I know this has nothing to do with writing, but I’m a grandmother for the first time, and I guess that means I have an obligation to be insufferably proud of my little man.
TITLE: The Half of Us
Ye gods, these two guys are hot together! It’s no secret that I love this series, and Book Four is just as good as the rest of them.
Jason starts out a little bit clueless and a lot self-centered, while Abe is sweet and out of his element when it comes to the sexy doctor he meets by chance. They end up at Abe’s place at the end of their first evening together, and once they get a taste of each other, there’s no going back.
Jason has an ex wife and a couple of kids, and he’s feeling distanced from all of them. Abe is exactly what Jase needs to get his head on straight and get his life in order. I love the fact that they just fit each other so perfectly, even though on the surface, they may seem worlds apart.
That’s one of CC’s great talents, though. She has a real gift for characterization, creating memorable personalities that take on a life of their own in the reader’s mind and heart. Even when her stories take a dramatic turn, she injects some humor into the situation, mixing the good with the bad until it feels just like real life. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised to meet any of these guys walking down the street or in the grocery store. They’re that well-developed. And this is one of the few authors who never gives me fits with their grammatical errors. Believe me, that’s no small feat.
At this moment, The Half of Us is as far as the series goes. This makes me sad, but I still have a couple of Cardeno C. books that I won in contests at the end of the year. I’m spacing them out, so I don’t use up all of that scrumptious writing at once. Hopefully, by the time I’ve finished the books I already have, there will be new ones to buy. If Cardeno C. isn’t already on your auto-buy list, I have one question for you: why the hell not?!?
TITLE: More Than Everything
Book three in The Family series. I have to confess, this is the one that made me want to read the series in the first place. I’m a sucker for a well-written menage story. And, as of this weekend, I’m happy to say that More Than Everything has won second place for Best Polyamorous book in the 2014 Goodreads M/M Romance Group Member’s Choice Awards.
The story is narrated by Chase, in the form of flashbacks. It’s received a lot of flak about those flashbacks, but I think they work wonderfully. They give us unfettered access to Chase’s memories and personality. And though the book is the story of Chase, Scott, and Adan (whom we met in Strong Enough, book two), these chapter introductions allow us to see how Chase evolves from an awkward teenager to the extraordinary man he becomes by the time the three men find their path to happiness.
I mentioned I’m a sucker for a good menage story. I’ll add here that I love them all the more when the group finds a way to make a permanent, committed relationship work. Part of what’s gotten me off my butt and resolved to work toward publishing my own fiction was the loss of my best friend last May. Aside from being such a special person in my life – she was my eldest daughter’s Goddess-mother – she was a strong proponent for polyamory. MG was one of the first people to use the term, and a frequent guest speaker on the subject.
I know how difficult it is to get such a relationship right. It takes more commitment and determination than a conventional relationship, and is met with resistance from all sides because people tend to think of it as a kink, something one does because one is avoiding commitment, or an excuse to play the field rather than devote oneself to one’s partner. Of course, some people do use menages that way, but I’m very happy with the way this author treated the subject. She clearly understands the challenges and the rewards of a polyamorous relationship, and she writes of them with warmth and grace.
This is, without any doubt, my favorite book in the series so far. Though Cardeno C. is renowned for her true-to-life characters and heart-warming stories, the heroes of More Than Everything stand out as some of the most engaging characters I’ve encountered in quite some time. I adore Chase, especially. He’s the type of guy I can imagine being my best buddy, hanging out with him on a Saturday afternoon or sharing movie nights during the week (I’ll bet he’d even watch musicals with me). He’s just one of those characters who leap off the page and make a place for themselves in your heart. Watching him grow up in this book was a true pleasure.
Needless to day, this one is a keeper. I’ve downloaded it to every device that can run the Kindle app, so I have it with me anywhere I go. I’m glad I read the series in order, rather than starting with More Than Everything, as I was tempted to do. It really is a great series. Cardeno C. is a wonderful writer, and this one put a huge smile on my face. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.
TITLE: Sixty Five Hours (and The Twelve Days of Christmas)
Simply an amazing story! I must have had my head under a rock for the past couple of years, because I only just read this story for the first time. It came to my attention when it’s sequel, The Twelve Days of Christmas, was offered as a free read for the holidays.
Both of these books are free at the time of this review on All Romance Ebooks. I strongly recommend downloading them. Sixty Five Hours is funny, sexy, with two of the warmest, sweetest heroes you’ll ever meet. It takes place in the high-pressure world of a Chicago advertising agency. With one of our heroes an out and proud gay man, and the other deeply closeted, you might think you were in for a great deal of angst. Not so. This little gem deals with issues like coming out, societal intolerance, and even HIV, with a tender touch that always maintains its sense of humor.
The chapter headings are hilarious, the sex steaming hot, and the interaction between the heroes is just perfect. The secondary characters are gems in their own rights. It’s told in first person, from Lucas’ POV, and I just loved his honesty and confidence. Even his clueless moments manage to be charming. He and Cameron really were made for each other.
I read these two books backwards. That is, I read the holiday story during the Christmas break, thought it was sweet and delightful, but didn’t get around to reading the first book until this week. As much as I enjoyed Twelve Days, I absolutely adore Sixty Five Hours. If you’re suffering a bit of post-holiday blues or stress, do yourself a favor and download these books. Together, they’re 57,775 words. Sixty Five Hours gives you the HFN, and Twelve Days gives you the HEA.
One final tip: you might want a tissue handy at the end of Twelve Days. But it’s a happy cry, not a sad one.
Title: Return on Investment
That’s right, no stars for this one. It is, unequivocally, my pick for Best Book of 2014.
There’s been a lot of buzz about his book not fitting in anywhere. Having been on the fringes of the publishing world for a good many years, I can easily see how an editor would be afraid to take a chance on this one. After all, I am an avowed fan of Aleksandr Voinov, and even I had a hard time convincing myself to dig into Return on Investment. I took Economics in college, and found it rated second only to Political Science in its ability to bore me to tears. And it’s hard to argue that Return on Investment isn’t about the economy. It’s right there on the cover, “SEPTEMBER 2008, AND THE BANKS ARE DYING . . .”
It touts itself as a “gay financial thriller,” and it is all of that. But it is also so much more. It enticed me and seduced me. At times, I wanted to reach through the miles separating me from Aleks’ home in England and simply give him a hug. There are scenes in this book that must have been harrowing to write. But, oh, the reward for giving it a chance! Looking back, I feel so stupid for not trusting Aleks to tell a story that I want to read. I really should know better by now.
From page one, I was riveted. If I had one wish as an aspiring writer, it would be to mind-meld with Aleks and download his talent for pacing a novel straight into my brain. There are no guns, no car chases, no explosions that weren’t of a sexual nature, and the only running is done under the supervision of a personal trainer, but this book is no less thrilling for not having any of those “Bond” moments. And that is all down to the skill of Aleksandr Voinov. I have said it before, and I have no doubt that I’ll be saying it in the future: Aleksandr Voinov is one of the most talented writers in modern fiction. His understanding and sheer mastery of plotting, characterization, narrative, pacing, and all of the other bells and whistles of writing, are breathtaking. I’ve seen a candid shot of him editing a friend’s manuscript, and the force of his concentration is fierce to behold. And scary – very scary.
This book was not what I thought it would be when I read the blurb, or even when I read the sample chapter. It wasn’t what I thought it would be when I was halfway through it, and wondering how the Prologue was going to play into Martin’s story, since most of the book is from his viewpoint, while the Prologue is written from Francis’ POV. The ending was nothing I would have guessed, yet it was exactly what it needed to be.
So many of the characters in this book were not what they appeared to be on the surface, and that’s precisely how the financial world works. Nothing it as it seems to be, no one is as they present themselves. It’s all tissue paper and lies, and yet, it’s all so crucially important to day-to-day life.
I learned a great deal about events I lived through, seen from across the pond and from a European point of view. Reading the Author’s Notes at the end of the book was enlightening. Return on Investment was rejected by a publisher of gay literature, by gay romance publishers, and by a literary agent, who recommended more drama to make it into a proper thriller. I think Aleks made the right choice in publishing it himself. He was able to keep it true to his original vision, and I can say without reservation that it would have been a tragedy to alter this book in any way. And while we’re on the subject of self-publishing, I just want to say that the formatting in this book is more attractive than that of many I’ve read from more established publishing houses.
You’ll notice that I categorized this book as a M/M contemporary romantic thriller. It has many romantic elements, but it is not strictly a romance. If you’re seeking hearts and flowers and feel-good moments with rainbows and kittens, you’d do best to look elsewhere. This book is raw and harsh and glittering with transient wealth, littered with villains and ne’er-do-wells, everymen and heroes. It is its own entity, in a class by itself, and a brilliant piece of literature.
I’m not going to rob you of the pleasure of discovering how things turn out in Return on Investment. I purchased my copy through the Kindle app on my tablet. At that time, and at the time of this review, the book was available on the KindleUnlimited service. I was tempted by this for about half a minute – until I learned that I wouldn’t actually own the book, and it could be removed from the service at any moment, at which time I would lose my access to the book. Hell with that! I’m glad I own my copy. You should purchase your own rather than run the risk of losing this gem. Just remember what I said about rainbows and kittens. Voinov is usually dark, but that’s okay. I like the dark just fine. We’re old friends.
REVIEW: The second book in The Family series. This one sold itself to me on the strength of the excerpt I read on one of the sites where I buy books. I loved the ideas of the professor and the construction worker pining for each other from afar, stealing glances when they thought no one was looking. On the surface of it, Spencer and Emilio have nothing in common. There’s the age difference and the fact that they exist in entirely different worlds, Emilio’s almost brash self-confidence versus Spencer’s shy reticence, and the fact that they’ve experienced “family” in completely opposite ways. But both characters are quite likeable, and I found myself rooting for them from page one. He may have thought he was only going to get a hot hookup, but Emilio handles Spencer with care and considerable sensitivity. He’s not just a horny guy looking to get laid; when it becomes clear that Spencer isn’t the quick hookup type, Emilio moves into relationship mode with scarcely a hitch in his stride. As expected, Cardeno C handles the emotional highs and lows beautifully. I love the way Emilio draws Spencer out of his shell, and I love the fact that, though he was shy and slow to recognize Emilio’s attraction to him, Spencer quickly decides that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and that he’d be a fool to let Emilio get away without giving their relationship a chance. Both of these men are realistic and believable, as are their circumstances and reactions to events unfolding before them. Because this is a series, we also get lovely secondary characters who enrich the story and make us long to read about their own escapades. I enjoyed this book very much, and would recommend it to anyone who loves warmth, humor, and sexy man-loving in their books.