Anne Reviews: Five Minutes Longer by Victoria Sue

TITLE: Five Minutes Longer
Author: Victoria Sue
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages: 205
Characters: Talon Valdez/Finn Mayer
POV: 3rd
Sub-Genre: Series, Romantic Suspense, Paranormal
Kisses: 5

Blurb:

Talon Valdez knew when he transformed into an enhanced human, his life and his dreams were finished. Reviled, mistrusted, and often locked away, the enhanced were viewed as monsters, despised by the public, and never trusted to serve in the military or any law enforcement agency.

Years later he gets a chance to set up a task force of enhanced to serve in the FBI, but with one proviso: each enhanced must partner with a regular human.

Finn Mayer dreamed of joining the FBI from the time he was fourteen and made every possible sacrifice to make it happen, including living with his selfish mother and bullying, homophobic brother and never having a boyfriend. But his undiagnosed dyslexia stopped his aspirations dead in their tracks. His last chance is to partner with Talon, an enhanced with deadly abilities who doesn’t trust regular humans with their secrets and wants Finn to fail.

Four weeks to prove himself to the team. Four weeks for the team to prove itself to the public. And when another group threatens their success—and their lives—four weeks for them to survive.

Review:

I got hooked by this story from the very first page.  What often makes or breaks a story for me is its characters, and I loved the contrast between Finn and Talon.  While Talon has powers, Finn has had to find a way to work around his dyslexia, and hold onto his dreams despite the shitty hand life has dealt him.  While his brother did come across as a little stereotypical at first, sadly it reflects life and some of the people who populate it a bit too well.  There’s another character I’m keeping my eye on who I suspect is not the nice guy he portrays himself to be, but time will tell.

The world building in this story is interesting, especially with the way it could be present day, but for the twist of the enhanced gene that becomes active in some at puberty. I thought the fact that 50% of humans distrust those who are enhanced was very realistic.  Some might argue that parents wouldn’t turn their back on their own children, but sadly this has been shown to be true as well.

The story itself kept me reading way too late several nights in a row for just one more chapter… It’s gripping, and I thought the action scenes were well written, and edge-of-the seat.

I was really happy to learn that this is the first in the series, and I already have book two loaded on my tablet as part of my TBR list.  Although the ending of this one is satisfactory for now, I figured Finn and Talon’s story wasn’t over, and I’m hoping the other team members of HERO (Human Enhanced Rescue Organisation) will get their own stories, as it’s obvious they have them to tell.

When I read a review copy, I usually take a lot of notes about what happens—and my reaction—for said review, but with this story I got so caught up with the characters and everything happening that there’s very little written down.  It’s the reason it has queue jumped my review pile ahead of books I’ve read and still need to write reviews for!

I’d recommend Five Minutes Longer to readers who enjoy reading romances with suspense,  interesting world building, and characters who stay with you long after you close the book.

Reviewed By: Anne

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Kimberly Reviews: Tufted and Tatted by Jacques N. Hoff


Title: Tufted & Tatted
Author: Jacques N. Hoff
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages: 82
Characters: Atticus, Scott, Irwin, and Mickey
POV: 3rd
Sub-Genre: Humor, Shapeshifters
Kisses: 2.5

Blurb:

Freed from the Australian zoo where he was the subject of forced breeding experiments, Atticus makes his way to the tufted puffin grounds in California, only to find he may not be free after all. Atty is a loner, but he doesn’t want to fight the pull of a flighty surfer who gives his inked skin a pleasant, uncontrollable itch.

Scott has the sun on his face, the waves beneath him, and gratitude for every second of life he gets to embrace. Then Atty appears, and it’s like the universe has tuned his meditation bell to the perfect frequency.

The Tiki Pro surfing competition in Florida is calling to Scott, and Atty agrees to make sure Scott gets there safely. A cross-country road trip in the Hunny Wagon seems like a perfect way to live in the present and get tantric all at the same time.

But they aren’t making this trek alone.

Review:

Tufted & Tatted
centers around tufted puffin shifter Atticus and his rather sudden mating attachment to a flighty surfer named Scott. Atticus was not looking for love or mates or anything of the sort when he was freed from his zoo enclosure. After all, he saw what his friend Irwin and his French booby mate Mickey were like, all committed to each other and willing to go to the ends of the earth with each other. Atticus was not looking for any of those hang-ups. But love does not abide by anyone’s timeline, and soon Atticus is bonded with a surfer dude who appears to have a few gaps in his memory and his awareness.

What commences is a cross-country trip, where Atticus tags along with Scott on the way to a Florida surfing competition. But what could have been a meaningful storyline where the two get to know each other and reveal a bit more about their bond gets a bit short-changed by the light plot. Tufted & Tatted is the fourth book in the Peckers series. Having never read the three prior books, I came into this a bit lost and all my questions were never really answered. Perhaps the Shifter origins were explained in an earlier book, but coming in as a new reader I did not get that information. Nor did I get clarity on Scott’s car accident, which gave him the blackouts and amnesia in the first place. Was it truly an accident or was it insurance fraud, which was the implication that continued throughout much of the book. I felt like I was just dropped into the middle of events and then pulled out again, and that made my enjoyment of the book decrease. So, too, did the flipping points-of-view, but that’s just a personal preference, and I could have overlooked it if the switches came with answers to the lingering mysteries of the backstory.

Coming out of this book, I was intrigued enough by the concept of the universe to want to know more. Which means I’ll likely go back to the beginning and ready all the books in order, in hopes that my questions are answered along the way. And that’s the advice I’d give other readers who are new to the series. Don’t jump in at the end, else you might find yourself lost and wondering too much to enjoy the developing story of newly-bonded mates Atticus and Scott.

If you’d like to read the entire Peckers series, the books in order are:
• Jay Walking
• Cockstrut
• Masked Booby
• Tufted & Tatted

Reviewed By: Kimberly

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Anne Reviews: Wish You Were Here by Asta Indonea


TITLE: Wish You Were Here
Author: Asta Idonea
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages: 59
Characters: Oakley/Bobby
POV: 3rd
Sub-Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Kisses: 5

Blurb:

The death of Oakley’s sister has left his family broken and buried beneath their grief. In an attempt to get out from underneath their pain, they rent an isolated cottage in the Cotswolds. For Oakley, it’s an exercise in futility. He doesn’t see much hope for things to get back to the way they used to be, and he’s bored and restless as he waits out the time until he can return to the city and university. All of that changes when he meets local boy Bobby, and the connection between them is instant. Within a few days, Oakley is ready to walk away from everything to stay with Bobby. However, Bobby has problems of his own, and they might be more than the budding romance can survive. But they might also give Oakley a new perspective on his own situation.

Review:

This is the first story I’ve read by Asta Idonea, and I loved it.

The first scene set the mood immediately, and pulled me into the story. Although it’s not a long read, I didn’t feel as though it was too short either. The characters still had enough room to grow, and I got invested in them quickly. The ending left me with a bittersweet feeling, as it’s not really a HEA, yet I still felt hope for the characters’ future. Both Oakley and Bobby have a lot to work through, and I liked the way they grew as the story progressed.

I had worked out the plot twist early on, but part of that is because I read a lot of this genre, and it didn’t detract from the story. I thought the POV changes were very cleverly done, so that the secret of who Bobby really is isn’t revealed through his POV. The hints as to what is going on are subtle, and nicely done, with enough for me to guess, but not be sure until the reveal. The setting is a character in its own right, and adds to the feeling of the story. I enjoyed the author’s writing style—it flowed well, and I read the story in one sitting.

I’d recommend Wish You Were Here to readers who enjoy a shorter length story with interesting characters who aren’t always what they seem, a plot twist, and a hint of the paranormal.

Reviewed By: Anne

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Kimberly Reviews: Tart and Sweet by Amy Lane


Title: Tart and Sweet
Author: Amy Lane
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages: 220
Characters: Robbie, Cy, Adam, and Finn
POV: 3rd
Sub-Genre: Contemporary
Kisses: 3.5

Blurb:

In the Army, Robbie Chambers turned on his lover out of fear—and he hasn’t been able to live with himself since. Now he’s out of the Army but still trapped in the closet that brought on his most cowardly moment, and he starts to think he’ll never be able to fight his way free.

Until he sees Cy McVeigh. Beautiful and uninhibited, Cy is dancing on the boardwalk at Old Sac for no other reason than the moment called for it. Robbie not only joins in the dance but is smitten from the very beginning.

However, Robbie still has old business to clear up, and when he helps out a kid in need and comes face-to-face with the man he betrayed, he’s forced to come clean with himself. He can’t redeem his mistake if he’s still locked into his old patterns, and he won’t ever be worthy of Cy if he can’t earn Adam’s forgiveness. He’s going to need all the help he can get from the people at Candy Heaven in order to make things right with his past so he can have a future with Cy.

Review:

Tart and Sweet is the fourth and final book in the Candy Man series. The story centers around Robbie and Cy’s developing romance, as well as Robbie’s need to rectify some issues from his past. There was past lover drama and family drama, but overall the characters came out of this with a happy ending an a bright look towards the future.

Having never read the former books in the series, I came in having to get to know the multitude of characters that were mentioned, and that perhaps put me at a disadvantage because there was an expectation that the reader would already know the names well and the short-hand descriptions would suffice. For me, though, it was extremely difficult to know who was who, what significance each side character might have in the larger universe of the series, and who I should pay attention to more thoroughly. Instead of trying to sort them all out, I concentrated my attention on Robbie and Cy’s relationship and not let many of the casual mentions about the other characters’ issues weigh me down too much. Was it impossible to enjoy the book? No. However, I think that the story would be much more enjoyable to those who had read the prior books in the series and knew all the characters well.

If you’d like to read the entire Candy Man series, the books in order are:
• Candy Man
• Bitter Taffy
• Lollipop
• Tart and Sweet

What drew me in to Tart and Sweet the most, aside from the developing relationship between Robbie and Cy, was the way Robbie came to terms with who he was and non-apologetic for his sexuality. He walked away from his girlfriend and into the arms of Cy perhaps a bit too quickly, but his interactions with his parents and trying to get them to see him for who he truly was made for great storytelling. I wouldn’t mind seeing where Robbie and Cy might end up a few years from now, whether Robbie’s father might accept him or if his mother continues to try to bridge the gap in the fractured family. For now, though, I’ll believe that Robbie and Cy retain their happily ever after.

Reviewed By: Kimberly

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Lydia Reviews: Heart Unseen by Andrew Grey


TITLE: Heart Unseen
Author: Andrew Grey
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages: 200
Characters: Trevor Michaelson and James Stewart
POV: 3rd Person
Sub-Genre: Contemporary
Kisses: 4.5

Blurb:

As a stunningly attractive man and the owner of a successful chain of auto repair garages, Trevor is used to attention, adoration, and getting what he wants. What he wants tends to be passionate, no-strings-attached flings with men he meets in clubs. He doesn’t expect anything different when he sets his sights on James. Imagine his surprise when the charm that normally brings men to their knees fails to impress. Trevor will need to drop the routine and connect with James on a meaningful level. He starts by offering to take James home instead of James riding home with his intoxicated friend.

For James, losing his sight at a young age meant limited opportunities for social interaction. Spending most of his time working at a school for the blind has left him unfamiliar with Trevor’s world, but James has fought hard for his independence, and he knows what he wants. Right now, that means stepping outside his comfort zone and into Trevor’s heart.

Trevor is also open to exploring real love and commitment for a change, but before he can be the man James needs him to be, he’ll have to deal with the pain of his past.

Review:

Fast hook ups and one night stands are all the Trevor really looks for. The sexy attractive and successful man is not interested in anything else, that is until he meets James. While out with friends one night Trevor sees, James sitting alone and tries to pick him up. It is hard to decide who is more shocked when James shoots him down, Trevor or his friends.

James has been blind since he was a kid. He is used to people treating him differently because of his blindness, so he does not know how to react when Trevor treats him just like a regular person. When Trevor comes to James’ “rescue” again, James starts to wonder if he shouldn’t give the mechanic a chance.

Fans of Mr. Grey’s are going to love this new book. It is everything you come to expect from this author and a lot more. I loved the MC’s, especially how they complement each other. Both men are strong characters yet, they become stronger as their relationship grows, especially James who finally stands up to his mother.

While the connection between the men is one I love, everything between them is not always roses and sunshine. Trevor finds out that all his hard work building his business may be going down the drain thanks to a trusted employee. I was surprised by the way some of this played out, and must tell you the scene where Trevor’s bike is sold had me close to tears.

I am a big fan of Mr. Grey’s and always find myself re-reading my favorites. Heart Unseen will be joining that list. I strongly recommend this book to anyone who has not yet given it or any book by this author a try.

Highly Recommended!

Reviewed By: Lydia

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Gabbi Reviews: Red Runs Through by Cate Ashwood


Title: A Piece Us Back Together Story: Red Runs Through
Author: Cate Ashwood
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages: 90
Characters: Carter McClintock, Matthew Nolan
POV: 3rd
Sub-Genre: Contemporary Romance, Series
Kisses: 4.5

Blurb:

Carter McClintock’s life is uncomplicated. For the past five years, he’s spent so much time in hospital scrubs that one day bleeds into the next, and that’s just the way he likes it. That is, until he meets Matthew Nolan. Carter has never had a patient affect him the way Matthew does. During Matthew’s stay in the hospital, the chemistry is unmistakable, and once he is discharged, Carter asks him out.

Despite the obvious attraction between them, Matthew’s HIV status keeps him from handing Carter his heart, refusing to believe anyone could ever truly want him. When Matthew’s past comes to light, their budding relationship is threatened before it has even begun. But Carter isn’t one to give up without a fight, and he will do anything to show Matthew the lengths he will go to keep them together.

Review:

Red Runs Through by Cate Ashwood is a sweet and well-written story that left this reader with a smile on her face. I really liked both heroes and enjoyed the story they had to tell.

It was easy to get behind Carter and Matthew’s story. Carter works hard and though he has many people who he calls friends, he longs to find that someone special. When he meets Matthew, a patient of his, he is immediately drawn to him. Matthew’s sweet disposition and friendly demeanor lifts Carter’s heart and soon both men begin to develop a strong bond between them.

As I read the story, I wondered how Carter and Matthew would live with Matthew’s HIV status. Despite Carter’s job and thoughtfulness, I wondered how he would deal with Matthew’s condition on an everyday basis and if it would color his perception of his and Matt’s relationship. I thought Ms. Ashwood did an excellent job at tackling this issue head-on and I truly loved how Carter and Matt DO NOT allow Matt’s condition to come between them.

Red Runs Through is a part of the Piece Us Back Together series. This book, and these stories are great comfort reads and would be a great rainy afternoon read. I really enjoyed these stories and highly recommend this book and series.

Highly Recommended!

The Piece Us Back Together stories are:

All That Shimmers by Raine O’Tierney
Swimming with Elephants by LJ LaBarthe
Red Runs Through by Cate Ashwood

Reviewed By: Gabbi

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Gabbi Reviews: Swimming with Elephants by LJ LaBarthe


Title: A Piece Us Back Together Story: Swimming with Elephants
Author: LJ LaBarthe
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages: 95
Characters: Garrett, Jai
POV: 3rd
Sub-Genre: Contemporary Romance, Series
Kisses: 4.5

Blurb:

A Piece Us Back Together story

After suffering a torn rotator cuff in his left shoulder, Garrett believes his life is over. Depressed, bereft, in pain, and unable to return to the career he loves as an arborist, he sees no hope or future for himself. But a trip to Havelock Island in India turns his world upside down. He meets Jai, an Indian nurse, and becomes smitten with him. Near the end of his trip, while swimming with an elephant, he tells Jai how he feels.

After Garrett returns to Australia, he wonders if he can ever be healed of all his pain—physical, emotional, and mental—and fears that love and romance will never be his again. But then Jai turns up in Perth and brings with him astonishing news.

Review:

After reading Swimming with Elephants by LJ LaBarthe, I blame her for making me want to swim with elephants! It’s because of the author’s descriptive storytelling ability that I was able to vision Havelock Island along with Garrett and take that amazing swim with an elephant named Baju.

Garrett’s life dramatically changed when he fell out of a tree and suffered a severe torn rotator cuff. As an arborist, he must be able to climb trees to treat them and it’s because of his injury that Garrett now must quit doing what he loved the most.

Between the career change and the loss of his boyfriend, Garrett is fighting depression and feels hopeless. When he is sent to Havelock Island in India for treatment, Garrett doesn’t expect a lot, but he soon comes to realize that though life can throw us all a curve-ball, sometimes there is a light at the end of the dark tunnel after all.

I really loved this book. I enjoyed the personal growth Garrett experiences as the story progressed. I also really liked Jai and thought they were a good fit together. Both Garrett and Jai are genuinely nice men who truly liked and respected one another. I enjoyed Jai’s zest for life and his adventurous side intrigued me. I could see why Garrett became so captivated by him, because I was too!

As a reader, I thought Swimming with Elephants was a well-written story with interesting characters that kept me intrigued from start to finish. It’s an easy book to recommend and I am looking forward to reading more books by this author in the future.

Swimming with Elephants is a Piece Us Back Together story and can be read as a standalone in the series. The Piece Us Back Together books are:

All That Shimmers by Raine O’Tierney
Swimming with Elephants by LJ LaBarthe
Red Runs Through by Cate Ashwood

Highly Recommended!

Reviewed By: Gabbi

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