So Disappointed

kindleunlimited So between being a judge for contests and the sudden urge I had to give in to Amazon’s requests for me to try Kindle Unlimited, I’ve been reading a lot. I’ve decided that judging contests and reading Kindle Unlimited books is more alike than you’d think. Not everything you get to read is worthwhile.

Of course, this is true of just browsing for a book anyway. You never know what you’re going to get unless you’re reading a tried and true favorite author. There’s just a lot of stuff out there from self-published authors and small barely known presses that is poorly written then poorly edited. The frightening thing is the number of 4 and 5 star reviews some of these books have and the fan gushing I’ve seen in the reviews.

Here’s what happened to me. I got a few books to judge for a contest. Some self-pubbed, some pubbed by little presses I’ve never heard of. One book in particular, by an author with an established fan base, had a story line that I’ve read before. Unfortunately for this author, the book I’d read before was written far better, edited far better and had much more believable characters. In short, this author took a known trope, butchered it, and didn’t hire an editor before tossing it out as a self-published book and entering it in a contest. Ouch. I couldn’t in all fairness give it a good grade. Luckily for me, the other stuff I read for the contest was better and I forgot all about the bad one. Well, until I got Kindle Unlimited.

So if you’ve never used Kindle Unlimited, it works sort of like a library. You can “borrow” up to 10 books at a time. If you really like and want to keep it, you’ll have to buy it. I figured for 30 days I’d give it whirl since I’ve no money to buy books right now. The problem with KU is that I ran out of good MM authors to read in a couple of days. I looked at a lot of reviews of authors I’ve never read, never heard of. Most of them are self-pubbed or with small presses I’ve never heard of. Sounds a lot like some of the books from the contest, right? Unfortunately, oh so right.

I started with books that had a lot of 5 star reviews. Fans of the authors gushed. The story lines revealed in the reviews sounded like they might be worth the read. As I read…and read…and read…I discovered a disturbing trend.  Some of these books and series had really good story lines but the execution – the writing and editing – left a lot to be desired. It’s really hard for me to enjoy a book when I’m rewriting it and editing it in my head. Go figure. All I find myself wanting to do is write an email to the author and offer myself up as editor to fix the book since the stories had so much potential!

As an example, take a book that’s first in a series. It had an interesting premise, the kind of MM trope I like, and the characters were engaging as was the dialogue. But just in this one book alone I found this:

She saddled up to him. Ahem, the word is sidled.

She had tract marks. Ouch. Track marks is the correct phrase.

They had to burry something. The word is bury…no clue what a burry is.

He expanded his energy. OMG. It took me a minute to realize the author meant expended. If this had been a sci-fi I might never have got that the word was wrong. 😉

He had deep seeded emotions. This one made me laugh. Deep seated is how it should have read.

He hoped he didn’t wonder off. Wander. How can you mix up wonder and wander?

Those are not the exact sentences because I really don’t want to give away the book and seemingly bash the author. She obviously had some major vocabulary issues.  On top of that her main character did something I don’t think I’ve seen a person do. “His breath heaved and his eyes pinched.” I didn’t know that eyes had appendages with which to pinch.

I’m not really bagging on the author. I read this with seriously deep sighs because I liked her story and I liked her characters and her snarky dialogue. I didn’t like the fact that no one edited this book. Well, maybe someone did, but if so, they had no clue what they were doing.

ThinkstockPhotos-470024761This stuff makes me sad. What makes me even sadder is the reading public that can’t see the things that are wrong with these stories. They don’t have enough knowledge themselves to actually call it like it is and give it 3 stars for a great story but really bad grammar, writing, and editing issues. Maybe if some of these authors knew they had a problem, they’d hire better editors. The vocabulary issues alone in that one book were just awful. My kid could have picked out the wrong words when she was in grade school. I don’t know. Maybe it’s the state of our school systems today that we’re turning out kids who become adults who don’t know the difference between tract and track, wonder and wander.

In the end, my Kindle Unlimited run has left me so disappointed although I guess I got what I paid for since the 30 day trial was free.

Hope you all have a happier reading experience this week!

Lex_Sig

 

Under My Skin

WARNING! Valentine Reviews often have spoilers. I just spew what I think and feel about what I read and sometimes that means I give away parts of the story. I don’t think I’m spoiling anything for anyone by saying that the main characters have a HEA because the whole fricken world knows I don’t read anything unless it has a HEA. That being said, read the review at your own risk!

I’ve been on an M. L. Rhodes kick lately. I’ve read four of hers and this review is about two of them. Under My Skin and Under My Skin II is about a bookstore owner who sees himself as a nerd. He’s come out of several bad relationships where he was used for his brains or his money with the idea that he’s just a geek and most guys wouldn’t want him. His last relationship was the worst. His boyfriend moved out, took all his stuff, all his money and maxed out his credit cards. Our hero probably could have handled that but then the asshole left him a Dear John letter that struck at all of his insecurities.

A year and a half later enter our second hero. He’s got tattoos like the last boyfriend. He has a motorcycle like the last boyfriend. He’s hotter than Hades and our bookstore nerd is in lust. Fortunately for him, the tattoo parlor owner is hot for the nerd as well. In fact, he doesn’t even see the guy as a nerd.

These two novellas, the first one all about how Sebastian (the bookstore owner) and Dylan (the tattoo parlor owner) get together and it leaves the reader with a HFN and the notion that these two do get their HEA eventually. The second novella is how they work out their problems and get their real HEA. The first one is hot as Hades. The second one is very emotional. Okay, it’s hot too but it’s the emotions that get ya.

Honestly, I really loved the first two M.L. Rhodes books I read (Passion, Satisfaction) but these two guys are better. Maybe it’s that I identified with them better being a bit of a nerd myself and having a thing about bad boys in leather and tattoos. Maybe it’s the lickable cover art. 😉

At any rate, LOVED these two novellas. They go on my must re-read over and over list even though they aren’t long, deep angsty literary works. They’re just two little novellas filled with a bit of angst, a lot of lust and some serious falling in love without a lot of trappings. Easy, fun, hot and emotional.

If you like hot gay men with tattoos who have hearts of gold and hide their sensitive side, these two books are for you. You will fall in love with Sebastian and Dylan just like I did. The pair together score 5 Valentines from me. Thank you, M.L. Rhodes!

Passion

The usual Valentine Review disclaimer applies once more.

Standard Lex Warning:

I often spew spoilers in my enthusiasm. If  you hate spoilers just skip down to the bottom to see how many Valentines I gave this book.

I offered to review this book and the editor sent me an ARC. So this book deviates from the others that I review by virtue of the fact that it wasn’t something I just picked up because it sounded good or it was written by a favorite author of mine, although I was encouraged by the fact that Delilah Devlin and Portia Da Costa were in it. They are authors I know and admire.

This book also deviates from my norm because it is a print book. (It is offered in eformat too but the print book is what they sent me.) I pretty much have given up on print books. I love em, but I love my Nookie more. And I get in trouble for adding to the monumental amount of paper books I already have in my house.

Rott said this week,  “I was looking for the box with the Christmas stuff and every box I opened had books in it!” Let me tell you, when he saw me ensconce myself in the recliner with my reading glasses, a bottle of water, Louie my faithful acolyte (ie cat) and a PRINT book…his eyes narrowed to evil slits and I knew he was thinking of those boxes and boxes of books in every closet of our little condo.

So to the editor and authors of this book, know you this: I risked the wrath of my DH to read this book and Rott in a snit is a fearsome thing.

One other thing before I start talking about these stories, I am prejudiced. I don’t read stuff without HEAs anymore. I don’t normally enjoy books without HEAs. I like everything all tied up neatly with a bow that says, “I love you” at the end or at least “I think I’m falling in love with you.”  This book isn’t really a book that has HEAs. These are truly short stories, vignettes, romantic versions of Penthouse Variations stories, although more perfectly crafted.

I read a ton of those in my 20’s. I have a box of the books to prove it. (Rott never threatens those books like he does my romances.) I had a distinct sense of familiarity when I was reading this book and then Rott mentioned the Variations when he was looking in the closet this week. The lightbulb went on over my head. Once I finished the book, I turned it over and read the back cover, discovering the editor’s connection to Variations which felt rather karmic to me at that point. (Cue the Twilight Zone music.)

My overall impression of Passion is that every single story lived up to the theme. In spades. I didn’t like every single story in the anthology, but that doesn’t matter. My reasons for not liking some of them had nothing to do with how they were crafted. They were mostly personal prejudices including my preference for a HEA. And really, calling this book erotic romance didn’t quite fit the bill to my way of thinking. (Although, how I define genres isn’t necessarily how the publishing industry defines genres.) Some of the stories definitely fit the romance part. To me, others only fit the erotic part with romantic overtones.

An example of this is The Arch of Triumph, a story about a cougar encounter in Paris. Loved the story. Loved the visuals. Loved the sexual tension. Loved the romantic overtones. I’m a cougar. I usually adore cougar stories. But this one had no HEA or even an expectation of one. It was always clear this wasn’t a romance.

That story was awesome and I liked it, but my personal prejudices kept me from adoring it as I did the story of the cop who arranges to have the elevator stop so he has a chance to get back the woman he loves. OMG did I love Third Time’s a Charm. But then, it had a HEA or at least the expectation that one would occur. I wanted to know more about Nick and Lynn, wanted backstory and epilogues to fill out their hot sex and “I love yous.” I felt the same about the two stories about riding public transit, one of which was by Delilah Devlin.

Delilah’s story, The Morning Ride, gives you a taste of two people caught in the same net of attraction and building passion.  It focuses on the internals of this couple, the searing heat that builds from the brain and percolates to the groin the longer they watch each other. Plus it had a freaky little twist that I really liked. And I really felt that the couple were headed for the beginning of a relationship that could only have a HEA. I mean, c’mon…freaky little paranormalish twist, yanno.

The other public transit story is An Easy Guy to Fall On by Annabeth Leong. In this story, you get a more traditional sort of boy meets girl with a progression to sex. The passion between Saeed and Ina is in part fueled by what you think are his secrets. She wants to know. You want to know. And when you find out, you just sigh and think, “Awww…”

A couple of the stories take long time couples and reheat them to the boiling point. Rekindle has a hot sweetness that makes you long to brush your finger along the sinew of your man’s forearm or stroke your palm over his jean clad ass. Dear in Headlights makes you feel the urgency of need, needing to be with the man you love so much that you’ll risk sex in public over the hood of a car.

The other two stories I fell in love with were Riding Wild Things and No Risk, No Reward. In Riding Wild Things we have a hero who wants to do right by the woman he’s fallen in love with. He won’t fuck her standing up, out in public where someone could come by. He says the L word. He takes her to his trailer for privacy. He doesn’t want to do her unless she too wants something more than just hot sex. How can you not adore a man who won’t fuck you because he loves you?

In No Risk, No Reward we find a couple who are saying goodbye and the goodbye brings their lives and their hearts sharply into focus. Yes, there’s public sex and yes, it’s hotter than hell. But it’s the anticipation of them both acknowledging that there is something growing between them, something they dare not let get away, that sucks the reader in and makes their heart pound.

Anticipation fills The Efficiency Expert. The anticipation of the hero and heroine. The reader’s anticipation as they wait to discover why the hero had woman trouble. And the anticipation of both the reader and the heroine as they edge closer to the end of the story, neither wanting it to end. And then the hero does what heroes do and he gives in to the possibility of love. *sigh* For a guy who was an asshole at work, this one turns out to be hot, sweet, and full of promise.

So yeah, there were things I didn’t like. And yeah, there were things I liked a lot. But overall, this book delivers. And that’s saying something when you’re dealing with stories this short. They may be short stories, but they are so not short on passion.

As an Epic male I know would say, “Go. Buy it. Buy it NOW.”

Happy reading!

4.5 Valentines

Passion: Erotic Romance for Women

Editor: Rachel Kramer Bussel

Publisher: Cleis Press

Genre: Contemporary Erotic Short Stories

Buy Link at Cleis

Buy Link at Amazon

Titles/Authors:

Big-Bed Sex by Donna George Storey
My Dark Knight by Jacqueline Applebee
Dear in the Headlights by Angela Caperton
The Cherry Orchard by Wickham Boyle
Autumn Suite by Suzanne V. Slate
Contentions by Isabelle Gray
The Silver Belt by Lana Fox
Five Senses by Rachel Kramer Bussel
The Arc of Triumph by Monica Day
Crave You Close by A.M. Hartnett
Any Easy Guy to Fall On by Annabeth Leong
Lingua Franca by Justine Elyot
Third Time’s the Charm by Charlene Teglia
Riding Wild Things by Lizzy Chambers
No Risk, No Reward by Saskia Walker
If by Emerald
Getting It Right by Teresa Noelle Roberts
The Morning Ride by Delilah Devlin
The Efficiency Expert by Portia Da Costa
Rekindle by Kathleen Bradean

Self Preservation

Today, author Jaime Samms offers us a review of Ethan Day’s Self Preservation. Jaime’s opinions are her own, but I pretty much concur here since I loved this book too! Please welcome Jaime to Lex’s World and Valentine Reviews!

A week or so ago, I was chatting with Lex, and she invited me over to chat about good books. Now chatting about books is something I’ve never had a problem doing, and since this book by Ethan Day, called Self Preservation is one of the better books I’ve read this past year, I was psyched to come over and talk about it,

What struck me about this book was the odd dichotomy of the characters and situations being so much larger than life, and yet, still ringing true and feeling inevitable. Davis seems just like a normal, almost dull kind of guy. Until he thinks about Jack, at which point normalcy flies out the window on the wings of Davis’ fantasies. Such complete and utter denial of facts and reality should make this character hard to believe in, hard to sympathize with, but Day has created a character who instead is funny, interesting and authentic. You can’t help but love the guy, even as you see how he’s slightly delusional. You root for him while knowing he can’t really have what he wants, and yet, still, you hope he gets it. I’m still trying to figure out how he did that!

At some point, like Davis, you start to believe he can do anything. It’s impossible not to want him to win out in the end, so the plot twists that get him deeper and deeper into his impossible dream seem completely reasonable and logical.

Enter Alex, another character who can’t possibly be real, but also can’t be other than he is, and Jack, that impossible dream Davis is chasing after, who seems too good to be real, and you’ve got the makings of a story that can be fantastically entertaining, or that can go horribly wrong.

It’s Ethan’s own voice, his unerring ability to see the humour in just about anything, and his willingness to let his characters live large and laugh at themselves that makes this story work. Taking risks, of course, means getting hurt, and it’s inevitable that the characters will face unpleasantness. Day doesn’t flinch from that any more than he holds back on his humour.

Now, I’m not a cryer. Movies, books, pretty much nothing in fiction is ever strong enough to make me tear up. Huh. This book is pretty much billed as a romantic comedy. Huh again. I found myself sniffling not once, not even twice, but on three separate occasions while reading this book. The honesty this book is written with touched me, and I can–literally– say I laughed, I cried, and yeah, it kinda became a part of me. At least, this book has become a part of the fabric of inspiration I turn to when I’m searching for ways to improve my own efforts. It isn’t often I come across a book that not only entertains me, satisfies my need for all the ends to be tied up in a pretty bow, but also teaches me. I most definitely will have to get me a hard copy of this puppy. Nothing like that dog-eared well-read look of a much-loved story.

I’d give this 4.5 Valentines. There’s grammer stuff going on, but nothing I couldn’t forgive. 🙂

4.5 Valentines by Jaime Samms

Self Preservation

Loose Id

Novel

BUY LINK

Blurb:

Davis always assumed they would wind up back together, until Jack calls and invites Davis to his wedding to Tadd Austin, a prominent architect in Chicago. Jack’s only known Tadd for two weeks, so whatever Jack feels for Tadd couldn’t possibly compare to what he shared with Davis. There’s no way in hell Davis can stand by and watch the life he always expected to get back slip away to some guy Jack barely knows. Tadd Austin, indeed…more like Toad Ass-ton, Davis thinks.

With his best friend, fashion designer Deseree Wildwood in tow, Davis has to shed his sweet, guy-next-door persona, and re-vamp his image into a self-confident, hot piece of eye candy. He’s going to the wedding with only one goal in mind: to do whatever it takes to win back Jack. The Toad is toast!

Once in Chicago, Davis discovers it isn’t going to be as easy as he thought. Not only is Tadd very un-Toad-like, but a mysterious British playboy named Alex Parker manages to interject himself into the mix. Only true love will survive as the tug of war ensues in this Bermuda love triangle from hell.

Publisher’s Note: This book contains explicit sexual content, graphic language, and situations that some readers may find objectionable: Anal play/intercourse, male/male sexual practices.

LEX NOTE: Jaime is a fellow Pink Petal Books author and her current release there is Spinning, a book I made the cover for. 🙂 You can visit Jaime at Jaime-Samms.net.

Fair Game

Standard Lex Warning: I often spew spoilers in my enthusiasm.

I’ve decided that my cure for pain isn’t painkillers but books. However, I totally empathized with Elliot Mills, the hero of Fair Game. Elliot is a former FBI agent who had his knee blown away in a shoot out some eighteen months or so before the opening of this novel. I may not have been shot, but the damage to my knees was more like having been shot out of a cannon at 60 mph into the dashboard of my car. On a good day, I limp. On a bad day, I stay in bed and cry. For the past couple of nights which were bad, very bad nights, I read Josh Lanyon’s newest offering.

As a dyed in the wool fan of Josh Lanyon books, I look upon his new releases the way a child does Christmas morning or a birthday. Pressie for me? Oh, yum! And I had been waiting for this book ever since seeing a snippet of it on a Yahoo group. Waiting for Josh is like waiting for dessert and the first bite sends you into an orgasm of delight…and you’re so incredibly happy that your wait is now over.

Fair Game’s hero is a wounded hero. Elliot’s bad knee is like a character in and of itself because of how it impacts so very much in the book. The knee led to his break up with his lover Tucker Lance, another FBI agent, after he was shot. And the knee is the catalyst that puts him right back into Tucker’s arms when the two meet up again over the disappearance of a gay student at the university where Elliot now teaches. The knee is the best inanimate character ever and I could feel every twinge and pull and pop and throb and bone melting stab of agony that Elliot had. Not so much because I have plenty of that pain myself, but because Josh sure does know how to describe it right down to how you have sex when your knee feels like a zeppelin.

I don’t want to go into the missing student-murder mystery part of the book. For one, suspense isn’t my preferred genre and I only read a very select few authors who write it. For another, with my propensity for spoilers, I’ll ruin the book for you. What I do want to talk about are Josh Lanyon’s characters.

Elliot Mills is razor sharp to me. Far more cerebral than the characters of Dangerous Ground and far more macho and physical than the characters of The Dickens With Love. Elliot the professor is still finding his way around academia while trying to put his old life as an FBI agent behind him. The fact that he becomes so intensely drawn into the missing student investigation is a testament to how much he misses his former life and how good at it he was.

When Elliot comes face to face with his former life via his ex-lover Special Agent Tucker Lance, everything he loved most about that life is brought sharply into focus, yanked there from his pain-fuzzed memories.  The pain of his knee is nothing compared to the pain he determinedly hides over the loss of that former life. Elliot lies to himself about that pain and loss through much of the book and it’s not spelled out in so many words for the reader either. You have to be as much of a detective as Elliot is to figure it out. But it’s there in what he refuses to think about and how he focuses on the mystery rather than his emotions and Tucker’s.

The most surprising part of this book for me is Tucker Lance. Elliot is a true hero. You love him almost immediately. Josh draws him with a fine nibbed pen and you can’t help but be in love with such beautiful lines. Tucker is about as far from that as you can imagine. He’s gruff and rude and the reader isn’t sympathetic to him at first because of course, you’re already in love with Elliot and if you love Elliot then you have to hate Tucker because he hurt Elliot.  Right?

I’ve never been a fan of the red-headed, freckled faced man. Makes me think of  Tom Sawyer or something.  But Josh and his way with words has me lusting for the redheaded Tucker. The man grows on you throughout the book. Probably because slowly but surely, Tucker’s emotions come to light. And man, does this guy FEEL. You get more of his emotions than you do Elliot’s.

With a profound sense of shock, you discover that Tucker tried to apologize for his behavior after Elliot’s knee was shot. He sent letters, emails, and called only to be turned away. (The reader goes awwww because it totally smacks of begging.) You find out that fear fueled his rough unsympathetic actions at the time of Elliot’s injury. It’s Tucker who offers Elliot whatever he wants when they land in bed together again. He gives to Elliot sexually and emotionally and it’s our hero who holds back in the emotion department.

Tucker reveals how much he cares when he saves Elliot from sniper fire. He confesses straight up that he wants them to live together. His eyes are bright with tears and emotion and his face is pale when he finds Elliot passed out and injured after catching the bad guy.  He treats Elliot far more gently than our hero treats him. And best of all, Tucker says the L word first. Big, bad superhero FBI agent who can be the worst kind of asshole is a sucker for the man he loves.

There is something about an author who can draw tears from you without both heroes getting downright mushy. These men retain their Alpha masculinity and yet you feel their emotions very keenly even when they aren’t admitting them or are hiding them. The sex scenes are not detailed like the kind I write, yet they are blazingly hot. The sexual tension is exceptional. The emotions will wring you out.

Josh Lanyon does not waste a single word. Every word he writes has a purpose and serves to make you love these characters. I didn’t think he could top The Dickens With Love as far as I was concerned. Sedge’s simple acceptance of love in that book seemed to be the zenith for me. But oh, no. Never underestimate Josh’s talent with the written word. Elliot and Tucker are my new favorite heroes.

“If you even try to die, I’ll kill you myself.”

Tucker’s words hit home for a romance fan like myself. I cried. Really. And that in a nutshell gives Fair Game five Valentines.  Buy it. Read it. Immerse yourself in the most amazing prose and let Josh Lanyon take you away far better than any ole box of Calgon.

Now, if he would just revisit these two like he did Will and Taylor of Dangerous Ground, I would be in 7th Heaven.

5 Valentines

Fair Game

Carina Press

Novel

BUY LINK

Blurb:

A crippling knee injury forced Elliot Mills to trade in his FBI badge for dusty chalkboards and bored college students. Now a history professor at Puget Sound university, the former agent has put his old life behind him—but it seems his old life isn’t finished with him.

A young man has gone missing from campus—and as a favor to a family friend, Elliot agrees to do a little sniffing around. His investigations bring him face-to-face with his former lover, Tucker Lance, the special agent handling the case.

Things ended badly with Tucker, and neither man is ready to back down on the fight that drove them apart. But they have to figure out a way to move beyond their past and work together as more men go missing and Elliot becomes the target in a killer’s obsessive game…