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sâmbătă, 25 ianuarie 2020

Review & Giveaway: Haskell Himself

25 ianuarie 0 Comments

Haskell Himself
Gary Seigel
Published by: Acorn Publishing
Publication date: January 19th, 2020
Genres: Historical, LGBTQ+, Young Adult
Meet Haskell Hodge. At sixteen he’s already garnered some fame as a former child actor and star of a popular cereal commercial. But that doesn’t do much for him when he’s dumped at his aunt’s house in the suburbs of Los Angeles to face an assortment of neighborhood bullies.
He thinks he might be gay. In fact, he could be the only gay person in the valley, maybe on the entire planet. Even if he does manage to find a boyfriend, their relationship would have to be secret and invisible.
After all it’s 1966. And though Time Magazine claims the sexual revolution is in full swing, the freedoms straight people are enjoying don’t seem to apply to everyone. And as much as Haskell attempts to hide his true self, carefully navigating the tricky and risky terrain of being queer, he’s still taunted and teased relentlessly.
Rather than give in to the irrationality of this hate, Haskell fights back, eventually finding an unlikely outlet to vent his frustration and angst—playing a bully in a screen test for a major motion picture. If he plays his cards right, it could catapult him into Hollywood stardom.
Of course, like most things in life, it comes with a heavy price Haskell’s not certain he’s willing to pay.

Gary Seigel was raised in Encino, California where his debut novel, Haskell Himself, takes place. After completing a PhD in English at Rutgers University, Gary taught at several colleges and universities, but his most memorable experience was a brief 12 week stint at the same high school he (and Haskell) graduated from, teaching side by side with some of the same teachers he once endured. Currently, Gary gives grammar and proofreading classes to business professionals eager to write error-free emails. He also has spent the past two decades helping employees control their inner jerk when texting or holding conversations with an impossible boss. His book The Mouth Trap: Strategies, Tips and Secrets for Keeping Your Feet out of Your Mouth, published in 2008, has been translated into over a dozen languages. He is the father of three sons and currently lives in South Pasadena.

When I picked up my Kindle to start reading Haskell Himself, I didn't have very high expectations. Having not read many LGBTQ+ books before, I was more hoping to get more diverse stories in my reading year, and the Hollywood-themed 60's story was an added bonus.

From the beginning, I felt immersed in the acting lessons and the choices Haskell makes to get himself on the path of becoming an actor like his own parents. I resonated with being raised by a single mom and a not-so-much-caring father who lives in another part of the country and I felt sympathetic to Haskell having to pretty much take care of himself. 

The book is set after the Sexual Revolution takes place, but being gay is still considered a crime and getting discovered would end Haskell's acting career before it even starts. This situation adds a lot of pressure and frustration as the teenaged boy is trying to discover his sexuality and identity. The drama is multiplied when his mother announces her departure with her married boyfriend and the news bomb that he has to leave New York in his final year of high school and move to LA to live with his aunt's family.

Being a nerd, a former child actor, having starred in a popular cereal commercial and refusing to help the star-athlete cheat for a school assignment at his new high school, he quickly becomes the target of bullies and cruel pranks. But the story is not all drama, because Haskell manages to find true friends in this incredibly difficult situation and great acting opportunities arise.

Haskell Himself is very well written, engaging and unique. The characters are complex, they all have their own driving force, they make mistakes and become better versions of themselves. I definitely recommend this book.

sâmbătă, 18 ianuarie 2020

Review & Giveaway - Escape You by Diana A. Hicks

18 ianuarie 0 Comments

Escape You
Diana A. Hicks
(Cole Brothers, #3)
Publication date: January 13th, 2020
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
One night changes everything…
ATF agent Tyler Cole finally gets the break he’s been waiting for— a big NYC mob case. He just never expected for things to get this complicated.
Before he went undercover he spends an unforgettable night with a mysterious woman.
When they meet again, she’s his prime suspect, pregnant with his baby and about to be married.
Tyler should be trying to put Mia and her crew behind bars— but his desire is blurring the lines between right and wrong.
Mafia boss Mia Torelli learned the hard way that things aren’t always what they seem. She never planned on having a one night stand… with the enemy.
No names. No rules. No regrets.
Her passion filled night with a stranger raised the stakes in a very dangerous game.
Determined to make sure her Family survives the devastating loss of their boss, she must prove herself when she steps up as the new leader.
Mia must protect her secret at all costs, but an underground faction has other plans for her… and Tyler.
Note: This is a steamy romance with explicit sensual scenes, happily ever after, no cheating, and no cliffhanger. Can be read as a standalone.
Don’t miss out on this suspenseful and seductive series!
Unravel You, Book 1 (Derek and Valentina)
Provoke You, Book 2 (Matt and Ela)
Escape You, Book 3 (Tyler and Mia)
Unleash You, Book 4 (Wesley and Anabelle)
Defy You, Book 5 (Zack and Rebecca)

Diana A. Hicks is an award-winning author of steamy contemporary romance with a touch of suspense. Book two in her Desert Monsoon series, LOVE OVER LOGIC, won the 2019 Readers’ Favorite Silver Medal Winner in the Romance – Suspense genre
When Diana is not writing, she enjoys kickboxing, traveling, and indulging in the simple joys of life like wine and chocolate. She lives in Atlanta and loves spending time with her two children and husband. Connect with Diana on social media to stay up to date on her latest releases.  Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / Bookbub

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Escape You by Diana A. Hicks is the third book in a series about the Cole brothers, but the books can be read in any order. It is also the only book in this series that I've read so far. The book is written from the perspectives of the two main characters and love interests - Mia and Tyler, each chapter alternating between the two. 

Mia is the new boss of a Jersey mafia crew, an independent woman, with a strong will, confident and protective of her crew, which she thinks of as family. This is the only life she knows and isn't ashamed of it. Though a criminal, she does have a clear set of morals and limits she wouldn't step over, which becomes evident in the second part of the book. Mia is trying to be a different kind of boss, strict but just and sometimes merciful, punishing traitors, but not ending their lives. Her new position as boss of the biggest Jersey crew is vulnerable, as some of her family members don't see her fit for the task, and actually want her to fail. This creates an opportunity for mister Rossi, boss of the New York clan to set in motion a plan to take over Jersey and get a spot at the big mafia clans' table. 

Tyler, on the other hand, is an ATF agent, which makes the two enemies. Unbeknownst to each others' identities, the two have a one night stand in a bar (yes, in the actual bar) and since then can't forget about each other. As luck has is, Tyler is offered a new case involving Mia, when he discovers her true identity. He has to confess his liaisons with her and refuse, but one month later, when Rossi's grandson dies, he finds himself tied to Mia again. This time it's an undercover mission where he would pretend he's Rossi's grandson for the FBI since the similarity of the two is uncanny and Rossi hadn't seen his grandson in years. 

The romance felt a bit rushed to me, it was one of those love at first sight kind of stories. It's also a bit odd how Mia gets pregnant with Tyler after that first one night stand, since using multiple condoms is mentioned (it's not a spoiler, don't worry, it's also mentioned in the book blurb). And then how fate constantly pushes them in difficult situations together like getting fake married under Tyler's fake identity. Despite that, or perhaps because of it, the book is unputdownable and as addictive as watching a soap opera - you see all the cliches yet you still want to know what happens to the characters next. 

I didn't feel I was missing out a lot when Tyler's brothers made an appearance, though it would've been a bonus if I knew their stories in detail as well. It's never too late, though. 

The book is clearly a page-turner, with lots of twists and steamy romance. I couldn't help but root for the characters in their pursuit of romance, happiness and putting aside their different backgrounds to defeat a common enemy. 

Allie offered me a warm smile until her gaze moved from mine to someone behind me. Then she beamed as if she’d just had the come of her life. I glanced over my shoulder and saw him. Or did I? I looked again. Shit. I did a double take on a stranger. I covered the side of my face and concentrated on my drink. Honestly, I’d been dealing with man-children all week. I didn’t need this at my oasis too.
In my peripheral vision, long fingers braced the edge of the counter. A voice something like warm honey ordered a bourbon neat. Had I seen that face right? I had a feeling I knew him, but at the same time I was sure he wasn’t from around here. I knew everyone in town. A guy like that stood out. Allie poured his drink, biting her bottom lip, which looked very creepy because she couldn’t stop smiling.
“Thank you.” The guy sat and took a long swig of his drink. He raked a hand through his hair. A few dark tresses rebelled and fell back on his cheek.
“As much as I hate to say this”—Allie leaned on the bar—“it’s last call.”
I’d seen that look on her face many times. She was taking this guy home. A part of me wished I could do the same. But my old life, my freedom, all that was gone. Or it needed to be gone. As Uncle Mickey used to say, love would get you killed. In the end, greed got him killed, but I still thought there was truth in his words. Not that I was planning on falling for this guy who I’d seen a total of two seconds. Thing was, I couldn’t fall for anyone at all, or they’d end up dead, like Mom.
I knew being the lady boss would take some adjusting. Backing down wasn’t an option for me. If that meant I couldn’t take a gorgeous guy home with me, so be it. I could be like Queen Elizabeth I and swear off men. Sipping my drink, I settled in my barstool to watch Allie flirt and work her thing on this guy.
“No problem. I’ll cash out.” He stood and dug into the front pocket of his dark pants. Dark dress shirt, dark hair, dark stubble on a chiseled jaw, and steel blue eyes. Dammit, why did I look?
Don’t smile.
He smiled at me — all straight, white teeth, and full lips. “Would you put her drink on my tab?”
“No, thanks. I can pay for my own alcohol.”
He put up his hands and flashed me a grin. “Okay, no drinks.”
His gaze met mine, and I pulled another newbie mistake. I looked. I tried not to, but my eyes dropped to the pecs showing just above the first button of his shirt.
Allie placed a couple of dirty glasses in the dishwasher behind the bar, then took off her apron. She poured me another cocktail and winked.
His deep voice boomed a barstool away as he leaned toward Allie. “How come she gets another drink and I don’t?”
“She works here, honey.” Allie surveyed his face. After several beats, she shook her head and served him another bourbon. “On the house.”
She stalked around the counter and hugged me. “I’m taking one for the team today. He’s all yours. Don’t ever say I don’t get you shit.”
I barked out a laugh. “I’m good. I was gonna go home anyway.”
“You have the key.” She raised an eyebrow and pressed her lips to my ear. “Lock the door behind you.”
“That wasn’t the point for giving me access,” I called after her.
“It is tonight.” With a quick wave and sigh directed at the stranger, who looked as confused as I was, she went out the front door.
My body jerked when I glanced around the bar. We were alone. How’d that happen? I had to get out of here. The last thing I needed was a new friend. New friends came with a bunch of complications. I had plenty of those. I had a crew to run, and no time for beautiful strangers.
“I have to walk you out.” I gestured for him to leave the bar.
“You’re not even going to ask my name?” He stood, and his tall frame oozed confidence and something else I recognized as danger.
“What’s your name?”
I shook my head. On a normal day, I’d give him my name, flirt, or maybe I’d check to see if that chest was as muscled as it looked. But my life was on south of normal these days. Think Queen Elizabeth I.
“Okay. No names.” He glared at the front door, then turned his attention to me. “I had a rough day, week, if I’m being honest. Would you mind if I finished my bourbon?”
I glanced back at the bar. We both had fresh drinks. “I suppose that’s harmless enough.”
We sat in silence, sipping from our glasses. My gaze darted over to him every time he moved, when his finger tapped on the counter, when he licked his lips, when his legs slid down the stool until his feet were fully planted on the wooden floor.
“What happened to you? Female problems or work stuff?”
He shifted toward me, and I did the same. “So talking about work problems is safe, but not names.”
“Something like that.” I should have left ten minutes ago.
“Work stuff. I got passed over for a job I wanted.” He shrugged as if it didn’t sting anymore, though the gloom that lingered in his blue eyes said otherwise. That was something I could relate to. Someone literally had to die for me to get the job I wanted.
“And you?”  he asked.
“What about me?”
“The way you’re clinging to that drink suggests you also had a hell of a day. Week?”
I raised my hand. “Week.”
He offered me a kind smile. “Want to talk about it?”
I did my best not to melt off my seat. “I got the job I wanted last week. But my subordinates seem to be on a mission to see me fail.” I attempted a smirk, but it quickly turned into a frown. That was the crux of it. My own people, my family, wanted to see me fail. Or rather, they wanted to see me not try at all.
“I’m sorry to hear that. People can be assholes sometimes.”
“I say cheers to that.” I tapped his glass with mine, and we both drank.
My gut told me this was a bad idea. Not listening to my gut was also a bad idea. I braced my hands on the bar and pushed myself off the stool. He watched me with expectant eyes, as if he wanted me to leave.
I went for honesty. “Bad timing.”
He nodded, sucking air through his teeth. “Same. Otherwise, I would beg you to stay.”
The electric shock his words infused through my body set me right. I walked backward several steps, and he advanced a single one. Technically, I was walking him out, but his slow gait felt more as if he were  chasing me out the door.

luni, 13 ianuarie 2020

Wrap Up #42 | Ce c─âr╚Ťi am citit ├«n decembrie 2019

13 ianuarie 0 Comments

C─âr╚Ťile pe care le-am citit ╚Öi le prezint ├«n acest clip sunt: ­čîÖ Co╚Ömarul de la Killman Creek - Rachel Caine ­čîÖ O dorin╚Ť─â de Cr─âciun ­čîÖ N─âscut─â din fum ╚Öi os - Laini Taylor ­čîÖ Vremuri de s├ónge ╚Öi str─âluciri de stele - Laini Taylor ­čîÖ Queen of Nothing / Regina f─âr─â regat - Holly Black ­čîÖ The Burnout Generation ­čîÖ Always my Viscount - Dan Brower