Ellie reads fiction

24 Apr 2015

Friday Favourites #1: Santino Hassell

Welcome to Friday Favourites, a new feature on my blog where you have a chance to learn more about my favoruite authors in blitz interview and see what their favourite books are.



We starting off with Santino Hassell, writer of M/M romance and gay fiction, co-author of the popular dystopian M/M series In the Company of Shadows, available for free at 


Friday Favourites


1. Favourite place

My favorite place... This is a tough one. It's really a tie between Rome and Key West which seems really damn random, but I'm basing it on my emotional response to traveling instead of just thinking a place is cool. Rome is steeped in so much history that my inner history teacher goes a little insane. Just being in a place that has so many remnants of the distant past is amazing to me. I know people who live there are totally over it, but I'm the type of person who gets chills from walking through streets that used to be full of chariots and seeing the small Madonna portraits every time I turn onto a new street. 
As for Key West... Well, Key West just feels like home to me. It's where I want to end up. It's such a laid back city that is full of easy going people that you can't help but relax there. It also has a really large queer community. You can't beat that.

2. Favourite food and drink


PASTA. All of the pasta. And wine. I'd do a lot of profane things to get my hands on a good bottle of Bordeaux right now.

3. Favourite music/genre/artist/song

This is tough. My taste in music is pretty eclectic. I love hip hop (especially 90s-early 2000s), but I also regularly listen to classic rock, grunge, dubstep, trip hop, etcetera. If I had to go based on recent listening habits, I'm all about the New York based rapper El-P right now, and his song "Works Every Time" is one of my favorites. I like El-P because he is a sardonic bastard and his rhymes are brilliant. 

4. Favourite movie/TV series

Favorite movie is a tie between The Godfather pt 1 and The Empire Strikes Back. Can you tell I have issues making decisions? Favorite show is a little easier. I'd go with The Walking Dead. The character development over the course of the seasons is unreal. It's more of a show about human nature than zombies.

5. Favourite hobby (besides writing, if you consider writing a hobby)


Besides screenshotting the weird stuff people say to me on Grindr? ;) I'd say reading. Definitely reading.

Favourite books - (Listed in no particular order and a mash of different genres)

A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin. The first book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series. Not the show. If you haven't picked it up and watch the show, give it a shot. It's my favorite fantasy book of all time. 

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. Another fantasy novel, and one that is way different than Game of Thrones. It's told almost bard-style, and explores how legends are born of random events by regular men. Not that there's anything average about the MC. It's not perfect, but it's a brilliant and engaging read. Very unique.

Meatworks by Jordan Castillo Price. A, in my opinion, flawless novel about very flawed people. Gay men who are gritty and real. They reminded me of who I used to be, who I still am sometimes, and a lot of people I know. People who don't often have their stories told.

Night Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko. Spec fic and paranormal. It was rec'd to me by an old friend who said "It's about a guy who is in charge of keeping the balance between the light and dark forces of the supernatural world in Moscow. But he's a real fuck up. He reminds me of you!"

Return on Investment by Aleksandr Voinov. Brilliant gay romance and financial thriller. There needs to be more like it.

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Author Bio and Links

Santino Hassell is a dedicated gamer, a former fanfic writer, an ASoIaF mega nerd, and a Grindr enthusiast. Most of all he is a writer of LGBT fiction that is heavily influenced by the gritty, urban landscape of New York City, his belief that human relationships are complex and flawed, and his own life experiences.

Amazon / Twitter / Facebook / Instagram / Website



Santino's first solo novel was the dystopian romance After Midnight, available at 

His second novel, Sutphin Boulevard, will be published by Dreamspinner Press on July 31, 2015. 

Synopsis

Michael Rodriguez and Nunzio Medici have been friends for two decades. From escaping their dysfunctional families in the working-class neighborhood of South Jamaica, Queens to teaching in one of the city’s most queer friendly schools in Brooklyn, the two men have shared everything. Or so they thought until a sweltering night of dancing leads to an unexpected encounter that forever changes their friendship.

Now, casual touches and lingering looks are packed with sexual tension, and Michael can’t forget the feel of his best friend’s hands on him. Once problems rear up at work and home, Michael finds himself seeking constant escape in the effortless intimacy and mind-blowing sex he has with Nunzio. But things don’t stay easy for long.

When Michael’s world begins to crumble in a sea of tragedy and complications, he knows he has to make a choice: find solace in a path of self-destruction or accept the love of the man who has been by his side for twenty years.

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Look forward to Ais, co-author of ICoS series, sharing her favourites next week in Friday Favourites.

23 Apr 2015

Review: Busted by Shiloh Walker

Title: Busted (Barnes Brothers #3)
Author: Shiloh Walker
Date of publication: 5 May 2015
Genre: Romance

Author's links:
Website / Facebook / Twitter / Goodreads
Add to Goodreads

My rating: 4 stars

Synopsis

Like his brothers Zach and Zane, Trey Barnes thought he had found the love of his life. But fate had other plans. A widower who’s had to raise his five-year-old son on his own, Trey has not allowed himself to be with another woman. Until he meets Ressa Bliss at—of all places—a children’s library program. The beautiful librarian is wonderful with his son, Clay, but every time Trey even considers asking her out, he is tortured by guilt.

Fate is indeed fickle. When the two meet again at a conference, this time the attraction is too powerful to resist. But is their connection and passion strong enough to survive Trey’s deep inner torment?

Review

After reading and enjoying Zane's story in Razed (my review), I was very much intrigued by Trey. He is a writer, single dad to a young son - practically a catnip for me in romance. 

I expected a somewhat lighter and more easy going read but was pleasantly surprised by the depth of the story. The slightly darker elements that pop up here and there worked well for and added yet another dimenstion to the romance. 

It's a multicultural romance, the heroine is African-American and the hero is white and I think their enthic differences were handled really well in th story - they didn't overshadow the romance but not swept under the carpet either. 

Trey was a very interesting character and I liked him from the start. I found it easy to relate to him - the sorrow of the loss of his wife, the difficulties of raising his son alone, the slow return to being a popular writer - all were skilfully presented and felt very real. His issues with romance and intimacy were well grounded, though they seemed to disappear overnight when he met Ressa. It was a case of instalust/love and I never really understood what made Ressa so different (at first sight) from all the other women Trey tried to date previously. 

I wasn't so much a fan of Ressa. She was full of life, very strong and independant, just like Trey raising a kid on (her niece) her own. I liked them as a couple and the sex scenes were intense and very, very hot. Yet I found her reasons for not wanting a relationship with Trey too contrived, if not downright silly. Her unwillingness to open up to him, to at least give them a chance to be in a relationship really annoyed me. Her big secret was aslo sort of a letdown. I understand her insecurities and fears, yet she kept pushing Trey away and became annoying.

The whole drama with Tessa's cousin and later with Trey's neighbiur seemed over the top and not really necessary. It added some suspense to the plot but I could have done away without it. 

I loved Travis, Trey's twin and I'm excited about his story. Of the other Barnes brothers Sebastian also made an appearence, short but memorable one. The almost supernatural connection between the two twins was very interesting to read and very much liked its role in the story.

Overall, this was an enjoyable romance with some dark overtones, likable characters and little drama. Fans of the series will definitely fell in love with Trey and Ressa's story.


Purchase links: Amazon | BN | iBooks | Kobo

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My reviews of other books by Shiloh Walker:
You Own Me - 3.5 stars

21 Apr 2015

Waiting on Wednesday: Courtship of the Cake by Jessica Topper

Waiting on Wednesday is a book meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine and it features books that we are eagerly awaiting to be released.

Title: Courtship of the Cake (Much "I Do" about Nothing #2)
Author: Jessica Topper
Genre/Themes: Contemporary romance
Release Date: 2 June 2015

Add on Goodreads
Pre-order: Amazon



Synopsis


“Always a bridesmaid, never a bride” has suited Danica James just fine…until the mysterious man who crashed her sister’s wedding steals her heart, leaves a slice of groom’s cake under her pillow, and then disappears.

Hoping to forget her unforgettable fling, Dani takes a job as a backstage masseuse for a rock music festival, not expecting the tour’s headlining bad boy to make an offer she can’t refuse. Nash Drama needs a fiancĂ©e—and fast…

Mick Spencer is the best wedding cake designer in New Hope and the town’s most eligible bachelor. But despite the bevy of bridesmaids he’s sampled, Mick can’t get the evening he spent with Dani out of his mind.

So when she shows up for a cake tasting at the Night Kitchen—with his former best friend’s ring on her finger—Mick vows to charm the woman of his dreams into choosing a sweet and sinful ever after, with him…

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Why am I waiting for this? - This is the third book of Ms Topper and I have read and enjoyed the previous. Her debut, Louder Than Love (my review) is a great, thpughtful and funny rockstar romance and her first book in this series, Dictatorship of the Dress (my review), was even better - contemporary bittersweet romance with engaging characters. We met the heroine, Danica, in the previous book and even though we really see just tiny glimpeses of her here and there, she seems one of a kind lady and I can't wait to read her story.

16 Apr 2015

Review: Shooting for the Stars by Sarina Bowen

This review counts to the TBR Challenge 2015, hosted by Wendy at the Misadvetures of a Super Librarian. This month's topic is contemporary romance and this winter sports romance fits the bill. 

Title: Shooting for the Stars (Gravity #3)
Author: Sarina Bowen
Genre: Contemporary romance, sports
Release Date: 16 March 2015

Author's links:
Website / Facebook / Twitter / Goodreads

My rating: 3.5 Stars
Add on Goodreads



Synopsis


For one night she had everything.

Pro snowboarder Stella Lazarus has always loved her brother's best friend. But the one time she tried to show him, she was shot down faster than you can say "competitor disqualified."

Until one blissful night in Tahoe, when Stella finally gets her man.

Or does she? In the morning, Stella and Bear wake up to horrible news. The sort that sends them racing back to Vermont, and straight into the arms of guilt and family obligations.

For all of Bryan “Bear” Barry’s life, three natural laws held true: his best friend Hank was destined for greatness, Hank’s sister Stella was off-limits, and Bear would always manage to negotiate the rocky paths that life threw his way. In the space of two days, that’s all shattered. 

Bear can't believe he slipped up so badly with Stella. Even if his best friend wasn’t lying broken in a hospital bed, it would still be unforgivable. Determined to do better, he devotes himself to his friend's recovery, denying himself the very person he loves. And the very thing he needs.

Review


I love Sarina Bowen's NA college/hockey series, The Ivy Years, and I rather enjoyed the previous book in this adult/winter sport series, Falling from the Sky. 

This one worked even better for me. Little sister and big brother's best friend coupled with friends-to-lovers trope is one I generally enjoy and most sports romances are a hit with me. This is nicely done, low on angst, easy flowing and overall all sweet love story. 

Both Bear and Stella were sports people and I really loved this aspect of the story. Their romance happens at a bad time for both of them - Hank's incident chnages both their perspective on life and it brings them closer together as well as tearing them apart. 

Stella was a great heroine and I'm happy that Ms Bowen created a strong-willed woman determined to make it in the sports world. She had so much going against her, (her brother's success and subsequent incident, her own serious illness as a child, the resistance/lack of support from her family), yet she never gave up and worked hard to follow her dream of free ride snowboarding. 

She was just as stubborn in her affection for Bear. He was also an itneresting character. Coming from the wrogn side of the tracks, always in the orbit of the Lazarus' family but never quite one of them. His life was in a complete trumoil, losing his safe ground and wandering where to go next, yet he stood by Hank and his family. His selflessness and loyalty totally won me over. And it was easy to relate to his sense of loss of direction in life, feeling of inferiority, not deserving someone as strong and determined as Stella. 

There was some going back and forth in their romance, some angst but also really intense feelings and sense of characters belonging together. I really liked the way Hank accepted things, no over-the-top drama, just a normal reaction of being happy because Bear and Stella are happy together. 

The ending was a bit too sweet for me, wrapping things nicely for everyone, more of a fantasy and wishful thinking than reality, but romance is meant to leave you happy and hopeful for the characters and this one did just that.

Purchase links: Amazon / B&N / Kobo / iBooks

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More of my reviews of Sarina Bowen's books:
Falling from the Sky (Gravity #2) - 3.5 Stars
The Year We Fell Down (Ivy Years #1) - 4.5 stars
The Year We Hid Away ( Ivy Years #2) - 4 stars
The Understatement of the Year (Ivy Years #3) - 4 stars


14 Apr 2015

Waiting on Wednesday: Heat Exchange by Shannon Stacey

Waiting on Wednesday is a book meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine and it features books that we are eagerly awaiting to be released.


Title: Heat Exchange (Boston Fire #1) 
Author: Shannon Stacey
Genre/Themes: Contemporary romance, Firefighters
Release Date: 30 June 2015


Add on Goodreads
Pre-order: Amazon / B&N / Kobo / iTunes



Synopsis

Lydia Kincaid's shipping back to Boston, but she's not happy about it. She left to get away from the firefighting community—her father was a firefighter, her brother's a firefighter and, more important, her ex is a firefighter. But family is number one, and her father needs her help running the pub he bought when he retired. Soon, Lydia finds it hard to resist the familiar comfort and routine, and even harder to resist her brother's handsome friend Aidan. 

Aidan Hunt is a firefighter because of the Kincaid family. He's had the hots for Lydia for years, but if ever a woman was off-limits to him, it's her. Aside from being his mentor's daughter, she's his best friend's sister. The ex-wife of a fellow firefighter. But his plan to play it cool until she leaves town again fails, and soon he and Lydia have crossed a line they can't uncross. 

As Aidan and Lydia's flirtation turns into something more serious, Lydia knows she should be planning her escape. Being a firefighter's wife was the hardest thing she's ever done, and she doesn't know if she has the strength to do it again. Aidan can't imagine walking away from Boston Fire—even for Lydia. The job and the brotherhood are his life; but if he wants Lydia in it, he'll have to decide who's first in his heart.

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Why am I waiting for this book? - I quite enjoyed Ms Stacey's Kowaski brothers series - the last one, Falling for Max, was just delicious (my review). Heat Exchange is book 1 in her new series and I haven't really read any firefighters romances so far (I know, it's a shame), so I'm very much looking forward to trying this one. 
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