depression

Christmas Kitsch by Amy Lane 5 Star Review!

  Christmas Kitsch by Amy Lane  5 Stars!

Sometimes the best thing you can get for Christmas is knowing what you really want.

Rusty Baker is a blond, rich, entitled football player in a high school full of them — just the type of oblivious jock all the bullied kids hate. And he might have stayed that way, except he develops a friendship with out-and-proud Oliver Campbell from the wrong side of the tracks. Rusty thinks the friendship is just pity — Oliver is very bright, and Rusty is very not — but then Oliver kisses him goodbye when Rusty leaves for college, and Rusty is forced to rethink everything he knows about himself.

But even Rusty’s newfound awareness can’t help him survive a semester at Berkeley. He returns home for Thanksgiving break clinging to the one thing he knows to be true: Oliver Campbell is the best thing that’s ever happened to him.

Rusty’s parents disagree, and Rusty finds himself homeless for the holidays. Oliver may not have much money, but he’s got something Rusty has never known: true family. With their help and Oliver’s love, Rusty comes to realize that he may have failed college, but he’ll pass real life with flying rainbow colors.

Review

Wow. At first, I was leery. I don’t love New Adult. I am not always a fan of characters who are not self reflective. But this book is lush and keeps going and going and gives me all the love.

Rusty (awful name but then he has awful parents) is a slow processor who works hard, has been taught to have good manners, and is miserable as he doesn’t even see himself in an effort to get along with parents who see him as an asset rather than a person.

Oliver is quick witted, determined, and loved. And he loves Rusty because Rusty is kind and hot.

This is a very New Adult Romance as our heroes meet in high school. We get a wonderful friends to lovers troupe with a lot of finding yourself. There are all sorts of amazing moments in this book.

Rusty is wonderful and his struggle to become himself powerful and endearing. Oliver is just the best. I wish we were in his head as well. The cast of characters are just great.

The happily ever after is well earned and left me so happy.

Sink into this lovely, sexy, sweet romance.

Nachos & Hash (Mary’s Boys, #1) by Brandon Witt Review

Review:

Nachos & Hash - Brandon Witt

Darwin Michaels is living his dreams in the Mile High City. While Denver offers the perfect job, scrumptious dining, and whirlwind dating options, Darwin is losing hope he’ll find the right man to spark his interest for more than a one-night stand—until he sets eyes on Cody Russell.

Cody has just accomplished his life’s goal—get the hell out of Kansas. In one fell swoop, he lands a job at Hamburger Mary’s and gets a newfound family and the chance to be with other gay people! All that’s missing is someone special. But when Darwin shows his interest, Cody is sure it’s too good to be true. After all, what can Darwin possibly see in the high school dropout serving him nachos?

As Darwin falls in love, Cody struggles to realize his worth. When his past threatens the fragile life he is building, Cody spirals into a moment of dark desperation. But Darwin is determined to show Cody that love and family and home are there for him… will Cody accept what is offered?

 

Reviews

 adore Darwin and I adore Cody. The yearning in each of them is tender. 

Darwin wants to find an man to love and Cody doesn’t think he can ask for more than what he has. 

The courtship of this book is great as is the circle of friends.

We are moving through a sweet and sexy romance when the plot takes a dark turn with some internal struggles for one of the heroes. 

And while this turn is realistic and the issue (not to give spoilers) one that deserves attention especially in a series that look critically at issues within the gay community, the turn is sharp and a more developed understanding of the character would have enrich the book.

The aftermath is better handled and we end in a very loving place.

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Falling Down by Eli Easton Review

    Falling Down by Eli Easton 4 Stars! 

osh finds himself homeless at eighteen, but he has a plan. He’ll head north on the bus to New England and spend October there for his mother’s sake. She always talked about going to see the fall leaves someday. And when the leaves are done and the harsh winter comes, Josh plans to find a place to curl up and let go. It will be a relief to finally stop fighting.

Mark spent his life trying to live up to the tough swagger of his older brothers until he pushed himself so far against his nature that he cracked. Now a former Marine, he rents a little cabin in the White Mountains of New Hampshire where he can lick his wounds and figure out what to do with the rest of his life. One thing was clear: Mark was nobody’s hero.

Fate intervenes when Josh sets up camp under a covered bridge near Mark’s cabin. Mark recognizes the dead look in the young stranger’s eyes, and he feels compelled to do something about it. When Mark offers Josh a job, he never expects that he’ll be the one to fall.

The snow is coming soon. Can Mark convince Josh that the two of them can build a life together before the flurries begin?

Trigger Warning: Suicidal thoughts

 

Review

 

I was worried that this book would be too dark for me with its topics of PTSD, depression, suicidal thoughts, homelessness….sound grim. doesn’t it? But Eli Easton handles these issues with grace and realism and embeds these struggles in wonderful human characters that we are lucky enough to watch fall in love.

This is a thoughtful romance that slow lets the light fill it up with lovely prose and complex characters. There is no extra angst and drama just a heartfelt and healing love story.

I very much recommend this book.

No! Jocks Don’t Date Guys (Jock, #2) by Wade Kelly Review

    No! Jocks Don’t Date Guys by Wade Kelly 3.5 Stars!

What is a sexy soccer stud supposed to do when “following family tradition” falls 180 degrees opposite his closeted ideal?

From birth, Chris Jackson has been schooled on how to land a cheerleader. After all, his father married one, and his father’s father before him. Heck, even his older brother married a stereotypical cheerleader the summer before Chris went off to college. For two years, Chris dodges invasive questions about relationships by blaming his lack of female companionship on grueling practices and heavy course loads. But his lack of interest in girls should’ve given his family a clue. It isn’t until Chris mentions meeting a boy that his father’s synapses short-circuit.

Alonzo Martin is anything but a buxom blond. From his black hair, combat boots, and trench coat to his nail polish and guyliner, the mysterious introvert isn’t easily persuaded to date. Alonzo’s insecurities keep Chris at arm’s length, but Alonzo’s painful past might meet its match in the charismatic jock’s winning smile and sense of humor.

When opposites attract, only cheerleaders and gummy bears can help overcome fear and family tradition.

Review

Despite the light hearted title, this New Adult romance does some heavy emotionial lifting.

Chris is a sunny extrovert hero who is kind and while not out yet is very much out to himself.

Lonnie is an introvert who we slowly open himself to Chris and a circle of friends that show him it is okay to be his full self in a a safe place.

The love story and healing of Lonnie is really well done and Chris is someone anyone would fall in love with in his steadfast, attentive, and brave ways.

The cheerleader side story is just awful, creepy, disjointed and weird and almost ruins to the book. I elected to ignore it.

Dance With Me (Dancing, #1) by Heidi Cullinan 4 Star Review

Review:

Dance With Me - Heidi Cullinan

Sometimes life requires a partner.

Ed Maurer has bounced back, more or less, from the neck injury that permanently benched his semipro football career. He hates his soul-killing office job, but he loves volunteering at a local community center. The only fly in his ointment is the dance instructor, Laurie Parker, who can’t seem to stay out of his way.

Laurie was once one of the most celebrated ballet dancers in the world, but now he volunteers at Halcyon Center to avoid his society mother’s machinations. It would be a perfect escape, except for the oaf of a football player cutting him glares from across the room.

When Laurie has a ballroom dancing emergency and Ed stands in as his partner, their perceptions of each other turn upside down. Dancing leads to friendship, being friends leads to becoming lovers, but most important of all, their partnership shows them how to heal the pain of their pasts. Because with every turn across the floor, Ed and Laurie realize the only escape from their personal demons is to keep dancing—together.

 

Review

 

This book hovers between 3 Stars and 4 Stars for me but keeps sneaking back up to a 4 Star read.

This book does a relationship really well.

Laurie and Ed have a lot of stuff they need to work out in their own heads and yet they are able to make a wonderful space for each other to have a loving relationship while they heal and grown as individuals. This dynamic makes for a very good romance.

The cover is amazing as is all the dancing in the book. The thinking about failure and self and career is engaging. Ed’s struggle with his new identity as a disable person is powerful. There is a really moving scene about life goals that is so tender and wonderful example of seeing oneself through the eyes of love.

What makes the book less successful isn’t the love story but some dangling threads and just some weirdness.

We get hints that Laurie struggles with sex (its messiness for example but other things as well) and this doesn’t really get addressed or worked through in a way that would be up to the rest of the work Instead, we get a very out of character moment with another couple (not cheating) and really its has an eww factor (on several levels) that really knocked me out of the book. I am not sure why this scene survived the editing of the book.

The Mom stuff Laurie has going on as well as the Dad stuff and business partner stuff is left a mess and maybe it just stays a mess but it felt unfinished.

There other little irritants like that that keep the book from being flat out wonderful.

However, I am glad I read it and enjoyed it overall.

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Glitterland by Alexis Hall Review

Glitterland  by Alexis Hall 4 Stars! 

Once the golden boy of the English literary scene, now a clinically depressed writer of pulp crime fiction, Ash Winters has given up on love, hope, happiness, and — most of all — himself. He lives his life between the cycles of his illness, haunted by the ghosts of other people’s expectations.

Then a chance encounter at a stag party throws him into the arms of Essex boy Darian Taylor, an aspiring model who lives in a world of hair gel, fake tans, and fashion shows. By his own admission, Darian isn’t the crispest lettuce in the fridge, but he cooks a mean cottage pie and makes Ash laugh, reminding him of what it’s like to step beyond the boundaries of anxiety.

But Ash has been living in his own shadow for so long that he can’t see past the glitter to the light. Can a man who doesn’t trust himself ever trust in happiness? And how can a man who doesn’t believe in happiness ever fight for his own?

Review

Alexis Hall makes the ending up to me by adding a short story that was really needed to make this book complete.

Darian. I love him. He is clever and knows himself. Ash has to grow a lot in this book to deserve him but he does.

This book has all the wonderful trademarks of a Hall book-contending with imperfect characters, setting, class and such love.

We get a great romantic gesture and a well needed grovel. As well as a wonderful look at how to let other people make their own choices and live (and thrive) with who we are.

Good stuff!

Twist (Dive Bar #2) by Kylie Scott Review

      Twist: A Dive Bar Novel (Dive Bar Series Book 2) by Kylie Scott 3.5 Stars!

When his younger brother loses interest in online dating, hot bearded bartender Joe Collins only intends to log into his account and shut it down. Until he reads about her.

Alex Parks is funny, fascinating, and pretty much everything he’s been looking for in a woman—except that she lives across the country. Soon they’re emailing up a storm and telling each other their deepest, darkest secrets…except the one that really matters.

When Alex pays Joe a surprise visit, however, they both discover that when it comes to love, it’s always better with a twist.

 

Review

 

I liked Twist epically more that Dirty the first book in this series.

It has a wonderful first meet with the hero and heroine. Wonderfully awful.

I really liked how messed up our hero and heroine are in different ways and how loved they are by their circle of friends. I love the you are not my type attractions.

And then the book goes sideways in the end. They are dumb dumbs. Sigh. And then we have a huge jump in time and thing work out. Sigh. I am glad things work out.

There are two other couples featured in the book that it seems sad we won’t get their stories.

I need at least two other books before I can read the next hero’s romance because he needs a lot of growth before I want to spend time with him.

Stuff (The Bristol Collection, #2) by Josephine Myles Review

   Stuff (The Bristol Collection Book 2) by Josephine Myles  4 Stars! 

Tobias “Mas” Maslin’s doesn’t need much. A place of his own, weekends spent clubbing, and a rich boyfriend for love and security. Pity his latest sugar daddy turns out to be married with kids. Mas wants to be special, not someone’s dirty little secret.

When he loses his job and his flat on the same day, Mas’s world starts unravelling… until he stumbles across a down-at-heel vintage clothes shop. Now he just needs to convince the delightfully shy owner he’s in need of a new salesman.

Perry Cavendish-Fiennes set up Cabbages and Kinks solely to annoy his controlling father. He’d much rather spend every spare moment on his true passion, art. That is until Mas comes flaming into his life, talking nineteen to the dozen and turning his world upside down.

Against his better judgment Perry offers Mas a job and a place to live, but it turns out he should have listened to his instincts. The shop is already financially on the brink, and Mas’s flirting makes him feel things he’s never felt for a man. Yet Mas seems convinced they can make a go of it—in the shop, and together. That is, until Mas’s past starts to catch up with him…

 

Review

This book looks like it might be a rom com because the characters are writ fairly large and quirky as all get out but these is an ache in this book that takes it deeper.

Perry is an artist but a very passive (for the most part) person who let things happen to him and uses inaction to make choices. This is balanced against how very driven and quirky he is at the same time.

Mas is an pretty assertive person who needs much more self reflection and is young and reactive but also very clever and wise. The time with Perry gives time to grow up a bit and soften.

The lack of communication and false drama of misunderstanding hurt my enjoyment of the romance but I love the writing and the characters.

Second Hand (Tucker Springs, #2) by Heidi Cullinan and, Marie Sexton Review

Review:

Second Hand - Heidi Cullinan, Marie Sexton

Paul Hannon moved to Tucker Springs for his girlfriend, but she’s left him with a house he can’t afford and a pantry full of useless gadgets. All Paul wants is to get back to normal, even if he’s not sure what that is anymore. When he wanders into Tucker Pawn for a gift to win her back, he meets El Rozal, pawn shop owner and all-around cynic.

El Rozal doesn’t do relationships, especially not with clueless straight boys still pining for their ex. El may make his living dealing in castoffs, but that doesn’t apply to men. Still, when Paul starts clearing out his old life, pawning kitchen equipment he never wanted in the first place, El is drawn to Paul in spite of himself.

Paul and El have nothing in common except a past full of disappointments. There’s no reason to believe the two of them could fit, but in El’s line of work, one man’s junk is another man’s treasure. When it comes to love, El and Paul may learn that secondhand doesn’t mean second best.

 

Review

 

I love EL and the dog. I love his crush and his pursuit of Paul and his dedication to family.

Paul is depressed, non self reflective, and clueless but he is sweet and kind and figures things out.

I like that Paul is working class and money is a thing. His ex girlfriend is awful but his mom is great.

This is a lovely romance with a great cast of characters. Very good read!

 

 

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Carry the Ocean (The Roosevelt, #1) by Heidi Cullinan 5 Star Review

    Carry the Ocean  by Heidi Cullinan 5 Stars! 

Normal is just a setting on the dryer.

High school graduate Jeremey Samson is looking forward to burying his head under the covers and sleeping until it’s time to leave for college. Then a tornado named Emmet Washington enters his life. The young man with a double major in math and computer science is handsome, forward, wicked smart, interested in dating Jeremey—and he has autism.

But Jeremey doesn’t judge him for that. He’s too busy judging himself, as are his parents, who don’t believe in things like clinical depression. When Jeremey’s untreated illness reaches a critical breaking point, Emmet is the white knight who rescues him and brings him along as a roommate to The Roosevelt, a quirky new assisted living facility.

As Jeremey and Emmet find their feet at The Roosevelt, they begin to believe they can be loved for the men they are beyond their disabilities. But before they can trust enough to fall head over heels, they must trust their own convictions that friendship is a healing force and love can overcome any obstacle.

 

Review

I love this book. Sitting down to write this review, I just want to go and read it again.

Each character is complex, human and complete. They inhabit a full world. The writing is beautiful and dialogue compelling.

The details weave together in wonderful layer upon layer to create a love story with all the kinds of love.

This is not a light hearted romance but the ache here is really just the ache of being human.

As a disabled person, I really valued to discussion of adaptations, modification, and normality that are part and parcel of living in with a different t body, chemistry and/or mind that the majority.

Depression and anxiety are explored here better than I have ever read. They are part of the character but not all of him. And while there are things that are common to people with this disorder, the understanding that he is unique is clear as well.

The exploration of autism is just as powerfully done. I love that fact that even though the autistic hero seems outwardly more disabled, it is the more “normal” hero that is newer to journey of living with his disability rather than around it.

I love the layers of the parental reaction to this very young couple. The romance told in alternating points of very is beautiful. The writer shows the difficult of the relationship and its joy.

My favorite part of the book aside from the characters is the therapy sessions. Both heroes go and the parents.

I wish everyone had support like this to shine the light on love and self acceptance and the pain of being human. And the science of it all. So good.

I highly recommend this book for the romance and everything else.