5 Stars, Audio Book, Jay Bell, Narration Rating - 5 Stars, New Adult, Reviewed by Kathie, Self-Published, Young Adult

Audio Review: Something Like Lightning by Jay Bell – Narrated by Kevin R. Free

Audio Gem

Amazon

Amazon

Title: Something Like Lightning: Volume 5

Author: Jay Bell

Narrator: Kevin R. Free

Publisher: Self-Published

Run Time: 14 hours and 18 minutes

At a Glance: Jay Bell and Kevin R. Free are both talented craftsmen.  What a great combination!

Reviewed By: Kathie

Blurb: Never stop running. No matter how often life trips you up or how many times your enemies knock you down, just get up and keep on moving until you find where you belong.

Kelly Phillips has been out and proud since he was a young teenager, and thanks to the gay youth group he frequents, he’s never been short on friends or lovers. But when you have almost everything, it’s hard not to focus on what’s just out of reach: a best friend who would be Mr. Right if he wasn’t already Mr. Straight. Or that handsome athlete at school who would be easier to wrangle if not for his angel wings. And then there’s the guy who might be a perfect fit, maybe even a soul mate…if only he wasn’t convinced he didn’t need anyone. Kelly has always been good at running. Now he must learn to chase, which will test not only his endurance but the durability of his heart as well.

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Review: Jay Bell is an auto-buy author for me.  It started with Something like Summer (the eBook published in 2011, the audiobook released in May, 2013), and from that point on, I have read every word of the Something Like series, and have listened to just about all of them. Listening to a Something Like audio is not a small commitment.  Something Like Lightning is 14 hours and 18 minutes, and it’s not a skip-ahead kind of listen. Jay Bell mixes so many characters into his story that if you do try and fast forward, you will miss a plot twist or, in Kelly Phillips’ case, a new opportunity in his love life or career.

The title of this book, Something Like Lightning, really describes the whole feel of the book. Not only is Kelly quick to make decisions, quick to get mad, quick to make judgements, and quick to fall in love, but the other characters are also quick to make decisions: for example, Nathaniel is quick to leave and really, pretty quick to come back to Kelly. What I liked and hated about Kelly was his confidence in himself. Before the accident he was very self-absorbed, but after the accident, he needed that confidence to keep moving forward. What surprised me is that towards the end of the story, I truly liked Kelly and wanted him to have a happy ending. And Nathaniel, who I thought was kind of a hero to go find a hole to bury himself in… what a shortsighted jerk! I know, very strong words from me, but just read or listen to the book. Jay Bell is such a great writer that you become invested in his characters. The next book in the series, Something Like Thunder, is Nathaniel’s story.  I suppose I am going to learn to like him. But really, Jay Bell… Do I have too?

What a talent Kevin R Free has. He doesn’t just tell us a story, he uses his voice to pull us into the world of Jay Bell.  Would I recommend that you purchase this audio and invest 14 hours of your time listening?  You bet I would! Jay Bell and Kevin R. Free are both talented craftsmen.  What a great combination!

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You can buy Something Like Lightning here:

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A.J. Truman, Giveaways

Guest Post and Excerpt: The Behind Closed Doors Blog Tour With A.J. Truman

Author's Spotlight

Where are all the baldies and the fatties?

Chances are, if you’re reading a M/M romance story, sooner or later the guys will remove their clothes. (Hopefully sooner!) And chances are, when they get nekkid, they will have six-pack abs, chiseled muscles, and not an ounce of fat.

Now, I know books are fiction. The M/M genre traffics in tropes and types. I love reading about ridiculously sculpted guys bumpin’ uglies just as much as the next reader. However, there’s something to be said about guys with meat on their bones. An article went viral this spring touting the sexiness of dadbod. Beerguts, untoned arms, receding hairlines – total turnons! Bigger guys can be hot. Bigger guys can be cute. And bigger and fat doesn’t have to equal the Nutty Professor or Jared before Subway. There’s plenty of sexy in between Greek gods and morbidly obese.

While I do love me some hot bodies, I also have a soft spot (or maybe, um, hard spot?) for chubby guys. When I saw Neighbors last summer, I preferred Seth Rogen over Zac Efron. Watching Mad Men, yes, I think Jon Hamm is a pillar of sexiness, but I found Rich Sommer, who played Harold Crane, cute in his own teddy bear way.

AJ Truman

My current crush is the prison guard Joel Luschek on Orange is the New Black, played by Matt Peters. He has these penetrating eyes, thinning hair, full beard, and big gut, but you put it all together, and he is a total cutie. Yes, please, and thank you.

AJ Truman

I’d love to see more M/M characters who look like Seth, Harold Crane, or Luschek. On the flip side, there are people who find skinny guys with no muscle definition incredibly good-looking. I think there’s room in the genre to feature imperfect bodies. Guys exist without cut jawlines and rock hard abs, who myself and others would want to read get it on.

I’m aware that sex sells. Hot guys on covers sell. I’m promoting a book right now with a jacked body on the cover. But we’ve also seen covers with no bodies and covers with normal looking guys sell well. Variety is the spice of life.

In one of the stories in Behind Closed Doors, excerpted below, the love interest for Blake is chubby, full-faced, and sporting a beard and chest hair. I based him on a guy I briefly dated many years ago, who reminded me of a fat Ryan Gosling. I’m excited to incorporate a different body type into my M/M writing.

Perfect bodies can get boring. It’s our imperfections which make us attractive.

What do you think about body types in M/M? Sound off in the comments!

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Behind Closed DoorsBlurb: At Browerton University, a lot can happen behind closed doors.

Two frat brothers can reveal their true feelings. An honor student’s dark past can come to light. Ten hours in a car can turn strangers into lovers. And a coach can teach his star quarterback a very valuable lesson.

Catch up with some familiar Browerton students and meet new ones. Four stories. Four doors. Endless possibilities.

Door Number One: The Whitmore Room (Out in the Open prequel)

Door Number Two: Is There a Porn Star in my Class?

Door Number Three: Road Trip Cone of Silence

Door Number Four: Coach’s Revenge

BEHIND CLOSED DOORS is a collection of gay new adult romance stories filled with humor, heart, and hot guys. The book is intended for audiences 18+ as it contains explicit sex and language.

Buy Link: Amazon

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Excerpt: During his History of the Renaissance class, the same thought came to Blake Corrigan. More of a question, really. Eight words that itched at the back of his brain and refused to leave him alone.

Is there a porn star in my class?

It was a question Blake had tried to laugh off, but it never got the hint. His curiosity had been piqued innocently enough. Winter break was over, and he was ready for a fresh quarter of classes. He recently switched majors from journalism to acting. After acting in a few plays around campus and taking a few performance classes, he decided to take the plunge. It was truly a new year, a new schedule, a new Blake. He had dumped a guy who he’d thought was Mr. Perfect but had turned out to be Mr. Perfect’s sketchy, sleazetastic cousin. Never fall in love over beer pong. Another relationship down the drain. Another gay guy to avoid at parties.

Blake had chosen this class as one of his arts and sciences distribution requirements. Unlike his fellow actors, he didn’t go for the easy class this time. He wanted to challenge himself and learn and be bowled over by gorgeous works of art.

He also wanted more modern forms of eye candy.

Blake couldn’t help scoping out the guys in his lecture hall. He did it with every class the way some people always look for emergency exits in crowded restaurants. Force of habit.

Blake called him Portlandia. With his disheveled brown hair, thick beard, button-down plaid, and chunky hipster glasses, the guy looked like he’d crawled out of a coffee shop in the Pacific Northwest.

Unlike Blake’s usual class crushes, Portlandia was cute, not hot. He had some meat on his bones and freckles flecked his nose. He listened attentively and seemed to give a shit about the Renaissance. He didn’t have that jaded or dazed look in his eye that most college students walked around with daily. Portlandia was different. A new type for a new year for a new Blake.

It started as a few harmless glances during class, a concerted effort to enter and exit from the same door as him, a flutter of butterflies in his stomach whenever Portlandia spoke in class. But one morning, when his roommate was off at an early class, Blake took advantage of the privacy and jerked off to Internet porn. Appropriately enough, he found a video of a professor giving it to his star pupil butt-good. As the clean-cut blond moaned in pleasure and begged his professor to come on his face, Blake had a realization.

I know that guy.

He thought the freckles and pert nose under that face full of jizz looked familiar, but he laughed it off. Then he went to class and took a good look at Portlandia. He tried focusing beyond the beard, the glasses, the full face. Then he stopped laughing.

Is there a porn star in my class?

The professor showed off images of Da Vinci’s works on an overhead projector. Blake craned his neck up and to the left and checked out Portlandia in the far row. He tried doing facial recognition to no avail. Why did that actor have to make so many exaggerated O-faces?

Perhaps they were distant cousins. Portlandia did not have the ripped muscles and shredded abs of the guy on Blake’s computer screen. Nor did his skin have the same tan glow. Although in Pennsylvania, in January, who could blame him? And he wore glasses, not as a prop.

Like, to actually see.

Portlandia caught him staring and gave him a polite you’re creeping me out, dude smile. Blake turned around in his seat.

“No way,” he muttered to himself. It was a ridiculous concept at his core. Porn stars did not go to college in the middle of Pennsylvania. They lived in Los Angeles or Miami, where it was warm, where they didn’t need their brains. Blake wished his life was this exciting. It wasn’t. Porn stars did not go to Browerton University and take art history classes on Wednesday afternoons. They didn’t study the David. They were the David.

Still, a certain part of Blake (not that part) wasn’t convinced. Didn’t guys do porn to save up for college, or was that only stripping? He would have to get a better, closer look. A mystery like this needed to be solved. It was either that or pay attention in class.

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Author BioAbout the Author: A.J. Truman remembers his college days like it was yesterday, even though it was definitely not yesterday. He writes books with humor, heart, and hot guys. What else does a story need? He loves spending time with his pets and his partner and writing on his sun porch.

Social Media: Website | Goodreads | Facebook | Mailing List | Email

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4.5 Stars, BDSM/Kink/Erotica, Fantastic Fiction Publishing, Lynn Kelling, New Adult, Reviewed by Lisa

Review: Learning from the Master by Lynn Kelling

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Title: Learning from the Master (Manse: Bound By Lies 0.5)

Author: Lynn Kelling

Publisher: Fantastic Fiction Publishing

Pages/Word Count: 50 Pages

At a Glance: A young man’s erotic journey into the world of Dominance and submission.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: Most things in life come easily to eighteen-year-old Jenner Parrish, who’s on track to inherit the family business, and is popular, well-liked and good looking. He has everything he could want, except when it comes to love, and sex. Closeted, lonely and desperate, he acquires an invitation to an event at a nearby private gay club, Manse. Feeling out of his element and for the first time quite shy, Jenner is unable to play the wallflower when he captures the attention of the suave, seductive owner of Manse, David Davenport. David is used to getting what he wants, and what he wants is gorgeous young Jenner, who begins to realize every fantasy and wild desire could be his for the taking, if only he dares to ask and obediently serve.

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Review: Lynn Kelling’s Learning from the Master is a short prequel to the author’s Bound by Lies, a book Jackie reviewed for TNA back in August of 2013, and a fact I’d overlooked before I started reading it. I can now say, upon finishing, that my appetite for more Jenner Parrish won’t be satisfied until I continue reading his story.

Learning from the Master offers us a glimpse at Jenner, the young man he was before he became the Master in “Bound“, though even at the tender age of eighteen, he knows he’s meant to Dominate. Jenner is the Golden Boy, small town football hero, in line to inherit the Parrish family business, gorgeous and deeply in the closet, but he also knows he’s missing something crucial to his being. After garnering an invitation to Manse, an exclusive gay club, Jenner meets his destiny in the man who will set about altering and shaping the budding Dom’s future.

David Davenport is the wealthy businessman and powerful Dom who owns Manse. He’s also the man who recognizes in Jenner a Dom-in-Waiting, and takes it upon himself to win Jenner’s submission in order to train and mentor him to become the Master, the man who will eventually come to long for his own submissive—something Jenner awakens to when he witnesses firsthand the deep love and trust that binds David and his own sub Shea.

Lynn Kelling has crafted a novella that is touching in its portrayal of Jenner’s devotion to David, as well as his desire to protect and care for Shea, the man who stirs in Jenner the most important lesson he will ever learn—how precious the submission and trust is between a slave and his Master when there is an abiding devotion there as well.

Learning from the Master is erotic, though not gratuitously so for the story it’s telling. Though not a virgin, it’s Jenner’s sexual awakening that’s the heart of this story, and in order for that awakening to come to fruition, for him to discover what he needs in order to be fulfilled, Jenner must learn not only to trust in and listen to his own instincts, but he must learn to do so by submitting to David’s instruction, whether that means being Dominated by David or David giving his permission for Jenner to Dominate others.

Based on Jackie’s recommendation of Bound by Lies, and my own experience with Learning from the Master, I feel it’s safe to say if you haven’t read “Bound” yet, begin here and work your way toward the rest of Jenner’s story. This is a lovely start to a young Dom’s initiation and transformation, and it sounds like Bound by Lies is a great followup to his journey.

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You can buy Learning from the Master here:

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Giveaways, Hayden Thorne, JMS Books LLC

Exclusive Excerpt and Giveaway: The Golem Upstairs by Hayden Thorne

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The Novel Approach welcomes author Hayden Thorne today, with an excerpt and giveaway of her newest book The Golem Upstairs, sequel to Sheridan Diggins and the Dead Horde.

To enter for the chance to win an e-copy of the new book, just click on the Rafflecopter widget below.

Good luck!

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The Golem UpstairsBLURB: Book 2 of the Cecilian Blue-Collar Chronicles

Sheridan Diggins hasn’t had much luck in love. In fact, he hasn’t had much luck in anything, period. So when the prince of the underworld takes a sudden fancy to him, the future should look promising.

Or shouldn’t it?

Unfortunately, dating the youngest prince of the dead comes with a few complications. Yuli Soulweaver’s presence “upstairs” stirs up long-dormant magic, which adds to the baffling day-to-day experiences of Cecilia’s colonists. There’s also the danger of aliens and colonists discovering the existence of a magical universe, which could blow the lid wide open between two worlds that aren’t meant to come together.

The worst part, of course, is the fact that someone from Yuli’s world appears to have discovered the lovers’ dirty little secret and has taken the step of sending a mindless monster to do away with Sheridan.

Suddenly, paying the bills takes a backseat to Sheridan’s bizarre love life.

Buy Links: JMS Books | Amazon | Smashwords

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EXCERPT – FROM CHAPTER 12:

It was with some relief he picked up a pregnant woman who looked about ready to pop out a baby at any moment. She was terribly friendly and sweet, the chatty type whom one wanted desperately to adopt on the spot. Sheridan helped her inside the astro-cab and readjusted the seatbelt for her.

“Thank you so much,” she said, smiling in clear relief and joy as she relaxed in her seat. She pointed at her giant belly. “God, I’m just dying to get this over with.”

Sheridan laughed as he took his place and buckled up. He pulled out his ship’s map and asked, “So where are you headed, ma’am?”

Grandma Janet, whose spirit is bound to Sheridan's astro-cab, becomes Sheridan's confidante despite the fact the two bicker pretty often. In the absence of Sheridan's parents, who both died in his teens, his caustic and blunt grandmother becomes their stand-in. Sheridan might not appreciate it at the moment, but he'll eventually realize just how much he really needs her. I say Grandma Janet does Sophia Petrillo (Estelle Getty) proud.)

Grandma Janet, whose spirit is bound to Sheridan’s astro-cab, becomes Sheridan’s confidante despite the fact the two bicker pretty often. In the absence of Sheridan’s parents, who both died in his teens, his caustic and blunt grandmother becomes their stand-in. Sheridan might not appreciate it at the moment, but he’ll eventually realize just how much he really needs her. I say Grandma Janet does Sophia Petrillo (Estelle Getty) proud.

When she didn’t answer right away, Sheridan glanced back and found her staring at him with a faint smile.

“Ma’am?”

“You aren’t much,” she said. Her voice had taken on a different quality, too. It had softened and lowered in tone as though she were speaking to herself. But there was something else to it.

Sheridan blinked, his brain fighting to follow two completely diverging paths. “I’m sorry, I didn’t hear you the first time,” he said.

“I look at you now, and I wonder. What does he see in – oh!” The woman gave a start, her eyes widening. “Did I just blank out? I’m so sorry.” She blushed now, laughing in embarrassment. “It’s hormones, I think. Anyway, I owe you an address, don’t I?”

In another moment they were on their way, with Sheridan staring ahead and feeling his skull expand. What had just happened? He couldn’t even be sure about what he’d witnessed.

It had happened so quickly, and it had come from out of the blue, completely taking him by surprise. It took some doing to wrestle himself back to the present.

The pregnant woman turned out to be his last passenger before lunch. He watched her slowly pick her way along a footpath with the help of a couple of friends, all three women chatting happily as they went.

The colonists' change in skin, eye, and hair colors are a spoof of the more elaborate and kickass diversity of more traditional sci-fi stories and films. Only the "friendly alien neighbors" exhibit distinct physical characteristics, but even their names are parodies of the more cosmic versions. Okay, the entire Cecilian Chronicles series is a sci-fi spoof. There you go.

The colonists’ change in skin, eye, and hair colors are a spoof of the more elaborate and kickass diversity of more traditional sci-fi stories and films. Only the “friendly alien neighbors” exhibit distinct physical characteristics, but even their names are parodies of the more cosmic versions. Okay, the entire Cecilian Chronicles series is a sci-fi spoof. There you go.

Sheridan watched them vanish inside an apartment building. “Hey, Grandma?” he asked.

“Yes, I heard. Lovely young lady, I must add. She really shouldn’t be traveling around so much with her being that big,” Grandma Janet said without a pause for breath. Then again, she was dead, so pausing to catch a breath seemed superfluous.

“You know what I mean.”

“I do. I was just dicking with you.”

Sheridan sighed. “What did she say? I’m not sure I heard her right.”

“She said something about you not being much, but I don’t know – maybe she meant you don’t look like much? She mumbled her words half the time, but that might be nothing more than the end result of talking with two voices. The other thing she said got cut off. I didn’t really catch that one. I think I was too busy worrying about her popping like a tick on a heat lamp and really ruining your day.”

“Hold on – did you say she spoke in two voices?”

“She sure sounded like it. One was her voice – I know that for sure. The other was lower, almost masculine.” Grandma Janet paused. “Good lord, is she a ventriloquist? I’ve never met one before. I’ve always thought they were nothing more than just relics from ancient Earth history, but if there are professional ventriloquists on Cecilia, I feel so goddamned cheated now.”

Sheridan’s hair stood on end. He’d heard the second thing the woman had said, but the nature of her voice had just been made clear to him. He’d thought she sounded downright bizarre, but never had he even entertained the notion that she’d be speaking in two different voices, literally. The unease returned, and Sheridan quickly flew Old Myrna away.

The golem is a creature from Jewish folklore, and part of its characteristics are used in this installment. I also made use of its modern definition, so the golem coming after Sheridan is also a lumbering idiot.

The golem is a creature from Jewish folklore, and part of its characteristics are used in this installment. I also made use of its modern definition, so the golem coming after Sheridan is also a lumbering idiot.

“Is there something wrong, kiddo?” Grandma Janet piped up, breaking the silence. “You’re speeding.”

“Oh – uh – I just wanted to get to the fish and chip stand before the lunchtime crowd shows up.”

“Oh. Okay. For a moment I thought you were freaking out over that pregnant ventriloquist. I wonder where she performs. I’m sure she’s pretty damned good in her work. I swear, I’ve never seen anyone give off such potent vibes the way she did.”

“Don’t know what you’re talking about, Grandma.”

“Oh – you know. I think it’s called emoting in the theater world. In her case, she talked with two voices and really gave me a strong feeling of wanting to destroy you if she weren’t hobbled so much by her gigantic belly. I’m calling it now – she’s going to have triplets.”

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4 Stars, Dirk Hunter, Dreamspinner Press, New Adult, Reviewed by Sadonna

Review: After School Activities by Dirk Hunter

Title: After School Activities

Author: Dirk Hunter

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 200 Pages

At a Glance: A very entertaining read from a new author that covers a lot of different coming-of-age topics, with both humor and pathos.

Reviewed By: Sadonna

Blurb: Two guys insist on complicating Dylan O’Connor’s life: one, his bully, and the other, his best friend.

It started out simple enough. Step one, outsmart Adam with wit and flair, goad him into doing something stupid, and land him in detention. Step two, play video games with Kai all night and laugh about it. Go to bed. Repeat tomorrow. Only, Adam and Kai are about to change the rules on him.

First, Adam’s bullying turns suddenly violent, leaving Dylan to wonder if his bully really needs a friend. Then, Kai makes an unexpected move Dylan has only imagined in his most secret fantasies. Only he’d never dreamed it might come at a price.

While Adam opens up, coming closer to revealing a secret he’s kept his entire life, Kai pulls away even as they get closer than ever.

With everything he thought he understood turned upside down, Dylan must decide what he really wants from the men in his life—before inaction loses him the very relationships he’s always relied on.

No pressure, Dylan. You got this. It’s just love. How hard could it be?

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Review: I love it when I find a new-to-me author whose book I really enjoyed reading. This is one of those times. Dirk Hunter is one of those authors, and I only see one title available, but I’m hoping we can look forward to more stories.

In some ways, this story reminds of other coming-of-age stories, but there are some different turns and twists on the traditional tropes that kept my interest from the beginning. That being said, what really made the book for me was the voice of the protagonist, Dylan O’Connor. This is a smart, funny kid who is surprisingly quite self-possessed for a seventeen-year-old. He’s definitely “out” at his high school and has been the target of bullies for years – especially one Adam Anderson, quintessential jock. The story opens to what is apparently a common occurrence of these two in the Principal’s office, explaining their latest run-in – in this case, over the harassment of a new freshman who hasn’t yet learned how to stay out of the way of the roving jock packs. Dylan comes to the rescue, and in a no good deed goes unpunished scenario, finds himself in hot water again.

It turns out that Dylan and Adam have a long history of sparring, and Dylan sort of revels in their interaction at this point. It’s one of the high points of his days, and he misses it when things change. In addition to his run-ins with Adam, Dylan’s best friends, Malachi (Kai) and Mel, are his sounding boards and pals. They are a bit like the three musketeers. Kai is the first person Dylan came out to, and they have always been very close. They spend lots of time together, and then things begin to change.

Dylan and Adam’s latest confrontation takes on a physical element, and Dylan suspects that something is very wrong because this is a complete departure from their usual contact. When Adam takes Dylan up on his offer to talk, he reveals some startling surprises, and Dylan begins to understand that there is a lot more to Adam than meets the eye. Then, when things aren’t weird enough, Kai takes their relationship to a completely different and very surprising place that not only throws Dylan for a loop but threatens the tentative friendship he is building with Adam.

In addition to the main characters of Dylan, Adam, and Kai, there are some really amazing supporting characters. Dylan’s parents, especially, are a hoot! I LOVE the O’Connors. They are funny and supportive, and they provide a lot of comic relief. Among the other high school characters, Charlotte and Mel and Tiffany provide some grounding for the boys and the story. I’m not sure teenage girls really behave this way – but then again, I’m not sure I was ever really a teenage girl, and I certainly haven’t been one for quite some time ;)

I don’t want to reveal too much about the plot, because I think it’s a lot more fun to discover the winding paths and revelations while reading the story. In some ways, this books reminds me a bit of John Goode’s Tales of Foster High series, but with a lot more humor and a lot less angst. It also is not YA, and there is quite a bit of sex in this story. Dylan really comes across as a very mature and pretty thoughtful guy. This never bothers me because I was old by the time I was eleven, and I think that a lot of kids are mature way beyond their years, but if that bothers you, you may have issues with this portrayal. He’s had a pretty good life and he knows it. I felt like he was realistically portrayed as having a healthy amount of gratitude and understanding of his luck, particularly as he begins to understand what some of his peers have been through.

I recommend this book for anyone who likes a coming-of-age story with smart funny characters who have to deal with the curveballs life throws at them. The writing style and voice of Dylan is highly entertaining and kept me engaged, wanting to know what was going to happen next. I’m not sure what this author is working on now, but I would definitely be interested to see where he will take us next.






You can buy After School Activities here:

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4 Stars, Anna Martin, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, New Adult, Reviewed by Jules

Review: Signs by Anna Martin

Title: Signs

Author: Anna Martin

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 200 Pages

At a Glance: I continue to be a big fan of Anna Martin – an absolutely fantastic storyteller.

Reviewed By: Jules

Blurb: After spending most of his life in special schools, Caleb Stone now faces public high school in his senior year, a prospect that both excites him and threatens to overwhelm his social anxiety. As a deaf teenager, he’s closed himself off to the world. He speaks a shorthand with his parents and even finds it hard to use American Sign Language with people in his local deaf community. But Caleb finds comfort in his love of photography. Everything he can’t express in real life, he posts on his Tumblr.

Struggling to reconcile his resentment for his father’s cruelty with the grief of losing a parent, Luc Le Bautillier scrolls through Tumblr searching for someone who might understand his goth look and effeminate nature. When Luc reblogs a photo by Caleb, sparking a conversation, they both find it easier to make friends online than in person.

Luc and Caleb confront their fears about the opinions of the outside world to meet in New York City. Despite Caleb’s increasing confidence, his parents worry he’s not ready for the trials ahead. But communication comes in many forms—when you learn the signs.

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Review: There is a lot to love about Anna Martin’s newest release, Signs. At the top of the list are Caleb and Luc. I adored these guys. They were refreshing and real, and just had a really lovely innocence about them. The more I’ve thought about this story in the last few days since finishing it, the more I realize how much I liked it, and how much of that has to do with them.

Caleb is an eighteen-year-old high school senior who is passionate about photography, and starts a Tumblr account to share some of his pics. He also happens to be deaf. I liked that he wasn’t a ‘typical’ deaf kid. He isn’t a superstar at sign language, and only begrudgingly attends meetings of a local Boston chapter of Deaf Youth to appease his parents, who want him to try to interact more. Being deaf isn’t the only issue keeping him from having a more normal teen life; unfortunately, he also suffers from social anxiety, making it even more difficult to make and keep friends. He gains a few followers on Tumblr, though, including catching the eye of a teen boy from New York City named Luc.

Luc is a goth kid who doesn’t really relate to his family, and though he does have a few friends at his new school in the city, he’s also a bit of a loner. Luc lives with his sister, Ilse, and his mother, who is never home. She stays out drinking and hanging out with her socialite friends, leaving Ilse to do most of the parenting for Luc. But, something about Caleb’s work speaks to Luc, and he ends up sharing and commenting on a couple of his posts, sparking conversation between the two.

The story mostly consists of watching Caleb and Luc become closer, and grow and mature together. The only drama coming from a bit of push-back against the parents – typical kids testing boundaries and exerting their independence – and also when Caleb applies to be in a trial for a new type of cochlear implant. But, sweet was the exact right feel for this story. They didn’t need a ton of angst or drama, it was simply enough to enjoy watching them fall in love, and decide what direction they want their lives to go.

Things get a little off track in the middle of the book. It definitely started out strong, but I felt like it wandered a bit through the midsection. There were a couple of awkward scenes, some unanswered questions – one being what happened to Jay? Luc had a best friend who disappeared, seemingly for no reason, which begged the question, why even include him in the story at all? And I think the cochlear implant stuff was maybe a bit drawn out.

That being said, however, there were even more things I loved: Luc helping Caleb work on his speech techniques (swooooon), the letter Luc wrote to the people in charge of the implant trial (amaaaaazing), the fact that even with all the communication barriers, these two were better at communicating than most adults I know. So much good stuff. We never learned what Luc’s aspirations were, but in the post-book story in my head, he studies to become a speech therapist. :)

From Tattoos & Teacups to Cricket and Jurassic Heart, and now a wonderful NA book about two fantastic young men in Signs, I continue to be a big fan of Anna Martin – an absolutely fantastic storyteller. I can’t wait to see what she gives us next!






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Dreamspinner Press, Giveaways, Suki Fleet

Guest Post, Excerpt, and Giveaway: Innocence by Suki Fleet

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The Novel Approach is happy to bring author Suki Fleet to you today to talk a bit about her newest release, Innocence. Enjoy the guest post and excerpt Suki has offered just for you, then be sure to leave a comment for the chance to win an e-copy of the book.

Qualifying comments must be received by Midnight Pacific time on Wednesday, March 18, 2015. One winner will be drawn at random on Thursday, the 19th, and contacted be email for prize delivery.

Good luck!

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Innocence inspiration

In early 2013 I used to walk along the river near where I live to see these two, sometimes three, little boats that were moored there. None of them were big enough to sleep more than one or two people. And their roofs were piled high with coal and bicycles and crates of beer. I’m not sure what it was about them–I never saw the people who lived there, but something inspired me. A spark of this story began growing inside me, and every time I saw those boats it grew bigger, until it was ready to write.

Originally, Innocence was called Beg, Borrow and Steal and originally, Christopher’s relationship with Jay was very different. But ultimately the story was about how innocent we are with our hearts. When we’re young, when we’re old, when we just want to trust someone, maybe someone we shouldn’t, yet we do it anyway because we can’t stop ourselves. I wanted it to be about Christopher discovering himself and what he wants, who he is, how he falls in love for the first time, and how that love changes him.

This story is about innocence on so many levels and for so many different people. But it’s not a story about loss of innocence as much as it is about hope and trust, and the fact that even if you’ve been hurt you will still want to hold out your heart to someone else and trust that they will take care of it. Because what else can we do?

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Innocence_postcard_front_DSPBlurb: At eighteen, Christopher is restless and longs for something he cannot name. His mother vanished when he was very small, and after spending more than ten years travelling on the rivers and canals, drifting between towns and schools with mostly only his dad and brother, Jay, for company, he is desperate to escape that claustrophobic existence. When they return to settle in Arlow, a town they haven’t been back to in over a decade, everything changes.

Malachi has given up on love. He lost his heart when he lost his innocence. Now, at twenty-nine, he just exists—getting drunk, fixing cars, and playing the music he loves.

When their paths cross one night at a gypsy camp, Christopher thinks he’s found what he’s been looking for, but Malachi is afraid. He’s afraid their love will destroy everything Christopher has ever known. They are ghosts from each other’s pasts, and if Malachi’s secrets are revealed, more than just innocence will be lost in their wake.

Categories: New Adult, Contemporary

Buy Links: Dreamspinner Press | Amazon US | All Romance eBooks | Barnes & Noble

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Excerpt: “This is Bosco’s field,” Finn tells me by way of introduction before we get out of the car. “He owns it and we work mostly for him, but some things we do for ourselves, and we don’t always want him to know what they are. Like you don’t want your dad to know. Do you understand?”

His gaze is sharp. I nod.

Warmly, he clasps my hand where it lies on the seat next to my thigh, his thumb making small circles on my wrist, his fingers doing the same on my jeans. It’s just the outside of my thigh, but the sensation makes me light-headed, and my cock starts to stiffen. I’m not sure how I’m supposed to react.

“Welcome to my home,” he says in a whisper, squeezing my hand once more, then unclasping it.

Unsteadily I exit the car, still high from his touch, and follow him across the grass towards the vans.

As Finn approaches the caravan with the barking dog, the dog becomes a floppy mess of excitement, no longer barking a warning but yelping in delight. She sniffs at me, just as wildly excited to lick my hand as she was to lick Finn’s.

“You’re a rubbish guard dog,” I whisper, smiling as I crouch down in front of her.

“Maisie.” He introduces her to me. “She belongs to Malachi, but he’s too pissed to care.” He speaks loudly, his tone sneering.

Scratching the dog behind the ears, I look at the tatty, off-white van she is chained to and wonder if anyone is inside to hear him.

The whole field is virtually silent apart from Maisie’s yaps.

We move on, leaving Maisie straining against her chain.

“Mine.” Finn grinningly points to a rounded little van set up on bricks near the edge of the semicircle. “Care to take a look?”

My heart hammering like a wild gypsy song, I nod, trying to look casual but feeling a war beginning within me. I want him to be making small circles on my thigh again with his fingertips and at the same time want to run and run home to Jay and everything warm and known.

Apprehensively I follow him inside the van, suddenly unsure whether the whole pretense of a job and meeting people was just that—a pretense to get me here—and if it was, I don’t think I want to be here at all.

I want something, but I don’t know whether it’s Finn. Mostly I think I want Finn to want me. I like the idea of him wanting me. I like the idea of being desirable. But I’m not sure if I desire him completely. My body clearly does but… I don’t know… it’s as if something’s missing.

I thought this would all be clearer, and wanting someone would be straightforward, like a bolt of lightning from my heart to my balls.

Slinging his arm around my shoulder as if it’s the most natural thing in the world, Finn guides me forwards and closes the door.

Once we’re inside, “What are you thinking about?” he whispers against my ear before sucking my earlobe lightly, then leaving me not breathing against the closed door as he crosses the small space into the kitchen area. “You look scared half to death.”

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Suki FleetAuthor Bio: Suki Fleet grew up on a boat and as a small child spent a lot of time travelling at sea with her family. She has always wanted to be a writer. As a kid she told ghost stories to scare people, but stories about romance were the ones that inspired her to sit down and write. She doesn’t think she’ll ever stop writing them.

Her novel This is Not a Love Story won Best Gay Debut in the 2014 Rainbow Awards

Find Suki At: Website | Facebook | Tumblr

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4.5 Stars, Cat Grant, Genre Romance, New Adult, Reviewed by Chris, Self-Published

Review: A Year in the Life by Cat Grant

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Title: A Year in the Life (Courtlands – The Next Generation)

Author: Cat Grant

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 284 Pages

At a Glance: This was a very well written story, with strong characters going through honest emotions, feelings, and life changing events.

Reviewed By: Chris

Blurb: A campus flu outbreak, complicated by a freak October blizzard, brings Cornell seniors Seth Thompson and Bilal al-Mansoori together. Three days spent waiting out the storm at Seth’s snowbound apartment leads to an unexpected mutual attraction—and a hot night under the covers, which quickly deepens into a true emotional bond…

Plus, a world of problems for Bilal, an Iranian Muslim. Despite his homeland’s harsh laws and even harsher punishment for homosexuality, Bilal can no longer deny who he really is: A gay man falling in love for the first time.

Seth’s gentle manner and passionate lovemaking bring Bilal more joy than he ever thought possible. Yet, despite the lovers’ growing happiness, Bilal’s haunted by guilt and shame left over from his strict upbringing, and the sad realization that he’ll never see his family in Iran again.

Speaking of families, it’s time for Bilal to meet Seth’s…

Eric, Nick and Ally. Ten years later, this committed triad is still as deeply in love as ever, but even commitment comes with challenges…

Is there room in this non-traditional family for Bilal? His future with Seth may depend on it.

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Review:  A Year in the Life is best read as a continuation of the original series due to the main characters being heavily featured in this book. You may be able to read it as a standalone, but much of the backstory for the characters will be lost.  A Year in the Life also contains the short story In From the Cold, which introduces us to Seth and Bilal.

Sick and oh so miserable, Seth Thompson ends up going to the campus clinic so he can make it through his upcoming exams. While there he admires the very handsome and also very sick Bilal al-Mansoori. Both see each other but don’t really acknowledge the other, until they end up meeting again at the pharmacy, and then again as Seth heads back to his apartment. He ends up helping Bilal, who is so ill he’s almost delirious. Seth brings Bilal home with him, where they end up stuck inside during a snow storm. Seth shares his home, medicine and eventually body heat with Bilal, which ends up as something more than just comfort.

Bilal, however, ends up scared because he’s Iranian and Muslim and can’t acknowledge his feelings or desires for another man. This drives Bilal away from Seth at the first break in the storm, and back to his own isolated side of campus. This doesn’t stop his growing attraction to Seth but because of Iran’s laws, it forces him to deny himself the possibility of more.  Eventually he ends up having to see Seth again, and their desire and attraction explodes.  Seth and Bilal end up seeing where their attraction will go, but still are fearful of Bilal’s father and the other students from Iran finding out about them.

The story, continuing into A Year in the Life, shows Seth and Bilal working through a relationship. Bilal comes out to his sister, and his sister ends up sharing her secrets with him in return. The boys share Thanksgiving together with Seth’s family, which ends up being more stressful then they expected. Seth is surprised by what he feels is opposition from his father, and pushes back at them a few times. It leaves them deciding to share Christmas alone in New York City together. Unfortunately plans ended up changing, and they ended up with Seth’s family again, which was a very interesting event.

I’d previously read the original Courtland series and wasn’t sure where this next generation might take the story. I’ll admit I loved Seth and Bilal more than Eric, Ally, and Nick’s story. There is something very honest, and even unguarded, in the relationship between Seth and Bilal. Part of it could be Bilal’s being frightened by what could happen if his father or the Ministry could do if they learn he’s gay. Another is just the natural exploration of the growing bonds between Seth and Bilal. Seth’s strength in standing up to his father, Nick, that Bilal is his future and his heart, is one of the best showcases of the character.

This was a very well written story, with strong characters going through honest emotions, feelings, and life changing events. The author created both characters as strong in their own way, and didn’t compromise on either characters’ development. A Year in the Life is definitely one of my top new adult genre books so far this year. I highly recommend it for fans of the author’s previous works. I would also recommend this for fans of the m/m new adult genre, and for those that prefer characters with more realistic relationship growth and problems.

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5 Stars, New Adult, Reviewed by Jules, Rose Christo, Self-Published, Young Adult

Review: Gives Light by Rose Christo

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15810499Title: Gives Light (Books One through Four)

Author: Rose Cristo

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 285 Pages

At a Glance: Some of the best YA I’ve read in the genre

Blurb: “Skylar is my name, tragically.”

Sixteen-year-old Skylar is witty, empathetic, sensitive–and mute. Skylar hasn’t uttered a single word since his mother died eleven years ago, a senseless tragedy he’s grateful he doesn’t have to talk about.

When Skylar’s father mysteriously vanishes one summer afternoon, Skylar is placed in the temporary custody of his only remaining relative, an estranged grandmother living on an Indian reservation in the middle of arid Arizona.

Adapting to a brand new culture is the least of Skylar’s qualms. Because Skylar’s mother did not die a peaceful death. Skylar’s mother was murdered eleven years ago on the Nettlebush Reserve. And her murderer left behind a son.

And he is like nothing Skylar has ever known.

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Review: It’s going to be difficult to sum up my feelings on these books. Part of me wants to be all fangirly and crazy…GIVES LIGHT IS AMAAAAAAAAAZING!!! And part of me wants to be more serious…Gives Light is an important piece of literature that is at once a beautiful coming-of-age love story, and also an extremely thoughtful book dealing with several pressing Native American issues. Hopefully I’ll be able to find a balance between the two. ;)

The series, initially meant to be a trilogy, I believe, now contains six books. I’m mainly going to be discussing the first book, Gives Light, but will touch on the other two in the original trilogy, Looks Over and St. Clair, and then briefly on the fourth book, Why the Star Stands Still.

I’m gonna say it again – Gives Light is amazing. I was immediately taken with our hero, sixteen-year-old Skylar St. Clair. In Skylar, Rose Christo has created one of the most positive, loveable, funny, down-to-earth characters I have ever read. Sky’s attitude, wit, and zest for life are unparalleled, especially for someone who has had to overcome so much adversity, perhaps worst of all being the fact that he is mute. He runs at everything head-on, and won’t be brought down. I love him. Plain and simple.

The first book deals with the mystery surrounding Sky’s missing father, his reintroduction to his Granny, who he hasn’t seen in eleven years (since his mother’s death on the reservation), and learning about the ways of his people, the Shoshone. He makes some wonderful friends along the way, including the most unlikely friend of all, the son of the man who killed his mother and took away his voice. Rafael Gives Light.

Rafael and Skylar are perfect together. Their friendship is so easygoing, so natural. Sky has never felt truly comfortable or like himself around anyone but his dad – until Rafael. Rafael knows what Skylar is thinking without him having to work to explain, and he gets Sky in a way that no one else does. Personality-wise, though, they are veritable opposites. Rafael is as brooding and sharp-edged as Skylar is positive and relaxed. One perfectly complimenting the other…the darkness and the light.

Throughout the story, Rafael and Sky support each other, protect each other, and learn what it means to be gay and to be falling in love for the first time. Their love story is beyond beautifully written. One constant through all of the books is how pure and true their connection and love for each other are, and how perfectly their interactions are written. Whether it’s a swoony love scene, or an argument, or some bit of witty banter – because God, are they funny – Rose Christo nails it.

Gives Light is also a fascinating history lesson. Another constant throughout the series is the amount of knowledge the author imparts. From the laws and the history behind them, to the rich culture and customs of not only the Shoshone, but other plains tribes, she paints an incredibly vivid picture. I can see the Nettlebush reservation so clearly in my head. The grotto where Sky, Rafael, Annie, Aubrey, and Zeke hang out, the badlands, the firepit where the nightly dinners take place…they are all perfectly etched in my mind. The imagery in this series is unforgettable.

The next two books, Looks Over and St. Clair, continue on with the trials and tribulations of the tribe, as well as the maturing relationship between Sky and Rafael. The storyline with Sky’s dad moves to the front burner, and we see the kids moving into their final year of high school. The angst also ramps up as the story moves along, especially in St. Clair. And I found the fourth book, Why the Star Stands Still, to be fairly dark overall, though it was nice to see Sky and Rafael all grown up.

There are so many fabulous moments in these books, too many to count. I definitely got good use out of my Kindle’s highlighter! I can’t recommend this series enough. Some of the best YA I’ve read in the genre. These books, and these characters, are going to stay with me for a long time.






You can buy Gives Light, Looks Over, St. Clair, and Why the Star Stands Still via the following links:

Gives Light – Amazon US | Gives Light – Barnes & Noble | Gives Light – Smashwords

Looks Over – Amazon US | Looks Over – Barnes & Noble | Looks Over – Smashwords

St. Clair – Amazon US | St. Clair – Barnes & Noble | St. Clair – Smashwords

Why the Star Stands Still – Amazon US | Why the Star Stands Still – Barnes & Noble | Why the Star Stands Still – Smashwords

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3.5 Stars, CJane Elliott, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, New Adult, Reviewed by Chris

Review: Aidan’s Journey by CJane Elliott

Title: Aidan’s Journey (The Serpentine: Book Two)

Author: CJane Elliott

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 326 Pages

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Blurb: The star of the University of Virginia theater department, Aidan Emery is lusted after and admired for living out and proud. He uses his talent and good looks to his advantage and never sleeps with the same guy twice. But his glamorous patina has been carefully honed to hide the pain he carries inside. Continue reading

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5 Stars, Annabeth Albert, Anthology, Bianca Sommerland, C-Squared Publishing, Cassandra Carr, Dalton Diaz, Erotica, KyAnn Waters, L.A. Witt, Mia Downing, New Adult, Reviewed by Lana, Sara York, Whitley Gray

Review: Campus Cravings Anthology

Title: Campus Cravings

Author: Anthology

Publisher: C-Squared Publishing

Pages/Word Count: 392 Pages

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb: Welcome to Cathia University, where school is in session! Nine of today’s hottest gay romance authors have crafted brand-new interrelated novellas celebrating everything wonderful about college, including sophisticated professors, sexy teaching assistants, ambitious grad students, and spirited undergraduates, all looking for the same thing: an A+ in true love. Continue reading

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4 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Jacob Z. Flores, New Adult, Reviewed by Lynn

Review: Being True by Jacob Z. Flores

Title: Being True

Author: Jacob Z. Flores

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 258 Pages

Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb: Truman L. Cobbler has not had an easy life. It’s bad enough people say he looks like Donkey from Shrek, but he’s also suffered the death of his policeman father and his mother’s remarriage to a professional swindler, who cost them everything. Now dirt poor, they live in the barrio of San Antonio, Texas. When Tru transfers to an inner-city high school halfway through his senior year, he meets Javi Castillo, a popular and hot high school jock. Javi takes an immediate liking to Tru, and the two become friends. The odd pairing, however, rocks the school and sets the cliquish social circles askew. No one knows how to act or what to think when Mr. Popular takes a stand for Mr. Donkey. Will the cliques rise up to maintain status quo and lead Tru and Javi to heartbreak and disaster or will being true to who they are rule the day? Continue reading

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A.J. Truman, Self-Published

Interview and Giveaway: Out in the Open by A.J. Truman

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Blurb:

Libraries are meant for studying – not sex

College sophomore Ethan Follett never says what’s on his mind and never wants to rock the boat. After a high school social life spent anonymous and alone, things are finally falling into place for him. He’s found a group of friends just as studious as he, and is on track for a promising legal career. Out in the open, things couldn’t be better, but secretly Ethan yearns for some real excitement in his life.

He finds it in cocky fratboy Greg Sanderson, who challenges every rigid, preconceived notion Ethan lives by. Soon, their sparring relationship turns sexual, and these enemies-with-benefits get their freak on all over campus.  Yet the more Ethan comes out of his shell, the more Greg retreats into his, working overtime to keep his ladies man public persona intact. As the sex gets hotter, and they get closer to getting caught, one part of their arrangement can’t stay hidden any longer: love. Continue reading

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2.5 Stars, Drama, Dreamspinner Press, Jeff Erno, New Adult, Reviewed by Taz

Love Overcomes All Obstacles In Jeff Erno’s “Two Dumb Jocks”

Title: Two Dumb Jocks (Dumb Jock: Book Five)

Author: Jeff Erno

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 210 Pages

Rating: 2.5 Stars

Blurb: Rejected by his family for coming out, Bryan Helverson boards a plane for Tampa, Florida, where he plans to attend college. Brett and Jeff’s family embrace him when he arrives, and his new “brothers,” Adam and Trevor, help him assimilate into the community. Continue reading

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4 Stars, Genre Romance, New Adult, Perie Wolford, Reviewed by Tina, Self-Published, Young Adult

Perie Wolford Dances His Way Through Teenage Romance In “Turning 17 (Turning 16: Book Two)”

“Our reputations weren’t who we really were, they were who people told us we were. Some of us fell into that trap, while others fought their entire lives to break free of them.” ― Nicole Williams


Title: Turning 17

Author: Perie Wolford

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 110 Pages

Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb: Sam is turning 17 this year and he is being pushed towards adulthood too fast. He has a whole bunch of grown-up problems on his hands now. Like how to make a distant relationship with your boyfriend work? Or how to stop yourself from cheating on your boyfriend with a hot friend who wants to be more than friends? Or how to disattach yourself from your parents and follow your dreams independently? But all that is just too much for a seventeen-year-old to handle. So Sam finds himself gravitating towards Eric, a little daredevil who introduces him to fun things, like stealing, lying, drinking, smoking, and having sex. Continue reading

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Jeff Adams, JMS Books LLC

Hockey? Why Do I Write Books About Hockey Players? – Guest Post and Giveaway by Jeff Adams

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Thanks, Lisa, for letting me stop by today! I’m thrilled to be here to talk about the Hat Trick series, including the just released Hat Trick 2: Playing the Rebound. I’ll check in periodically through the day, so if you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask. Plus, I’m offering up a free e-book of Hat Trick 2 to one lucky commenter.

One of the questions I often get about the Hat Trick series is “Why hockey?” Continue reading

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4 Stars, J.C. Mells, Reviewed by Lisa, Self-Published

J.C. Mells’ “Napoleon” Gives Love A Good Name


“I’m running. Running as far away as I can possibly get from a boy. A boy that had me all twisted and turned on the inside.” – Napoleon Charming-Balak


Title: Napoleon (Pierced: Book Five)

Author: J.C. Mells

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 113 Pages

Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb: Napoleon Charming-Balak has been crushing on the “exchange student” that’s been staying with him for the last six months.
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Amelia C. Gormley, Marie Sexton, Reviewed by Tina, Riptide Publishing

Amelia C. Gormley And Marie Sexton Are Our Guests Today On The “Saugatuck Summer” Blog Tour


Hi, and welcome to the Saugatuck Summer blog tour! First off, I want to thank Lisa and The Novel Approach for inviting me, and Marie Sexton for sitting down and chatting with me for this post.

For those of you who have seen me talking about it on social media for the last nearly year and a half, you know that Saugatuck Summer was a labor of love far beyond what I would normally claim for one of my books. Of course I love them all, but Saugatuck Summer came from my very soul. Actually, I’m not certain it came from me at all.
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