Off the Banned Book List: PERSEPOLIS–A Review

Hi there! As part of my Reading Resolutions for 2016, I made a vow to read books that continue to make the ALA Banned Book List. I’ve picked up a couple already, and had a chance to complete the graphic biography (which is a biography that is illustrated like a comic, or graphic novel) PERSEPOLIS: Story of a Childhood from Marjane Satrapi.

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood (Persepolis, #1-2)About the book:
A New York Times Notable Book
A Time Magazine “Best Comix of the Year”
A San Francisco Chronicle and Los Angeles Times Best-seller

Wise, funny, and heartbreaking, Persepolis is Marjane Satrapi’s memoir of growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. In powerful black-and-white comic strip images, Satrapi tells the story of her life in Tehran from ages six to fourteen, years that saw the overthrow of the Shah’s regime, the triumph of the Islamic Revolution, and the devastating effects of war with Iraq. The intelligent and outspoken only child of committed Marxists and the great-granddaughter of one of Iran’s last emperors, Marjane bears witness to a childhood uniquely entwined with the history of her country.

Persepolis paints an unforgettable portrait of daily life in Iran and of the bewildering contradictions between home life and public life. Marjane’s child’s-eye view of dethroned emperors, state-sanctioned whippings, and heroes of the revolution allows us to learn as she does the history of this fascinating country and of her own extraordinary family. Intensely personal, profoundly political, and wholly original, Persepolis is at once a story of growing up and a reminder of the human cost of war and political repression. It shows how we carry on, with laughter and tears, in the face of absurdity. And, finally, it introduces us to an irresistible little girl with whom we cannot help but fall in love.

My Review:

I”m going to start this review with the end. I read the last page, closed the book, and burst into tears. There’s a reason I don’t read non-fiction or biography very often, and that’s because I read as an escape from the usual and difficult bits of life that often catch me raw. PERSEPOLIS is a biography, told in graphic “novel” format, illustrating roughly 6 years in the life of an Iranian girl from 1978-1984. This was a time of incredible upheaval in the populace and government of Iran, and marked by revolution, war and religious strife.

As it’s a biography, it tells Marjane’s particular story, growing up with socially active and successful parents, who had some direct ancestry to the shah who’d been deposed in the 1950s. Also, her grandfather served high in the government, before being exiled.

Marjane’s perspective is of a forthright and questioning child who doesn’t understand why her school is now for girls only. Why she must, suddenly due to the Islamic revolution, now wear a veil. Why she cannot possess Western clothing. Why her parents protest their government, and she cannot. Marjane is an only child, and she’s a bit precocious, but she’s also just plain curious and mystified about her world. She wants it to makes sense, and latches on to “heroes” of her environment, like her uncle who survived years as a political prisoner.

Thing is, is seems life didn’t make much sense for the adults in the period, as Satrapi continually relates. Her parents and their neighbors are often performing a public display of allegiance, and privately live as they would choose–even taping their curtains closed so spying eyes cannot bear witness to parties and card playing and alcohol consumption. Revolutionaries believed they would install a democratic government and instead they got a theologic-based government of religious leaders. The hypocrisy of which was made quite clear, when all that was required was for disgruntled men to grow a beard and claim power, in the eyes of Marjane’s grandmother.

I believe some of the most poignant passages illustrated Marjane and her peers talking about the revolution, the Iran-Iraq war and the human tollof all this upheaval. Young, primarily poor, boys being recruited to serve as cannon fodder–in exchange for the “key” to Heaven. The ban on travel for boys aged 13 and over so they could be assured of having soldiers in a war that could have ended, except it served the government’s purpose. The danger of having an outspoken girl in a repressive society. Marjane watches as more and more of her friends disappear, and experiences the terror of becoming a target of the morality police.

I do not know much of the internal politics of this region, and found the brief and tidy snippets of history from young Marjane to be relevant, if not entirely explanatory. Without question, the book is a fantastic look into a world, and history, that should be more widely known. Further, it’s unflinching in its presentation, and accessible to a wide range of readers because of the perspective and voice.

Regarding the “banned” label, the reasons cited for banning the book are as follows: gambling, offensive language, political viewpoint. Additional reasons: “politically, racially, and socially offensive,” “graphic depictions”.

I’ll be honest, none of those parts of the book bothered me. If American citizens are outraged that a foreign-born person is citing use of CIA-trained torture tactics, including whipping, mutilation, urinating on a prisoner, burning alive, and dismemberment, they ought to complain to the government for allowing such practices to become part of their “arsenal,” not the school for having the book on the shelf.

This book was on the reading list of my son in seventh grade. I live in a town that is ethnically and racially mixed, with a high percentage of college-educated residents, and some of the highest-graded schools in my state. It’s “liberal” and I’m proud to be a part of that vibrant community. Having read Persepolis for myself, I’m glad my son read it. I hope that it sparks the same skepticism that Marjane and her parents demonstrated regarding his own government. I think it’s an important book to read, especially now as we see more and more problems within the Middle East region. It humanizes the many thousands of people that live under a regime they perhaps do not agree with, and against which they resist in whatever manner is possible for them. I think it applies farther than Iran’s borders, in many respects.

For myself, living in the nation with the largest free-standing military int he world, I can only voice my pacifism through demonstration and political will. I’m proud to have that right, and will exercise it, even as my fellows shout out my voice for cries to war. Thanks Marjane, for sharing your struggle. It’s a chilling story, and should be distributed far and wide, IMHO.

Interested? You can find PERSEPOLIS on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and your local library system…perhaps. Remember this is a “banned” book, so you may have to request it. I find it interesting that the cover was censored in my library, and have it in my mind to ask why upon returning the book.

About the Author:

Marjane Satrapi (Persian: مرجان ساتراپی) is an Iranian-born French contemporary graphic novellist, illustrator, animated film director, and children’s book author. Apart from her native tongue Persian, she speaks English, Swedish, German, French and Italian.

Satrapi grew up in Tehran in a family which was involved with communist and socialist movements in Iran prior to the Iranian Revolution. She attended the Lycée Français there and witnessed, as a child, the growing suppression of civil liberties and the everyday-life consequences of Iranian politics, including the fall of the Shah, the early regime of Ruhollah Khomeini, and the first years of the Iran-Iraq War. She experienced an Iraqi air raid and Scud missile attacks on Tehran. According to Persepolis, one Scud hit the house next to hers, killing her friend and entire family.

Satrapi’s family are of distant Iranian Azeri ancestry and are descendants of Nasser al-Din Shah, Shah of Persia from 1848 until 1896. Satrapi said that “But you have to know the kings of the Qajar dynasty, they had hundreds of wives. They made thousands of kids. If you multiply these kids by generation you have, I don’t know, 10-15,000 princes [and princesses]. There’s nothing extremely special about that.” She added that due to this detail, most Iranian families would be, in the words of Simon Hattenstone of The Guardian, “blue blooded.”

She currently lives in France.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Turning the Corner FIRST AND FIRST–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a contemporary M/M romance from Santino Hassell. FIRST AND FIRST is a sweet and sexy story about finding yourself and being true, even if it’s not convenient.

First and First (Five Boroughs, #3)About the book:
Caleb Stone was raised on the Upper East Side, where wealth and lineage reigns, and “alternative lifestyles” are hidden. It took him years to come out to his family, but he’s still stuck in the stranglehold of their expectations. Caleb knows he has to build his confidence and shake things up, but he doesn’t know how… until Oliver Buckley enters the picture.

Oli is everything Caleb isn’t—risk-taking, provocative, and fiercely independent. Disowned by his family, Oli has made his own way in the world and is beholden to no one. After a chance encounter on New Year’s Eve, Caleb is smitten.

As Caleb sheds the insecurities that have held him back for years, he makes bold steps toward changing his career and escaping years of sexual repression. But for Caleb to take full control of his life, he has to be brave enough to confront his feelings and trust Oli with his heart.

My Review:
This is the third book in a series, but fully enjoyable on its own. There are recurrent characters who make appearances, some quite heavily, but this is Caleb’s love story, so it’s mostly about him.

Caleb is 37 years old and a trust fund “kid.” He’s got an MBA and really enjoys helping get start-ups off the ground, but has never really felt connected with the culture of the companies he’s assisted as CFO. Perhaps that’s why he’s always been “expendable” to them once they are off and running. Just as he was expendable to his previous lover, David. Caleb feels a bit lost, and totally awkward. He didn’t come out until his was 30 and is a bit repressed when it comes to his lovers. Until New Year’s Eve when he gets absolutely plastered and leaves the big party with Oliver.

Oli was raised with wealth, like Caleb. He knows the manipulations and touchy situations of affluence in a way David didn’t. His family cast him out at eighteen, however, when they discovered he was gay and he’s had to make his own way in life. Like many of his “friends,” Oli is a man Caleb met through David. Caleb and Oli have a rockin’ night that Caleb doesn’t remember. At first. *shakes head* that was the WORST morning after, maybe…ever.

Oli and Caleb strike up a buddy-ship of sorts. Oli likes to go to exclusive sex-club parties and he needs a “plus one,” and Oli thinks it’ll help Caleb mellow out about sex. Caleb agrees, because he does feel too uptight, and knows it was a problem between himself and David. Not that he’s hoping to get David back; he knows that ship has exploded, and the wreckage hit the bottom of the ocean. Still, the exposure to that alternate lifestyle is freeing, in a way. It even reunites Caleb with his half-brother Aiden, a man he had little knowledge of until recently. Aiden was the result of an affair, and he’s a dirty little secret–and treated so. Aiden grew up poor and is married to a man, but lives closeted, in the hope that his father’s bare-minimal attempts to aid his career will result in a better lifestyle.

Being near Oli and Aiden gets Caleb’s wheels turning. He wants to open his own company, making an app that he’ll have an ownership stake in, and not simply get cut out to the loop if it gets successful. Aiden knows marketing and programming, Oli is a computer programmer, and Caleb’s a financial wunderkind, so he thinks the idea is a slam-dunk. It’s not, but they refine it and build on it, and make it what they want–and it marks a turning point both for Caleb and Oli.

Oli is all about casual sex, something he’s very forthright about, but he’s having second thoughts with Caleb. Caleb really doesn’t want anyone other than Oli, and he has to find the strength to make his feelings clear. I think their love story is one that felt real and tangible on the page. It’s not perfect, and it’s easy to see how titillating the parties would be, to a young and single man–or even married couples who like a little variety, like Aiden and his husband. It’s a very sex positive book, with so many interesting and sexy elements.

I liked how Aiden, Caleb and Oli worked together to make this new venture succeed. Caleb wanted to fund  the enterprise, but they wouldn’t allow that–which forced Caleb out of his comfort zone in a professional way, and that was also a point of growth for him. It was also cool to see the inside story of Caleb and Aiden and their father–and how the mangled relationships still held a bit of affection. I also really liked that Caleb and Aiden–and their sister, too–began building a real relationship that was outside of all the family drama.

For a book that includes so much public sex, group sex, and plain out filthy talk, it’s surprisingly tender. All of these experiences are filtered through Caleb’s wary eyes and insecure mind-set. I was so happy that Oli finally stopped being a stubborn guy and really allowed what was building between them to progress. He’s clearly been crushed by the rejection of his family, and finding solace and love from Caleb is a balm for his bruised heart and battered ego.

Interested? You can find FIRST AND FIRST on Goodreads, Dreamspinner Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and AllRomance.

About the Author:
Santino Hassell was raised by a conservative family, but he was anything but traditional. He grew up to be a smart-mouthed, school cutting grunge kid, then a transient twenty-something, and eventually transformed into an unlikely romance author.

Santino writes queer romance that is heavily influenced by the gritty, urban landscape of New York City, his belief that human relationships are complex and flawed, and his own life experiences.

You can find Santino online on his website, Facebook, and twitter.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Kids Mastering THE ART OF BEING NORMAL–Cephalopod Coffeehouse Review May 2016

Hi there! Welcome one and all to the Cephalopod Coffeehouse, a cozy gathering of book lovers, meeting to discuss their thoughts regarding the tomes they enjoyed most over the previous month. Pull up a chair, order your cappuccino and join in the fun.

This month I’m sharing a book that I totally enjoyed and think is a truly relevant read in this time of unsettling fears (unfounded IMHO) regarding transgender persons and their rights to free access/privacy. THE ART OF BEING NORMAL is a look into the life of teens who face gender dysmorphia–and may seek to transition. It’s a really excellent read I’d recommend to readers of all ages.

About the book:
Two boys. Two secrets.
David Piper has always been an outsider. His parents think he’s gay. The school bully thinks he’s a freak. Only his two best friends know the real truth – David wants to be a girl.

On the first day at his new school Leo Denton has one goal – to be invisible. Attracting the attention of the most beautiful girl in year eleven is definitely not part of that plan.

When Leo stands up for David in a fight, an unlikely friendship forms. But things are about to get messy. Because at Eden Park School secrets have a funny habit of not staying secret for long…

My Review:
This is a contemporary YA story about two teenagers struggling with gender identity. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, so forgive me if this is a little light on plot summary.

The book is set in England, and is delightful in its Britishness.

David Piper wants to be a girl. He’s 14 and tracking how his “alien” body grows and sprouts and becomes something he cannot tolerate. Everyone thinks he’s gay–but he believes he’s a girl trapped in a male body, and spends hours lounging in cast-off girl clothes when his family is out and he is alone. He is a social misfit, having only two friends–and wants so desperately to tell his parents how he truly feels–that he is transgender–but is afraid to disappoint them. David attends Eden Park school, housed in a rather affluent neighborhood, and yet still containing all the rude elements of teen society–David’s bullied mercilessly by a group of classmates.

Leo Denton lives in Cloverdale, a very poor neighborhood. I believe the term “Council Estates” is one that would be applied–which is the British equivalent of “welfare housing” in the States. It’s a mess of a place and he and his two sisters live with their mother, a gal very much in the market for a decent man. Leo’s father split before he was even born, and Leo idolizes the idea of having a father. That isn’t so hard when his homelife is dismal. Leo was a star pupil at the Cloverdale school, he’s brilliant at Maths, but an “incident” has caused him to transfer to Eden Park.

David wants to reach out to Leo, senses his deep loneliness, but Leo brushes off most attempts at friendship, including David’s. Leo wants to keep his head down and not cause a stir–even though the whole of Eden Park’s students think Leo must have been a troublemaker–maybe even violent–to allow his transfer. One day, when David is being tormented by the bullies, Leo snaps–his temper really has been a problem in the past. Their mutual punishment–detention–puts them in close proximity. Leo feels bad for David, sees something in him that he recognizes in himself, and he offers to help David in math–a subject David is failing.

They develop a tentative friendship, and this is problematic for Leo. As is his attraction and budding friendship (maybe more) with Alicia a self-styled singer/songwriter and one of the class’ most popular girls.

This is such a fantastic and affirming story. There’s a bit of a love interest brewing between Alicia and Leo which leads to consequences only Leo could have seen coming. David is Leo’s staunchest friend and supporter, and when things go bad at school it is David who tries to fix them. David has his own challenges, and being friends with Leo, and learning from Leo’s struggles, allows him to build the skills and strength necessary to come out to his parents, and begin the path towards transitioning therapies. I don’t want to say that things got easier for David after those revelations, but many of his fears were assuaged and his contentment regarding becoming his true self: “Kate” was so spectacularly joyous.

This is a teen book, but it’s really clean. Also, it’s touching and tender and poignant and captivating. I found myself so rooting for both David and Leo to find their own “normal” which required them to be honest, build friendships and allies, and those activities surely assisted them in reaching their goals. It was a fantastic read for teens, particularly those who may also be questioning their gender identity. I say this because it was a candidly told story that felt relatable and with sufficient depth of both character and plot to be a realistic emotional resource. I really enjoyed!

Interested? You can find THE ART OF BEING NORMAL on Goodreads, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. Paperback copies are on sale right now, but the ebook and hardcover will be released May 31st. I received a review copy of this book via NetGalley.

Be sure to hop on over to all the other blogs sharing their fave book of the month, and keep reading my friends!

Cover Reveal for BEDMATES!

Hi there! I’m sharing a cover for a new contemporary romance form best-selling author Nichole Chase. I really liked FLUKES and THE ACCIDENTAL ASSASSIN, and BEDMATES looks like it’s going to be a good one!

BEDMATES_CoverAbout the book:

Everyone makes mistakes, especially in college. But when you’re the daughter of the President of the United States, any little slip up is a huge embarrassment. Maddie McGuire’s latest error in judgment lands her in police custody, giving the press a field day. Agreeing to do community service as penance and to restore her tattered reputation, Maddie never dreams incredibly good looking but extremely annoying vice president’s son, Jake Simmon, will be along for the ride.
Recently returning from Afghanistan with a life-altering injury, Jake is wrestling with his own demons. He doesn’t have the time or patience to deal with the likes of Maddie. They’re like oil and water and every time they’re together, it’s combustible. But there’s a thin line between love and hate, and it’s not long before their fiery arguments give way to infinitely sexier encounters.
When Jake receives devastating news about the last remaining member of his unit, the darkness he’s resisted for so long begins to overwhelm him. Scared to let anyone close, he pushes Maddie away. But she isn’t about to give up on Jake that easily. Maddie’s fallen for him, and she’ll do anything to keep him from the edge as they both discover that love is a battlefield and there are some fights you just can’t lose.
Interested? You can find BEDMATES on Goodreads, for now! It releases in October.
About the Author:
Nichole Chase is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Suddenly Royal and Recklessly Royal. She lives in Georgia with her husband, toddler, superhero dog, Sulcata tortoise, and two cats. When not devouring novels by the dozens, you can find her writing, painting, crafting, or chasing her daughter around the house while making monster noises.

You can catch up with Nichole on her website, Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Odd Hearts CHARGED–Review and Giveaway!

Charged RWB BannerHi there! I’m so excited to share an excerpt, review and giveaway in support of a brand new contemporary romance from Jay Crownover. CHARGED is the second book in her new Saints of Denver series. You know I really enjoyed BUILT, so I had to keep reading this series!

Catch the excerpt and be sure to enter the $25 GC and signed book giveaway below!

Charged (Saints of Denver, #2)About the book:

From the New York Times bestselling author of the Marked Men books comes the second installment in the Saints of Denver series featuring a bad girl and a by-the-book attorney who could be her salvation…or her ruin.

Avett Walker and Quaid Jackson’s worlds have no reason to collide. Ever. Quaid is a high powered criminal attorney as slick as he is handsome. Avett is a pink-haired troublemaker with a bad attitude and a history of picking the wrong men.

When Avett lands in a sea of hot water because of one terrible mistake, the only person who can get her out of it is the insanely sexy lawyer. The last thing on earth she wants to do is rely on the no-nonsense attorney who thinks of her as nothing more than a nuisance. He literally has her fate in his hands. Yet there is something about him that makes her want to convince him to loosen his tie and have a little fun…with her.

Quaid never takes on clients like the impulsive young woman with a Technicolor dye job. She could stand to learn a hard lesson or two, but something about her guileless hazel eyes intrigues him. Still, he’s determined to keep their relationship strictly business. But doing so is becoming more impossible with each day he spends with her.

As they work side-by-side, they’ll have to figure out a way to get along and keep their hands off each other—because the chemistry between them is beyond charged.

How about a little taste?


              She let her arms fall and scooted forward on the chair. She leaned forward and looked at me intently. Her eyes were mesmerizing and I found myself distracted by all the different colors trapped there. I had to ask her to repeat herself when I realized she said something and was waiting for a response from me. I needed to get my head in the game where this girl was concerned…this girl…that was the part I seemed to keep forgetting.

              “What did you say?” My voice dipped lower than it normally was and I shifted in my seat as other parts of me started to notice all the interesting and attractive things about Avett Walker as well.

              “I said, I Googled you.” She swept some of her hair back from where it had fallen over her shoulder, and I literally had to force myself to keep my gaze locked on her face as the motion pushed her chest up higher and tighter against the plain, black T-shirt she had on.

              “Oh, yeah? How did that work out for you?” I knew what she would find: my service record, my wedding announcement, my work history from the firm, various tidbits on my most high profile cases, and various articles chronicling my divorce. Most divorces weren’t newsworthy, but when one of the people involved came from money and the other was as high profile as I was, it made for good filer on a slow news day. I was curious to see what her interpretation of the snapshot of my life that existed on the internet was.

              She got up from the chair and started to pace back and forth in front of my desk as she talked. “It worked out well enough, I guess. I saw that you were enlisted when you were younger, which explains why my dad immediately liked you.” She looked at me over her shoulder and a tiny grin tugged at her mouth. “He doesn’t usually like anyone instantly. It takes him a while to warm up.”

              I listened with half an ear as I watched her brightly colored hair swish around her shoulders. She didn’t come across as the girly or overly feminine type, so I wondered why she had gone with such a delicate and pretty pink when coloring her hair.

              “I learned that you’re a Colorado native, that you grew up in the mountains, that your birthday is right around Christmas, which means you’re almost thirty-two, so you’ve accomplished a lot in your career in a short amount of time. I also learned that you own a lot of suits.”

              I snorted out a surprised laugh at that last part, which made her stop pacing. She took a step closer to my desk and put her hands on the opposite edge, leaning forward. The new position made her T-shirt gape at the collar, and even though I refused to look down, I could see the hint of a leopard-print bra peeking out. That hint of something forbidden made my mouth go dry and had my pulse kicking. It was a powerful reaction to very little provocation, and I made myself beat it back, forcibly.

My Review:

While this is the second book in a series, it can be enjoyed on its own. Avett Walker is a 22 year old mess. She’s been arrested as an accessory to rob her father’s former bar, even though she didn’t do it. Nope, her good-for-nothing junkie boyfriend thought up that scheme, and he hit Avett when she wouldn’t help.

Still, he’s claiming it was all her idea and Avett’s in jail awaiting arraignment when a clearly high-priced (if his suit means anything) lawyer arrives. Quaid Jackson doesn’t want to hear Avett’s story. He’s used to defending scumballs if the price is right and he’s on a retainer from the new owner of Avett’s father’s bar–Rome. Avett can’t even fathom the reason behind that.

Thing is, there are tons of people who owe Avett’s father a debt of honor, as one might call it. Avett is one of them, but she can’t seem to ever make the right choice. That she’s attracted to the no-nonsense Quaid is simply proof-positive.

Quaid Jackson is a poor boy done good. Literally. He worked his way from nothing to an almost-guaranteed partnership in his firm. Unfortunately, all his wealth and standing is beginning to feel a bit hollow. His marriage to his high school sweetheart turned out to be a big sham, and he’s on the hook for the divorce. His luxury apartment has every furnishing, but no soul. Meeting Avett, who is so completely woebegone over her bad choices and earnest in her desire to make reparations, is a gust of fresh air for his jaded heart.

You can expect Avett’s troubles to double, and triple in this romantic suspense. See, her ex turned to selling drugs to support his habit, and…well, like a lot of junkies, he used the drugs he was supposed to sell. Knowing his suppliers will kill him if he doesn’t turn over the cash causes him to implicate Avett! Just when she’s almost getting things worked out with her family–WHAM!! Huge problems with the drug lords. While Quaid is no longer on her case, he’s totally willing to bear Avett’s burdens for her.

I liked the book a lot. I really identified with Avett’s sorrow and desire to fix things. She’s had some bad experiences, including losing a good friend a few years back for reasons she takes as her own. It’s made her semi-self-destructive. Being around Quaid helps her take steps to building back her self-esteem, and each time she makes amends to someone she’s hurt brings Avett more in-line with the kind of woman she wants to be.

Quaid is a stand-up guy, and he’s ready to defend Avett against snarky district attorneys and murderous drug kingpins. I had a LITTLE trouble accepting his rationalizations at times–any physical relationship with a client is really frowned upon, ethically, but I totally dug how he wanted to get a new start in life, and that meant thinking beyond his nouveaux-riche world. I liked how he took charge of his career, and made choices that were healthy for him.

I totally saw the end coming, and yet wasn’t even a little disappointed, which I think is a hallmark of a good story. There’s some nice sexytimes, but the book is mostly all about redemption, and how to get out of a bad mess of your own making.

Interested? You can find CHARGED on Goodreads, Amazon, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. And don’t miss the first titles in The Saints of Denver Series, LEVELED and BUILT.


Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a $25 gift card to Amazon or Barnes & Noble–winner’s choice–and a signed copy of BUILT.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

DSC02158-EditAbout the Author:
Jay Crownover is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Marked Men and The Point series. Like her characters, she is a big fan of tattoos. She loves music and wishes she could be a rock star, but since she has no aptitude for singing or instrument playing, she’ll settle for writing stories with interesting characters that make the reader feel something. She lives in Colorado with her three dogs.

Catch up with Jay on her website, blog, Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.

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A Grieving Brother CHASING SHADOWS–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a newly release contemporary M/M romantic suspense from Annabelle Jacobs. CHASING SHADOWS features a grieving man who finds more than he expects–including love–when he sets out to collect the belongings of his missing, presumed drowned, brother.

Chasing ShadowsAbout the book:
Jamie Matthews goes to Cornwall to find his missing brother. The police are convinced Michael drowned, but Jamie knows better. No way would Michael swim to his death, especially on a beach with a wicked rip tide. Finding a stranger in his brother’s cottage only deepens his misgivings.

Felix Bergstrom is recently discharged from the British Army. Unable to put the past behind him, he takes an unhealthy interest in old acquaintance and millionaire businessman Karl Weston, hoping to catch him up to no good. Michael’s disappearance adds fuel to Felix’s suspicions. Weston’s clifftop home overlooks the beach where Michael supposedly walked into the sea, but Weston has an alibi for that day.

When Jamie and Felix meet, the physical attraction is instant. Mistrust keeps them from acting on it until finally all their secrets are laid bare. But time isn’t on their side. Before they’re able to work out whether they have a future, danger catches up with them and threatens to put an end to everything.

My Review:
4.5 stars for this contemporary M/M romantic suspense.

Jamie Matthews is heartsick over the apparent drowning of his water-phobic younger brother, Michael. He goes to Cornwall to pack up his brother’s effects from the rental cottage he’d taken–and hoping to investigate a bit more himself. He can’t believe Micheal would willingly enter the roiling ocean he’d been so carefully sketching, no matter how hot the day had been. Jamie’s grief is so acute, and so accessible. He and Michael were best mates, shared an apartment together and all once they both left uni. Being without his brother is a constant nagging ache that brings Jamie sleepless nights and loss of appetite.

Jamie meets Felix Bergstrom, caretaker for Michael’s cottage and a former British Army soldier. Felix has his suspicions about a recent emigre to the Cornwall coast: Karl Weston, an old army acquaintance and millionaire businessman. Felix believes that Weston may have had a hand in the death of their mutual friend, Jason, less than a year ago. Felix has been maintaining an unofficial surveillance on Weston over the last several weeks, but never noticed Weston and Michael interacting. Like the police, he believes that Michael drowned.

Jamie doesn’t trust Felix–not after he finds him in the cottage rummaging through Michael’s belongings. He can tell Felix is holding back information about Weston, and–because he’s grasping for any information about Michael–that burns. Felix does have some sympathy, and is encouraged by his friends to confess all he knows about Weston, however little it helps Jamie.

During the several days they spend together in close proximity, Jamie and Felix sense an attraction. Jamie is wracked by grief, and Felix is a willing outlet for that sorrow and frustration. I liked how well they got on, once they began…

Naturally, things go awry. And that’s where the suspense builds. This comes at the near tail-end of the book, with a dramatic discovery, terrific impatience and more than one unexpected turn. I really liked how Weston was characterized. He’s this suave, smarmy guy, with ultimate confidence. And, he’s so manipulative, but in a way that gets his way and lets you know he’s taking it. He’s smug, and stone cold, and never felt overblown or cartoony. We don’t deal with Weston much, in person, but when we do, he leaves an impact.

Felix and Jamie are really such a good pair. I’m glad that they could get past their insecurities enough to find some peace. The end is a spectacular reveal, with an HEA that may surprise. For me, I was very satisfied.

Interested? You can find CHASING SHADOWS on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, All Romance and Smashwords.

About the Author:
Annabelle Jacobs lives in the South West of England with her three rowdy children, and two cats.

An avid reader of fantasy herself for many years, Annabelle now spends her days writing her own stories. They’re usually either fantasy or paranormal fiction, because she loves building worlds filled with magical creatures, and creating stories full of action and adventure. Her characters may have a tough time of it—fighting enemies and adversity—but they always find love in the end.

You can find Annabelle on her website, Facebook, and twitter.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Double Crosses Abound–MR. AND MR. SMITH–Release Day Review

RB Banner-1Hi there! Today I’m sharing a release day review for a new M/M romantic suspense from HelenKay Dimon. MR. AND MR. SMITH is a spy/counter-spy drama that features two US agents abroad who meet, fall in love, and then discover neither is who they claim to be. For these agents to survive, they have to trust one another–when they probably shouldn’t.

Mr. and Mr. Smith Ebook CoverAbout the book:

Secrets and seduction make for an explosive combination in HelenKay Dimon’s edgy, thrilling new series, which kicks off with a novel about two men who can handle any threat—except the one posed by desire.
Fisher Braun knows how to keep a secret. As a covert paramilitary operative, his job—and his life—depends on it. He’s at the top of his game, ready for action and always in control. No enemy has ever brought him to his knees, but one lover has: Zachary Allen, the man currently sharing his bed. The perfect package of brains and brawn, Zach is someone worth coming home to, and Fisher hates keeping him in the dark about what he does. But the lies keep Zach safe. Until the day Fisher loses everything. . . .

Zachary Allen is no innocent civilian. Although he plays the tech geek, in reality he’s deep undercover for the CIA. In a horrible twist of fate, the criminal enterprise he’s infiltrated has set its sights on the man whose touch drives him wild. Zach would do anything for Fisher—except blow his own cover. Now, in order to save him, Zach must betray him first. And he needs Fisher to trust him with all his heart if they want to make it out alive.

My Review:

Fisher is a CIA operative working in London as part of a well-oiled extraction team. The book opens with Fisher’s house being invaded and the message that his secret lover, Zach, has been kidnapped. Fisher must now come clean to his team about his sexuality (funnily enough none of these guys had any misconceptions of Fisher’s sexuality…) and his lover.

The attempt to recover Zach turns Fisher inside out and upside down. Mostly because Zach’s on the wrong side of the gun. Yup. Is Zach, as he later claims, a deep cover operative investigating international human trafficker organization–Pentasus? Or, is Zach just a bad dude.

The rest of the book is Fisher and Zach coming to terms with their secret lives. They had been living together, secretly, for months, and Fisher had thought he’d found a man to spend his life with–until Zach’s Big Secrets are revealed. The time frame of the book is really compressed–the whole span is roughly 48 hours, so we have an hour-by-hour unfolding of their relationship–from fury and betrayal, to reconnection and resolve.

Zach must get back to his role, and Fisher thinks it’s a suicide mission. It likely is–except Fisher won’t stand for it.

Expect hate sex, make up sex, making love and lot and lots of explosions. For me, I wanted a bit more of Fisher and Zach, on the page. It was tough coming in at such an adversarial moment, and it took a while for me, as a reader, to catch up. I really loved the ending, and I look forward to more books in this setting–clearly we have some men to catch up with in a new book. (HUNTER AND WILL!!)

Interested? You can find MR. AND MR. SMITH on Goodreads, Amazon (US, UK) Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iBooks, GooglePlay, and BAM.

About the Author:
HelenKay Dimon spent the years before becoming a romance author as a divorce attorney—not the usual career transition. Now she writes full-time and she’s much happier. The author of more than thirty novels, novellas, and short stories that have twice been named “Red-Hot Reads” and excerpted in Cosmopolitan, she’s on the board of directors of the Romance Writers of America and teaches fiction writing at UC San Diego and Mira Costa College.

You can find HelenKay online on her website, Facebook, twitter Tumblr and Pinterest.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!