Terrifying Visions: THIRD EYE–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m so excited to share a review and giveaway for a M/M realistic surpernatural thriller with a dash of romance from mega-writer Rick R. Reed. THIRD EYE features a single dad whose unexpected head injury brings unwanted insight into grisy crimes in his Pennsylvania small-town. I have read and reviewed a bunch of Rick R. Reed titles for Joyfully Jay, so I jumped at the chance to share a review here.

Scroll down to catch my review and enter the $10 Amazon GC giveaway below!
About the book:
Who knew that a summer thunderstorm and a lost little boy would conspire to change single dad Cayce D’Amico’s life in an instant? With Luke missing, Cayce ventures into the woods near their house to find his son, only to have lightning strike a tree near him, sending a branch down on his head. When he awakens the next day in the hospital, he discovers he has been blessed or cursed—he isn’t sure which—with psychic ability. Along with unfathomable glimpses into the lives of those around him, he’s getting visions of a missing teenage girl.

When a second girl disappears soon after the first, Cayce realizes his visions are leading him to their grisly fates. Cayce wants to help, but no one believes him. The police are suspicious. The press wants to exploit him. And the girls’ parents have mixed feelings about the young man with the “third eye.”

Cayce turns to local reporter Dave Newton and, while searching for clues to the string of disappearances and possible murders, a spark ignites between them. Little do they know that nearby, another couple—dark and murderous—are plotting more crimes and wondering how to silence the man who knows too much about them.

How about a little taste?

She was only thirteen. It wasn’t fair she now lay, bound, waiting for death. Before, there had been struggling: clawing and fighting, scratching their faces, pulling at their hair, batting at whatever part she could reach. Her breath had come in choking spasms, adrenaline pumping, burning, anteing up the hysteria so much she thought her air would be blocked. Then had come the dread that made her lose most of her fight, when her terror-addled brain had begun to accept her fate was to die here, in this tiny, hot room, with the only witness to her demise the sparkling eyes of her killers and the maddening, crooked whirl of a ceiling fan long past its prime and wobbling, doing nothing more than blowing the overheated, moist air around the room. The dread had risen up, a nausea twisting her gut and making her afraid she would vomit. And then had come the numbness, a dull tingling throughout her body that precluded movement, stripping her of coherent thought.

They stood above her. Faces she had trusted, faces she had seen before, around her neighborhood. The man she and her friends had had a crush on. He used to drive by her little house on Ohio Street in his old red Mustang, looking the picture of youth, confidence, masculinity. His hair was dark, cut bristle-brush short, and his face always clean-shaven. Thin lips bordered rows of perfect white teeth, and when he had smiled at her, only hours ago, she had lit up. A tingling had started in her toes and had worked its way up until the color rose to her cheeks. At her young age, the interest of a man in his twenties was inconceivable, although it had been something she had hoped for since the first day she had seen him, back at the onset of summer, when the sun had turned white-hot, burning up the grass and making illusory waves rise from the hot, cracked sidewalks.

He had pulled to the curb and sat there, car idling. She sat in the front yard, sorting through Barbie clothes: ball gowns and swimming suits, miniskirts and stretch pants. He didn’t say anything, not right away. She had looked at him once, then looked away, certain his interest could never be in her. Suddenly she felt ridiculous with her metal trunk, her Barbie dolls, and all the outfits she had once been so proud to collect. Swiftly, she returned the clothes to their case and slammed it shut.

She leaned back, resting on her palms, and lifted her face to the sun. Its heat beat down relentlessly, making the skin on her face feel tight.

She felt his eyes on her still. She opened her own eyes a crack and regarded him peripherally. He really was looking at her! The adorable little smile that caused a dimple to rise in his right cheek deepened in the sun’s play of shadow and light. She leaned back more, left hand reaching out to surreptitiously move the Barbie trunk farther away. In this posture, here on the withered and brown grass, she felt that her breasts, little more than two tiny bumps an unkind boy at school had once referred to as her anthills, looked larger. She could be eighteen, couldn’t she? With the right makeup and her hair pulled up….

But now her long blonde hair was pulled back in a ponytail, clipped with a pink plastic barrette. She wore a pair of cutoff shorts and an oversized South Park T-shirt belonging to her older brother. He would have killed her had he known she was wearing it. But he was away at the Y’s summer camp and would never know the difference.

The idling of the car was like an animal purring.

And then the sun disappeared, and she sat in darkness. Beneath her closed lids, she sensed someone standing over her.

Why hadn’t she heard the slam of the car door? Her eyelids fluttered, but she did not open them. It would be just like her mother to come outside now and stand above her, hands on hips, and ask her what she thought she was doing.

“Lucy?”

Finally, she opened her eyes and blinked at the brightness of the August day. He was smiling. So unlike the other guys in Fawcettville, he was dressed in pressed black slacks and a collarless white shirt, buttoned to his neck.

“How did you know my name?”

“Oh, I make it my business to know the names of all the pretty young ladies around here.”

Lucy felt the heat rise to her face once more. She grinned and could not think of a single word to say.

“Playing Barbie?”

She shoved the case farther away, until it was completely out of her grasp. The case lay in the white heat, glinting, looking, she hoped, as if it had nothing to do with her.

“What? Oh…no, no. These are my little sister’s. She always makes such a mess of things, and I was just organizing for her.”

“What a good sister.”

“Yeah, well…”

The two said nothing for a while, and Lucy began to grow uncomfortable under his gaze. She shifted her long, tanned legs in front of her, crossing them at the ankle.

“I was driving by and saw you sitting there, and I had to tell you”—he hunkered down beside her—“what a lovely sight you are. It made me stop just to have a better look.”

She laughed and thought she sounded way too much like the thirteen-year-old she was. “Thank you,” she whispered, wondering where her voice had gone.

“No, thank you, for being here, for making the heat of this day a little more pleasant.”

Oh, stop! she wanted to cry out but whispered again, “Thank you.”

He leaned closer, enough for her to feel his breath near her ear. In spite of the day’s heat, his nearness caused gooseflesh to rise on her arms, her spine to tingle.

“Listen.” He glanced around the empty street with eyes like none she had ever seen: green, ringed with thick black lashes. And in his gaze was a conspiracy that included only the two of them. “My car has air-conditioning. I know this is out of the blue and all, but I wondered if you’d like to go for a ride with me.”

Lucy glanced back at her house. She wished suddenly she lived in a bigger house, in a better neighborhood. Here on this modest residential street close to the river, her small white clapboard house was surrounded by other houses very much like it, some of them covered in rusting aluminum siding. She pictured her mother inside, on a vinyl-covered kitchen chair, watching All My Children on a thirteen-inch portable TV on the Formica-topped kitchen table. Her mother, she knew, would never approve of what was transpiring here, right in her front yard.

He stood suddenly. “Okay, okay. I get the message.”

“Wait.” She sat up straighter. A pickup rumbled by and left in its wake a smell of exhaust and a rush of hot air.

He turned. “What? Need to get your mom’s permission?”

“Of course not!” Her voice came out higher than she would have liked, the whiny protest of a child. She stood. “I’d like to come with you. But I can’t stay out too long.” She was about to say “My mom will be worried” but realized how immature that would sound. “I’ve got some people I have to meet in a little while.”

He smiled. And the smile erased any nervousness she had about going with him. After all, she had seen him around the neighborhood dozens of times. He wasn’t exactly a stranger, not really.

“That’s fine, Lucy. I’ll have you back within an hour. I promise. I certainly wouldn’t want to get off on the wrong foot with you.” He winked, and she followed him to the waiting car.

My Review:
Cayce D’Amico is a mid-20s out gay man in a Fawcettville, Pennsylvania raising his son Luke. It’s a tiny town deteriorating in the wake of most of the industry drying up. In this community there aren’t any real dangers except kids falling into the swift moving Ohio River and drowning. One afternoon, while Cayce is making dinner, Luke wanders out of the yard. In fear of a coming storm, Cayce combs the neighborhood looking for the boy. And, in the woods near the edge of the street, Cayce is hit in the head by a branch when a sudden bolt of lightning strikes.

About the same time, two young and beautiful people are convincing 13 y/o Lucy to step off her front lawn into their Mustang in the same neighborhood. Lucy doesn’t make it home.

Waking in the hospital, Cayce is mystified by the insights he gets off the people in direct contact with him. And, when he is handed a newspaper that features his own accident also describes mission Lucy. The dread builds within as Cayce reads the story and “sees” poor Lucy in her last moments with her killers. He’s terrified and horrified when the visions don’t quit. Especially when a second Fawcettville girl goes missing.

This is a realistic thriller with the paranormal angle of Cayce’s newly-developed third sight. He clings to local reporter Dave Newton. Dave is an older man who’s faced his own demons and mostly has his head on right. The story point of view flips between many characters as we learn the grisly details even through the eyes of one of the killers. Cayce’s attempts to get rid of his visions lead his to confide in local law enforcement, Dave Newton and the victim’s families. For all his earnestness, he’s not taken seriously and he decides to keep his mouth shut. Until Lucy’s desperate mother pleads for a break in their case.

Cayce’s assistance shines a spotlight on his abilities and puts this the killers on his trail.

It’s an interesting and timely thriller, with good pacing and fully fleshed-out characters. We see the dark and seedy interior of Fawcettville families on the edge. We see the not-so-silent prejudice of Cayce’s own mother–who doesn’t think he’s a good father to Luke. Cayce, for his part, is a devoted dad and a lonely man. He doesn’t have a lot of folks in his corner, but he’s going to turn over Heaven and Earth when Luke becomes a target. Luckily, Dave Newton is right there by his side. I was turning the pages as fast as I could, so I would finish this story before bedtime. I HAD to finish this before bed because I couldn’t bear to try and sleep while the dark horror of the prose was rattling around in my brain. There was a tiny niggle for me regarding the timeline, where I thought there was some disconnect. Other than that, I was riveted. There is a dash of romance–attraction that’s fueled by the intense moments of shared terror. Dave accepts Cayce’s new gift as it is, and tries to be a helper to him in his hours of need.

There are real gruesome bits, and it’s not all about the murders and dead bodies. Cayce does save the day for some folks, and the epilogue makes it clear that there is a happily ever after for Cayce and Dave. As a person who doesn’t deal well with horror/thriller well, I am glad to say I slept well after the read.

Interested? You can find THIRD EYE on Goodreads, NineStar Press, Amazon Barnes & Noble, Smashwords and Kobo.

****GIVEAWAY****

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

About the Author:
Real Men. True Love.

Rick R. Reed is an award-winning and bestselling author of more than fifty works of published fiction. He is a Lambda Literary Award finalist. Entertainment Weekly has described his work as “heartrending and sensitive.” Lambda Literary has called him: “A writer that doesn’t disappoint…” Find him at http://www.rickrreedreality.blogspot.com. Rick lives in Palm Springs, CA, with his husband, Bruce, and their fierce Chihuahua/Shiba Inu mix, Kodi.

Catch up with Rick on his website, Facebook, twitter and Instagram.

Surviving the WINTER MASQUERADE–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a gay magical realism story by Kevin Klehr. WINTER MASQUERADE features a man waking up in a fantasy world and the only way home is to acknowledge his life is endangered by his partner.

About the book:
Ferris wakes on the Sea Queen, an enchanted cruise ship sailing on a chocolate sea. He has no idea how he got here, but he desperately wants to go home to his boyfriend.

The alchemist is the only person who can help Ferris, but he’s been kidnapped. The ransom is high tea with scones and jam.

Meanwhile, the passengers are gearing up for the Winter Masquerade, a ball where love and magic reign.

With a murderous musician, an absent boyfriend, and a mystical party, Ferris soon learns that Wednesday is not the day to fall in love.

My Review:
This fantasy/magical realism story was filled with twists and turns–and breaks with reality. Reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland for adults.

Ferris awakes on the Sea Queen, an ocean liner sailing a chocolate river. He’s unsure how he got there, and wonders what’s happened to his boyfriend, Harris. He seeks help from the first people he finds, a kindly musical trio made up of Olive, Cole and Scallywag–a child. They urge him to seek help from the Alchemist, but the Alchemist has been kidnapped to another dimension. So, Ferris’ brought to The Detective who’s aided by a talking, flying minihorse called Janus, and the Alchemist’s wife and mistress to help find Ferris’ way home.

They urge him to describe his home to see if he can retrace his journey. Each time Ferris tries to talk about Harris he is transported to another dimension where sweet Olive is trying to murder everyone aboard ship–notably Ferris. The Alchemist stands ready to defend Ferris, but Ferris must come to terms with the evil in his life before he can find his way home.

Through several iterations, Ferris begins to see the pattern–discussing Harris causes him terror, injury and pain. The persons in his Sea Queen journey all represent people in Ferris’ real life, friends and lovers he’s lost due to the abusive relationship he’s trapped in with Harris. Breaking through his self-isolating walls, through the fantasy comfort of the Sea Queen comrades, gives Ferris the impetus and strength to reach for the help he needs to escape–both the Sea Queen and his abuser.

It’s an imaginative way to relate the terror of domestic violence without being overt. Ferris is a good man, and he’s ashamed of the fearful and dire situation he’s allowed himself to fall prey to. His abuser has appropriately groomed Ferris, to remove those supports that would hinder his ability to control Ferris. The Winter Masquerade is a metaphor for removing the masks that hide our secret selves–and Ferris finally lays down his mask to his dear, but estranged, friends. It was then that Ferris began to remake himself into an independent man, one he could believe worthy of love.

It’s at times comical and confusing, in the way that Alice in Wonderland is both comical and confusing. It is only once Ferris returns to his real life roots that we begin to see and understand his real life problems. It takes time, but the resolution mentions Ferris finding the love of his life much later–when his heart’s finally healed and ready to accept that love.

Interested? You can find WINTER MASQUERADE on Goodreads, NineStar Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, Kobo. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

About the Author:
Kevin is the author of a number of books including the Actors and Angels series and the Nate and Cameron Collection.

The Actors and Angels series are three comedies about theatre in the Afterlife, where two friends explore their love for each other through several lifetimes with the help of a gay angel. The third in the series scored a Rainbow Award for Best Gay Alternative Universe/Reality novel. The Nate and Cameron collection are two novellas that delve into a relationship between a dreamer and a realist, where the latter is coming to terms with loving second best. The two stories, Nate and the New Yorker and Nate’s Last Tango, are also available in one paperback edition.

His dystopian novel, Social Media Central, explores a future where everyone is addicted to their screens and where murder is just a keystroke away.

And his new novella, Winter Masquerade, whimsically explains why Wednesday is not the day to fall in love.

Kevin lives with his husband, Warren, in their humble apartment affectionately named Sabrina), in Australia’s own “Emerald City,” Sydney.

Catch up with Kevin on his website, twitter, and Facebook.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

The Truth Obscured By LONG SHADOWS–Review & Giveaway!

longshadows_tourbannerHi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a new M/M release from Kate Sherwood. I really liked MARK OF CAIN and SACRATI, so I was eager to read LONG SHADOWS, the first in her new four-part Common Law M/M mystery/suspense series. This book is not a romance, but the series has the potential to be…

long-shadowsAbout the book:
LA cop Jericho Crewe got the hell out of Mosely, Montana, when he was seventeen. Fifteen years later, he’s back, and everything is just as messed up as when he left. He planned a quick visit to deal with his injured father, but of course things are never that simple. Family complications, police complications, social complications—and, as always, Wade Granger complications.

Jericho and Wade had been so close, once upon a time. First friends, then more than friends—and then, after Jericho’s escape, nothing. Wade’s magnetism hasn’t been lessened by a decade and a half apart; even when Jericho learns that Wade is the prime suspect in the death of Jericho’s father, the old connection still sparks.

When Jericho’s newly discovered half siblings are kidnapped, he needs to trust someone to help him find them. Wade’s a terrible choice, but Jericho’s never been known for his good judgment. Anyway, he’d rather make a bad decision with Wade than a good one with anybody else.

My Review:
Jericho Crewe is an LA detective summoned back to his desolate hometown of Mosely, Montana thinking his father, Eli, is in dire straits. Well, he may have been, but he’s dead now. Jericho hasn’t been home in 15 years–not since he left to join the marines–and start his life over. Eli was a crap dad, abusive and criminal in his habit and neglect; Jericho isn’t sad to hear he’s gone.

He’s rather stunned that he has a stepmother, Nikki, and two half siblings, however. Nikki was the one who’d called him up. She deliberately hid the fact that Eli was dead because she needed Jericho to actually turn up, and to protect her and her kids from whomever murdered Eli, because yeah, it’s a suspicious death. And new threats have been made.

Jericho’s mostly flying blind but he reaches out to his old pals, Kayla–now Sheriff Morgan–and Wade Granger, local barman and notorious smuggler, to help figure out what the heck is happening. See, Mosely is way “up ‘dere” near the Canadian border. It’s heavily forested, and sparsely populated. A criminal, or many criminals, could make a good living smuggling guns/drugs over the border. Eli Crewe had his hand in these dirty deals. But, is it a fellow criminal who took him out? Or, even worse, crooked Feds? Jericho needs to figure it out fast when his half-siblings are kidnapped and Nikki goes AWoL.

I liked the slow reveal of all these issues. Jericho’s a great guy caught up in a bad scene. Nikki’s a liar, and hostile, playing Jericho’s sympathies. Wade’s clearly attracted to his former lover–Jericho–who reciprocates, but don’t expect any shenanigans. Jericho has to cobble together a partnership between himself, Wade and Kayla, which is a delicate business. Those two have been on opposite sides for their whole lives, and Jericho was the glue that bound them in high school. The book ends with some rather spectacular flourishes, and with Jericho facing some choices: return to LA and his soul-sucking job, stay in Mosely and care for his previously-unknown family, battling the smugglers for the Sheriff’s department, or join Wade in bed and business. This is the beginning of a series, and the sexual tension is really high. No steam here, though. The story unfolds over the course of several days, so the next book will likely pick up right where this one left off–and might could include a smattering of the sexytime variety.

Interested? You can find LONG SHADOWS on Goodreads, Riptide Books, Amazon, Barnes & Noble iTunes, and Kobo.

****GIVEAWAY****

Step on over to the folks at THE NOVEL APPROACH blog, and comment to be entered in the $100 book credit giveaway. One person who comments on any of the four tours planned for the Common Law books will be selected.
Good Luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
Kate Sherwood started writing about the same time she got back on a horse after almost twenty years away from riding. She’d like to think she was too young for it to be a midlife crisis, but apparently she was ready for some changes!

Kate grew up near Toronto, Ontario (Canada) and went to school in Montreal, then Vancouver. But for the last decade or so she’s been a country girl. Sure, she misses some of the conveniences of the city, but living close to nature makes up for those lacks. She’s living in Ontario’s “cottage country”–other people save up their time and come to spend their vacations in her neighborhood, but she gets to live there all year round!

Since her first book was published in 2010, she’s kept herself busy with novels, novellas, and short stories in almost all the sub-genres of m/m romance. Contemporary, suspense, scifi or fantasy–the settings are just the backdrop for her characters to answer the important questions. How much can they share, and what do they need to keep? Can they bring themselves to trust someone, after being disappointed so many times? Are they brave enough to take a chance on love?

Kate’s books balance drama with humor, angst with optimism. They feature strong, damaged men who fight themselves harder than they fight anyone else. And, wherever possible, there are animals: horses, dogs, cats ferrets, squirrels… sometimes it’s easier to bond with a non-human, and most of Kate’s men need all the help they can get.

After five years of writing, Kate is still learning, still stretching herself, and still enjoying what she does. She’s looking forward to sharing a lot more stories in the future.

Catch up with Kat on her website, Facebook and twitter.

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

Troubling Cases in GOOD BOYS–A Review

GoodBoysFacebook
Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a new contemporary M/M police mystery/romance from Keelan Ellis. GOOD BOYS is an interesting look through the eyes of a police detective, on a difficult case, whose life is in rather dramatic transition.

GoodBoys_600x940
About the book:
Good Boys, The Solomon Series, Book One
Paul Solomon is a homicide detective in Baltimore, a city with a high murder rate and a complicated relationship between the police and the citizens they are sworn to protect.

He’s also a gay man who has been out on the job since he first joined. Being out on a tough police force hasn’t always been easy, but living with integrity is important to him.

Paul’s love life becomes as tumultuous as his job with the demise of his relationship of eight years. While dealing with the emotional and physical upheaval in his personal life, a case comes across his desk that hits a little too close to home—the murder of two gay teenagers.

Paul and his partner, Tim Cullen, must solve the double homicide, and Paul has to find a way to move on from his failed relationship.

How about a little taste?

“Good morning,” Andy said, sounding much more like a co-worker than someone who’d been his boyfriend for nearly eight years.

Paul couldn’t detect any anger or even regret about the previous evening, but there was no warmth in his voice at all. He looked at the man sitting on the living room sofa, seeing him more clearly than he had in a while. It was impossible to tell that he was hungover, even though he’d had at least as much to drink as Paul had. He was wearing a beautiful wool-silk blend sweater with a pair of slim, dark jeans that had surely cost more than Paul’s entire suit. No tie today, so he must be working from home. His blond hair, just now starting to be touched with silver, shone in the sun coming in through the window. At forty-four he was in amazing shape and still as gorgeous as the day they’d met. Paul wondered, as he often did, why he couldn’t make himself feel the way he once had about him.

“Hey,” Paul said, “I’ve got a lot of shit to catch up on at work, so I should get going.”

Andy rolled his eyes, winced slightly, and touched his temple. “Don’t worry; I’m not looking for a conversation this morning. I wanted to make sure you know that nothing changes just because we fucked, okay? That was goodbye sex. You still have to move out.”

Anger flared in Paul’s chest. As if he didn’t know that already. Despite his desire to get out the door, he found himself warming to an argument. “Yeah? No shit. Did you think I thought we were getting back together or something? Jesus, we broke up six months ago. If that was an option, I think it would have happened before now. Did you think I was hoping the third time would be a charm?”

“Paul,” he said, softening a little, “I can’t do this right now. I know you’re pissed. I know you don’t want to deal with it, but I can’t move on with you in my house. It’s too confusing.”

My Review:
Detective Paul Solomon is 38, relatively single and newly pressed to leave the house of his former boyfriend, Andy. Paul and Andy had lived together the past six years, but their relationship died years ago. They officially broke up a year ago, but Paul just moved into the guest room of Andy’s house. Now, they scratch each other’s itches, but Andy wants Paul out, so he can finally move on.

Having few friends of his own to lean on, Paul ends up temporarily staying with his partner, Tim, a newly divorced man with partial custody of his three year-old daughter and a hopeless crush on their amazon Lieutenant. Tim and Paul get assigned to a double homicide, two teen boys–who happen to be gay–have been found in a car near a cemetery in a shady area of Baltimore. They were childhood friends, perhaps boyfriends, and no one knows how or why they were killed. I really liked the procedural nature of this read. It’s intriguing, unraveling the secrets of two boys who were essentially good, and ultimately died for their kindness. It was a well-spun tale that had interesting twists. I honestly didn’t see the murderer until the final clue was revealed, which was refreshing.

The story is Paul’s to tell, and he’s a personal mess. Tim advises him to meet a guy, and he does. Not the right guy, it seems, due to some personal problems that plague the sweet and frail David, but he does reconnect with an old flame, Owen. They’d dated way back when and Paul thinks Owen might be a fun fling, when it’s not likely to work out that way–not anymore. This is a no-steam read. All the sexytimes happen off the page, leaving the mystery and crime solving to take center stage. That’s cool. It was interesting to read about a gay cop doing serious cop work, and interacting with his friends, exes, suspects, colleagues and witnesses. He’s a decent man with a complicated life, mostly because he’s not able to commit. Paul’s an intuitive man; he knew he was letting Andy go, far before Andy gave up on him. He’s a professional, yet human enough to let his cases to infect his personal world.

I know that this is the first in a series, and I’d love to see how Paul grows, now that he’s on his own. He seemed to take some big strides in just the week or two that we get in this story. I’m hopeful that he’ll build some strong friendships and even a serious relationship, while also being a cool detective. Also, I wouldn’t mind a little sexytimes. Just sayin’.

Interested? You can find GOOD BOYS on Goodreads, Wayward Ink Press, Amazon (US, UK, AU, and DE) and AllRomance.

About the Author:
Keelan Ellis is an east coast girl for life, a progressive, a lover of music and musicians, a mother of two very challenging girls, a loyal though sometimes thoughtless friend, a slacker, a dreamer and a bad influence. She likes true crime podcasts, great television and expensive craft cocktails made by hipsters in silly vests.

Keelan can be found on her website, Facebook, and twitter.
EyesOnBooks

Happy Book Birthday to GOOD BOYS!

GoodBoysFacebook
Hi there! Today I’m sharing a release day blast for a new contemporary M/M police mystery/romance from Keelan Ellis. GOOD BOYS is an interesting look through the eyes of a police detective, on a difficult case, whose life is in rather dramatic transition. Expect my review in the next few weeks!

GoodBoys_600x940
About the book:
Good Boys, The Solomon Series, Book One
Paul Solomon is a homicide detective in Baltimore, a city with a high murder rate and a complicated relationship between the police and the citizens they are sworn to protect.

He’s also a gay man who has been out on the job since he first joined. Being out on a tough police force hasn’t always been easy, but living with integrity is important to him.

Paul’s love life becomes as tumultuous as his job with the demise of his relationship of eight years. While dealing with the emotional and physical upheaval in his personal life, a case comes across his desk that hits a little too close to home—the murder of two gay teenagers.

Paul and his partner, Tim Cullen, must solve the double homicide, and Paul has to find a way to move on from his failed relationship.

How about a little taste?

“Good morning,” Andy said, sounding much more like a co-worker than someone who’d been his boyfriend for nearly eight years.

Paul couldn’t detect any anger or even regret about the previous evening, but there was no warmth in his voice at all. He looked at the man sitting on the living room sofa, seeing him more clearly than he had in a while. It was impossible to tell that he was hungover, even though he’d had at least as much to drink as Paul had. He was wearing a beautiful wool-silk blend sweater with a pair of slim, dark jeans that had surely cost more than Paul’s entire suit. No tie today, so he must be working from home. His blond hair, just now starting to be touched with silver, shone in the sun coming in through the window. At forty-four he was in amazing shape and still as gorgeous as the day they’d met. Paul wondered, as he often did, why he couldn’t make himself feel the way he once had about him.

“Hey,” Paul said, “I’ve got a lot of shit to catch up on at work, so I should get going.”

Andy rolled his eyes, winced slightly, and touched his temple. “Don’t worry; I’m not looking for a conversation this morning. I wanted to make sure you know that nothing changes just because we fucked, okay? That was goodbye sex. You still have to move out.”

Anger flared in Paul’s chest. As if he didn’t know that already. Despite his desire to get out the door, he found himself warming to an argument. “Yeah? No shit. Did you think I thought we were getting back together or something? Jesus, we broke up six months ago. If that was an option, I think it would have happened before now. Did you think I was hoping the third time would be a charm?”

“Paul,” he said, softening a little, “I can’t do this right now. I know you’re pissed. I know you don’t want to deal with it, but I can’t move on with you in my house. It’s too confusing.”

Interested? You can find GOOD BOYS on Goodreads, and don’t miss the discounted prices at major retailers: Wayward Ink Press, Amazon (US, UK, AU, and DE) and AllRomance.

About the Author:
Keelan Ellis is an east coast girl for life, a progressive, a lover of music and musicians, a mother of two very challenging girls, a loyal though sometimes thoughtless friend, a slacker, a dreamer and a bad influence. She likes true crime podcasts, great television and expensive craft cocktails made by hipsters in silly vests.

Keelan can be found on her website, Facebook, and twitter.
EyesOnBooks

Cephalopod Coffeehouse July 2016–Discovering the Truth of TWO BOYS KISSING–A Review

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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.

Today I’m sharing a review for a fantastic YA book by David Levithan. I first read his collaboration on WILL GRAYSON, WILL GRAYSON with John Green, but TWO BOYS KISSING is his own work, and it is staggering. It won the Stonewall Book Award, and Mr. Levithan was honored with the 2016 Margaret A Edwards Award in June. You may want to check out his acceptance speech, which is fantastic.

Two Boys KissingAbout the book:
New York Times bestselling author David Levithan tells the based-on-true-events story of Harry and Craig, two 17-year-olds who are about to take part in a 32-hour marathon of kissing to set a new Guinness World Record—all of which is narrated by a Greek Chorus of the generation of gay men lost to AIDS.

While the two increasingly dehydrated and sleep-deprived boys are locking lips, they become a focal point in the lives of other teen boys dealing with languishing long-term relationships, coming out, navigating gender identity, and falling deeper into the digital rabbit hole of gay hookup sites—all while the kissing former couple tries to figure out their own feelings for each other.

My Review:
I wonder if I can get this book on my son’s high school’s reading list. Truly.

Two Boys Kissing is an interesting and engaging read following the lives of roughly nine characters over a weekend. The focal point of the book is a Guinness World Record breaking kiss–32 hours and change long. It happens between two former boyfriends, to raise awareness of homophobia, specifically a hate-crime beating of a classmate. In the tapestry of the story we encounter two boys who meet at a gay prom, and experience the newness of first attraction/love. We experience the sedate affection of an out couple, who still struggle to define their identities. And, we follow a loner boy whose world implodes when his parents discover he is gay.

The narrator is a haunting Greek chorus of the dead. Gay men who were beaten, murdered, slayed by their own hand, or ripped away by the chilled fingers of AIDS. The insight, the care, the lightness of this chorus of men I wished I’d known brings me, as a reader, personal melancholy.
Such waste. Such misfortune. Such tragedy.

Still:

We do not want to haunt you too somberly. We don’t want our legacy to be gravitas. You wouldn’t want to live your life like that, either. Your mistake would be to find our commonality in our dying. The living part mattered more.
We taught you how to dance.

No, the chorus is there to hover and inform, not imbue with guilt.

There are few things that can make us quite as happy as a gay prom.

Ignorance is not bliss. Bliss is knowing the full meaning of what you have been given.

There is a power in saying, I am not wrong. Society is wrong. Because there is no reason that men and women should have separate bathrooms. There is no reason that we should ever be ashamed of our bodies or ashamed of our love. We are told to cover ourselves up, hide ourselves away, so that other people can have control over us, can make us follow their rules. It is a bastardization of the concept of morality, this rule of shame.

I seriously had chills in reading this book. At the heart of it, Craig and Harry are two boys who are willing to make a public stand. Their classmate Tariq was assaulted by a group of gay-bashers while waiting for his father to pick him up from the movies. He was alone, and wondered how they knew. Through careful omniscient vignettes we learn that Craig is closeted, on the verge of coming out, while Harry is out. Harry’s parents are supportive, and when Craig is overwhelmed with sadness following Tariq’s beating and their budding friendship, he enlists Harry’s help taking a stand–doing something the fallen couldn’t even contemplate in their time: planning a public kiss to beat all others.

Meanwhile, nearby, Neil and his boyfriend Peter have many a date night. Peter’s parents are cool with him being out. Neil’s parents silently accept, but do not openly approve of their son. They experience the moments of Craig and Harry’s kiss via the live webcast, but also in person when they are compelled to be there, to witness a moment in history that is specifically relevant to them.

Meanwhile, nearby, the GSAs of neighboring high schools have organized a gay prom in a community center, and blue-haired Ryan meets pink-haired Avery. Can Ryan accept that Avery was born different? Those moments of sheer magic, finding a kindred spirit, and potential partner. Potential joy and potential pain are in high concentration.

Meanwhile, nearby, Cooper’s father sneaks into his room to discover the explicit chatting he’s been doing on gay websites. The rage is astounding, and sets depressed and despondent Cooper on a reckless search for something, something more than the nothing of his life and how he feels about himself.

The story is fiction based on an historic record-setting kiss between two college boys. The characters in this story are all teen boys in high school. Parallels to their experiences are being drawn throughout, and when tragedy seems to be about to strike, there is still hope. The kiss is not without problems. Both Craig and Harry must stand the entire time, lips touching. There is no time for toilet breaks, to eat, barely enough to take a sip of water via a lip-locked straw. No one can hold them up, or prop them in any way. Haters come to call and attempt assault, despite the presence of law enforcement. The kiss is live-streamed, news broadcast and subject to grave disapproval–of the parental kind. Distractions abound, and at any moment either Craig or Harry could succumb to the fatigue that is tearing at them, but they strive to achieve what neither could have done alone: be a beacon of hope, be an agent of change on an international level.

It’s hard for me to read a book with no chapters. Life intrudes, and makes me need to “find a stopping place.” This book made me never want to stop, despite the life intruding part.

Interested? You can find TWO BOYS KISSING on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and bookstores and libraries everywhere.

About the Author:
David Levithan is an American children’s book editor and award-winning author. He published his first YA book, Boy Meets Boy, in 2003. Levithan is also the founding editor of PUSH, a Young Adult imprint of Scholastic Press.

You can catch up to him on his website, Facebook, and twitter.

Thanks for popping in and, maybe, head on over to my fellow Coffeehouse reviewers, to see what books they found most interesting this past month.