Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Hot January Reads: Kicking off 2017 Right!

Cheers, everyone, and welcome to the kickoff of the new year and the first of our Book of the Month picks from The Novel Approach!

Since we did our 2016 Book of the Year picks in December, rather than a BotM for that month, we've decided to throw some love at the December titles we got a little giddy over too. Just because we can. :)

And, as always, there's a chance to win Two e-titles from our selections, so be sure to check out the Rafflecopter widget below for details on how to enter.

Thanks for stopping by!

CassieThe Impossible Boy by Anna Martin – “You guuuuuuuys! I loved this book. I hadn’t heard about it until it showed up for review, and I grabbed it on a whim. I’m so glad I did!

First off, this is an adorable, slow build romance involving a gender non-binary individual. Rock on, Anna Martin! Thanks for giving a non-binary character a romance that’s SWEET. The conflicts that happen in this book are not about Stan’s gender identity, which is so, so refreshing. Those discovery kinds of stories are important and meaningful and should absolutely be told, but it’s also vital to see people who’ve already done their discovering, living and loving and getting things done, and that’s Stan! Stan’s got that part sorted already, no need for it to cause drama now. Ben’s band and schedule, Stan’s work and health, they’re what drive the action outside of Ben and Stan’s developing relationship, and that’s plenty and perfect.”

JulesThe Deeper He Hurts by Lynda Aicher – “The Deeper He Hurts is many things. It will punch you in the feels—I teared up during an emotional scene between Asher and his mom—as well as make you think. The characters are intelligent and insightful, and you will absolutely be enthralled by their power exchange, and their dynamics during scenes. This book isn’t only fascinating with regard to the BDSM aspects, however. It’s also an interesting character study in guilt, grief, and loss, as well as a truly gorgeous love story.”

BenNeon Fever Dream by Eliot Peper – “The plot was the huge win for me. I was surprised time and time again. At the outcome of every plot twist, a good mystery will leave me completely flummoxed, while at the same time slapping my forehead with a, “Of course that happened! How could I be so stupid!” I did that at least three times while reading this book. Maybe more.

This novel gave me everything I wanted in a thriller—surprises, quick pacing, great characters, and a colorful setting—while opening my eyes to a larger world. I also deeply appreciated how Asha was more than the sum of her parts. She had incredible agency and bravery. If I had daughters, I’d want them to turn out exactly like her.”

The Queer and the Restless by Kris Ripper – “I was more interested in the mystery elements, which had a good level of suspense and detective work…but which also weren’t solved. However, while I admittedly had a WTF moment after I finished the book, I didn’t take those frustrations out on the rating. I did my own detective work and figured out what was going on with the series, because I’m that kinda guy.

I want to give thanks to Ripper for writing a full LGBTQ spectrum cast. I look forward to experiencing the rainbow by going back and reading the first two books, and then finishing the series. And if that isn’t a solid recommendation, I don’t know what is.”

CarrieNo Small Parts by Ally Blue – “These two men were perfect for each other. The book really follows an age old romantic theme and as such, you know exactly where the story is headed and what’s going to happen. The difference in this book, compared to others, is that Ally Blue has spent the time to get you invested in her characters to the point that knowing the storyline ahead of time doesn’t matter at all. You want—no, you need—life to get better for Nat, and for Rafael to help shoulder some of the burdens he carries. The pacing is nicely done, the storyline flows to its logical conclusion, and they all live HEA. What more could you want in a romance?

There isn’t any angst, not really, just real life situations with Nat’s dad, which have to be dealt with, and I don’t call that angst. The main characters, once established as a couple, don’t deviate from each other. The sex scenes are hot and the book ends with both men being literally and figuratively on the top of a mountain, personally and professionally. This story has brought me back to the Bluewater Bay series.”

Sight Unseen by Susan Mac Nicol – “This story takes us on an emotional journey straight from page one, when Nate awakes in the hospital after being hit by a car while he was out running. Secondary characters abound, and we meet Nate’s current boyfriend immediately, and, quite frankly, I was less than impressed with that guy. The words narcissistic asshole fit really well! But, we also meet Cody’s family, Nate’s new home nurse, Suzanne, (who rocks), and Marty, his therapist (who so deserves his own book) while he is still in the hospital. I appreciated the inclusion of Dev and Blu; their friendship to Nate and Cody, and how they get there, is important. All the secondary characters play important roles in this story, and help to underpin and push forward the story arc.”

SammyMerry Christmas, Mr. Miggles by Eli Easton – “What really makes this little gem shine is Eli Easton’s ability to write characters that pluck at your heartstrings, and never stop tugging. Sean and Toby are just magical together—they are nearly a decade apart in age and yet, there are times when it is the younger of the two, Toby, who steers both the fight for saving Sean and their relationship to boot. In that classic turnaround, it is delightful to watch someone as nice as Sean Miggles finally have someone who really wants to take care of him, particularly since he has been doing that job for so many in the town for so long. The slow build in their relationship is just the right pace to keep this story from becoming clich├ęd or from falling into an insta-love type trope that I feel would have truly damaged this lovely story. I would say the only thing that left me just a bit unsettled was the end—suffice it to say, I will never enter a library again without remembering that portion of this novella.”

Painting with Fire by Lissa Kasey – “Honestly, this story is just top notch from beginning to end. There was intense action juxtaposed by peaceful, intimate moments where you could sense the healing of wounded spirits taking place. Jessie and Charlie’s relationship was a triumph of friendship and loyalty. They fully supported one another, both in the field and in private, and given their pasts, that was a huge thing for both of them. But it is really Bastian who triumphs in this story, learning to develop trust in another person that both opened up a whole new sexual world and an internal confidence that really allowed him to live life again.

Painting with Fire is a lush, poignant story that will draw you in immediately and hold you enthralled to the last page. It is a gorgeous victory of the spirit and a testament to survival, one that should not be missed. I highly recommend it to you.

MaryannMan & Monster by Michael Jensen – “Michael Jensen brings us a story of an American pioneer and some Native American folklore to make for an eerie, action packed, suspenseful and intriguing mystery. The 1700s and the undeveloped land are amazingly descriptive, and I was especially taken with Pakim himself. He was such a great character, elusive and mythical. This novel also poses the question, who is more dangerous, man or monster?

The first book in this fantastic series, Man & Beast, is a must read, introducing readers to John “Johnny Appleseed” Chapman. I am so looking forward to the next novel from Michael Jensen.”

SadonnaDifferent Names for the Same Thing by Francis Gideon – “Different Names for the Same Thing is the second really engaging story I’ve read in the last month with trans main characters. I am so happy that these stories are being written and that the characters are multi-layered with desires and wants and insecurities and fears. I like that the author did not shy away from them expressing their sexuality as well. I think the authenticity of their portrayal allows the reader to connect on an emotional level and empathize with the anxiety that everyone feels in a new relationship. I definitely recommend this story for anyone who is interested in exploring a thoughtful trans romance.”

Winter Oranges by Marie Sexton – “I actually pre-ordered this story at GRL 2015, but never had the chance to read it, so when the audio was up for review, I jumped at it. I am a huge Marie Sexton fan, and I was certainly not disappointed in the story. This is a thoroughly charming tale that pulled me in from the beginning. I loved both Ben and Jason, and watching their relationship build was very entertaining—especially Ben’s embracing the 21st century, and the fact that Jason really cared for him.”

Jennifer From the Ashes by Xen Sanders – “While we may not have superhumans in our world (at least none that I am aware of), our history is embedded in this book. Our struggles and conflicts come to life on the pages of the novel, our social problems mirrored for us to see through a slightly different lens.

This book made me stop and think. Sure, it has some amazing battles, and the sex scenes are so hot I needed to step outside into the snow to cool off, but there is more to this book than just sex. Way, way more.

I have no doubt that this book—my first read in 2017—will make my top ten list for 2017. Very likely it would make my top five. I cannot wait for the next book in the series, and I highly recommend this book to everyone, regardless of whether or not you like superheroes or villains.”

Lisawhatever. or how junior year became totally f$@ked by S.J. Goslee – “Obviously, no Young Adult book is going to be angst free. It wouldn’t be authentic if it were, would it? But the author does such a fantastic job of balancing those deeper moments of abject confusion and fear with just the right amount of wit so as not to allow the story to be bogged down in the emo. Mike and Rook navigating their way around their attraction to, and feelings for, each other is a blend of sweet and poignant, with a little sizzle thrown in—because hormones. The start of their relationship isn’t poetry in motion, but maybe, just maybe, they’ll get it all figured out before graduation.

whatever.: or how junior year became totally f$@ked. has reminded me why I’ve always felt a certain affection for the YA genre. This novel doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel, but what it does is treat its content with due detail and respect, and its characters with a little self-deprecation but with a lot of affection too.”

The Lawrence Browne Affair by Cat Sebastian – “The story’s slow burn of attraction is written so well against the professional and personal distance Georgie and Lawrence attempt to maintain, each for his own reasons, and I loved the stark physical contrast of these two men. Cat Sebastian drew each scene to perfection, crafted a historical setting that grounds readers in the time period without burdening the storyline, and brings Lawrence’s home to the fore in such vivid detail—think the west wing of the Beast’s castle. There isn’t a single character introduced that appears as nothing more than set dressing, and the dialogue helps tell the story as well as the narrative does. When Georgie and Lawrence begin to give in to and act on their attraction to each other, the tension shifts from denial of their feelings to the secrets Georgie is keeping, and the fact that his intentions weren’t at all honest, not to mention legal, when he began this particular con. The conflict of conscience that leads to the novel’s touching and tense climax was really the cherry on top of the story’s sweet romantic arc.”

∞ * ∞

And that does it for this month. Until next time, happy reading. And for more reviews and giveaways, please pop by The Novel Approach any time!

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*Please note that some e-titles may be available only via Amazon and will be distributed as a direct-to-kindle gift if selected*

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Happy New Year

Let's all have a good one. :)

Monday, December 5, 2016

Why I love Red River and what that has to do with Glenn Holloway

When I was fifteen I saw Red River for the first time. I of course, loved cowboys from a very early age just like everyone else, but Red River was a different thing. I discovered Montgomery Clift, (my love affair with him is a whole other thing that would take too long to discuss), who made that movie for me because he was this beautiful, sweet vulnerable man who had to stand up and take charge when he had no clue what he was doing. And the subplot is about a cattle drive while the main one is about a father and son--even though the main characters aren't related by blood--who have to deal with the son realizing his father isn't perfect and the father realizing that his son is all grown up. It's a great movie, full of lots of wisdom and while I could have done without the feisty female lead, everyone else is tropey as hell. Grizzled father, gorgeous son, smartass rival--who could have been the love interest if I wrote it--and the sweet grandfather character. It would have made a great book, maybe it was one, but certainly I remembered things about it when I wrote When The Dust Settles.

Thomas Dunson and his son, Matthew Garth

William Shakespeare said back in his day that there were no more original stories. That's probably true. Everything can be traced back to somewhere else, stories have overtones and characters that remind us of others. The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell's seminal work, basically carved the idea in stone if anyone missed it. So the hero, waiting to burst forth, hiding his light under a bushel, I've read that a million times and in my book, Glenn Holloway is that guy. He's not the strongest guy, as Monty is not in Red River, but about his business and his people, he's the smartest.

Cherry and Matt
 In the movie, Matthew Garth's rival Cherry Valance, (same name as the lead female Soc in SE Hinton's The Outsiders), is a gunfighter. Matthew could have been one, but went the rancher way. With Glenn, he could have been a rancher but his heart wasn't in it, so he went the restaurateur way. But that doesn't mean when called upon to cowboy, that he isn't excellent at that job. I love the idea of people thinking you're one way only to have them be surprised.

 I went through a change with Glenn because when I originally wrote him, I was thinking he was like the other Holloway men, big and  loud and scary. But the more I thought about him, I realized that while he could be just as stubborn and sometimes irrational, he was gentler, quieter, and a bit smaller, leaner, and that too is me thinking about Montgomery Clift in Red River. Because even though he goes head to head with John Wayne--so you know he's powerful enough--he still has more quiet strength than overt aggressiveness. That was what I wanted for Glenn. He can save you, take care of you, he's a hero, but he's not the alpha male, he's the gentle omega that you can count on.

Montgomery Clift
I hope you all can see Glenn's transformation in the novella from the hot-headed, kind of jerk he was in After the Sunset, to the kinder, more introspective guy he's evolved into in When The Dust Settles.And if you have a free Saturday afternoon, you might give a black and white cowboy movie a try and settle in for Red River. It would make a nice cozy in-front-of-the-fire time.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Book of the Month Giveaway: It Was a November to Remember!

Cheers, everyone, and thanks for dropping by to take a look at some of our favorite reads in the month of November at The Novel Approach! It was another great month of reading, difficult to whittle our choices down to our absolute faves, but we managed. :)

So, here they are, our Top Reads in November


BenThe Zozobra Incident by Don Travis – “I loved this book. I loved the setting and feel of being in Albuquerque. I loved our protagonist. I loved the pacing and suspense. This was a complete win for me.

About the setting: I imagine there are quite a few cultural differences between Albuquerque and the Pacific Northwest. However, even taking that into consideration, the story was hitting me more like a nineties historical than a contemporary PI novel, even though there were cell phones and a present-day car or two. Which didn’t bother me in the slightest, but I started to wonder if Albuquerque was sort of stuck in the past, with their western lingo and clothing styles. But I wouldn’t know for sure. That being said, I ate up the outdated fashion, cowboy discos, and silly old-timer expressions.”

LindseyCounterpoint (Song of the Fallen: Book One) by Rachel Haimowitz – “I love good high fantasy when it is written well and has a fairly unique plot which keeps my attention without becoming too confusing. And Counterpoint hit the mark back when I first read it.

The story takes place in a fictitious country where there was a past betrayal between Elves and mankind, creating enmity and dividing the county, each side having their own version of events leading to the treachery. Though humans face a larger issue, they are at war. The Surge is a war with animals, changed in body and mind and gone feral, who thirst for the blood of humans. Elfkind has stayed out of the Surge, but humans blame Elfkind for the war, and there is distrust and hatred. It is a very unique story which completely grasped my attention and wouldn’t let me go.”

MaryannMan & Beast (The Savage Land: Book One) by Michael Jensen – “Man & Beast is a historical thriller that takes place in 1797 and ‘98. Author Michael Jensen has melded factual research with fiction to create an eerily shocking mystery. For the time period, there is much hardship, fear and bigotry, and people have to keep their secrets hidden. This was a first time read for me from this author, and I was totally entertained by the twists and turns that I didn’t see coming. This was an excellent read. I’ll give fair warning, though; there is violence in the story, and it does get gruesome.

There’s also a sneak peek at book two, Man & Monster, at the end, and I hate that I read it. I want more! So I will definitely be looking for the second book in the Savage Land series, coming in January 2017.”

CarrieThe Boyfriend Makeover by River Jaymes – “Because of the differences between these two men, it’s necessary for most of this book to be a tale of how Ky and Noah must come together and be brutally honest with each other. Ky has to get to the bottom of Noah’s self-destructive behavior, and when it is revealed, boy is it a doozy. But Ky has secrets also, and really good reasons for keeping them. It is a slow burn in the romance department. The moments these two do manage to come together are so incredibly hot they literally scorch off the page! The old adage, “you have to love yourself first and foremost before you can love someone else,” is never truer than in this book. The epilogue was sweet and promised a satisfying HEA for these two. I enjoyed the on-page time with the other couples from the series. I would have liked the whole twin sisters/Texas/step father scenario fleshed out a little more, as I feel like I still have questions that will remain unanswered as to what will happen there.

On the whole, I highly recommend this book. It was an excellent addition to the series and I hope River Jaymes decides to write another book for the Boyfriend Chronicles. Hint, hint… Logan.”

JenniferThe Amateur: A Villainous Love Story by T.J. Land – “I don’t want to give too much away, as I feel that the story was so delightful in its reveal. One character is bigender, which I was thrilled to discover through the course of the story. If you have read T.J. Land before, this won’t come as a surprise that the author includes all members of the LGBT community in the story. This character was well developed and incredibly complex. The feelings the others had towards this person were also genuine and so beautifully written that I felt as if they were all very real people I could get to know.

Fans of T.J. Land should not miss this book. I truly hope there is a sequel because I would love to see more from the League and Mister Valiant, as well as Lion Man and the other heroes. What other shenanigans could they get themselves up to? What other threats could arise? What other ways could Eel attempt to seduce everyone? More, please!”

CassieLights, Camera, Cupid!: A Bluewater Bay Anthology – “The premise of the Bluewater Bay series is that all the novels are standalones, loosely grouped around a TV Show being filmed in Bluewater Bay. Each novel covers a different couple, and is written by a different author. The fun is that you can jump in anywhere in the series order, and occasionally you catch cameos of beloved characters that you’ve spent time with before. Which, for character-loving me, is deliciously torturous. The sad part is that you don’t get to spend any significant time with those beloved characters after their book is done.

Until now! (*squeeeeeeee*)

In four of the five stories in this anthology, the authors brought back the couples from their novels, just to feed my fixation on more, More, MORE character details. L.A Witt and Z.A. Maxfield give you peeks into the continuing lives of the characters they coupled in their novels. Anne Tenino gives you insight into the first chance events that her characters experience before getting their second chance in her novel. And Amy Lane pulls back the curtain on the past and the motivations of one of her novel’s secondary characters in about the same timeline as her novel. At least, I think it’s the same timeline. I hadn’t read hers yet, but I picked it up to read right after listening to this anthology, and I’m not quite done yet. But that’s how good her short was!”

JulesA Family for Christmas by Jay Northcote – “Let’s talk about the chemistry between these guys…Wow. They were so great together. Adorable, shy and dorky, sure…But, give them a dark closet to hide in during an innocent game of Sardines? I swear they almost burned the place down. If you don’t pick this one up for the lovely Christmas charm, then pick it up for that scene. Suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuper sexy and fun.

I need to read more Jay Northcote. I don’t even care that he accidentally did fake boyfriends again for this year’s Christmas story! This one was even better, so roll with it I say! But, seriously, A Family for Christmas has it all. Get your fire going, maybe a kitty in your lap (there are so many sweet cats in the book, it will make you want one with you), and some tea or cocoa, and dig into this one. So, so cute and enjoyable.

SadonnaVivaldi in the Dark Box Set by Matthew J. Metzger – “This is the first I’ve read of Matthew J. Metzger’s work. I already had Vivaldi in the Dark, but when the box set was on offer for review, I decided I’d like to read the whole series. Let me just say that these books are quite impressive, especially for someone as young as this author. His ability to capture the heady rush of young love, the fear of realizing that all is not as it seems, the frustration of realizing you can’t fix someone, the acceptance that, for better or worse, this is it. I think he captures the impact of the depression from both the person dealing with the illness and those around them who love them. I can only think that he has had first-hand experience with this disease.

This is a bit of a harrowing series but well worth the effort. Kudos to the author for doing such a brilliant job with a difficult subject. The more books like these that are written and read by people, the more we will have a better understanding of, and empathy for, those who continue to suffer. This was really a beautifully written story told in three novels of love that doesn’t necessarily overcome, but love that perseveres and supports. Bravo!”

SammyMapping the Forest by Brandon Witt – “Mapping the Forest is more than just a sweet romance of healing and rebirth; it is a refection of a community—for better or worse—with all its flaws and gifts. Yes, this group of gay men had managed to find friendship and solace with each other, but the author does not lead us into this Utopian gay world where all is right. Instead, he allows his men to grapple with real life and the issues facing a marginalized people—there is homophobia and hate in this quaint national park suburb, but there is also acceptance and the needed strength to overcome prejudice. These characters are forced to make tough decisions that seem easy but carry long, life-changing consequences, and luckily for us they have a support network to help them through the toughest of times.

Author Brandon Witt has given us a slice of Americana via a national park setting. He has allowed us to watch his family sort out their problems, move past their grieving and find a new someone to call their own. Love blooms in this novel, and it is a sturdy, deep-seated kind, despite the speed with which it was established.”

LisaMonster (Vertex: Book One) by Soren Summers – “Corporate intrigue and the ethical question of using humans as guinea pigs to test Vertex’s latest innovation, Paragon—a scientific breakthrough that will make mankind better, faster, stronger, virtually impervious. And dangerous—gives this novel its dark and gritty edge. Summers’ writing is perfection, every scene is brimming with action, suspense and/or curiosity piquing, and the moral dilemma of right and wrong and who the monsters truly are elevates this novel to another level of excellence in the horror genre. Of course, whenever man interferes with the natural order of life and death, nothing good can come of it, which creates the twist in this novel—once the pin is pulled from the grenade, there’s no turning back. I loved the way the author sprinkled bits of information here and there in what seemed to be an innocuous way, when what was being revealed was not only disturbing but could be downright bone-chilling as well. There are some heartbreaking and brilliantly frightening scenes in this story, too, some great human touches within the inhumanity that gives it an emotional punch I wasn’t at all expecting.”


And that does it for this month. Join us next time when we'll present our Best Books of 2016 picks! 


The Giveaway

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Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving

My favorite time of the year and my favorite holiday. I hope everyone has a wonderful day.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Guest Blogger Jaime Samms

For a long time, now, Mary has given me a standing invite to visit her blog, but for various reasons (read: Jaime is crap at remembering to do things) it hasn’t happened until today. So thank you, Mary, for being so very, very patient.

I'm really happy to be unveiling this print anthology of my dance stories, with three brand new, exclusive to this collection short stories about some of the in-between times and fringe characters alluded to in the main stories. Fair warning, I am totally dragging Mary into this, so be prepared :)

Now, if you all are like me, and I think it’s safe to assume a lot of you are, because if you're here, you probably read Mary’s books and maybe you’ll agree that one of the funnest things she does is treat us to little Easter eggs in her stories. No, not actual Easter eggs. I love it when a Marshal turns up in some unexpected place, or we see a crime boss in the background of a random restaurant scene, or one of Sam and Jory’s kids runs helter-skelter through someone else’s crime scene. (I don’t think that last one ever actually happened. But it could. Food for thought, Mary…)
Anyway, the thing is, this penchant of hers makes me pay more attention to those seemingly inconsequential tertiary characters. You never know where they might pop up again. They might even get their own book some day. In doing so, I have actually ended up paying more attention to some of my own throw-away characters. They become not-so-throw-away, and I feel like they need their little bit of the universe expanded.
So in a way, you can say that Mary is to blame for the three extra short stories in this anthology. So blame Mary. She’s awesome that way.
I’d like to give away a copy of this book while I’m here, and since it’s a print only volume, it will be signed. Here’s what to do: Comment on one of your favourite Easter eggs (one of mine, or one of Mary’s) and I’ll pick a name from the commenters out of a hat and send you a book!
I’ll give some hints for mine, because I’m guessing fewer of you have read fewer of my books than Mary’s. Think Patchwork Heaven music and The Detail Security Experts.)
Good luck, and let’s talk books!

Oh, but first. Pretty cover, because, well. It's spectacular!