Sunday Funday Christmas: 2017 Advent Calendar | Stocking Stuffers - Week 6

Last Week for Stocking Stuffers features CJane Elliott, C.S. Poe, Charles Payseur, Jaime Samms & T.A. Moore.

ICYMI: Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5

A Holiday Crush by CJane Elliott

San Francisco lawyer Brad Halberstam is in a rut. At forty-one, he’s successful but alone. Even his holidays are predictable—he spends every Christmas golfing in Napa with his ex-boyfriend. Then attractive but oh-so-young filmmaker Michael Blair invites him out. Brad joins Michael and his housemates in their holiday celebrations and learns that life can be joyful. He hesitates to saddle Michael with a much-older boyfriend but as their attraction ignites, Brad’s tempted to let Michael sweep him into a bright new future.

Michael lives in a group house in Berkeley. He loves making life into a celebration, especially during the holidays. Michael longs for a partner, and he hopes serious but sweet Brad Halberstam is the one. Michael’s infatuation grows over caroling and cookies, but his housemate reminds him that Michael always latches on to someone during the holidays, so he won’t be alone. After a misunderstanding, Michael loses heart, no longer sure if his relationship with Brad is real or just another Christmas crush.

R *A Reader Obsessed* - 3 Hearts

This was a feel good story showcasing an opposites attract connection with a slight age gap.

Brad is a very successful lawyer, set in his ways and not really enjoying life like he should. When he catches the eye of courtroom videographer Michael, he doesn’t quite know what to make of it. Why would such a vivacious young man have any interest in boring old him??

I liked the progression between these two as they take small careful steps, realizing just how much they connect on many levels. Michael was endearing as a character, and his enthusiasm was infectious. Brad eventually realizes that there’s more to life than the superficial cutthroat existence of his law practice, and he’d be a fool to give up a chance with Michael.

Despite this having just a few kisses, it was still enjoyable, as it’s never too late to change your stripes for the chance at something better.

Chelsea - 4 Hearts

Not what I was expecting and so cute!

Brad is 39 and a little disillusioned with life and Christmas, he feels old and grumpy most of the time. When Michael, the much younger cookie-baking, santa-hat-wearing guy pushes his way into Brad's life, he finds he rather enjoys it. However Michael loves Christmas so much, he always falls in love around the holidays and just maybe he's stringing Brad along now too….

I was so happy with how this story played out, the 'misunderstandings’ were talked through and the drama wasn't stupid. These two were adorable together and all the characters were very entertaining.

Michael was a bit too happy for me and read a bit young, I would've wanted to slap him, but I'm glad he worked out for Brad. Also no sex *insert sad face*.

This had an absolute adorable white picket fence ending and so much holiday cheer. A great little book to end my Christmas reads for 2017 on.

Ann - 4 Hearts

I do love me some May-December trope and I thought I might be getting some opposites-attract sprinkled in as well but the author did a great job of developing the relationship between Brad and Michael so they evolved organically and it turns out they have way more in common than what they have in differences. They may have varying life experiences given their age difference, but the perspectives were appreciated instead of a problem and that was a refreshing change for the May-December thing. That doesn’t mean that Brad was onboard from the get go, but he did love Michael’s optimism and activism, and he was open to finding himself a stocking full of happiness.

Ghostwriter of Christmas Past by T.A. Moore

Ever since ghostwriter Jason Burke ended up in loco parentis for his orphaned niece, Mallory, he’s been trying. He goes to parent/teacher events, and he makes packed lunches, so he definitely didn’t mean to forget about Christmas. He just hasn’t celebrated it since he left home under a cloud years ago.

Put on the spot, Jason makes the snap decision to take Mallory to see where he and her father spent their Christmases as kids. The last thing he expects is to run into Tommy, his ex—ex-best friend, ex-boyfriend—who is still living in town… and working as a sheriff’s deputy.

It’s hard to avoid someone in a small town—and maybe Jason doesn’t want to. He got Mallory a Christmas, and maybe now it’s time to get himself a Christmas boyfriend. But first, he owes Tommy some explanations.

Ann - 3.5 Hearts

This story would fit perfectly into the Hallmark Christmas movie lineup if only Hallmark gave us movies this great, but in my head, it totally worked. Tommy, the MC who was still living in the small town where he and Jason grew up is the epitome of “handsome and charming small town deputy”. He’s personable and humble and I could completely understand why Jason fell for him in the first place. Jason was . . . not that. In fact, he wasn’t all that likable for a while, but as I learned more about his backstory I couldn’t help but sympathize and begin to understand why he felt the need to protect himself the way he did. I do wish he had told Tommy about why he left way back when, I can only imagine how heartbroken Tommy was and I don’t ever want Tommy to be heartbroken, so I do need Jason to do a little more groveling. The author did a great job of showing me the connection the two had growing up, so it was easy to see the potential for a future for the two of them.

Annika - 2 Hearts

I don't know you guys.... This was a sweet story but it just felt unfinished and incomplete somehow.

I can only imagine how difficult a good short story is to write. To capture the feelings, the atmosphere, To create characters that don't feel cardboard flat and one dimensional and have a interesting plot that's not too predictable. And doing it with as few words as possible. That's a challenge. And I appreciate that, but this book didn't quite get there. I felt like parts of the story were missing.

I think this book would've worked better as a full length novel. It has a lot of potential left unexplored, but as it stands now it's a bit superficial and never really lets the reader in. We are always on the outside looking in, wondering what's going on. Waiting for that moment that will make things clear and one we sadly never get.

Sara - 5 Hearts

Not gonna lie. I am a bit biased to the authors work because I adore it above and beyond. TA Moore has this way with words that hits me square in the chest and they keep that comfortable weight upon my heart until I read the last word. The weight, it leaves an imprint and whisper of wanting more.


Yeah, I want more with these two. I loved Tommy and Jason together so damn much. Second chance romance is my jam and I am a HUGE fan of the big misunderstanding whenever it happens and this time, it happens in the past.

With so few pages we are still given the emotions between first time loves Tommy “It’s Tom,” Ryan and Jason Burke. I liked how we got their first face to face again with Officer Ryan coming to the rescue of Jason and his niece, Mallory. Neither man is ready for the meeting and yet when their names fall from each other’s lips, they are right back where they have always been and where they always should be. Together.

I liked that Jason was fumbling with being the sole guardian of his niece after his brother and sister-in-law passed away. He’s in over his head and admits it and all he wants is to give Mallory a real Christmas. What he didn’t plan on was getting a happily ever after wrapped with a bow, a boy and a beard as well.

Tommy and his poetry stole my heart. Goodness. I could read at least 200 more pages of these two and not get tired of them. Their chemistry is amazing and they held out much longer than I thought they would though it wasn’t soon enough.

Wow. Short story and a rambling red review. I would apologize but I’m not sorry. I am only sorry that this was fewer pages than I wanted. I am only sorry that I didn’t get more of Tommy and Jason as teens figuring out their sexuality with their best friends and even Jason battling his rough homelife because he takes refuge in all that is Tommy. I am only sorry that I don’t get to read more of them together, of them maybe sharing a porch swing, reading poetry together and making more than pancakes.

Sigh. TA Moore. This was perfect.

New Game, Start by C.S. Poe

Reclusive medieval scholar, Edgar Royal, has a crush. On a guy. Not a big deal, except that said guy, Walter Chase, is a famous online gamer who has no idea Edgar even exists. Edgar has harbored these feelings for nearly a year, and when Walter announces on Twitter that he’ll be visiting New York City as a guest at the GamerOn convention, Edgar decides he’ll be one of the thousands of fans who responds to the message.

He definitely doesn’t expect to be singled out by the humble, gorgeous, out-and-proud heartthrob. And when it comes to dealing with people, Edgar’s skills are pretty nonexistent. Even with Walter giving all the right signals, Edgar lacks the courage do anything about the mutual attraction growing through their online courtship. He’s always been better with the written word, so maybe the perfect Christmas gift will say what he cannot. But if Edgar can’t get the present to Walter before the convention ends, he may miss out on the boyfriend of a lifetime.

Annika - 2.5 Hearts

This has been my least favourite so far, mostly so, so. I really enjoyed the start of the story and the first half was by far the best part. It was cute, sweet fun and awkward. I liked reading about how they first connected, got to know each other.

The danger with this kind of story is that they are so short and I think it is difficult for the author (not just for Poe) to truly create that sense of place, that connection between characters that feel meaningful and don't have that insta-love vibe. Sadly Poe didn't manage this all the way.

But what really didn't work for me in this one was the whole Edgar coding part. It just didn't feel credible to me, and that made the story less enjoyable. So all in all, a cute story but unbelievable.

R *A Reader Obsessed* - 4.5 Hearts

Absolutely adorkable!!!

This truly appealed to my soft spot for awkward geeky nerds who just want to be loved like everyone else, and of course, rightly deserve their happy ending.

Edgar knows he’s socially inept, but when he sees his gamer crush Walter announcing he’s coming to New York for a video game con, he impulsively tweets him to meet up for a drink. He never would have done it if he thought he’d get a response, but a response is what he gets. Surely he’s being punked right? Well from there unfolds a really sweet, fun, funny back and forth, as he and Walter skype, play games, and get to know each other in the weeks before the convention.

Of course, when they meet up, they are each everything they are looking for and more.

This is easily in the top 3 of my favorite holiday reads for the year. What makes this stand out is the excellent writing allowing for the complete plausibility where an average Joe finds himself in the best fantasy he’s ever imagined AND it’s real!! This is when all the stars align and despite one’s insecurities, thing truly go off without a hitch.

A wonderful holiday miracle and dream come true, plus very nicely sexy!! Poe is definitely on my radar now!

Chelsea - 5 Hearts

Out of all the advent calendar stories this was the one I was most looking forward to. I love gamers and gamer stories, I have a special place in my heart for them and I needed a story to live up to my expectations and it really did. This was so cute and just a little bit sexy.

Edgar has a massive crush on this online gaming celebrity, Waldere. He really doesn't expect Waldere to notice him amongst thousands of Twitter responses, but he does and alas a connection ensues. Edgar's fan-girling and crushing over Waldere is hilarious to read and the writing fantastic.

This isn't insta-love but it's damn close. These two build a fast friendship and fall in love in no time at all, it was very sweet to watch. There's a nice sexy sex scene which made me happy all over and the ending is totally adorbs. A great short read!!

Ann - 4.5 Hearts

Well, this was freakin’ adorable. Normally I would say the relationship progressed too fast to be believable, but it totally worked for me here. Walter is a character that made me believe his love for Edgar and Edgar’s unassuming charm made me love him from the first page. The odds that these two should even connect over Twitter given Walter’s fame are pretty slim, but I was more than happy to throw that niggle out the window, because I wanted them to be a thing. It’s not the most Christmas-sy of tales, but it does have all the hope and magnanimous mindsets you want in your holiday tales. I would love to read this one turned into a full length story, these characters were too good for me to let go of just yet.

Sara - 5 Hearts

Shut up and take everything I have right now which is a nice warm cup of tea and the biggest freaking smile on my face!


Edgar is so me! Not the ridiculously smart translator part of him but the “I came and made it awkward” part even online. I adored Edgar and LOVED that he took a chance and randomly responded to his crush on Twitter with a hashtag flirt NOT thinking it would ever be read. The internet, it’s this weird world where people can connect across states, countries and the world and find that one person who becomes everything to them with a tweet, a message, a friend request or even a like. It’s the sweet connection the internet provides strangers that makes me love it for what it gives to introverts like myself.

This was 10 times more adorable than I expected it to be and that’s saying something because this author can do adorable and then some. The title makes so much sense once you read the story and I have nothing really to say about the story other than I loved it. I loved Watler with his ginger hair and how fast he falls for Edgar before meeting him face to face. I loved Edgar and his Christmas gift to Walter and OMG I loved Walter showing off his Christmas gift to the world and how he proclaimed everything to and about Edgar live for everyone to witness.

Yeah. This one was good and I need to read it again but first, I gotta snuggle with my Nook for a second in private.

The Werewolf Before Christmas by Charles Payseur

Ray seems like the perfect boyfriend—he’s gorgeous, incredibly romantic, and has a mechanical suit he invented to become the dastardly MantaRay. For Alec, who also spends his nights making life difficult for do-gooders everywhere, it’s a match made in supervillain heaven. Except that Ray is a bit too into the hit soap opera All My Werewolves. When tempers flare during what’s supposed to be a quiet night out, Alec nearly ruins everything over a stupid bet with an alien gorilla.

Desperate to prove his feelings to Ray, and with Christmas fast approaching, Alec decides the fastest way to Ray’s heart is to embrace the thing that threatens to divide them—a certain werewolf show with a certain actor who Ray admires. A simple kidnapping promises to do the trick, only fur (and fandom) fly when Alec’s romantic gesture leads to a very hairy situation. Can Alec prove to Ray how much their relationship means to him, or will his plans be ruined by the werewolf before Christmas?

Ann - 3 Hearts

This story was super fun. If you’re looking for candy canes, stockings and cocoa, this will not be your jam, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a total kick. It speaks to anyone who is hardcore into one fandom or another and any fan of superheroes and supervillains. The author covered a lot of ground in this short and built a world with just enough detail without being too much for the number of pages here. The only thing I would have liked would have been a little more backstory for Alec and Ray. They don’t spend a whole lot of time together and what banter I did get I really liked, I would have just liked a little more to get a better grasp on their connection.

Eugene and the Box of Nails by Jaime Samms

Every time it seems like things are looking up for Eugene Kraft, disaster hits. Bankruptcy, a bigoted sibling, and a back-breaking accident have all left him with little money and less faith in the universe.

His last-ditch effort at peace is the small lakeside property where he is building a tiny house from recycled materials. If he can get it livable before the cold sets in, maybe he’ll be okay. Hopefully Cullen, the foreman on the construction site next door, won’t notice Eugene pilfering discarded materials from his dumpster.

When Cullen stops by to talk to Eugene, he’s sure the gig is up—but all Cullen wants is a date. Can two things go right in Eugene’s life? At first it seems possible. Projects on Eugene’s house are getting completed by what he dubs “construction elves” while he’s off site. But like Eugene predicted, his good fortune can’t last, and soon he has a tough choice to make: give up his home… or the man of his dreams.

R *A Reader Obsessed - 3.5 Hearts

I quite enjoyed this wintery tale about down on his luck Eugene trying his darndest to start anew despite some unfortunate setbacks.

Somehow he catches the eye of kind Cullen, the foreman on the house build next door, and thus starts a sweet back and forth that I really reveled in. Only thing is, Eugene is stubbornly set on finishing his little house on his own and accepting or asking for help in his eyes, is the biggest form of weakness.

Easy breezy, despite all of Eugene’s protests, his good and giving nature also brings out the best in those that love him. A great holiday story with a nice dash of sexy (where more would’ve always been much appreciated), showing that letting others in is the best gift of all!

Ann - 4 Hearts

Ok, yes, I did want to throttle Eugene for his stubbornness more than once, but at the same time, the author made me understand his need for independence. His hard head didn’t deter me from loving the premise either, it added an air of realism to the new romance between Eugene and Cullen. They needed that bit of conflict to keep everything from being too perfect and to give the story some depth. I’m a sucker for a man with a toolbelt, so I did love the storyline very much and appreciated both character’s love and respect for true craftsmanship. That respect was a real connection for them and from that, I could get where Eugene got his stubbornness. Also, Cullen made me swoon repeatedly, that Eugene is one lucky dude.

Annika - 2.5 Hearts

Sadly this holiday story was one of my least favourites of the year.

The overall story didn't do anything for me. Honestly I was kind of bored throughout. It never really went anywhere. And Eugene annoyed me with all his stubbornness. Sure I felt for him and all he'd gone through, but still his unwillingness to accept help annoyed me to no end. It got to be a bit much in the end.

Cullen, well he had an abundance of patience for Eugene, and I admire him for it. But I can't really say that I got to know him. The story was a bit too focused on Eugene and his build that I felt like Cullen was forgotten about just a bit. I would've liked more of him and the relationship between the two.

Maybe I missed something, because most people seem to have loved this story, it just wasn't for me.

Sara - 5 Hearts

What a wonderfully romantic story about letting yourself lean on someone, on accepting help and learning that while you can do it on your own, it’s so much better not to.

I adored this. I loved Eugene and loved hearing all the ways he was creating a home for himself reusing, recycling and repurposing materials in inventive ways to save money and make a lesser carbon footprint. I liked him dumpster diving at the construction site and how he would take care of the workers in his own Eugene way.

When Cullen finally introduces himself and crumbles a bit of the walls Eugene has put up my hopeless romantic heart took those wall pieces and started to arrange them in a heart wreath.
Goodness but this was sweet and endearing with two men who meet by chance but find that the other man has all the opposites that fit the puzzle of their life.

I love that Eugene was open with Cullen so quickly about the fall of his life and how his brother left him with literally nothing. How he picked himself up and got a great job only to be hurt and how he is building his modest home the cheapest way possible while living in a trailer that doesn't keep out the winter weather.

I adored Cullen and how he sees Eugene from the beginning. He’s enamored and amazed by the man far beyond his physical attraction and his need to take care of Eugene was truly swoon worthy.

This isn’t an over the top romance, this is a slow and quiet romance with two mature men who warmed my heart with simple actions and words. That damn box of nails, everyone of them meant something but that last one, was perfect.

Review copies were provided by the publisher.

We Unicorns wish you all a healthy and happy 2018 filled with amazing reads.

No comments:

Post a Comment