Getting Woke as JULIET TAKES A BREATH-THE GRAPHIC NOVEL–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a contemporary LGBTQ graphic novel from Gabby Rivera and illustrated by Celia Moscote. features a Latinx young woman navigating a path to independence coming out and finally exploring her lesbian and feminism facets of her life.

About the book:
A NEW GRAPHIC NOVEL ADAPTATION OF THE BESTSELLING BOOK!
Juliet Milagros Palante is leaving the Bronx and headed to Portland, Oregon. She just came out to her family and isn’t sure if her mom will ever speak to her again. But don’t worry, Juliet has something kinda resembling a plan that’ll help her figure out what it means to be Puerto Rican, lesbian and out. See, she’s going to intern with Harlowe Brisbane – her favorite feminist author, someone’s who’s the last work on feminism, self-love and lots of of ther things that will help Juliet find her ever elusive epiphany. There’s just one problem – Harlowe’s white, not from the Bronx and doesn’t have the answers.

Okay, maybe that’s more than one problem but Juliet never said it was a perfect plan…

Critically-acclaimed writer Gabby Rivera adapts her bestselling novel alongside artist Celia Moscote in an unforgettable queer coming-of-age story exploring race, identity and what it means to be true to your amazing self. even when the rest of the world doesn’t understand.

My Review:
Juliet Palante is a young, Puerto Rican college student in the Bronx and discovering herself as a Latinx feminist, acknowledging for her own self that she is a lesbian and fearing that her family will not accept her. She has a lot of family around her the love and support her–but her mama’s really devout. I loved her little brother, and how sweet and loving he was. Juliet is excited to gain a summer internship working directly with famed feminist Harlowe Brisbane, who lives in Seattle. Juliet ends up crashing in Harlowe’s house, nursing the wounds from her mama’s reaction to her leaving, and her sexuality.

Juliet is reeling a bit, surrounded by queer culture in Seattle. It’s an awakening, but she’s also politically woke by the people of color who are befriending her. As Harlowe reveals some internal prejudice, it sends Juliet further on her journey to reconnect with her cousin and aunt in Miami. It’s another big experience as Juliet finds unexpected kinship with fellow queers.

I did not read the original work, but I feel the graphic novel was beautifully rendered, and truly evocative of Juliet’s joy and struggle on every page. She’s a glorious Latina and her encounters with strong female, trans and other LGBTQ characters really shapes Juliet’s outlook, path and summer experience. I think readers who enjoy contemporary stories of queer culture, and coming out stories and stories of people of color from own voices, will probably love this graphic novel version of the best-selling novel.

Interested? You can find JULIET TAKES A BREATH on Goodreads, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.

About the Author:
Gabby Rivera is a Bronx-born, queer Puerto Rican author on a mission to create the wildest, most fun stories ever.

She’s the first Latina to write for Marvel Comics, penning the solo series America about America Chavez, a portal-punching queer Latina powerhouse. Rivera’s critically acclaimed debut novel Juliet Takes a Breath was called “f*cking outstanding” by Roxane Gay and was re-published in September 2019 by Penguin Random House. Currently, Gabby is the writer and creator of b.b. free, a new original comic series with BOOM! Studios. Stay tuned for her podcast joy revolution coming in 2020!

When not writing, Gabby speaks on her experiences as a queer Puerto Rican from the Bronx, an LGBTQ youth advocate, and the importance of prioritizing joy in QTPOC communities at events across the country.

Gabby makes magic on both coasts, currently residing in California. She writes for all the sweet baby queers, and her mom.

Catch up with Gabby on her website and twitter.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Brutal Battles Await THE NAVIGATOR’S TOUCH–A TBT Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a Throwback Thursday review for a LGBT fantasy from Julie Ember. THE NAVIGATOR’S TOUCH is the second book in the Seafarer’s Kiss series. I did not read the first book, but I felt it was fully enjoyable on its own.

About the book:
After invaders destroyed her village, murdered her family, and took her prisoner, shield-maiden Ragna is hungry for revenge. A trained warrior, she is ready to fight for her home, but with only a mermaid and a crew of disloyal mercenaries to aid her, Ragna knows she needs new allies. Guided by the magical maps on her skin, battling storms and mutiny, Ragna sets sail across the Northern Sea.

She petitions the Jarl in Skjordal for aid, but despite Ragna’s rank and fighting ability, the Jarl sees only a young girl, too inexperienced to lead, unworthy of help. To prove herself to the Jarl and win her crew’s respect, Ragna undertakes a dangerous expedition. But when forced to decide between her own freedom and the fate of her crew, what will she sacrifice to save what’s left of her home?

Inspired by Norse mythology and J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, this companion novel to The Seafarer’s Kiss is a tale of vengeance, valor, honor, and redemption.

My Review:
This is a fantasy with an LGBTQ MC with inspiration from Old Norse legends.

Ragna’s family has been murdered and her town on a hidden island ransacked by invaders, and she’s sworn vengeance. As a teen girl, even one imbued with a gift from the gods, she needs help from many quarters, and she must pledge her fealty to secure the allies who could deliver her island from occupation. Ragna is a Shield-Maiden, a valiant fighter, battle-tested and trained but struggling with the loss of her hand, and the need to see her tormentor and former boss, Haakon, dead.

The Old Norse legends are constantly reinforced in the use of language and terms that harken directly from the Old Norse. Ragna is a compelling heroine, negotiating with her intellect and her magical gifts, and striking bargains with Loki and a female chief of the area, to gather the supplies and troops who could help her to free those few survivors of the attack. Ragna grieves the loss of her young brother, her mother and father, but hopes against hope that her cousin may have survived–among a fraction of others.

Ragna has a female companion, Ersel, a shapeshifting mermaid who’s been cursed by Loki. Striking a bargain with the wily god is an affront to Ersel, but it’s one of only few paths that Ragna has to vengeance. It’s a tough experiences, scheming and struggling to save her land and not allow Loki to wreak further harm on Ersel. I loved Ragna’s fierce heart and determination. Her mission to get back her land is worth sacrificing everything, including her own freedom, so to speak, turning herself into a mercenary to a degree. It’s a companion story to The Seafarer’s Kiss, but focusing on Ragna’s story and how she recovers her peace of heart after Haakon destroyed her world. It’s not a lovestory, though there is a bit of love expressed between Ragna and Ersel. I expect we might see some more of Ragna, especially, as she scours the globe for what Loki has required as a condition of their cooperation.

Plenty of LGBTQ characters here, with little fanfare; these persons are just ordinary people of this world, which was good to see and especially affirming. I think if you are a fan of stories that celebrate and re-consider mythology, as well as strong females, will likely enjoy this one. Make no mistake that this story contains dangerous adventures, murder and killing: the bad guys get their just desserts.

Interested? You can find THE NAVIGATOR’S TOUCH on Goodreads, Interlude Press Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. I received a review copy of this book via NetGalley.

About the Author:
Julia Ember’s books include The Seafarer’s Kiss duology, a Norse myth inspired retelling of The Little Mermaid, published by Interlude Press (Duet Books), and Ruinsong, a standalone high fantasy reimagining of The Phantom of the Opera, published by Macmillan Kids (FSG) in November 2020.

Ember’s work has been featured in USA Today, Bustle, Book Riot and Autostraddle, among many others. The Seafarer’s Kiss was named a “Best Queer Book of 2017” by Book Riot and was a finalist in the Speculative Fiction category of the Bisexual Book Awards. Julia has a lifelong appreciation for history and classic literature, and holds an MLitt in Medieval Literature from the University of St. Andrews.

A world-traveler who has visited almost seventy countries, Julia currently lives in Seattle with her wife and their city menagerie of pets with literary names.

Catch up with Julia on her website, twitter and Instagram.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

EVERYTHING I THOUGHT I KNEW–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a contemporary YA romance with supernatural elements from Sharon Takaoka. EVERYTHING I THOUGHT I KNEW features a girl coping with the physical and emotional upheaval in her life following a heart transplant.

About the book:
A teenage girl wonders if she’s inherited more than just a heart from her donor in this compulsively readable debut.

Seventeen-year-old Chloe had a plan: work hard, get good grades, and attend a top-tier college. But after she collapses during cross-country practice and is told that she needs a new heart, all her careful preparations are laid to waste.

Eight months after her transplant, everything is different. Stuck in summer school with the underachievers, all she wants to do now is grab her surfboard and hit the waves—which is strange, because she wasn’t interested in surfing before her transplant. (It doesn’t hurt that her instructor, Kai, is seriously good-looking.)

And that’s not all that’s strange. There’s also the vivid recurring nightmare about crashing a motorcycle in a tunnel and memories of people and places she doesn’t recognize.

Is there something wrong with her head now, too, or is there another explanation for what she’s experiencing?

As she searches for answers, and as her attraction to Kai intensifies, what she learns will lead her to question everything she thought she knew—about life, death, love, identity, and the true nature of reality.

My Review:
Chloe is a senior in high school, on the cross-country team and in the AP classes. It’s fall and she’s prepping her applications. She’s made all the right academic and social moves to guarantee her admission to an amazing college of her own choosing, but a heart defect puts all her many and detailed plans on hold. Near Christmas she is saved by a donor heart, and we fast forward to the summer, because her recovery blotted out the majority of her senior spring and she is now in summer school to complete her courses and graduate. Chloe’s friends are moving on, planning a summer of fun before they start college, and she’s adrift. Nightmares claim her giving her glimpses of a tunnel and crash. Is this a memory of her own? Or one from her donor?

She’s never made time for recreation, but she feels inexplicably called to the ocean, and surfing. She finds a private instructor and plans lessons for a time when she’s supposed to be at the library. She also befriends Jane, another senior whose failed school because she just doesn’t care. Her family life is broken and she’s in need of attention however she can find it. Jane’s a party girl and she doesn’t mind bringing the staid Chloe on her adventures in San Francisco. But, most importantly, she begins to connect deeply with her surfing instructor, Kai, who has his own secrets.

Chloe’s growing strength and independence lead her to reach out to her donor’s family–who wants no contact. Seeking closure, and a reason behind the nightmares and memories that are not her own, causes Chloe to impinge on the privacy of the grieving, and alienate herself from those few people who have stood with her. It’s a 180 from her “before” life, and it’s in ways both empowering and self-destructive.

This story is like others written and reported from organ donors, of the liminal spaces between life and death, memory and experience. There are some odd and different twists here, and I think I struggled with the final reveal of Chloe’s true donor. For me, it crossed boundaries that brought in the supernatural–which was beyond what the plot supported. I thought I was getting a romance with soul-searching, but once the twists started to unravel I couldn’t shake the feeling those coincidental clues just didn’t all add up. That’s not to say it wasn’t a good read. I think that it was, and there were lots of powerful and poignant moments of connection that teens and adults who like teen reads could appreciate. It’s sex-innocent, though there are situations of excessive drinking and getting high, so I wouldn’t call it “clean” per se. I recommend it with the caveat that end is not “happy” in the YA romance-sense though the resolution is complete.

Interested? You can find EVERYTHING I THOUGHT I KNEW on Goodreads, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.

About the Author:
Shannon Takaoka is a young adult fiction author who loves books (of course) and all things nerdy. (Time travel? Weird science-y stuff? Alternate realities? Yes, please.) She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband, two children and one very needy dog. Her debut novel, EVERYTHING I THOUGHT I KNEW, about a 17-year-old girl questioning everything about who she is and who she wants to be following a heart transplant, will be published by Candlewick Press in 2020 and Walker UK in 2021.

Catch up with Shannon on her website and twitter.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Redemption for LUKA–Review and Giveaway

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review and giveaway for a M/M fantasy romance from Dianne Hartsock. LUKA features a powerful witch who has unwittingly captured the Hope in his world and the vindictive and malicious sorcerer who wants to capture it for his own gain.

Scroll down for an excerpt and to enter the GC giveaway!
About the book:
Luka makes a desperate wish and the earth shifts to his will. Regretting it immediately, he tries to undue the sorcery, but it is too late. He asked for hope, and to his horror, all the hope in the world is given into his keeping. He desires nothing more than to return this gift to the world.

Aethan wants to get his hands on the Well of Hope in Luka’s keeping. If he can ransom out hope to others at his whim, the world will be at his feet. Where it belongs.

With the aid of his lover, Rhys, Luka stays one step ahead of Aethan. But Rhys has his own enemy in Aethan, his estranged father.

Rescued by Luka, his sweet, gentle witch, Rhys now stands with him against Aethan. They have vowed to return the Well of Hope to the earth despite all odds, or die trying. For what is life worth, for anyone, without hope?

How about a little taste?

Luka settled cross-legged on the hearth with a murmured word of gratitude to the fire as its warmth surrounded him. Keeping a veiled eye on the woodpile, he crumbled a crust of bread and honey onto the stones. The animals had grown skittish of late, and he missed their company on his long tramps through the forest. The cabin had grown lonely without Rhys’s vibrant presence.

The thoughts of his lover sent his gaze to the small stack of books he kept close at hand to leaf through during the long empty nights. He’d rescued the young man from a brutish existence at the hands of a madman, and the stories were all that would ease his frantic, tortured mind. Rhys would sit close to Luka while Luka read the heroic tales until his head would nod, and he’d slump into Luka’s arms, a warm, living presence in his solitary life.

Luka raised his head, attentive. Winter gathered outside the latched door, wind howling through the trees, sending their limbs scratching along the roof. A shiver traveled up his spine. Something darker than the storm was coming.

The fire snapped in a shower of sparks, recalling his attention. He drew a small bundle of twigs from a pocket, cupped it in his worn, nut-brown hands, and breathed in the scent of juniper and sage. Chanting the words his mother had taught him long ago, he tossed the clump into the flames. A tendril of smoke rose, twirled in lazy circles in the air and brushed against his face.

He breathed deeply, holding in his lungs the heady smoke of the sage and grasses he’d gathered by the stream last autumn. His thoughts cleared. He saw everything! Snow whipped through the darkness between the trees, carried on the fierce wind. His beloved animals huddled in the scrub brush for safety and warmth. The village beyond the forest barred its doors, fires lit, safe inside while the storm raged.

His thoughts soared, bursting into the moonlit landscape above the clouds. Laughing aloud, his spirit flew in wonder, heart aching at the beauty of the night. But something tugged at his heart, his name shouted on the wind. He blinked at tears, bringing the fire back into focus, the cabin solid around him. Night pressed on the shuttered windows. Something was in the night…

Luka’s heart leaped. He comes! A soft cry of joy escaped him, and he rose in one fluid motion to his feet. He’d sent Rhys away to find love elsewhere than in the arms of a lonely witch, and yet he came, daring the storm.

“Come to me,” he urged the solitary figure in his mind’s eye, struggling up the path to reach him. A tremor seized him. Long years of bartering his herbs and potions to the villagers had passed while he waited with hope and dread for Rhys’s return, darkness at his heels.

He crossed the wooden floor of the cabin, logs he’d hewn and planed himself, lighting the candles with a word as he passed, filling the room with light. Luka paused at the door, hand hesitant on the latch. He had enemies beyond this safe threshold. What if Rhys had gone to them in his bitterness and returned now for revenge? Luka closed his eyes, seeing again the pain on Rhys’s youthful face, the confusion in his eyes when Luka told him to go, and closed the door on his anguished pleas.

A rap on the door sent his pulse racing. Love and doubt warred inside him, but he had to know, see the truth of it. He opened the door a crack; icy wind whistled in. A figure stood on his step, the heavy cloak clutched against the cold obscuring his features. Who was this? He swung the door wider. The energy was all wrong. But Luka would welcome him in whatever guise he wore.

He opened his hungry arms, but Rhys shook his head and looked up, candlelight spilling on his pale face, grown older. “You sent me away—brokenhearted.” Rhys’s voice was deeper than he remembered. “If I cross this threshold, I won’t leave again. Be very sure.”

Luka trembled, searching the beloved features, and mourned the sweet innocence that was missing. Snow sifted through the trees adding to the weight on Rhys’s shoulders, and Luka swallowed his doubts. “Come inside.” He tugged on Rhys’s sleeve, unable to mask his eagerness. His heart stumbled, then leaped, seeing a flash of elation in Rhys’s eyes.

Rhys stepped into the cottage in a flurry of cold air and snow, and Luka hastily closed and latched the door behind him. He turned, and his lips parted in a startled gasp. Rhys had removed his cloak, snow already melting on the warm floor. His golden hair fell loosely to his shoulders, and his body filled out the tunic and trousers he wore in a way it hadn’t five years ago. He had grown into a handsome man, the fine wool of his clothing attesting he’d done well in the village.

Suddenly conscious of his frayed sleeves and ink-stained fingers, the silver now threading his dark braid of hair, Luka glanced away. His gaze fell on the books and parchment littering every surface, candle wax spilled on the tabletops. A thick layer of dust covered the bookshelves, except for the volumes he used for reference. He chewed a lip, troubled.

“Come to the fire,” he offered, taking Rhys’s cloak to hang on a peg. “There’s a stew simmering on the hearth.”

Rhys touched his shoulder, halting him. “A moment. I’ve come to warn you. Your old enemy—”

“Is coming. This I know. We’ll talk of it later. Please, come to the fire. You must be cold.”

“Luka.”

Luka swiveled sharply at the command in Rhys’s voice, a thrill rushing through him. So much courage from his once timid lover. Was this the same man he’d rescued? The young lad of seventeen years, chained and beaten in a dank cellar? Rhys wouldn’t speak of his parents back then, saying only he’d lived on the charity of others—until he’d been snared, captive to a cruel man’s dark appetites.

Rhys’s soul had cried out in anguish from his prison, finding Luka’s heart, drawing him deep into the forest to the monster’s isolated hut. Luka had eluded the dark sorcerer, freeing the lad and taking him into his home. And later, into his bed, a moth to Rhys’s bright flame, his heart opened for the first time in uncounted years to love and promise.

My Review:
Luka is a powerful witch in his realm. He appears to be a youngish man, but is far older and more powerful than many suspect. Luka may have been the orgeny of semi-gods in that realm, for his parents are now spirits of the realm, and he has abilites far beyond even the most depraved of sorcerers–like Aethan. Luka once rescued one of Aethan’s son’s, Rhys, from his captivity. Aethan, and Rhys’ half-brother Lorin, made innumerable and frequent attacks on Rhys once he left Luka’s care, both physical and sexual, so be prepared for incest and rape references in the story.

Aethan wants the Well of Hope and he knows that Luka is the key to finding it. It’s not clear if Aethan knows that Luka is himself the Well, of if he suspects Luka knows the way to get to this Well but Aethan is determined to get Luka to give him the information he desires. Aethan wants to control Hope so that those who will not succumb to his own evil power will barter for the wishes and hope he possesses. One of the bargaining chips that Aethan desires to use against Luka is Rhys, but Luka gambles all to save his captured and tortured lover. He didn’t know that Rhys was in such dire straits until Aethan make an assault of Luka directly, battering through his wards with a changeling, of sorts.

This is an interesting and compelling read with plenty of magic and intrigue to keep the pace high and the pages turning. I loved Luka, and his gentle yet immutable nature. His love for Rhys is one thing, but protecting the world from Aethan’s wrath is yet another. He is willing to sacrifice himself to protect both, and he’s such an admirable character. In his world, Luka is shunned by many of society, as magic is dangerous and non-magic folk abhor it, as much as they can, at least. He is a man of color, with dark skin and immense power, which is also interesting. Rhys, who is a white man many year’s Luka’s junior, is imbued with magic, through Aethan’s line which only came about through the rape of his mother. Rhys has learned some skill, mainly by studying with Luka’s daughter Ravan, and the three of them are united against Aethan and Lorin’s attacks, the best they can. In the midst of this is the love story of Luka and Rhys, which should have been continuous but had a bittersweet tinge on account of Luka first healing and training Rhys, but later sending him on to protect him from Aethan’s searching magic. It was comically tragic that Rhys’ mdesire not to be a “burden” on Ravan led him to re-capture by Aethan… Talk about toxic masculinity.

I really enjoyed this story and the many layers to the mystery and the drama that surrounded the good and bad actors in the magic realm. It’s a beautifully told story with excellent world-building and interesting characters. Luka and Rhys are lovers to mark the ages in their world, and their connection was both tender and exquisite. Definitely recommend for fans of fantasy M/M romance and witchcraft stories.

Interested? You can find LUKA on Goodreads, NineStar Press, and Books2Read.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a $10 GC to NineStar Press.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
Dianne is the author of paranormal/suspense, fantasy adventure, m/m romance, the occasional thriller, and anything else that comes to mind. She lives in the beautiful Willamette Valley of Oregon with her incredibly patient husband, who puts up with the endless hours she spends hunched over the keyboard letting her characters play. She says Oregon’s raindrops are the perfect setting in which to write. There’s something about being cooped up in the house with a fire crackling on the hearth and a cup of hot coffee warming her hands, which kindles her imagination.

Currently, Dianne works as a floral designer in a locally-owned gift shop. Which is the perfect job for her. When not writing, she can express herself through the rich colors and textures of flowers and foliage.

You can catch up with Dianne on her website, Facebook, twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Big Changes Somehow LIGHTER–Review and Giveaway

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review and giveaway for a M/M YA contemporary romance from A. Aduma. LIGHTER features a high school senior, an immigrant from Kenya, coming to terms with his family issues and finding a boyfriend from a long-lost friend.

Scroll down for an excerpt and to enter the GC giveaway!
About the book:
After a bad breakup, Rasheed is determined to spend his last year of high school focused on his course work and to finish it with as little drama as possible. But when disaster strikes and his grandma ends up in the hospital, the threads holding his life together start to slowly unravel. Now, Rasheed has to deal with the return of his absent mother and sharing a home with her despite their strained relationship.

With old hurts surfacing and family dynamics shifting, Rasheed finds comfort and humor from his best friends, the Herman twins he’s tutoring, and his crush, Adam Herman, who’s not as unavailable as Rasheed had once thought. With more time spent together, Rasheed finds his feelings for Adam may never have gone away. And the feelings may not be as one-sided. Except, Rasheed has to confront old mistakes and come to terms with his own issues first, and a relationship may just complicate everything.

How about a little taste?

Chapter One:
“Please tell me it’s mahamri,” I said enthusiastically when I saw Granma kneading dough that would hopefully be rolled, cut into little squares, dipped into deep frying oil, and covered in whipped cream to create a slice of heaven. Paired with hot chai, it opened the door to another dimension.

Granma pounded the dough, one-two, and flipped it over. “It is.”

“Should I start on the tea?”

“You should start by taking the trash out.” She straightened, wiped the thin film of sweat from her forehead, and pointed to the overflowing trashcan. I could have emptied it last night, but I had an assignment due and each second counted; the four minutes it would have taken had seemed like a lifetime.

“Okay.” I stepped farther into the kitchen and pinched some of the dough. Granma smacked my hand with her flour-covered one. I should have seen it coming; it was a dance we’d been doing since I was five­­—I’d pinch the dough, she’d slap my hand, and warn me about worms making my stomach swell.

Sure enough she said, “Tumbo lako litafura.”

I refrained from rolling my eyes. The way she used to tell it, when I was a kid my stomach would get as large as a balloon before it burst, spraying worms everywhere.

I tossed the dough in my mouth, grabbed a pot, filled it with water, and put it to boil for tea. One thing Granma and I liked was tea—tea in the morning, tea in the afternoon, tea before bed—and coming to America hadn’t changed that. As soon as she was done with the mahamri, she’d set herself up on her favorite floral armchair in front of the TV with her cup of steaming hot tea and catch up on some daytime soaps. Sometimes I joined her—TV dramas had some really cute guys.

“They finally gave up the dog,” Granma announced.

“Huh?”

“Mrs. Kyle and that dog. The pepo chafu will not be terrorizing us again.”

Mrs. Kyle lived on the other side of the street, one house down from us. Her bulldog, Teddy—a name that maybe shouldn’t be handed out so easily to slobbering dogs—had the bad habit of chasing and attacking people, and she refused to put it on a leash. Granma did not like her. The whole neighborhood didn’t like her.

“Paul was right,” she continued, “Soon as someone threw in the word ‘sue,’ she became more accommodating.”

There’d been a lot of that lately—Paul this and Paul that. It would have slipped my mind if I hadn’t noticed her FaceTiming him two weeks before, and then a day ago. Paul only lived a fifteen-minute drive away, so why not text? Anyway, what was so important that she needed to video call?

“I’m guessing some are for Paul?”

“Yes.”

“That’s nice.”

She pulled a drawer open and retrieved a rolling pin. “Why are you saying it like that?”

“How am I saying it?”

“Like you mean to say something else.”

“It’s nothing— Okay, you and Paul are…friendly,” I teased.

“I don’t have many friends; another one never hurts.”

“True, but I don’t know many people who go around fixing other people’s houses out of the kindness of their heart.”

Granma fixed her eyes on the dough and started to roll it. “It’s called kindness. Looks like you’ve forgotten the meaning of the word.”

“I remember,” I said quickly before it turned into a speech about undugu. Yes, yes, love thy neighbor, unless it was Mrs. Kyle, of course. Lines had to be drawn somewhere.

I added a cinnamon stick and some ginger into the pot and turned to head back to my room. Granma pointed to the trashcan. “Usitume nikwambie mara ya pili.”

Right, the trash. I sighed.

Her eyes bored into me as I bent to pick it up, which usually made me more self-aware. Like, had I brushed my teeth or cleaned my room? “I don’t know where your mind is nowadays.”

I paused. “Just tired.” Second week of school, Granma!

I was still trying to shake off summer vibes and find my back-to-school rhythm. It wasn’t going great. On top of the mound of piling homework and the early waking hours that turned me into a zombie—sometimes even with growling, and on really bad days, I could bite someone’s head off—I was trying to dodge Scott, my ex-boyfriend. Whenever he weaved his way into my thoughts, my chest would burn with shame, and my body would turn into a bundle of nerves. That chai and mahamri better come quick. I needed a pick-me-up.

“You put your shirt on backward on Tuesday and didn’t notice.”

“My mind was elsewhere.”

Her eyes narrowed. “And you’re not on drugs?”

I refrained from sighing. “No, I am not on drugs.”

“What is it, then?”

“Not enough sleep.”

“Why? What do you have to stress about?”

I slumped. Things were off, and I couldn’t shake the oddness. Before I could get that out, Granma shuddered, exhaled loudly, and reached for the counter, clutching it tightly.

I moved toward her. “You okay?” But she waved me off.

Her mouth opened, closed, opened again, but nothing came out. I frowned in confusion. Finally, after a few seconds, she said, “Trash.”

“Okay, okay.”

“And check for your keys.”

“Ha ha.” Again, I was tired that day.

I shifted my eyes to her hands, still gripping the counter and repeated, “You okay?”

“I…haven’t pounded dough in forever.”

Her words were labored and breathy. She had been pounding away like an MFA fighter. Maybe that was it. Now I knew what I’d get her for Christmas—a stand mixer. Maybe that would encourage her to make mahamri more often and not break a sweat while doing it. I could do it, but I’d never gotten them right—soft and sweet but with a tinge of lemon and overwhelming taste of coconut. Mine usually came out too hard.

I lifted the bag and headed outside.

“And water my herbs for me.”

I huffed. I ought to have known going to the kitchen when Granma was there meant a one hundred percent chance I’d come out with a chore.

“Am I hearing you grumble?”

“No.”

“Good because that would be disrespectful to your elders.”

I held back the eye roll and made my way to the garbage bins. I dumped the trash and went to water her plants.

Granma had raised-bed planters for her herbs that Paul had made for her. The day he did it, Granma had prioritized keeping him company to watching her TV dramas even though she was religious about not missing episodes. Then there was that time Natalie had been over for their book club—they were the only two in the club, and they read one book a year, spent five minutes talking about how they didn’t get a chance to read it, and gossiped the rest of the time—and I overhead Granma describe Paul as a fine, fine man. Sure, there had been some wine involved, but still.

I winced when the scent of mint made me think of Scott. He loved mint-flavored ice cream and chewing mint-flavored bubblegum. I’d made it another week successfully avoiding him—thank you crowded hallways and different schedules. It was exhausting. I was constantly in flight mode. There had to be another way.

Apologize, a voice echoed in my mind. Apologize? As in, like, say sorry and stuff? Hmm.

Not that I hadn’t thought of it before, but how did people do that? The idea sounded foreign. Save for when I stepped on someone’s foot or bumped into them by accident; that was easy because they were accidents. Honest mistakes. What I had done had not been an honest mistake. So how did someone apologize for dumbness?

It was easier to stay clear of him, avoid any more drama, and focus on school.

If I ignored it maybe it would have no option but to magically—

“Eedy!” I paused, spooked by how she sounded—like a rusted engine trying and failing to come to life. As I put the watering can down, there was the sound of a body hitting the floor with a soft thud.

My heart leaped into my throat, and my stomach twisted with dread.

I rushed back to the house and found Granma lying on the floor—flat on her stomach and still as a rock. The world tilted and blurred together.

“Granma?” I said in a shaky whisper. I fell to my knees and with weak arms managed to turn her over. My breath caught at the sight of her. Her dark eyes were wide open, unfocused, and unblinking. A chill snaked down my back. I leaned down and felt her warm breath on my face. Oh, thank fuck.

I grabbed her hand and recoiled at its limpness. “Granma, are you okay?” Of course, she wasn’t okay.

She groaned.

“Tafadhali amka!” Please get up. I tried to pull her up and failed. Granma wasn’t small, and despite my size, I couldn’t get her to move. My pulse started to race and a heavy weight pressed down on my chest; breathing became difficult. I gasped for breath.

No. No. It would be alright.

“Musa?” she whispered roughly.

The hope I’d been holding on to sank somewhere to my toes. “No, Rasheed. Eedy.”

Musa was my babu’s name—my grandfather—a man we’d silently agreed to never speak of, ever. To Granma, saying his name was equal to calling on the devil, which wasn’t that far off from the truth.

I needed to call for help. She lay on the floor, immobile, her empty stare on me. I did not want to leave her. My eyes blurred. I stood on shaky feet and rushed to get my phone still buried under books from last night’s homework rush. My palms were sweaty enough it took a few swipes before I hit dial on the emergency contact. The person on the other end promised the ambulance would be coming soon.

I returned to crouch next to Granma and took her hand. She slurred something unintelligible that I failed to understand. “They’re coming.” I squeezed her hand.

She grumbled. It sounded like a mangled animal. I blinked to keep the tears from falling, but that only made them fall harder.

“It’s fine,” she slurred. Her hand twitched in mine.

It didn’t seem fine.

Last time she had ended up in hospital, it hadn’t been fine. Three weeks after I turned eight, and the world had turned upside down. I fought off the gnawing helplessness and tried to cling to positive thoughts. It would be alright.

Granma would be alright.

She didn’t really have a choice. She had her dramas waiting for her, Christmas was a few months away—Granma loved Christmas, all those sales and store decorations hyped her up—and I was going to graduate from high school.

My Review:
Rasheed is a Kenyan teenager living in the Dallas-area with his grandma, who has raised him. His mother is a filmmaker, and she’s been largely absent in his life, even before she got them out of Kenya. Grandma had been abused by her husband, and they had been in flight from his wrath before they were brought to the US. He’s always felt less than, because his mom never seemed to take an interest in him.

Rasheed is out to his grandma and friends, and has been for several years. It was the reason he pulled away from his close friendship with Adam Herman, a boy his own age and at his high school, for whom Rasheed had his first love. Adam is the fourth of six kids in a tight-knit family, with younger twin sisters and three older brothers. Adam’s mom and Rasheed’s grandma are good friends, and that is how he and Rasheed developed a friendship as children. When Rasheed’s grandma has a stroke the Herman’s take Rasheed in for a couple of nights, so he doesn’t have to be alone.

And, that was when his mom returned.

Rasheed’s world is in a tailspin, it seems, as he struggles with his fears over his grandma’s health, her deepening relationship with a local man called Paul, when his mom will take off again, and what’s up with his reconnection with Adam. The whole family seems to embrace Rasheed, and he’s grateful for the space and connection–what he’s been lacking at home. It’s a sweet story, with Rasheed being so awkward about most things, dodging an ex that he did wrong, and fearing the growing attraction that he feels for Adam–at least until Adam confesses his own secrets.

This is a YA romance and the physical affection between Rasheed and Adam is commensurate with the genre. It’s really a lot about figuring out the struggles and giving Rasheed the ability to mend relationships that should have been more strong to begin with. I love Rasheed, his cultural roots, and how he gains the strength to hold himself and others accountable for their actions. The Herman’s are an awesome family, and a great support, as is grandma and Rasheed’s other close friends: Mo and Peep. It’s a fun story and I loved it from start to finish.

Interested? You can find LIGHTER on Goodreads, NineStar Press, and Books2Read.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a $10 GC to NineStar Press.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
Aduma is an economics major at the University of Nairobi in Kenya, and the type of person who feels incomplete without a book in hand. When not reading or writing, Aduma can be found lost in spreadsheets and graphs with music for company.

You can catch up with them on twitter.

Reconnected Crush HOLIDAYS IN BLUE–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a contemporary M/M holiday romance from Eve Morton. HOLIDAYS IN BLUE features a mature man coming to terms with his shattered origins and finding solace and love with the younger neighbor who’d long crushed on him.

About the book:
Sometimes it takes a little ice to discover a whole lot of heat.
Cosmin Tessler is going home for Christmas. Eric Campbell is too.
Neither expected a homecoming quite like this.

When Cosmin Tessler’s radio show is canceled and Eric Campbell’s acting jobs dry up, they find themselves unexpectedly back in their old Toronto neighborhood…and back in each other’s lives years after they’d gone their separate ways. With a series of failed relationships and one ill-advised marriage behind them, both believe their chance for love has come and gone.

Luck, in the form of a massive ice storm, throws the former neighbors together again and they find themselves stranded, alone, for Christmas. Despite their difference in age, long-ago crushes and undeniable attraction prove too much to resist. But when the ice melts, only time will tell if their burgeoning romance will become just another missed chance—or a love story whose time has finally come.

A Forced Proximity Christmas Romance

My Review:
Cosmin Tessler was a Romanian orphan adopted by a Canadian couple in the 1980s. His parents were lovely people, but his mother and younger adoptive sister were killed in a car wreck when he was in college. His father, who had been sometimes difficult to speak to. generally closed down and closed off, leaving Cosmin very much alone in the world. Cosmin thought it was because he came out as gay, and he stayed away as a result. For nearly two decades he and his father were estranged, and he’s now mourning the loss of his childhood relationship as his father has recently passed away. Cosmin’s an intellectual, with a doctorate in literature, and also hosts a radio show in Toronto called “Sleep Alone”. It’s two weeks before the end of the year and he’s just learned–at the station Christmas party–that his show has been losing market share and it’s not being renewed. While nursing his sorrows at the bar Cosmin notes the younger, attractive bartender, but passes on with the mission to make one final show happen–and do it as an homage to his and his sister’s humble adoptive roots.

Eric Campbell is an attractive bisexual man in his thirties. He can’t believe his luck at seeing his high school-age crush, Cosmin, at a gig bartending job in the city. He’d been floundering, living with a pal in the suburbs outside of Toronto, hoping to get voice acting jobs for audiobooks to make ends meet. He’d been an actor, but hasn’t been employed regularly in a long time. He makes some serendipitous connections in the coming days, including getting to his parents’ home just hours before an enormous ice storm covers the Toronto area, shutting down electricity and travel for several days leading up to Christmas. Eric notices that “Old Man Tessler’s” place is covered in ice, and ventures out to ask his elderly neighbor if he needs assistance, not knowing that his neighbor had died several weeks ago and the light he sees is Cosmin looking through his father’s effects, searching for answers about his, and his sister’s, adoptions.

These two men are the only people trapped in the cul de sac, and with the electric and heating issues that are being challenged by the storm, Eric elects to stay at Cosmin’s–and help him search out his history. The closeness and the inability to get anywhere else allows these two to comfort one another, and work together to achieve Cosmin’s goals, while connecting in a way they had never before. Eric does indeed reveal his crush, and they build an intimacy that is not just built on sexual need. Cosmin examines his life, and his father’s actions, through a new lens revealed in the collections of journals his father left behind. It’s a beautiful awakening, and prompts Cosmin to reach farther out for connection than he ever has before. Eric is there, willing to take his hand, and their few idyllic days seem to be a foundation for the future.

Once the ice melts, however, will these two find that their nights of passion were fleeting, or the beginning of something quite bigger.

This is a quiet love story with a lyrical and winding prose that very much caters to Cosmin’s intellectual personality. I enjoyed it, though the pace was slow, to my preferences. I adored both Eric and Cosmin, who are unique and complicated characters. The family dynamics are interesting as these men deal with the sea change in attitudes toward sexuality with even just less than a decade of years between them. Also, Cosmin’s assumptions about his father are a huge counterpoint to the reality he encounters reading his father’s personal journals. They create a new narrative through which he must see and judge himself, as well, learning of his true history for the first time and wishing he could have gone back and mended fences so many years ago. In his late 40’s, Cosmin is unwilling to let time pass him by, now that he’s connected with Eric. Their reunion is so sweet–and the rom-com flavor of it brought a lightness the book really needed. It’s a good one if you have patience to really dig deep into the lives and psyche of characters who need more than just the surface view.

Interested? You can find HOLIDAYS IN BLUE on Goodreads, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.

About the Author:
Eve Morton is a writer living in Waterloo, Ontario. She grew up a forty-minute drive from Toronto, where she often spent her summers wandering down Queen Street West, going to concerts, or exploring the landscape of Rouge Hill, Toronto Island, and Exhibition Place. After graduating with a degree in English Literature and Women’s Studies, she floated from retail job to retail job before deciding that the classroom was the right place for her. While obtaining her advanced degrees in English Literature (with an emphasis on non-traditional representation and film), she met her husband. The two had both grown up a mere fifteen minutes from one another, yet had never met before, and soon found themselves easily falling in love as they explored the same place where they were both from with new eyes.

When she is not teaching online classes or working on yet another project, Eve is often reading a lot of books or listening to music from some of her favourite artists. She also loves to explore New Age shops in each city she visits whenever she travels, and continues to read tarot and astrology because it is so much fun. Eve also loves true crime, especially the forensic side of it, and is often swayed by a good podcast (especially if it’s funny). She continues to do academic research on LGBTQ communities, pulp and genre fiction, and film studies, along with other academic issues involving addiction, mental illness, and student representation.

Catch up with Eve on her website.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Unexpected Attractions GIVE WAY–Review and Giveaway

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review and giveaway for a M/M contemporary romance from Valentine Wheeler. GIVE WAY is a holiday-light romance that features two mature men finding unexpected companionship and love. I was happy to catch a new story from this author, after I re-read CHECKED BAGGAGE over Thanksgiving.

About the book:
Kevin McNamara’s life after retirement is…fine. He has friends, a few consulting gigs, and an ex-wife he’s finally on good terms with. But when he meets an intriguing stranger–a rarity in close-knit Swanley, Massachusetts–in his apartment lobby, he can’t stop thinking about him or about the unexpected attraction that knocked him flat.

Awais Siddiqui never thought he’d want to come back to his childhood hometown, but when his grandmother falls ill, he’s the only one who can move back to help. Awais figures he’ll be back in a big city soon enough–but then a silver fox on his route catches his eye.

It’s never too late to accept a second chance at love.

How about a little taste?

Kevin McNamara was not having a good day.

As he trudged up the street toward his block, his building loomed ahead, five stories of forbidding concrete. His kids kept telling him he had to find a nicer apartment–he’d only meant for this one to be a stopping place after the divorce, but here he was fifteen years later, solidly into his retirement, still crammed into his tiny two-bedroom. It was fine. He didn’t have to mow a lawn, and most of the other residents were older people or divorced dads, so he fit right in. A few kids visited their fathers on weekends and livened things up, and it was close enough to downtown that he could walk to get whatever he needed. On less soggy, snowy days, a stroll home was appealing, but not after a four hour transit meeting in Boston and with gray slush soaking into his loafers.

As he pulled his keys from his pocket in the vestibule, ready to open the door to the lobby, tires crunched on the asphalt outside and he turned to see a mail truck pulling up. He pushed open the vestibule door and got ready to greet Doris–she’d been his mail lady for ten years, so she deserved a smile even if Kevin’s toes were numb. But instead of his compact, South Asian mail lady, he was surprised to see a man in a postal uniform standing on the sidewalk, tall, dark, and–well, attractive. He was staring at the front of the building, glancing down at the mail in his hands and back up again.

“Hi,” said the man. “This is 210 Washakum Avenue, right?”

Kevin nodded. “Yes, the two fell off the sign last week and nobody’s been by to fix it.” He wasn’t sure why he’d felt the need to explain and wished he hadn’t.

The man grinned, showing very white, very even teeth. They looked even brighter against his short beard and light brown skin, which even in December was a few shades warmer than Kevin’s ever got. “Great. I’ve got a couple packages here, and I really didn’t want to leave them out in all this wet.”

“Yeah,” said Kevin. “Um.” He glanced behind him at the door to his building’s lobby, feeling unaccountably flustered. “Doris usually leaves them inside. Is she not in today?”

The man nodded. “She took the day off, so I’m helping out. I can’t believe they approved the time. December’s usually a no-go for leave, you know? Busiest season for Santas like me and Doris.”

“I bet.” Kevin pushed the door open. “Here, I won’t let the door lock you out.”

“Oh, I’m sure Doris left me a key somewhere,” said the man. “Don’t want to hold you up. I’m helping deliver packages for my overtime, and I’m still learning the town.” He paused. “I’m Awais, by the way.”

“Kevin,” said Kevin. “And it’s fine. I’m happy to hold the door. I’m in no rush.”

“McNamara? Kevin McNamara, is that right?” asked Awais.

“How did you guess?”

Awais grinned again, this time showing a dimple in one cheek, barely visible under his close-trimmed beard. “You’ve got a package, man.”

Kevin swallowed as Awais gathered a tub of packages in his arms and brushed past him into the lobby. The door wasn’t wide and neither was the lobby. He set the tub on the floor and knelt beside it. His slacks hugged his thighs: they seemed tighter than the usual postal cut as he bent over. And was the foyer suddenly warm?

“Let’s see.” Awais dug in the tub, setting a few packages aside. Kevin stood awkwardly, still holding the door. Dropping it would be rude, and it would trap them together in the small space, but he’d been holding it open for what felt like a long time. “Okay. Here we go!” He pulled out a large manila envelope, stacked the rest of the packages back in the tub, and rose to his feet gracefully. He was slender, Kevin noticed, but his shoulders were broad enough that the small space was awkward with both of their nearly six foot frames crowding it. “Here,” said Awais, holding it out.

Kevin took it. His fingers brushed Awais’s, shockingly warm against his own chilled ones. “Thanks,” he said, putting a bit of his usual charm in his smile. He knew the effect it had on people, and maybe it would counteract the incredibly weird impression this guy was getting of him.

Awais smiled back. “No problem. Gift for the wife?”

Kevin blinked. “Um, no,” he said, flummoxed. “I’m single.” Divorced, he’d meant to say. But it was too late to correct himself without drawing attention to it.

Awais’s eyes widened for the briefest moment, then his smile stretched even further. He winked. “Well, the ladies are missing out then.” He slung his satchel back over his shoulder, brushing past Kevin again where he was standing, still holding the door like a chump. He smelled like snow and woods and a little bit of sweat. Kevin decided to pretend he hadn’t just smelled the guy. He couldn’t help it in the hot, steamy foyer.

Through the glass, Awais climbed back in his truck, slid the door closed, waved, and pulled away.

Kevin looked down at the envelope. He didn’t even remember what he’d ordered. He took a step backward and winced at the squelch. He’d completely forgotten about his soaked shoes.

My Review:
Kevin McNamara is a 60 year old divorced man. He’s a retired lawyer and sometime politician in small but liberal Swanley, Massachusetts. Kevin’s ex-wife is an avowed bisexual, but Kevin has only ever dated women–many women–since his divorce nearly 15 years ago. So, it’s a little unsettling when Kevin meets a substitute package deliveryperson, Awais Siddiqui, and feels more than a little attraction.

Awais is a nearly 50 year old, out and proud, Middle Eastern man. He grew up in Swanley as a child, but moved with his family to South Carolina in his youth. He’s now back in Swanley to spend time with his aging grandmother, and he’s not averse to finding a good man with whom to settle down. Not that he thinks he’ll truly find one in this small town, no matter how gay-friendly it is. Still, he sure feels a little spark of interest from Kevin, and when they meet again at a bar it seems like a great match. Except that Kevin indicates this will be his first experience with a man since some youthful experimentation.

The night is glorious, but Kevin is shook in the light of day. Though he is still interested in Awais, he’s really not sure that he’s bisexual. He needs to look deep within himself and reconcile his history of attraction with his actual feelings currently. Awais is disappointed with Kevin’s luke-warm position, opting to be friends instead of lovers, but he doesn’t have a lot of time to mope. It’s the height of the Christmas mail season and overtime is abundant and necessary. That said, these men have a future, but it takes a little time to develop.

I really liked both Kevin and Awais. This setting of Swanley is really sweet as a small town. The secondary characters are really interesting, with Kevin’s ex-wife and adult daughter encouraging him to be open-minded. Meanwhile, Awais’ aunt is supportive and loving, and helps him not to be too sad for too long. There are some yummy and fun sexytimes, as Kevin experiences a sexual awakening he never anticipated. The resolution is tidy and speaks to a future of hope and love for two men who found themselves connected despite differences in culture, race, and experience. It was a quick and enjoyable read.

Interested? You can find GIVE WAY on Goodreads, NineStar Press, and Amazon.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a $10 GC to NineStar Press.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
Valentine is a latecomer to writing, though she’s always been a passionate reader. Through fanfiction she found her way to an incredible community of writers who’ve taught her to love making stories.

When she isn’t writing, she’s making bad puns, yelling about television, or playing with her small child.

Her life’s ambition is to eat the cuisine of every single country.

You can catch up with Lis on her website and twitter.

Opposites Attract in TEDDY SPENSER ISN’T LOOKING FOR Love–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m excited to share a review for a contemporary M/M romance from Kim Fielding. TEDDY SPENSER ISN’T LOOKING FOR LOVE connects a lonely designer-slash-marketing director with an introverted programmer. I enjoyed A SECOND HARVEST, LOVE CAN’T CONQUER, and THE LITTLE LIBRARY, so I jumped at the chance to read this one.

About the book:
Some people search their whole lives to find love. He just wants to avoid it.

Teddy Spenser spends his days selling design ideas to higher-ups, living or dying on each new pitch. Stodgy engineer types like Romeo Blue, his nemesis—if you can call someone who barely talks to you a nemesis—are a necessary evil. A cute necessary evil.

Working together is bad enough, but when their boss puts them both on a new high-stakes project, “working together” suddenly means:
–sitting uncomfortably close on the same plane
–staying in the same hotel room—with only one bed
–spending every waking minute together.

Turns out Mr. Starched Shirt has some hidden depths, and it’s getting harder to ignore the spark Teddy feels with every brush of their hands, with every knowing glance. He might not have been looking for this connection with Romeo, but will he ever be ready to let him go?

My Review:
Teddy Spenser and Romeo Blue both work for the same bare-bones tech start-up company trying to sell “smart vases”. Teddy is the designer and marketing director for Reddyflora while Romeo is the programmer for the tech-side. Romeo has his own office, one of only two in the shoddy Chicago digs. Their boss and the company president has the other. Teddy thinks that Romeo is a stuck up dude, even if he does fill out his stylish suits quite well. But, Teddy isn’t looking for love. Not since his last beau broke his heart. Teddy still can’t let go of all that hurt–and since he has little to occupy his time beyond design and thrift shopping, well, it’s hard to get over it.

Teddy imagines that Romeo is a nemesis, but really, he’s practically a stranger. He’s quite reasonable, actually, as Teddy recognizes once they get working on a redesign of the vase together. See, turns out the tech can’t exactly be hidden in Teddy’s austere design scheme, so they come up with a better plan to camouflage the bits that can’t be hidden and Teddy thinks’ the job is done. But, instead, he and Romeo are sent to Seattle to pitch their smart vase to vaunted designer and known technophobe, Joyce Alexander. Without her backing, Reddyflora’s capital stream is about to dry up and the company will collapse.

The trip to Seattle is revealing in many ways. Teddy sees Romeo as a compassionate man, assisting in the care for his nieces, as well as a stranger’s crying infant on the plane. They both struggle with the tiny hotel room, and one bed, but it’s only because they know so little about one another. The close quarters imposes a boundary across which they build emotional intimacy, and completing Ms. Alexander’s eccentric “tasks” also fosters a dynamic that unite Teddy and Romeo in their professional mission and in their personal lives.

It’s a really sweet slide into coupledom, with Teddy styling Romeo once he learns that Romeo truly appreciates his aesthetic, and is willing to soften his look with gender-bending choices. Teddy loves the way green and blue silks accentuate Romeo’s brown skin tones. Romeo’s encyclopedic knowledge of nature, cooking and…everything is really attractive to Teddy–who can’t believe that such a buff and suave-looking man is so crippled by attention and is attracted to himself. Their mutual esteem is only balanced by their personal, self-esteem struggles. I loved how they bonded with each other and how loving Romeo’s family was when he brought Teddy home for Sunday supper. The end has one of those rom-com twists where they are forced to make decisions that could break them up, but they are really only more cemented together.

Sexytimes are more tender than passionate, but are fully enjoyable. I really adored this one, and with the little mini-Valentine’s theme it’s great book to pick up in January.

Interested? You can find TEDDY SPENSER ISN’T LOOKING FOR LOVE on Goodreads, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. I received a review copy of this book via NetGalley.

About the Author:
Kim Fielding lives in California and travels as often as she can manage. A professor by day, at night she rushes into a phone booth to change into her author costume (which involves comfy clothes instead of Spandex and is, sadly, lacking a cape). Her superpowers include the ability to write nearly anywhere, often while simultaneously doling out assistance to her family. Her favorite word to describe herself is “eclectic” and she finally got that fourth tattoo.

Catch up to Kim on her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Eternally Trapped IN A HOLIDAZE–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m excited to share a review for a contemporary holiday romance from Christina Lauren. IN A HOLIDAZE mixes “Groundhog Day” schitck with a new adult romance for a very confused young woman.

About the book:
One Christmas wish, two brothers, and a lifetime of hope are on the line for hapless Maelyn Jones in In a Holidaze, the quintessential holiday romantic novel by Christina Lauren, the New York Times bestselling author of The Unhoneymooners..

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…but not for Maelyn Jones. She’s living with her parents, hates her going-nowhere job, and has just made a romantic error of epic proportions.

But perhaps worst of all, this is the last Christmas Mae will be at her favorite place in the world—the snowy Utah cabin where she and her family have spent every holiday since she was born, along with two other beloved families. Mentally melting down as she drives away from the cabin for the final time, Mae throws out what she thinks is a simple plea to the universe: Please. Show me what will make me happy.

The next thing she knows, tires screech and metal collides, everything goes black. But when Mae gasps awake…she’s on an airplane bound for Utah, where she begins the same holiday all over again. With one hilarious disaster after another sending her back to the plane, Mae must figure out how to break free of the strange time loop—and finally get her true love under the mistletoe.

Jam-packed with yuletide cheer, an unforgettable cast of characters, and Christina Lauren’s trademark “downright hilarious” (Helen Hoang, author of The Bride Test) hijinks, this swoon-worthy romantic read will make you believe in the power of wishes and the magic of the holidays.

My Review:
Maelyn Jones loves nothing more than spending Christmas with an extended family of her parents’ dearest friends in a bursting-at-the-seams cabin in Utah. It has been a tradition for her whole life, and brings a plethora of memories, including those surrounding her deep and unrequited love for Andrew, the eldest son of the cabin owners: her mom’s college roommate and her husband. These people are her family to a degree, and when Mae gets drunk at the end of their stay she makes out with Theo, Andrew’s philandering younger brother–who treats her like crap the morning after. And after THAT she learns the cabin is being sold and she’ll never spend Christmas with these folks again. It’s upsetting–even more so than her parents’ divorce several years ago.

While heading for the airport, deeply disappointed Mae makes a wish to find “what will make her happy”. Then fate steps into her path. She’s next conscious on the airplane en route to Utah, a week ahead of the nightmare trip she’d just endured. Armed with the knowledge she’d just gained, Mae tries to make sense of this second chance. Only, she keeps messing up and getting sent back to the airplane to restart the pathway to her happiness.

She finally decides to confide in Benny, one of the original parent-pals, who is a usual co-conspirator. Benny aids Mae in her quest to not be shipped off to the plane, and also to find her happiness. It turns out that Mae is deeply unsatisfied with the state of her life, and she decides to do EVERYTHING differently, like even confessing her longstanding crush on Andrew. It seems to be working, because Andrew is pretty much the best kind of guy, but even he struggles to understand Mae’s predicament. She’s terrified that she’s going to finally get what she so desperately wants, but have it ripped away in a flash of tragedy and return to the danged airplane.

If you like Groundhog Day, and holiday romances, this book is likely going to be a hit for you. Poor Mae has so many fits and starts, and her relationships with these folks are all so strong and yet tenuous. She offends Theo, who has a weird fixation that THEY were supposed to get together, since they are the same age, while Andrew gets mad that there might have been a reality where Mae chose Theo…first. The angst and drama are all so timely placed, I was turning the pages late into the night to get to the HEA, which totally happens, even if Mae hadn’t figured out how entirely her life needed to change if she was going to find her true happiness. I also liked that she needed the help of others to make the happiness of their entire crew grow by leaps. I really enjoyed it, even though it’s pretty low on the steam factor for New Adult romance.

Interested? You can find IN A HOLIDAZE on Goodreads, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. I received a review copy of this book via NetGalley.

About the Author:
Christina Lauren is the combined pen name of long-time writing partners/besties/soulmates/brain-twins Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings. The coauthor duo writes both Young Adult and Adult Fiction, and together has produced sixteen New York Times bestselling novels. Their books have been translated into 30+ languages. (Some of these books have kissing. Some of these books have A LOT of kissing.)

You can find Christina and Lauren on their website, and twitter: Christina or Lauren,.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Fortunes Found on THE HOLIDAY DETOUR–A Review

Hi there! I’ve read a bunch of holiday romances and want to share some thoughts on those over the next few weeks, so please bear with me. Today I’m excited to share a review for a contemporary holiday F/F romance from Jane Kolven. THE HOLIDAY DETOUR features a down-on-her-luck Jewish lesbian struggling to make it home to her elderly grandma for the holidays.

About the book:
Sometimes it takes everything going wrong to make you see how right things are.

Dana Gottfried is a stressed-out Jewish lesbian who’s just quit her job and wants to get home to see her grandmother. When her car breaks down in Indiana on Christmas Eve, Dana is stranded—until she’s rescued by Charlie, a pig farmer who doesn’t identify as male or female. Although they come from different worlds, Dana is intrigued by Charlie’s sense of humor and kindness. Despite her better judgment, Dana says yes when Charlie offers a ride.

But the journey home is paved with detours. From car accidents to scheming ex-girlfriends to a snowy and deserted Chicago Loop, everything that could go wrong on their road trip does, but it leads Dana on a path of self-discovery that just might end in love.

My Review:
Dana Gottfried is a 32 year old lesbian Jewish woman who’s just given notice at her job–before she could get fired. She’s driving from Cleveland to the Chicago suburbs to spend the holiday with her 85 y/o grandma, her only remaining family. Her car breaks down in Indiana, though, and she’s picked up by a cute genderqueer person, Charlie whose rusted out truck barely seems roadworthy. Charlie says their family lives in an adjacent suburb to Dana’s grandma’s and they would be willing to drive her all the way.

Dana is thrilled, especially since she’s a bit intrigued with Charlie. It’s going kinda well. But Dana is a little neurotic, and she’s always second guessing if Charlie is telling the truth. And, they get into scrapes on the journey, like when a jerk gives Charlie guff for using the Ladies’ bathroom, or when they are acting as Good Samaritans and the truck gets towed.

This is a bit of a madcap connection story. Charlie is a decent and kind person, and Dana is attracted, but also wary. She’s actually a hot mess, worried about her lonely grandma, her dwindling finances, and now concerned how to get to her childhood home when help is dependent on Charlie’s jealous ex-girlfriend. It’s a little mish-mash of Planes, Trains and Automobiles meets a rom-com and it’s sweet and silly by turns. Dana runs hot and cold, which makes her less appealing than Charlie, but they do figure out that they are a match. I liked that they did “get” one another, and their futures have enough flexibility to accommodate a new/first relationship.

I liked the story, and I liked that Dana calmed the heck down and stopped talking herself out of any and everything that could possibly be good. Charlie really also came a long way, repairing relationships with friends on their way through this adventure. As a Chicagoan, and a person who’s made those drives across I80 and into and out of the Chicago traffic, I could fully sympathize with Dana and Charlie and their experiences.

Interested? You can find THE HOLIDAY DETOUR on Goodreads, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. I received a review copy of this book via NetGalley.

About the Author:
Jane Kolven is an author of contemporary, fun LGBTQ romances. She is proud to create stories that show a variety of LGBTQ people finding happiness—because everyone deserves love. Jane currently lives in Michigan with her wife and their pets.

You can find Jane on her website, and twitter.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!