Tough Love Learning YOU ARE NOT ME–Review & Giveaway!

you-are-not-me-bannerHi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a New Adult coming-of-age story from Leta Blake. YOU ARE NOT ME, the sequel to PICTURES OF YOU, is set in Knoxville, Tennessee, and follows a newly graduated, newly out teen looking to find his tribe. There’s a dash of romance, but it’s bittersweet.

Catch the excerpt below, and be sure to enter the giveaway to win one of two copies of PICTURES OF YOU.
you-are-not-me-coverAbout the book:
Follow Peter into the summer following his senior year to face new beginnings, new friends, and old baggage.

After a tumultuous final year of high school, Peter Mandel needs a break. It’s the summer of 1991, and his secret relationship with his ‘best friend’ Adam Algedi is put on hold as Adam goes away to Italy for the summer. On the cusp of adulthood, Peter has a couple of months to explore who he is without Adam at his side.

Enter Daniel McPeak, a slightly older, out, responsible college guy with a posse of gay friends and an attraction for Peter. Drawn into the brave new world of the local gay club, Peter embarks on a whirlwind of experiences—good and bad—which culminate in a hotel room where he has to make the ultimate choice.

But Adam will come back eventually, and there are promises that have to be kept. As autumn draws near and college awaits, can Peter break free of the binds of twisted first love? And what exactly is Daniel’s role in his life – a brief temptation, or something more?

Join Peter in the second book of this four-part coming of age series as he struggles to love and be loved, and grow into a gay man worthy of his own respect.

How about a little taste?

The stool next to me wasn’t empty for long. Minty dropped onto it, his purple tutu rubbing against my chinos and his thin, white arms curled up to rest on the bar. He stared at me for a long, curious second. “I’ve met you before, right?”

“Yeah.” I shook off my disappointment and gave him my attention. “Last spring, up on campus.”

“Did we fuck?”

I almost choked on my soda. “No.”

“Right.” Minty frowned. “Did I suck you off?”

I stared at him.

“Well?”

“My car was broken down,” I said slowly. “Daniel helped me.”

Minty grinned. “Oh, right! I remember now. You looked amazing that night. Made of moonbeams. Everyone was made of moonbeams.” He tilted his head. “You look all right now too.”

“Thanks?”

Minty laughed and fluffed his tutu. He turned away from me to hammer his fists on the bar. “Jolly Zima, Barry! Watermelon! Hit me!”

Barry rolled his eyes, but he pulled a Zima out from the fridge and popped the lid, then reached under the counter and came out with a watermelon Jolly Rancher, unwrapped it, and dropped it into the drink. Minty slapped three dollars down and took a dainty sip.

“Ah! Perfection!” He turned to me with his eyelashes lowered flirtatiously. “Anyway, back to what you were saying. We haven’t fucked yet?”

Startled, nervous laughter bubbled out of my mouth.

“Minty,” Barry said. “Drink your Zima and leave Peter alone.”

“Sure thing. You’re the boss.” Minty sighed and leaned toward me conspiratorially. “He won’t fuck me either. What’s a girl gotta do these days? I mean, I look good, don’t I?”

I looked him over—white, though scuffed, ballet slippers, purple tutu, toned, pale, lithe arms, and his made-up face. “Sure. You look really pretty.”

Minty grinned. “Aw, you know how to make a girl feel nice.”

“Didn’t I just see you downstairs with two guys, though?”

“Two? Please. That’s just a warm-up.” He sniffed.

Renée appeared at my side, dropping an arm around my shoulder. “Minty, doll baby, I need you backstage in an hour. You’re my naughty boy tonight.”

“Okay, but I want to wear my tutu.”

“You’ll be gorgeous.” Renée grabbed hold of Minty’s face and looked him over. “We need to put some eyelashes on you too.”

“And red lipstick.”

“Yes! Every man in this room will ache to be in that pert ass of yours.” She glanced at me and then back at Minty. “Except Peter here.”

“He catches?” Minty asked.

“Like Johnny Bench, baby.”

I didn’t like my positional preferences being discussed like it was any of their business, but I was mystified that Renée seemed so certain about it. Was there something about me that screamed loves it up the ass?

“How do you know who Johnny Bench is, woman?” Barry handed Renée a milky-looking drink topped with brown liquor.

“I listen!”

“I’ve never mentioned baseball to you and you know it.”

“Of course not. You’d never do that to me. Earl at Ringo Comics, though, he babbles on and on about it when he’s trying not to come. Earl says I catch like a pro.” She patted her ass.

Daniel was right last spring when he said Robert and Renée were the same but different people. Robert could be sassy and forthright about his sexual shenanigans, but raunchy details rarely left his mouth. My face burned.

“Hear, hear!” Minty cried, throwing back his head to draw a long swig from his Zima.

Barry frowned. It was the first time I’d seen Barry look even moderately unhappy about Renée—or Robert’s—indiscretions.

“What?” Renée asked defensively.

“Earl’s positive.” Barry’s gaze bore into her. “You used a condom?”

“Of course!” Renée licked her lips and shifted nervously to her other foot, her hip cocking out. “I always do. You know that.”

Minty bit his purple-painted thumbnail, eyes going distant. “I’m probably positive. I should get tested. My mom wants me to get tested.”

Barry nailed Minty and Renée with a frustrated glare. He reached under the counter and pulled out two condoms. Then his gaze shifted to me and he pulled out a third. “For fuck’s sake, use these. Every time. Every damn time.”

Renée stuffed the condom in her bra. Minty held it up in front of his face and then gave it a kiss before lifting up his tutu to tuck it into the waistband of his white briefs. Nodding, I pocketed the one Barry handed to me, even though I wasn’t going to need it. Adam was in Italy and the casual sex Minty and Renée played with was something I’d never risk.

My Review:
This is the second book in a series and best enjoyed when read in order. It’s June 1991, and the AIDS epidemic is at it’s peak, as is tension with Middle Easterners, as we’re in the midst of the Gulf War.

Peter Mandel is nearly nineteen, and just graduated from high school in Knoxville, Tennesee. He’s gay, and out to his parents and a few friends, notably his boyfriend, the BF’s siblings, and his drag queen boss. Peter otherwise keeps a low profile because he’s been attacked for his sexuality, and to spare his mother pain; as a child she’d seen her elder brother brutally killed for being gay.

Peter’s boyfriend Adam thought he had a fool-proof plan to shield them from scrutiny: he got a girlfriend, Leslie, who he maintains a sexual relationship with, as well as with Peter. It killed Peter for their time together in senior year, but now it’s summer and Adam’s gone to Rome to live with his parents until college begins in the fall. His letters and calls to Peter all describe the big changes that will happen when he’s back, but Peter’s not so convinced. He’s not comfortable being a piece on the side any longer, and he cares for Leslie, too–feels like a big jerk for lying to her, in fact.

Peter meets Daniel through Robert/Renee, the lovely black drag queen he works for. See, Peter’s a photographer, and he does Renee’s publicity, as well as helps edit his filmography of famous drag queens. Daniel is a college student at UT, just like Peter, and they develop a good friendship, as well as an attraction. Daniel doesn’t want to make a move, though, knowing Peter is holding out hope the he and Adam will build a stronger relationship when Adam returns–despite the fact that they’ll attend different colleges in different states–and Leslie will be with Adam.

So, yeah. There is a bit of romance, as Daniel and Peter spend more and more time together. Peter gets to know all of Daniel’s close friends, and he sees how important it is to live his truth. Plus, he’s filling out of his gawky-awkward stage, and finding that men are very much attracted to him whenever he gets out to the gay clubs. Should he wait for Adam? Is he only prolonging the heartbreak?

This book is really rich with description of the times and occurrences. I love the throwbacks of corded phones, answering machines and film cameras. Developing!! Argh! There’s also some really poignant moments regarding HIV/AIDS because Daniel is an outreach volunteer, and he gets Peter involved in some home care visits with a man who’s dying of AIDS. Wow! That was so freaking intense, and I only expect it’ll get more so in the next book. The context of HIV/AIDS is such a strong element of the book, with every person advising Peter on his safety, and some serious problems when risks are unnecessarily posed.

Emotionally, Peter struggles with doing what he believes is right, and what is right for him. So many times I wanted to just pull him in for a long hug, and tell him to Get Rid Of Adam!!! Alas, I’m but a reader, and I must follow the path he chooses. The good part is: all of it. It’s gritty, and scary, and captivating living life through Peter’s opened eyes. He finds unlikely allies, and builds true relationships–even repairing a lot of the damage within his own family. His parents’ benign neglect was more damaging than they realized, and they do a lot of soul-searching and reconnection in this book. That was fabulous. Peter does make mistakes, and I think he gets pretty lucky in some parts–particularly dealing with some substance use he wasn’t quite ready for. While the romance is almost incidental to the story, it does exist. Expect it to be bittersweet. The end is upbeat, and I’m eager to see how Peter takes to his first semester in college.

Interested? You can find YOU ARE NOT ME on Goodreads and Amazon.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win on of two ebooks of PICTURES OF YOU.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
Author of the best-selling book Smoky Mountain Dreams and the fan favorite Training Season, Leta Blake’s educational and professional background is in psychology and finance, respectively. However, her passion has always been for writing. She enjoys crafting romance stories and exploring the psyches of made up people. At home in the Southern U.S., Leta works hard at achieving balance between her day job, her writing, and her family.

You can find out more on her website, Facebook and twitter.

IndiGo

New Young Love: PICTURES OF YOU–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a mature YA/New Adult M/M series from Leta Blake. PICTURES OF YOU is the first in a four-part series about young gay people coming of age in 1990s Knoxville, Tennessee. It’s not exactly a romance, though there are certainly lots of sexytimes.

poyAbout the book:
Growing up gay isn’t easy. Growing up gay in Knoxville, Tennessee is even harder.

Eighteen-year-old Peter Mandel, a private school senior—class of 1991—is passionate about photography. Peter doesn’t have many friends, preferring to shoot pictures from behind the scenes to keep his homosexuality secret.

Enter Adam Algedi, a charming, worldly new guy who doesn’t do labels, but does want to do Peter. Hardly able to believe gorgeous Adam would want geeky, skinny him of all people, Peter’s swept away on a journey of first love and sexual discovery. But as their mutual web of lies spins tighter and tighter, can Peter find the confidence he needs to make the right choices? And will his crush on Daniel, a college acquaintance, open a new path?

Join Peter in the first of this four-part coming of age series as he struggles to love and be loved, and grow into a gay man worthy of his own respect.

This new series by Leta Blake is gay fiction with romantic elements.
Book 1 of 4.
Warning! These books contain: New Adult fiction, ‘90s gay life, small city homosexual experiences, Southern biases, sexual exploration, romance, homophobia, bisexuality, and twisted-up young love. Oh, and a guaranteed happy ending for the main character by the end of Book 4.

How about a little taste?

“Should I apologize for earlier?” Adam asked, turning down the stereo.

“It isn’t your fault she showed up.”

Adam grinned at me. “I meant, should I apologize for the kiss, but I guess the answer is ‘no.’”

I twitched nervously in my seat and took a deep breath “I’m gay.”

“No shit.”

I stared. “What?”

“I mean, yeah. You’re gay. I figured that out.”

“So—” I stopped. “Wait. How?”

“I can always tell. I don’t know how.”

“But I thought you said you weren’t gay.”

“I never said that.” Adam frowned. “Honestly, I don’t know what I am.”

My heart trip-hammered for a ton of reasons, but the scariest of them was hope. “What’s the deal then? Uh, with us?”

“Us? We’re friends. Like I said, friends kiss.”

My hope settled into a knot of anxiety.

“Then why hasn’t a friend kissed me before?”

“I don’t know. I mean, who wouldn’t want to kiss you?”

To me, it was definitely more of a question of who would want to kiss me, and, more specifically, just exactly why he had. Especially when I knew how everyone else would view me once we got to school. Maybe living all over the world hadn’t taught him the social skill of self-preservation required to make his way in a small city like Knoxville.

I decided to tell him. He really did deserve to know, and besides, if it was going to be an issue, I wanted to be hurt now, not later.

“I’m a huge loser, you know.”

Adam glanced over at me like I was insane. “What?”

“I’m not popular. In school. In life. In anything.” I turned my head and looked out the window, worrying my lower lip. “I just thought you should know. I mean, you don’t want to start out at a new school being friends with someone who’s just going to drag you down.”

Adam actually laughed. “You’re crazy. Did you know that?”

My throat tightened. It hurt he wasn’t taking me seriously. “I’m telling you why I’ll understand when you decide we can’t be friends anymore.”

“Look, you haven’t even started at this school and you’ve already decided that as a friend you’re not worth being first string? What’s up with that?”

I shrugged. “I’m just being realistic. I mean—look at me.”

In my peripheral vision I saw Adam do just that. He looked at me long enough that I worried about the car staying on the road. “Yeah. I’m looking. I still like what I see.” He lifted his hand to the back of my neck and squeezed. “I’m serious.”

A strange rush of emotion flooded my stomach and chest, and I wanted to tuck my face between my knees. Instead I just crossed my arms and frowned.

Adam brushed his fingers through my hair, catching in my frenzy of curls. It felt intimate and almost more real than the kiss. I shivered when he let go to grip the steering wheel again.

“But enough of that,” he said sternly. “Get my book bag out of the backseat. I’ve got a surprise for you.”

Happy to be leaving the uncomfortable topic of my gay dorkitude behind, I reached around and grabbed the blue, nylon book bag.

“Open the front pocket.”

I unzipped it, fished around, and pulled out a driver’s license. It was Mo’s, and I had to stifle a laugh at the typical bad license photo that made him look like a serial killer.

“I’ve got a fake ID that Sean got for me, but I liberated that one for you.”

I tapped the picture. “You think this will get me into the club? I look nothing like your brother!”

“Don’t be such a defeatist! You just hold your thumb over the picture when you show them your ID.”

“Adam, that isn’t going to work.”

“We can always try,” he said, lifting his shoulders dismissively.

“They’ll confiscate the ID. How’s Mo going to feel about having to get a new license made?”

That got through to him. “Oh. So, huh. I guess that won’t work after all.”

I snorted. “Uh, no.”

Adam just smiled. “We’ll figure something out.”

“We could see what’s going on at the under-21 shows on The Strip.”

“No. I want to go to Tilt-a-Whirl. I read it’s the best gay bar in town and has, and I quote, ‘the best drag queens in the area.’”

“If the area is East Tennessee, then yeah, it probably does. And why do you want to go to a gay bar so much? I mean, this is a small city. Word gets around.”

Adam narrowed his eyes. “This last-minute resistance is futile, padawan.”

“Trek and Wars in the same breath. That is very wrong. Very, deeply, truly wrong.”

“It is,” Adam readily agreed.

“You’re a total dork.”

“Shh. It’s a secret. Don’t tell the jocks when school starts. I wouldn’t want my nerdiness to drag us down and all.”

I started to laugh, but stopped, struck by an uncomfortable thought. I picked at my blue jeans a little, toying with a loose thread, before asking quietly, “So the kiss is a secret?”

Adam looked over in obvious surprise. “Of course. I mean, like you said, this is a small city.”

“And it’s the South. And the Bible Belt. And generally homophobic, yeah.”

I bit down on my lip. I didn’t know what I was expecting. It wasn’t like he was wrong. We couldn’t be boyfriends—not here, not now. Not out in the open or anything. It was just that I wanted so much more already. And he’d kissed me.

Adam’s hand clasped the back of my neck again. “Hey, listen. You’re my friend. And you happen to kind of turn me on with your glasses, and your camera, and the way you walk.” He gripped his fingers in my hair again and gave my head a little shake. “That’s enough, isn’t it?”

“Yeah. So—the drag show. How do we get in?” I hoped my voice sounded light because if in Adam’s world friends kissed, I didn’t want to do anything to ruin our friendship before I found out what else he thought friends might do.

My Review:
Peter Mandel is an 18 y/o closeted gay teen growing up in Knoxville, Tennessee in 1990. He’s a new transfer to a small private school because he’d been terrorized by bullies for being queer. His parents seem to ignore all the evidence of homosexuality, instead believing him to be a late bloomer. He is, rather, being small and slight, unfit for sports and artsy in photography, but Peter is still only for the dudes.

Peter meets twins Adam and Sarah at orientation. They are half-Iranian, and their parents have some type of consulate business that keeps them in Jordan at the moment. Fomenting aggression caused their parents to send Adam and Sarah to the states to complete high school; their elder brother, Mohammed, is a college student at UT and their custodian.

Adam wastes no time connecting with Peter, who’s never even kissed a person before. He’d hoped to fly under the radar, but beautiful, skilled, sexy Adam is more that willing to school Peter in sex. Their courtship is fraught with issues–mostly keeping everything on the super down-low. Sarah and Mo know immediately that Adam and Peter are having sex, and they aren’t happy about it–mostly because they know how their strict father will react if he learns of this unnatural behavior.

When school starts, Sarah is determined to get them all well-situated into the best social strata. She’s aggressive and Adam’s charismatic and soon they cobble a tight group of friends, including Leslie, who’s overjoyed to be Adams’ girlfriend. Yep, the best way to hide Adam and Peter’s sexytimes is to get a beard–and Adam’s bisexual, so he pulls this off. But the rumors don’t stop.

The book spans a nine month period–all of senior year. It’s not a happy time for Peter. He’s captivated by Adam, who wants him terribly, but upset at hiding his love affair from everyone. Plus, he likes Leslie. She’s a sweet friend, and Peter dies a bit inside when he sees them cuddling, and knows they a real and true couple, having just as much sex as he and Adam do.

During this time Peter relies on unlikely friends, notably a drag queen that he met while out on his first date with Adam. Renee/Robert knows about staying closeted, and he’s a sweet and caring person. He offers Peter a job helping with his drag shows, and taking pictures for publicity. It’s through Renee/Robert that Peter meets Daniel, an architecture student at UT. There’s an immediate connection, but Daniel won’t get involved with a high school student.

The book, as a whole, is really bittersweet. It’s about yearning and choices and the struggle for love and acceptance in a time that was rife with homophobia, in a place that’s not eager to embrace homosexuality now–twenty-five years later. It’s the height of the AIDS epidemic, and Peter’s (mostly disinsterested) parents are just as scared of gay cancer killing him as they are of homophobic bigots killing him. They have some experience with the latter, as Peter learns close to the end of the book. It’s not a typical romance, and Peter’s mostly broken-hearted accepting a half-love from Adam, who won’t just let him go. For his part, Peter knows that he’s not able to protect himself from the bigotry inherent in his world, but he makes a grudging peace with it, until he can walk away clean: graduation.

There’s a bit of hope on the horizon, with Daniel, who may be willing to be monogamous and not hide Peter. His parents are resigned to his sexuality, and seem to be supportive; his father in particular. His mother suffers depression and struggles to care for herself, let alone her son. Peter’s a good kid, and the stage seems set for him to have a better life within a tribe of his choosing who will care for him. Being that this is more a gay fiction series, I’m sure we’ll have more ups-and-downs as Peter learns to navigate his dangerous world. There is a promised happy ending for Peter, I suspect, in the fourth book. Until then, we have a really rich world with regular historical touchstones for readers to connect.

It’s always fun to read a book set in a time that has just faded from our collective consciousness. It’s an era of no cell phones, landlines, people walking out their door and being unreachable, film cameras, developing rooms, word processors… Peter is a contemporary of mine, being one year older, chronologically. So his experience is mine–from a cultural standpoint. He and I share those moments, watching GHOST on the big screen, contemplating The Cure, even photography–though I was limited to a point-and-shoot due to being broke. I got Peter, and I struggled with him. I wanted Adam to stand up for them–even if it wasn’t coming out. Even if it was them still hiding, but hiding together. The conflict was really tense, and I hope that we’ll get some respite–though it’s the dawn of the Iraq War, and Adam, being half-Iranian, has many struggles to come. As for the book, and series, I think readers who enjoyed the Something Like series by Jay Bell will enjoy it. I liked it lots, and enjoyed the immersive experience of suddenly being back in high school.

Interested? You can find PICTURES OF YOU on Goodreads and Amazon.

About the Author:
Author of the best-selling book Smoky Mountain Dreams and the fan favorite Training Season, Leta Blake’s educational and professional background is in psychology and finance, respectively. However, her passion has always been for writing. She enjoys crafting romance stories and exploring the psyches of made up people. At home in the Southern U.S., Leta works hard at achieving balance between her day job, her writing, and her family.

You can find out more on her website, Facebook and twitter.

IndiGo

Cephalopod Coffeehouse Sept 2016–Banned books galore!!

0ed81-coffeehouse

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.

stand-up_facebook2This week marks the annual BANNED BOOKS WEEK “celebration” highlighting books that are the most challenged within the ALA, American Librarian’s Association. As many may remember, I’ve been on a mission to read banned books in 2016. I think I’ve done rather well! I cried reading PERSEPOLIS. I smiled reading AND TANGO MAKES THREE with my sons. I’ve looked at the 2015 Top Ten banned books and saw John Green’s LOOKING FOR ALASKA (read this years ago, before I got into Goodreads or blogging!) is in the top spot again, followed by EL James’s FIFTY SHADES OF GREY (read the book, own the movie), and David Levithan’s TWO BOYS KISSING rounded off the list. Food for the thought, the Bible is on the list again this year…

part-time-indianAnyhoo, I decided to pick up THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN, which was the top of the 2014 banned list-and required reading for my son in 2011, I’ll add. I read half the book with him, and liked it. He still remarks that it’s the only English book he finished in high school. (Jane Eyre, he claims, broke his soul, but I digress…)

Sherman Alexie’s unflinching story of Junior, a dirt-poor Spokane native teen growing up on the rez is really a fantastic look into a world most Americans forget exists. It discusses poverty, and opportunity, and hope, and despair. Showcases parents who try hard, but still fail. Highlights the stark differences between kids who dwell in a world with no expectations–versus those who have a lot going for them, and dreams that might actually come true. It’s practically a treatise on institutional racism, and how it keeps some classes of people down…forever.

Are there problems? Yes. Junior’s attended forty-two funerals in his fourteen years. His parents are alcoholics. Close friends and family die for insensible reasons, usually related to alcohol abuse. White people think he’s trash. That’s a reality of life on the rez. It’s as inescapable as his dark skin and black hair. But. Junior seeks a way out–leaving the rez to go to the nearby white high school, and he’s labeled a traitor as a result.

Honestly, this was an eye-opener. I hate using the term “Indian” for Native Americans/First Nations persons, but it’s how Junior sees/calls himself. He stands up for himself when he can, and recognizes that the white world of his white school is a very different place. There, kids have so much more, and they don’t fight, and some of them really will make something of themselves. It’s almost a foreign country compared with his rez-life 22 miles away. And yet, this community also lacks closeness and camaraderie. Junior, walking between his two worlds, remarks that he’s Half-Indian in the white world and half-white on the rez–despite being a full-blood Spokane. These subtle cultural distinctions underlie the deep prejudices in his life. He’s brave, though, and succeeds in building friendships in both places.

Why is this book on the banned list? Cited reasons include: anti-family, cultural insensitivity, drugs/alcohol/smoking, gambling, offensive language, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group, violence. Additional reasons: “depictions of bullying.” Well, I that “sex education/sexually explicit” complaint is pretty weak, considering Junior makes a couple references to masturbation. And anti-family? Junior loves his family, despite their dysfunction. I saw fantastic bonding moments, in all their tragedy. Regarding cultural insensitivity: There are some gay slurs, and I’m not super thrilled about that–though there are other moments when Junior talks honestly about homosexuality in the Native community. Also, it was others calling Junior “gay” as a slur, and he rolled with it; bigots were always painted as such. There’s violence, and bullying, none of which seemed extreme. Junior was a target, and he endured some rotten moments, sure. Offensive language falls out of my 14 y/o son’s mouth on the regular–if you hang around boys you’re not gonna be shocked by the few F-bombs on the page.

Ultimately, this book opens a window on contemporary life in Native reservations, and the view isn’t good. I think it’s honest, and troubling, and it makes me want better for all these folks. My great-grandfather escaped reservation life in the 20s. He lived to be 36, dying after several bouts of pneumonia and leaving behind his widow and my grandmother–aged 8 at the time–at the outset of the Great Depression. The stories I’ve heard from family painted a bleak picture, but Junior’s world is even more despairing. Though his experience isn’t the same as that on all reservations, because his sister finds another rez that’s better off. That said, the whole book is an emotional rollercoaster that I rode for the span of a day. The story is completely accessible, with evocative language and fearless art, and I’m glad it was required reading for my eldest. I expect my other boys to pick it up in their turn, and have a copy on my shelf awaiting them.

Interested? You can find THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and bookstores and libraries everywhere. It’s a National Book Award winner, a best-seller, and a banned book.

I hope you’ll tell me if you’ve read a banned bookrecently–or if you’re inspired to do so, now! Be sure to check out the best books from my fellow Coffeehouse reviewers below. Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Cephalopod Coffeehouse November 2015–NOT IF I SEE YOU FIRST

0ed81-coffeehouse
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 reviewing a contemporary YA story that’s due to release next week, NOT IF I SEE YOU FIRST from Eric Lindstrom. Put it on your list of books to get for anyone who enjoys a well-told story about a girl just making her way through life, and getting into some scrapes along the way. Oh, and the main character, Parker, well, she gets into more scrapes than most because…she’s blind.

Not If I See You FirstAbout the book:

The Rules:

Don’t deceive me. Ever. Especially using my blindness. Especially in public.

Don’t help me unless I ask. Otherwise you’re just getting in my way or bothering me.

Don’t be weird. Seriously, other than having my eyes closed all the time, I’m just like you only smarter.

Parker Grant doesn’t need 20/20 vision to see right through you. That’s why she created the Rules: Don’t treat her any differently just because she’s blind, and never take advantage. There will be no second chances. Just ask Scott Kilpatrick, the boy who broke her heart.

When Scott suddenly reappears in her life after being gone for years, Parker knows there’s only one way to react-shun him so hard it hurts. She has enough on her mind already, like trying out for the track team (that’s right, her eyes don’t work but her legs still do), doling out tough-love advice to her painfully naive classmates, and giving herself gold stars for every day she hasn’t cried since her dad’s death three months ago. But avoiding her past quickly proves impossible, and the more Parker learns about what really happened–both with Scott, and her dad–the more she starts to question if things are always as they seem. Maybe, just maybe, some Rules are meant to be broken.

My Review:

Parker Grant lost her mother and her eyesight in a car crash when she was 8. She developed strong friendships and an even stronger bond with her father in the last 8 years. Unfortunately, Parker’s father died three months ago and her aunt’s family has moved across the country to live in her home, with her. Parker’s developed some tough rules, meant to protect her heart, and also her mind–especially after Scott–her former best friend and maybe first love, crushed her back in eighth grade.

It’s junior year and Scott has returned to Parker’s high school. Their small town has combined two schools into one, actually, which means there are lots of new people and new situations for Parker to encounter. She meets a new “buddy” Molly, a chaperone who helps her navigate the school day. Parker and Molly strike it off, mostly because Molly’s willing to be honest with Parker–whose default setting is brutal honesty. Parker wants to be treated like a regular kid, and she strives for this. It’s what draws her to Jason, a decent guy who treats her decently.

While Parker’s life is filled with people, she’s still rather solitary. She spends a lot of time with her young cousin, Petey, and none at all with her other cousin, Sheila, despite them being the same age and being in school together. All the school politics are on display, and despite a spark between Parker and Jason, it’s clear that Scott is still in the picture, too. Always on the fringes, Scott’s filling in the gaps he knows were left behind with Parker’s father died.

I really admired Parker. She’s brash, with the understanding that it’s not easy being disabled, and it’s even worse to be considered ‘less than’ because of her disability. She makes new and unlikely friends, and tries even more unlikely feats, including running. It’s refreshing to see how she navigates the world around her, and the high school foibles–including first dates and kisses. For all her outward strength, she’s a deeply thinking girl, and willing to own up to her mistakes–when she’s able to confront them. Her unflinching honesty can be abrasive, but she applies that to herself just as much as to others.

In a litscape filled with ordinary people, Parker shines in her extraordinary will to be as normal as possible. This is a story that doesn’t have a sweeping grand gesture, more like a series of realizations that don’t lead to reconciliations. Which was perfectly acceptable. As Scott and Parker recognize: they are not their 8th grade selves anymore, and what they had then is very different from what they have now. There is 2+ years of animosity and betrayal to overcome, and it’s not flipping a switch to turn back time and reconnect. That was a striking moment for both Parker, and the reader.

So many times YA stories are too convenient, with some mid-level conflict that is easily resolved. Nothing in this book is convenient or contrived. Parker’s cousin Sheila isn’t kind. Parker’s friends are a mixture of races, genders and sexualities with really different personalities. Parker’s aunt is rigid and easily offended–not able to cope with Parker’s need for autonomy. So, it’s all a big trial for Parker, to cobble all this scrip-scrap bits of life together into a patchwork quilt of people to support and love her. Including Scott.

Interested? NOT IF I SEE YOU FIRST releases Dec 1st, but you can find out more about it on Goodreads, and pre-order it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Powell’s Books. This first 9 chapters are up on Amazon and B & N for a free preview, in case you want to just check it out…

Thanks for popping in. Don’t forget to check out the other reviewers on this month’s blog hop. They always have great books to discover.

Reaching the BREAKING UP POINT–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing my review for BREAKING UP POINT, a contemporary M/M romance out today from Brian McNamara. I reviewed the previous book in the series, BOTTLED UP SECRET, and liked it, so I jumped into the sequel when it came on offer.

Breaking Up PointAbout the book:
Brendan Madden is starting his freshman year of college and, although excited, he is sad to say good-bye to his high school boyfriend, Mark. After a rough transition, Brendan carves out a place for himself at school, where he has new friends and newfound independence. With the added strain of distance, however, he now finds it hard to maintain his relationship with Mark, especially due to the fact that Mark still must hide the relationship from most of his friends.

Brendan’s college life allows him to be open and honest about who he is. He debates whether he is willing to compromise this for Mark, especially since staying in the relationship means forgoing the possibility of finding new romance at college.

My Review:
This book is the sequel to BOTTLED UP SECRET, and better enjoyed if the books are read in order.

To sum up from the previous book:  Brendan came out to his mother, one of his five sisters and his cadre of friends seven months ago. He has a closeted boyfriend, Mark, who is a senior in high school–though Brendan is just entering his freshman year at the Ohio State University. Mark and Brendan had shared some intimate experiences in the previous book, and Brendan is not eager to move things farther as he’s rather set on saving his virginity for marriage, but he’s not happy keeping the secret of Mark from their mutual friends, or in general.

As Mark begins his new life away from home he is open about his sexuality–to everyone, with positive results. He joins a musical theater group and slowly makes friends. At times I felt the prose dragged. For teens, this may seem like a roadmap regarding the initial college experience, but it was too telling, with little advancement. I struggled to emotionally connect with Brendan until the second half of the book.

Brendan does come out the rest of his family in this book–with mixed results. Three of his sisters are cool with it, two are NOT cool, bordering on homophobic, and his mom is on the fence. She still thinks his “situation” is a phase. I really began to engage with the book when all this started happening. Brendan’s interactions with Mark show advancement in terms of physicality, but not emotion. They are separated by distance, and different objectives. Brendan gets the (accurate) sense that Mark will never “come out” and he fully acknowledges that Mark had only dated girls before him.

As Brendan flails in his relationships, his new friendships thrive. In particular, Andres–a project partner from his business class–becomes a close confidante. It turns out that Andres provides very good counsel, and helps Brendan through the rocky issues with both Mark and his family. I liked Andres quite a bit. He’s a little older, and more mature than Brendan, but very compassionate and fun.

There are two sexy scenes in the book that are a little more graphic than fade-to-black, but they are not hot-and-heavy. Mark is exploring himself, and his boundaries. He talks a bit about the physical features of guys he likes (most specifically penis features), but this seemed in keeping with the character’s age and did not feel inappropriate for the audience. (Straight teen guys get graphic about the female body features they enjoy after all…)

I think I did enjoy this book more that the first, but it ends on a more bittersweet note. It explores the morass of coming out, and dealing with disapproving friends or family. It felt very honest, if a little naive. Brendan certainly owns his feelings regarding his family’s response to his news–and this was very engaging. The writing, at times, seems a little clunky, with stilted dialogue and too much description of stuff that was not central to the plot. That said, I do like Brendan, and I am intrigued about his future.

Interested? You can find BREAKING UP POINT on Goodreads, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  I received a review copy via NetGalley.

McNamara, BrianAbout the Author:

The youngest of six kids (and the only boy!), Brian McNamara was born and raised in the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio. His favorite hobbies growing up were tennis and musical theater. He obtained a degree in finance in 2009 and moved to New York City shortly after to work for a management consulting firm. While pursuing his true passions of writing and acting on the side, he decided to quit his corporate job to focus all his energy on what he loved.

Brian can be contacted at BrianMcNamara.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Real Life in SEX, LOVE, AND VIDEOGAMES–Review & Giveaway

SLV-Banner
Hi there! Today I’m sharing my review for a newly-released contemporary M/M coming of age/coming out novel by CJane Elliot. SEX, LOVE AND VIDEO GAMES is the third book in the Serpentine series that revolves around young gay men of the University of Virginia.

I really enjoyed the diversity of characters and the heartbreaking realness of the story.This book features a loving, God-fearing, Southern black family containing a poor, dyslexic, gay young man, and his flamboyant transgender cousin, and a wealthy white gay young man–all of whom find joy, acceptance and heartbreak. (Not in that order, though!!)

Don’t forget to enter the giveaway for the three book set!

Sex, Love, and Videogames (Serpentine #3)About the book:
Shy guy Jed Carter has always felt invisible next to his charismatic older brother, Kent. Kent’s master plan for Jed is simple: University of Virginia, fraternity, business, sports, and ladies’ man. None of it is Jed, except for playing on the rugby team, which he joins in defiance of soccer-loving Kent. Jed comes out in his sophomore year and starts seeing Pete, an attractive junior, who uses him for sex and videogames. Jed wants more—in life and in love—and starts making his own plans. First on the list: getting to know Charlie, the handsome guy working at the local videogame arcade.

Charlie Ambrose has always felt like an oddball, and not just for his tendency to stutter. Being gay sets him apart from his African-American community, and as a “townie,” he doesn’t fit in with the college crowd. Charlie’s inspiration is his cousin, Morocco, who’s transgender and doesn’t give a fig about fitting in. Art is Charlie’s passion, and when a local videogame designer discovers him, Charlie’s living a dream. The only thing he’s missing is love. But the last person Charlie expects to find it with is a cute, white U.Va. rugby player named Jed.

How about a little taste?

“Okay, warm up laps!” Beau led the rugby team in a slow circuit around the perimeter of Mad Bowl. After a few laps, he stopped and had them do stretching exercises.
The other team did their warming up, and when they moved to take positions, Jed noticed a pair of people standing on the sidelines. His breathing stopped for a second. Charlie stood, hands in his pockets, shifting from foot to foot, while Morocco, a vision in a pink track suit, set up a camp chair (apt name, that) and sat down. Morocco saw Jed looking and waved. Charlie turned and gave a small wave himself, and Jed waved back, heart beating faster.
“Who’re they?” Bud asked, squinting over at them.
“Um, Charlie’s a guy who works at Lucky’s. In the gaming area. And the other is his cousin.”
“Hmm. Townies?”
“Yep.”
“She’s cute.”
“Um, well, about that….” Jed cut himself off because the referee blew the whistle. Time to play ball and hope he did well in front of those two.
The game proved the usual testosterone-fest, with lots of grunting and body contact. When Jed scored some points, Morocco produced pom poms that matched her outfit and waved them wildly.
At the break, Jed ran over to them for a minute to say hi—fuck what the rest of the team thought.
“Jed, child, my word!” Morocco fanned her chest. “Y’all are such manly men! Rugby is going to be my new obsession, I just know it!”
“I like it. My mom never let me play contact sports in high school, so I kinda love ramming into people.” Jed felt his cheeks flame at what he had said. Crap-a-doodle.
But Morocco laughed and Charlie faked a cough so he could smile behind his fist.
“So, hey, thanks for coming. I gotta go back now.”
Charlie nodded as Morocco said, “We’ll see you after the game.” She picked up her pom poms. “Wa-hoo-wa!”
When the team huddled before the second half, a homophobe named Welburn said with a sneer, “Who are those freaks on the sidelines?”
Another guy laughed. “Yeah. I thought all the he-shes lived in San Francisco.”
“What’re you talking about?” Bud peered over toward Charlie and Morocco. “That girl?”
Welburn spit on the ground. “That girl is no she. She’s a he. What the hell are they doing here?”
Beau raised his voice. “Hey, concentrate, guys. We need to win this game.”
Jed held up a hand to stop Beau from continuing. “Before we do that, you all need to know that those are some friends of mine. So shut your fucking faces before I shut them for you.” He leveled a lethal glare at Welburn and his compatriot.
Fueled by his anger, Jed played an amazing second half, and the team pulled out a victory on the strength of his points alone. After their team high five, he trotted over to Charlie and Morocco. Charlie smiled broadly while Morocco jumped up and down. “Jed, Jed, Jed! Wa-hoo-wa! Thass right!”
“Okay, okay.” Jed couldn’t help laughing at Morocco’s outrageous enthusiasm. “Thanks for coming to the game.”
“It was fun. I’m glad we came.” Charlie took a step back, seemingly surprised to have gotten two stutter-free sentences out.
“I’m glad too.” They gazed tentatively at each other, and Morocco suddenly got busy folding up the camp chair.

My Review:
This is a coming out, coming of age story for two young men of very different backgrounds. While this is part of a series, it is fully enjoyable as a standalone read.

Jed is a white, northern Virginian, younger brother to charismatic Kent, and gay. Secretly gay. He has a crush on Kent’s best friend, and is loath to come out amid the gay slurs and homophobic environment of the frat Kent pushes Jed to join when Jed arrives at UVa in Charlottesville. He’s angry and defiant and passive-aggressive, especially when he sees out-gay men being out, and gay. A YEAR passes in the state, and still only Jed’s BFF, Myesha (a black girl he works with), knows his big gay secret. Well, until he blurts it out in the heat of frustration, in a crowd of his bigoted frat brothers.

Charlie is of mixed race: white mom, black dad, and his father was killed in a military training exercise years ago. He lives in Charlottesville with his mom and his dad’s extended family, who are all fully black, and good churchgoing folk. His closest confidant is Morocco, his transgender cousin–who the family matriarch, Granny Myrt, still calls “Ronald.” While his family doesn’t give Morocco trouble over her female dress and hair, they don’t generally approve. Still, the are Southern, and good Southern folk don’t speak about giant rabid elephants trouncing the parlor, apparently. It’s not genteel, I suppose. (disclaimer, I’m a white Yankee so this I had to take on faith.)

Charlie suffers a learning disability, but he’s a talented artist. Instead of joining Morocco at college, he works at a videogame parlor/arcade/restaurant and his drawings are admired by a videogame maker who frequents the shop. Having no formal training, a crippling shyness, and a stutter, it takes Charlie a long time to open up to people, but Morocco’s encouragement goes a long way.

The book spans three years, and only the last six months bring Jed and Charlie into direct contact. During the first 60% of the book both of these men are coming to terms with their sexuality, coming out, and initiating fledgling sexual acquaintances. It is more bitter than sweet for both of them–who are essentially used by partners and take the meager scraps of physicality they are tossed because they have no self-esteem. I was glad to see this change in Charlie. Jed’s heart is stomped on, and he comes out the other side. Both men develop the skills to stand up for themselves in many ways–professionally, and academically, which was good to see.

When Jed and Charlie do connect their skittishness is cute, but equally frustrating, as they struggle to demonstrate their interest clearly. Charlie also fears coming out to his entire family–though Morocco and his mother do know Jed is his boyfriend. Upside, they find happiness with each other.

I don’t really consider this book a clear romance, however. It is good storytelling, with interesting characters and all, but the long exposition and parallel plot paths keeping Charlie and Jed separate overshadow a traditional romantic arc. I truly enjoyed the “black” side of this book, as it was so tenderly rendered. Having known many black people and families closely in my life, I felt the characters were very close to real. Granny Myrt is a real trip, and her grudging acceptance of Morocco and Charlie’s revelations are so welcome. Also, Charlie’s anguish of being “not black enough” as a mixed-race kid was something some of my friends experienced–and it’s a raw deal that was touched upon in real ways here. I very much appreciated the diversity of culture and race in this book–Jed and Charlie are a bridge between their two worlds, and I found their overcoming of these divisions to be heartening and heartwarming.

Interested? You can find SEX, LOVE, AND VIDEOGAMES on Goodreads, Dreamspinner Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and AllRomance eBooks.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click the Rafflecopter link bleow for your chance to win ecopies of the Serpentine Series.
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Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
After years of hearing characters chatting away in her head, CJane Elliott finally decided to put them on paper and hasn’t looked back since. A psychotherapist by training, CJane enjoys writing sexy, passionate stories that also explore the human psyche. CJane has traveled all over North America for work and her characters are travelers, too, traveling down into their own depths to find what they need to get to the happy ending.

CJane is an ardent supporter of LGBTQ equality and is particularly fond of coming out stories.

In her spare time, CJane can be found dancing, listening to music, or watching old movies. Her husband and son support her writing habit by staying out of the way when they see her hunched over, staring intensely at her laptop.

You can find CJane on her website, Facebook, and Twitter.
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Wrapped Up In A COLLAR AND TIE–Reviews and Adieus…

Hi there! It’s my great pleasure to share reviews for the final book (and companion!) in the Ganymede Quartet, A COLLAR AND TIE. I have shared reviews for this alternate historical M/M series: A MOST PERSONAL PROPERTY, A PROPER LOVER, and A WILLFUL ROMANTIC, each having a free companion novella as a bonus.

In truth, I adore these boys, and their travails have become mine.

A Collar and Tie (Ganymede Quartet #4)My Review:
This is the FINAL book (sighs from the loss!) of the Ganymede Quartet, and the books need to be read in order.

I have faithfully followed this series, loving every second of Henry’s angst and Martin’s solicitousness. The books are set in an alternate historical period, NYC circa 1901, but in this world slaves are still present, and Companion slaves are purchased by wealthy families for the personal use of their teenaged children. Martin is a Companion from the House of Ganymede who was purchased for Henry Blackwell, scion of the industrialist Hiram Blackwell, seven months ago. Henry’s darkest secret is that he loves Martin, even though it is unnatural and unacceptable gentlemanly behavior.

Henry is a romantic fool, wishing that he could change the world so that his love for Martin could be shared with any, and every, one. He has no desire to marry a woman, even though he knows this is expected. He fears his father will take Martin away if he learns of Henry’s proclivities, and yet he cannot contain his ardor. *swoon*

Henry is a desirable partner for the ladies, because he is wealthy and handsome, and his lack of interest is almost catnip for some of the girls of his acquaintance. Still, Henry’s impulsiveness is bound to get him into more trouble–when he steals private moments at the Metropolitan Ball with Martin. His indiscretion leads to a falling out with his best friend, Louis, and a hasty retreat into the bowels of NYC’s seedy gay society.

I was so enamored of this part–of Henry finding common folk with whom to share his joy over being with Martin. Being that he’s still only 16, Henry’s compass doesn’t necessarily point in the proper direction. Martin’s attempt to steer him rightly is unwelcome, and leads to further discord. Oy vey, Henry! It is meant to be, child, just not the way YOU want it to be…

I had my heart broken along with Henry, though I knew he was being petulant and rotten to Martin. I awaited reconciliation and, like Martin, was rewarded for my patience. As a romance, this book (and series) hits all the marks. It is sexy and sweet and sad and joyous. I have angsted alongside these boys for the better part of a year–and I could go ten more years hearing their wondrous tales.

All the main issues are accounted for: Henry and his parents have a better relationship. Henry learns to deal with his love for Martin in private. People want to be around Henry, despite his “invert” issues. Martin is fantastic and lovely and wonderful and Henry will be a better man for loving him.

This book ends with a satisfying resolution, but I’m still not satisfied. I’m a little bitter that this is the end, in truth. I need more Henry and Martin in my life. I want to know how their lives change. I want to tag along to college, and to see Henry attempt to court a lady. I want he and Martin to live long happy lives together, filled with adventure and love.

I know I won’t see them again like this, and I am melancholy over it.

Sign of a fantastic series….

Interested? You can find A COLLAR AND TIE on Goodreads, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.

As is Ms. Glass’ custom, she releases a companion novella from the POV of Henry’s Companion, Martin. This is a freebie, but won’t make much sense for people who don’t read Henry’s book, first.

26093726I adored A FREE CHOICE, which is to be expected, really, as I have adored the series in its entirety.

The book is a wrap on the series, and mostly follows the final three days of A COLLAR AND TIE, from Martin’s perspective. It is lovely and wonderful, and I want more!

Martin has recently reconciled with his master and lover, Henry Blackwell. Henry’s family is an odd mix, and not quite what Martin had hoped for when he was being sold as a Companion last September, but Martin has found love and devotion in his master and he could not have wished for better circumstances.

Martin does wrap up his thoughts on the 14th Street debacle and his misery over Henry’s bad temper quite well. I was so glad to see his playfulness and thoughtfulness come out so strongly. I think Martin is finally comfortable enough to be a partner to Henry, and not solely his slave. I do so want to see them try Chinese food, and go out adventuring with Mr. Ross and Simon! To see them play with Mr. Wilton and Russ.

I think I might not go gracefully into this goodnight, Ms. Glass!

I am not ready for this series to end. And I am eager for further stories to bring them back to me.
*crosses fingers*
*contemplates pact with the devil*

You can find A FREE CHOICE on Goodreads, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

About the Author:
Darrah Glass is a writer and generally inquisitive person who likes her fantasies to be as historically accurate as possible. She loves research, sex scenes, and researching sex scenes. She’s married and happily childless, does yoga, never cleans her house, likes shoes and toenail polish, and is vain about her hair. As far as her priorities are concerned, she’d rather write than do just about anything else, and she drives a 15-year-old car but carries really nice purses.

You can catch up with Darrah on Goodreads, her website and twitter.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends! 🙂

Big Changes Living BAREFOOT IN THE CITY OF BROKEN DREAMS–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing my review for Brent Hartinger’s BAREFOOT IN THE CITY OF BROKEN DREAMS, the sequel to THE THING I DIDN’T KNOW I DIDN’T KNOW and it’s really a quiet, engaging advancing love story. Russel and Kevin are two 20-something high school sweethearts who are finding their way through this kooky life.

Barefoot in the City of Broken Dreams (Russel Middlebrook The Futon Years, #2)About the book:
“There was no way moving to Los Angeles was going to make me give up my soul. After all, I’d already seen all the movies about Hollywood. I knew how things worked.”

Twenty-four year-old Russel Middlebrook and his boyfriend have moved to Los Angeles so Russel can try to make it as a screenwriter. Almost right away, in a forgotten old house off of Sunset Boulevard, Russel meets Isaac Brander, a once-famous film producer who is convinced he can turn Russel’s screenplay into a movie.

Russel knows that success can’t possibly come this easy. After all, most of Russel’s Los Angeles friends are so desperate to make it that it’s downright scary. His ex-boyfriend, Otto, is trying everything to become an actor, and Daniel, the sexy neighbor, doesn’t even need a casting couch to get naked.

So what’s the catch with Mr. Brander? Could it be that movies about Hollywood don’t tell the whole truth? But what does that mean for Russel’s soul?

Barefoot in the City of Broken Dreams, a companion book to Brent Hartinger’s The Thing I Didn’t Know I Didn’t Know, is a fast-paced, funny story about the price of fame in Hollywood: the hilarious lengths people will go to achieve it, and the touching secret to survival when things don’t work out exactly as planned.

My Review:
This is the second book in the Futon Years series, and follows a longer YA series surrounding Russel Middlebrook. It is probably best enjoyed reading this series in order, but it is not essential.
4.5 stars.

Russel is 24 and dating his high school flame, Kevin, seriously. They have moved to LA so that Russel can get into the screenwriting business. He has one contact, Otto, a former summer camp boyfriend, who is an actor–struggling to get work because he has a burn scar on his otherwise beautiful face.

Russel is not prepared for the culture shock that is the LA scene. Otto schools him a bit, but Russel is dumbfounded often by his naïveté. He is offered a contract on his screenplay, Cup of Joe, and really becomes blind to a lot of issues that crop up around the pre-production meetings, and he especially takes Kevin for granted. Kevin had a stable job which he gave up for a lesser paying gig in LA, land of traffic.

Their one bedroom apartment is worn and awful, and inhabited by only a few friendly neighbors and perhaps the ghost of a dead screenwriter. Russel reaches out to Regina, a fellow screenwriter, whose girlfriend Gina is a struggling comedienne. They are good sounding boards, and become good friends, though not without problems. And Daniel, the barely 18, clearly questioning Latino boy who has no issues trying to con Russel, or Kevin, or both into some compromising situations is an interesting barometer for the heat between Kevin and Russel.

Thing is, this book moves rather quickly through several months and several large changes for Russel. He has this movie deal, or does he? He has Kevin, or does he? Otto is his friend, but does he want more? I loved the voice here, and Russel is a comfortable head case to try on now and again. He is snarky, but honest. He steps into big messes and doesn’t know how to fix them–because he is young and naïve and trying hard to figure life out without sharing to anyone how inexperienced he truly is.

I was honestly taken by surprise at the end. Russel doesn’t spend a lot of time talking about his feelings for Kevin. He’s a rather self-involved man, but not in a mean way. He’s mostly oblivious, which is where he got into trouble with the screenplay. He wants, so much, to be doing the right thing that he doesn’t always see how all the wrong things are happening. He doesn’t see Otto coming on to him. He doesn’t see Daniel playing him for a fool. Because he wants to trust that his worldview is shared by the few people he lets into his confidence, even when it isn’t.

And, he does so much better in the end that I really liked him that much more. His taking responsibility and stepping into a more adult role, both as a partner and a professional, was enjoyable–I only wished to have had more of that.

Interested? You can find BAREFOOT IN THE CITY OF BROKEN DREAMS on Goodreads, Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I received an advanced copy of this book via NetGalley.

About Brent Hartinger:
I am Brent Hartinger, and I live to write.

For the last twenty years, I have made my living writing just about everything that involves words.

My most famous book is probably my 2003 gay teen novel, Geography Club, which has been adapted into a feature film starring Scott Bakula, Marin Hinkle, Ana Gasteyer, Justin Deeley, and Nikki Blonsky. It was released in selected theaters and on VOD on November 15, 2013.

You can find Brent on his website, Facebook and Twitter.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!