’s a spoiler, given there are more books in the series, to say I was very relieved to discover that Bennet survives.
As with the first book, the author doesn’t pull any punches about the brutality of war. The world on which Bennet is left is very harsh, and there are consequences for what had happened to him. He is badly injured, and doesn’t just miraculously recover either physically, or psychologically. It takes time and hard work. And that’s the way it should be.
I like that these guys are flawed, and I love Bennet and Flynn together. I think they complement each other well, and their frustration when they take a step forward together and then something else comes up to prevent them being together feels very real. But in saying that, although their romance is a decent sized part of the story, it isn’t what drives it, and I think that is what makes this series so strong.
The war with the Maess is never far away, nor the underlying feeling that things are going to get a lot worse before they get better. These aliens are very other, and dangerous, and I like the way we—and Bennet—learn a tiny bit more about them with each new book, but not enough to understand them. That information doesn’t comfort, it terrifies, and I think the author did a fabulous job in keeping me on the edge of my seat, and trying to work out what exactly the Maess’ plan is.
I’ve been a huge SF fan for years, and this series reminds me why. I’d recommend Heart Scarab to readers who enjoy military SF with in-depth world building, complex characters, and a story that keeps you on the edge of your seat and wanting more.
Reviewed By: Anne
Click HERE to purchase Heart Scarab by Anna Butler
We Want You!
We are looking for some special people to join our review team. We have plenty of books to review and are looking for new reviewers to join our little family. If you are interested please contact me at email@example.com
Thank you so much!
Author: Adrienne Wilder
Publisher: Self Published through Amazon
Characters: August Vallory and Keegan Brooks
POV: 3rd POV
Sub-Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
August Vallory had it all. A modeling career, a man he loved, and the extended family he’d acquired in the business. Then the world he knew was torn away when the plane he was on crashed en route to a photo shoot.
Lost in the Alaskan wilderness, August doesn’t stand a chance.
No sane man would choose to live in the Alaskan bush unless he had something to hide. And Keegan Brooks has secrets darker than night, more dangerous than wolves, more brutal than an Alaskan winter.
Every day was a fight for his life until he stumbled upon a downed plane with a lone survivor. Now it’s no longer just Keegan’s life teetering on the edge of survival.
Wild is only the second book of Ms. Wilders I have read and it is a lot different from the last one. From the start I was pulled into Wild. The book begins with a plane crash and is nonstop from there. The way the author introduces the main characters to each other was over the top and I must say a time or two I wondered if Keegan was one of those creepy mountain men that show up in scary movies.
August is a model, it is not what he started out wanting to do, but loves the life style it provides. He’s in love with his boyfriend and ready to take things to the next level. Unfortunately, things do not work out the way he had planned, in fact everything ends up going to hell. After the plane he is on goes down, killing all on board, August wonders if he will be following them. When he is rescued, he wondered if things had just gotten worse.
Keegan is hiding from his past just trying to survive day to day. When a plane goes down he is surprised to see that someone has survived. But Keegan knows that August has just made his life harder. What Keegan is running from is intense and some of the scenes in his backflashes are a little graphic. While reading what he has done, it makes liking him a little hard in the beginning, it is only as you learn more that you will begin to understand and he becomes more likeable.
The relationship between these two does not travel the usual path as they have many obstacles to overcome. Not only is August’s injuries life threatening, the men must find shelter as it is no longer possible for Keegan to get August back to civilization. Life in the wilds of Alaska is not what August is used to, and he has much to learn. For Keegan, he must learn how to live with another person as he has spent so much time alone. He no longer knows how to behave around others.
This is not a story that takes place in a matter of days. The men are together for some time and during that time learn more about each other. As their feelings grow their relationship changes. But nothing lasts forever and when they become exposed to outside forces Keegan realizes that it is time for August to go home.
Knowing that these two were going to separate had me in tears. I wondered how the author was going to bring these two the HEA they deserved. When August makes it back to the lower 49 things seem even more complex. I think readers will be even more surprised by how things play out. After reading Wild I have become a big fan of this author and will be looking for more from her.
Reviewed By: Lydia
Click HERE to purchase Wild by Adrienne Wilder
Title: Heart Unheard
Author: Andrew Grey
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Characters: Brent, Scott
The attraction between Brent Berkheimer and Scott Spearman peels the wallpaper, but Brent is Scott’s boss, and they’re both too professional to go beyond flirting. Their priorities realign after Scott is badly injured in an accident that costs him his hearing, and Brent realizes what is truly important… he wants Scott.
Scott pushes Brent away at first, fearing a new romance will just add to his problems, but perhaps he will find unexpected strength and solace in Brent’s support as he struggles to communicate with the world in a new way.
Just as they decide the chance of a happy future together is worth the risk, Scott and Brent discover darker challenges in their way—including evidence that the “accident” Scott suffered may not have been so accidental.
Andrew Grey is back the second book in the Hearts Entwined series, Heart Unheard. For those of you who did not read the first book, Heart Unseen, you may feel confused on trying to keep up with the character and plot references to the prior book when diving into this one. I gathered that James lost his sight in the first book, and that other characters from the garage may have played a role in the plot, but I went into Heart Unheard with a blank slate and hopes I wouldn’t be too lost when trying to follow along.
This time around, the focus is on Brent and Scott, the latter of which loses his hearing in an accident that is central to the overall plot. Tangled up in the recovery efforts, and uncovering the truth behind the car accident that maybe wasn’t such an accident, is Scott’s boss Brent. He decides to lay all his cards on the table and reveal to Scott just how much he really cares for the man. The book balanced all the emotional turns quite well, and made the journey of the relationship quite believable. I could really feel Scott’s frustrations over what he lost, his wariness to believe Brent would even want him now, and the determination that the two of them would journey through this incident together while looking toward a hopefully happy future.
Additionally, I liked the exploration of Scott and Brent’s parents as well. Firstly, Scott’s mom being in denial to accept that Scott might be deaf forever, her need to keep him protected and hope for a miracle for her child. And then his dad’s more realistic acceptance of what might be forever, but also a steadfast need to want to see Scott happy regardless of what life’s thrown at him thus far. Brent’s mom was a treat, as well as a great cook, but what really drew my attention most was Brent’s admittance as to what happened when his dad was killed. He’s been carrying around the burden of believing it was his fault, that if he had done things differently perhaps his father would not have died, but in the end he was able to work through that and find relief from his burden through the help of friends and loved ones. Quite a nice plot arc overall.
So, if you like Andrew Grey’s previous works, or are just looking for a great book involving two men who have to overcome a lot in life to get their happy-ever-after, then Heart Unheard might be the book for you. But you may find yourself wanting or needing to refer back to Heart Unseen to get the full effect of where these characters came from and where they’re headed.
Reviewed By: Kimberly
Click HERE to enter the Dreamspinner Press Homepage