Ok...I found this book to be overwhelmingly depressing. And it's not because of your typical angst or plot twists. It's just...I have a bit of a soft heart when it comes to homeless teenagers. There's a helplessness there that I can't get past. And it's really really hard reading the realities of what life, and survival, on the streets amounts to for these young people. Not to mention, most of them are in these predicaments because of failures by the adults in their lives. And...now I'm sobbing...
Now the book.
This book was, as you can predict for me, really hard to read. I had deep anxiety EVERY. SINGLE. PAGE. This is not an exaggeration. I was so worried and scared about what these boys would face next. And I didn't want to put it down because I just wanted it all to be read and done with in one sitting...so I wouldn't have to come back to it.
That is NOT to say that this book isn't outstanding and that Suki Fleet, my goodness, isn't really a talented author. Because geez...the writing in this is SO strong. I typically do NOT like 1st person present POV's at all. But I was so engrossed in Romeo's head and heart. The words were real, unapologetic, and relentless.
And the title...well, I disagree. Because it is actually, a love story. It's about a deep love and loyalty and at-all-costs connection between Romeo and Julian, two homeless boys on the streets of London. It's about commitment, care-giving, understanding, protection. It's about fear, hopelessness, hopefulness, and moments of joy whenever they can be found. And it's about fighting for just a sliver of a HEA...and that's about all you're gonna get with this book...maybe a paragraph or two of happy...'ish.
If you've read Sara Alva's Silent, the book has a similar feel and story. Though I'd say this one is even harder to read...the content much grittier and in-your-face.
Ultimately, if your heart can handle the STORY, then you're gonna want to read this for the really good WRITING. If you're a sensitive soul, you may need to pass.
Also...for those that always wonder w/ YA/NA books, no explicit on page sex. But a TON of adult content.
I cried EVERY SINGLE PAGE of this book.
I am exhausted. My eyes are swollen shut. My tear-ducts are burned dry. I have kleenex flecks all over my face.
What's this book about? Well, the author says it best through his fictional character:
"What was I writing, exactly? Romance? Drama? Slice of life? Romantic comedy? Would there be an audience for such a book? ...I realized it was none of those things. It was a love story about a father and a son."
For me, this book was about...life. And life is HARD sometimes. REALLY hard A LOT of times for some. And it's about doing your best to just...live...and to love. And what's "best" isn't and can't be judged and compared with others. Someone growing up in the deep South, below poverty levels, raising a child with special needs, in an environment that condemns you for who you are...their "best" is quite different then my own. And I think maybe that was really eye-opening for me.
I started this book uncertain what to think of the lead character, Wiley Cantrell. He's a self-proclaimed redneck. He was described looking like Darryl from "The Walking Dead". And while I sometimes do find Darryl hot, I don't picture him as the romantic lead in my fairy tales. So, embracing Wiley took some time. He's not your typical Prince Charming.
But I think once you give Wiley that chance...once you let him in...game over. You fall in love. Well, at least I did. Wiley is a man who's been dealt a shitty hand in life. And he's made his own mistakes and bad choices. And he's doing the best he can to be true to who he is while still making it in life and taking care of his son, Noah. Noah was a meth-baby, has a lot of emotional and learning disabilities, is deaf...and is the bravest most big-hearted child I've ever read in a book. I'd be proud to meet and know someone like Noah in life.
There's a love interest, Jack.
There's a non-existent, troubled mother, Kayla.
There are family members that are coming to their own terms with Wiley's life.
There's a whole lotta southern preaching and LOTS of hellfire and damnation.
There are heartwrenching emotional bits that hurt and heal.
There are tears...so many tears. Who knew that a child's simple plea of "Why?" could open up the floodgates?
And not one single character is without their flaws...no one is even close to perfect here.
The book is exhausting. Wiley's character is a LOT to take. His family even more so. The "character" of the South overwhelmed me.
But at the center of it all there's love...specifically between father and son, Wiley and Noah. That relationship, that commitment, that interaction...it's what set this book apart and made it quite special.
This book was quite the mixed bag...and not all of it fit together.
It was emotional. There were scenes where I was bawling. And scenes where my heart felt so constricted by sadness. And scenes where I wanted to cut a bitch.
It was preachy. I felt like every current issue of conversation in the m/m community was covered in this book and written in a way that say "I will be as politically correct as possible and not offend anyone while bringing your attention to important topics". Bisexual vs gay-for-you. Tops vs bottoms vs versatiles. Religion and family issues. Queerness. It was all in there.
It was sexual. There were some hot interactions between the two. And there were some weird ones too. And there were times I didn't buy into the relationship beyond the sex. And there were times I was so engrossed in their love-making, I could've cried.
It was off in tone. I rarely notice nor care if a book is written by a man or a woman. It just doesn't matter to me and it's not something I'm good at picking up on if the story is solid. But this book felt so "female"...and not in the way that the characters are feminine. But in the inner thoughts, the reactions, the overall voice (?)...it felt really obvious that the author was a woman. And there's nothing wrong with that...it just felt off in this case
This book is about a singer/performer and a jewelry-maker. It's about 2 men damaged and broken in their own ways. It's about family...and the struggle to maneuver within people who are supposed to, but don't always, love and support you. It's about finding hope with someone after having already given up on hope. It's about living in a small mountain town and falling in love.
It was a solid story, with good writing, and strong characters...but it was a bit much. It was long...and it felt long. It was overwhelming in both good and frustrating ways. All in all, I liked parts of it, but not all of it together...at least not enough to say I loved it.
PSA: This book has a lot of sex. I mean...A LOT...of sex. And when I say a lot of sex, I mean A. LOT. OF. SEX. And if I failed to really get my point through, let me just leave it at this...SEX. SEX. SEX. SEX. SEX. Come-multiple-times, don't-need-to-touch-my-dick, inside-outside-anyway-I-can-get-it-or-give-it SEX. Not a chapter and nary a page goes by without some...SEX.
Now, what amazes me is that if you took away ALL THAT SEX, the 10 or so pages of story you're left with are actually my crack. We're talking soul mates...2 guys born to be together. A relationship SO codependent that therapists worldwide are chomping at the bit...and I am lapping this shit up. I love it.
Jake & Nate were destined to be together before they were even conceived. Their mothers were best friends. Their fathers became best friends. They were conceived and born together and grew up inseparable. They were 2 halves to one heart. And when they finally realize that, duh, destiny planned from the start that they'd fall in love...let all the I'll-do-anything-for-him choices and actions and life decisions.
I'd tell you more, but...there isn't much more. That's pretty much the story. Yeah, there are a few misunderstandings along the way. There's some adjustment and all. There are some blissfully over-the-top romantic gestures and declarations that had me a puddle of goo. And then there's sex...A LOT OF SEX.
Oh yeah...one beef with this book (besides the, *ahem*, amount of SEX)...the chapters alternated from Nate's and Jake's POV's. I typically don't mind this style at all. But, entire paragraphs of dialogue were replayed, cut & paste style, in each chapter. And this started to get, obviously, repetitive. And I started to get, predictably, annoyed.
Still...this could have been...this would have been...this should have been a story MADE for me. It is Cardeno C after all. And Cardeno C is very often my drug of choice. If it weren't for all that...
...does it get better? Does it least make light of their situations? Does it possibly turn into something I can smile or feel semi-decent about? Or will I be this miserably sad the entire book...?
I am, by no means, an expert in shifter books. This is only my 3rd I've ever read, and if it weren't for a buddy read, I'd probably never have picked this up...despite loving me some Mary Calmes!
So, with my limited experience, and my low-love for our furried friends, I jumped in. And I was pleasantly surprised. There were some classic Calmes in here...there were 100000000 characters, some "mine" loving (though with shifters, apparently since you're "mated", "mine" actually means something!), and lots of name-screaming sex (I wonder how many times "Arman!" was in this book...exclamation point included...)
But I kinda liked how this wasn't her typical insta-love. Arman (a hunky bodyguard with a "killer" instinct and an I'd-do-anything-for-my-man sense of loyalty) had me swooning, as Calmes' alpha MC's tend to do (RAND! SAM!) Linus is the formerly abused, now silghtly battered love of his life. It took 7 years for them to get together. Lots of emotional reasons why. But one that I found most interesting was that Arman's shifter animal (revealed later in the book) is typically a predator and Linus' (a stag) is typically prey. I'd never heard this take before on the animal-lovin'...and I buy into it.
Yet, once they do finally get together...it's kinda beautiful! Not an ewwwww factor at all, which is usually where my face gets all scrunched up and weirded out by the animal thang. Again...the loyalty and love between Arman and Linus is...seriously romantic. I was swimming in sap and loving it. The book really had me engaged.
Now, the story gets a bit convulted in the middle and on it's way to the ending. I think it was interesting, I suppose, all the lore and "world-building" around the various types of shifter clans. But, I was losing some patience and the story was a bit all over the place. Speaking of all over the place...Linus was also a hard character to pin down. I'm not quite sure what to think of him. I'll just be happy he's there for Arman to love.
And Arman...yup...me likey. SEXY...though I'll admit, once he revealed what he becomes in shifter form, I googled it immediately and...um...had my reservations. But, I think I can overlook it because he's got guns and knows how to use 'em!
I don't know if I'm now completely sold on shifter stories. But, I'm intrigued by the L'Ange world, and plan to go back and read book 1 (Old Loyalty, New Love)...and definitely read book 3 once it releases.
Not bad...not bad at all...
I'm noticing more and more authors putting their books out on audio. The wave of the future. :) For some reason, whenever I think of audiobooks, it feels so old school to me...like I imagine an 8-track tape deck in my car.
In any case, so many of my reviewer friends are raving about books they're listening to. I've finished exactly ONE audiobook..."Fair Game" by Josh Lanyon. And admittedly, I loved it. But it took me like a MONTH to get through it.
Granted, audiobooks don't really "fit" into my lifestyle...my commute is a 15 minute walk to work, I *ahem* rarely (never) go to the gym, and my apartment is so small, it doesn't exactly take me long to clean it. So, when I do think to listen to an audiobook, it's usually when I'd normally be reading an ebook - while lying in bed, passing time away - and in those moments, the audiobook just puts me to sleep.
In February, Boys in our Books is dedicating a week to reviews of audiobooks. The whole team is giving 'em a go. And I'm starting early...WAY EARLY...because I know what a struggle it will be for me. I'm taking on "Cut & Run" by Abi Roux, a book I've read numerous times and hopefully don't have to pay too close attention to while listening.
I have to say, after the first couple chapters, I'm really digging this! When the narrator describes Zane (my love), I was swooooning. I think hearing someone talk about him, it had such a different effect on me. Points for audiobooks there.
Now, let's hope I can patiently make my way through through the rest. These suckers are LONG (<-that's what she said...#forgiveme #immadork)
Have you ever been embarrassed for loving a book? Not for loving any book, but for loving a certain book? I mean, I enjoy lots and lots of generic, simple, sticky sweet, unbelievable types of books. I do.
I have NO idea how this happened...but this book wiggled it's way into my heart...BIG TIME.
I went on a holiday reading binge this year. I read probably 20 stories in a couple weeks. And most were adequately entertaining. One that I found particularly enjoyable was "Sno Ho" by Ethan Day. I read the reviews how it was laugh-out-loud hysterical, and true, the banter between the MC's (Boone in particular) was pretty funny. And I liked the humor...unapologetic without crossing the line. But, what really drew me to the story was the relationship that was building between writer Boone & Olympic-gold-medalist-turned-ski-instructor Wade. Sure, it was insta-love. But there were real and often complicated emotions there, especially in Boone's head. And it drew me in. The ending, however, pissed me off...not a cliffhanger per se, but there's no way you can NOT jump into book 2 right away.
So I did. And whattaya know...it snuck right up on me and became an instant favorite. Now, before I go on, I need to explain that Boone is a writer and each chapter of Life in Fusion starts with excerpts from his book...you read Boone's character's journey. Well, you do if you don't skim it. I...skimmed it. Actually, I skipped all those parts entirely. So, with those out of the way, what remained was a book that just WORKED for me.
Boone & Wade are in a committed relationship after only a few weeks...but figuring out what that means and how to make it work. There's baggage. There are relationships (family, friends) to navigate. There's long-distance. There are all the challenges of a new relationship and hardly knowing one another. And there is love. And without completely knowing how it happened, I ate up ever morsel of this book (other than those parts I skipped) and it was SO SATISFYING.
The commitment and the feelings expressed through humor between Boone & Wade were even better in book 2. Less annoying and more endearing. And then there were misundertandings and hurt feelings and real adult "relationship stuff" that made me feel like I was having drinks with friends listening to them talk about their lives.
Boone's crazy parents cracked me up, yet won over my heart. Boone's best friend Gabe made me so angry, yet I related to him the most. Boone's incessant use of humor to deal with emotions became a familiar pattern that made it so much clearer what he was trying to avoid or mask.
And then there's Wade. Oh to be loved by a man like Wade. Controlling. Patient. Kind. Demanding. Loving. Strong. I want him. Or I want someone to love me like he does Boone. And I want to live in a glorious mountain home with spectacular views. :)
So yeah, this book did it for me. I'm as surprised as anyone...but I still smile as I think of it.
Note: the book does not work as a standalone. But book 1, Sno Ho, is a short holiday novella that you can finish quickly.
Another note: MLR Press consistently has sub-par editing/proofing in their books I've read from them. Yet, they charge $8.99, one of the higher prices, for their ebooks. It's frustrating and makes me grouchy.
Well shit. This book was like looking in a mirror.
...except of course I'm a single, heterosexual, Asian woman living the life of awholelottasin...and Isaac & David are...not.
Other than that...
Ok, so you don't really need to know my whole life's history. But in a nutshell, I grew up in a REALLY crazy Christian background (two words: "Jesus Camp") and how I ended up being where I am today is a long, sordid tale. Let's just say that I related almost uncomfortably with the struggles of the 2 MC's in A Forbidden Rumspringa...especially in the vain of all that I thought I was not allowed to do...choices I was not permitted to make. Always living every moment in fear of getting caught sinning, shame of feelings & emotions, and guilt...good god, the guilt, of not being perfectly obedient.
So this book was a very personal read for me in many ways.
And on top of that? It's just a damn good book!
I hesitated to start this book for awhile...bowing out of 3 different buddy reads of the book! (slacker!) It's just "religious" books are my personal favorites. And something about being set in an Amish community almost made me feel like I was...infringing?...disrespecting?...their way of life. And, mostly, I'm just a wimp...and I'd heard there's some angst in here (funny how angst has become this ONE word that describes any kind of emotion other than utter bliss in books today...) So, who cares why it took me so long to read it. Story goes, I read it, and I'm reeling...
The attraction, and then the slow revelation of love, between David and Isaac, 2 young men of-age to join the church and commit completely to the very strict sect of Amish community, was addictive. I was fascinated by the lifestyle...the rules. I was fascinated about how some are made for the simple life and some aren't. I was fascinated how much we take for granted that is different in the way people live even in our same country. And of course, I was stricken and INTENSELY STRESSED OUT at anything close to a situation where the two, sneaking around to experience their lust and love, might get caught (<-this...THIS...was all too familiar from my own youth)
I also really loved how this book wasn't just about the two main characters. But it was also about each of them separately...and their individual struggles of responsibility, family, fear, their attraction to other men. It made me feel invested in each of them as individuals as much as I was in them as a couple.
The author takes her time in laying out this story, but boy does she spin a tale for the ages. I was at the edge of my SEAT...my heart pounding...dying to know what happens...despite being in this quiet, simple backdrop of this Amish community. And she manages to really put some delightfully sexy "let's explore each other and our sexuality cause I can't keep my hands off of you " scenes.
I'll admit, my only TINY TINY niggle was that David seemed pretty experienced with knowing how to have sex (including prepping his partner) after having only seen 1 dirty magazine and a handful of action movies. But I can get over this... :)
I'm dying to know how this THREE BOOK (yes!!!!!) series is going to play out...
I've been pretty much donezo with Not-so-Goodreads for awhile now, other than posting my reviews and keeping track of what I'm reading. I think I was a Bitter Betty for a bit how the environment turned so gif-ridden, shallow, drama-filled, and ugly...and then eventually I stopped being bitter...but stopped being interested as well.
I just want to talk about...books, ya know?
So...I'll give this a try again. So here I am...
My 2015 challenge to myself as a reader:
...and we'll leave it at that. For now.
So...happy reading everyone! May 2015 bring you the most satisfying books...
Join us this week to meet some of the newly published authors to the LGBT scene! Q&A's with:
...along with reviews from our team of books by "new-to-me" authors!
HOLY COW! Well, I had heard some really great things about this book and it comes recommended by some amazing readers and writers so…duh…I had a feeling it was going to be GOOD.
I just had NO IDEA (my own fault…I should be paying closer attention) how action-packed, SCARY, skin-crawl-inducing, heart-pounding it would be! This is not some sweet, quiet, historical romance. Not even close. This has death, and afterlife, and grave sites, and occult practices, and SCARY CHARACTERS and at numerous times, I found myself turning on all the lights in my apartment before turning the next page.
Ok, but to be fair, that’s not ALL it has. This also has a really GORGEOUS slow build relationship between Whyborne & Griffin and…I LOVE THEM. I love each of them separately. I love them both together. And I can’t wait to know more about them. It breaks my heart when Whyborne sees himself as drab, awkward, unattractive, undesirable. And then I get all giddy when Griffin, the gorgeous & charming one, falls for him. Their professional partnership, their growing friendship, and their budding relationship are lovely and adoring, and I’m a sucker for it all.
What I love most about this book is that Jordan L. Hawk gives us SO MUCH story…we get pasts from both characters, we get family struggles, work situations, historical context, emotion, conflict, misunderstanding, professions of love….the book is SO FREAKING FULL…and that’s exactly how I felt by the end. Full.
My only complaint would be that it’s not the kind of book I could just get lost in. I had to put it aside a few times, step away, and come back to it. Maybe it’s the intensity. Maybe it’s that I had trouble stomaching some of the sensory descriptions. I’m not exactly certain. But, as much as I really enjoyed it, I had some trouble getting through it. (and I see how that makes no sense at all). And as excited as I am that there are 2 more books already out with W&G, I’m not quite ready to jump in right away.
But maybe it’s just that way…a series to be savored…in my own timing. And I already can’t get Whyborne & Griffin out of my mind so I know I’ll be craving more from them soon enough…
*PS – here’s a warning for those who get easily aggravated or sensitive to certain words: Whyborne refers to his “member” or Griffin’s “member” tons of times…I thought it was charming, but some may find it annoying. Head’s up…
We expanded the Gay Romance Northwest site to include a blog and re-posted our earlier Reviews by Jesswave pieces. :)
How to get LGBT Books into Libraries (GRNW 2013 Keynote Address by Seattle librarian Marlene Harris)
What I learned while running a Gay Romance Conference (by me.)
Don't worry. The blog won't be a book review blog. :-) We'll just do articles and essays and roundtables, etc, about the genre and whatnot.
If anyone is interested in writing a piece, let me know!
Somewhere around the middle of this book, book 2 of the Divergent series, I felt trapped.
I mean, by this point, it's not like I can stop reading either the book or the series. I've made it halfway and I have enough questions that I have to finish. And something about that pissed me off.
I'm tired of the first person present tense POV. I really think this is one of the most grating and irritating forms of writing. It's so rarely done well and by the 2nd book, I feel like I'm reading this choppy, staccato-rhythmed story...like a poorly written children's book report.
And I'm tired of Tris. She's reckless and infuriating and stubborn and annoying. After book 1, I had such high hopes for her. But then she became so much like Katniss in Hunger Games...stuck in her head, not communicating, unrealistic, taking matters into her own hands ALL THE TIME. I just wanted to scream at her.
And I'm tired of the repetition. If I have to read about her sight going black around the edges every time she's in pain. Or if I have to read about how she overcomes her pain. Or if I have to read about another person...DYING. Or if I have to read about another "you don't trust me" fight with Tobias...I...I...gah!
But then there's this: Insurgent has some great new characters. And the strategic/war games element to it is really...fascinating. And well, I still want to know more! So despite all my frustrations, I consumed this book in 1 day and I'm taking 10 breaths after writing this review and starting on book 3. So, I can't really call this a bust, can I?
And...if there is one SINGLE reason to keep reading and finish this series it's this: TOBIAS EATON...and this: Theo James to star as Tobias Eaton. *sigh* He's the perfect casting...just perfect. The former teenaged girl in me loves him. The old lady in me thinks he seems like a very nice young man. :)
Question asked of me: Is this appropriate for certain-aged kids? Book 1 is good for kids who read Hunger Games. Book 2 is much more mind-play and if you have sharp kid who likes thinking through logic, they'll love it. I'm an old fart with a deteriorating brain, so it was challenging for me. There's also a lot more death in book 2. And some romance, less than book 1, but nothing inappropriate. Hope that helps.
Beginning tomorrow, the Boys in our Books review team will begin posting our year-end reviews. Come by daily to see what each reviewer has to say about the following:
Favorite book of 2013
4.5 & 5 star reads this year
Best surprise of the year
Describe your reading experience in 2013
What are you looking forward to in 2014
And on December 31st, we'll be listing readers' and writers' favorite books of 2013! Stop by and comment on this post and you'll be entered in the giveaway to win a $50 gift certificate to your online book retailer of choice!