depression

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.

Her Pregnancy Bombshell (Summer at Villa Rosa #1) by Liz Fielding Review

 Her Pregnancy Bombshell (Summer at Villa Rosa)  by Liz Fielding  2.5 Stars

Expecting her boss’s baby! 

Pilot Miranda Marlowe is too sick to fly her plane, and she must face the truth: she’s pregnant! She knows well enough that her boss, Cleve Finch, is still grieving for his late wife, so to think, she heads to her sister’s new inheritance, Villa Rosa.

Despite the spiders and dust, the Mediterranean palazzo is as gorgeous as ever. Until Cleve turns up with a dramatic offer: a convenient marriage as soon as it can be arranged! It may be the sensible answer…but is it enough for Miranda?

 

Review

I was enjoying this romance with its look at grief and comfort between two pilots.

The heroine has been in love with the hero since she was 18. He married another. The book opens with him in deep grief and the heroine comforting him physically.

She gets pregnant. I like very much what a respected pilot and airplane designer the heroine is. I like the setting of the the crumbling Italian Villa the heroine flees to (and the hero follows) to sort out what do to with her life now.

Then, for me the book goes south. The secondary characters don’t work well for me and worse the mystery of why the hero and heroine weren’t together misses the details I want and the details I get make me dislike almost everyone in the book.

Well written but it lost me. I was given this book for my honest review. So, there you have it.

Pansies (Spires Book 4) by Alexis Hall Review

 Pansies (Spires Book 4) by Alexis Hall 4 Stars!

Alfie Bell is . . . fine. He’s got a six-figure salary, a penthouse in Canary Wharf, the car he swore he’d buy when he was eighteen, and a bunch of fancy London friends.

It’s rough, though, going back to South Shields now that they all know he’s a fully paid-up pansy. It’s the last place he’s expecting to pull. But Fen’s gorgeous, with his pink-tipped hair and hipster glasses, full of the sort of courage Alfie’s never had. It should be a one-night thing, but Alfie hasn’t met anyone like Fen before.

Except he has. At school, when Alfie was everything he was supposed to be, and Fen was the stubborn little gay boy who wouldn’t keep his head down. And now it’s a proper mess: Fen might have slept with Alfie, but he’ll probably never forgive him, and Fen’s got all this other stuff going on anyway, with his mam and her flower shop and the life he left down south.

Alfie just wants to make it right. But how can he, when all they’ve got in common is the nowhere town they both ran away from.

Review

This is my first Alexis Hall book and I was impressed.

The writing is lyrical and such a pleasure to sink into. I love the detail of the North of England Contemporary setting geographically, historically, culturally and in the dialect.

The romance is compelling. I have a great discomfort with the falling in love with my former bully theme but Hall does a good job of dealing with all the layers though even more self reflection and therapy on both their parts would not have hurt.

The grief and depression of Fen’s character and yet solid internal adulthood paired with Alfie’s outward adulthood with the seeking of a full recognition of self and needs and wants make for a compelling love story.

They are both great wounded loving. people and the cast is wonderfully complex as well. They have friends and family and jobs. Those things all evolve as they fall in love and choose a life together.

The main thing that keeps this from being an smashing success of a romance for me is that Alfie’s character is given more light than Fen’s so that when Fen makes some decisions, we are left a little uncomfortable as to if that his best self because we need to see more of Fen’s healing than we do,

Overall, I highly recommend this book for a lush and engrossing romance.

Ethan, Who Loved Carter by Ryan Loveless Review

Ethan, Who Loved Carter  by Ryan Loveless  3 Stars! 

By twenty-four, Carter Stevenson has stuttered and ticced his way to debilitating shyness. Although his friends accuse him of letting his Tourette’s dictate his life, Carter moves from Los Angeles to a quiet California town. He’ll keep his head down and avoid people. He doesn’t anticipate his new neighbor, Ethan Hart, crashing into his solitude and forcing him to get out and live.

From the beginning, Ethan makes his love for Carter clear. But he fears Carter won’t see past Ethan’s damaged brain, even though it makes Ethan more attuned to his emotions than most people. For Carter, there’s a bigger issue: he’s been burned by so-called “perfect” matches, and he won’t risk his heart again.

One way or another, Ethan’s determined to show Carter they belong together. Then Ethan receives tragic news. Suddenly he must turn to Carter for strength and support. Will Carter come through when Ethan needs him most?

Review

I have mixed feelings about this one but overall it is sweet book about two new adult heroes whose brains work differently for different reasons falling in love.

Ethan has a brain injury and at times he is too child like for my comfort but might simply be a “my comfort thing.

Carter makes good money doing something I am not sure someone so young would make good money doing and it drives me a little nuts as a fellow beach living Californian. lol

There is a plot twist I don’t want to spoil but something not explored there in term of the thoughts of the participants could have used way more development.

The book has a lovely look at friendships and anger as well.

However, their path to love is sweet and emotionial and I enjoyed this book.

Documenting Light by EE Ottoman Review

4.5 Stars!

If you look for yourself in the past and see nothing, how do you know who you are? How do you know that you’re supposed to be here?

When Wyatt brings an unidentified photograph to the local historical society, he hopes staff historian Grayson will tell him more about the people in the picture. The subjects in the mysterious photograph sit side by side, their hands close but not touching. One is dark, the other fair. Both wear men’s suits.

Were they friends? Lovers? Business partners? Curiosity drives Grayson and Wyatt to dig deep for information, and the more they learn, the more they begin to wonder — about the photograph, and about themselves.

Grayson has lost his way. He misses the family and friends who anchored him before his transition and the confidence that drove him as a high-achieving graduate student. Wyatt lives in a similar limbo, caring for an ill mother, worrying about money, unsure how and when he might be able to express his nonbinary gender publicly. The growing attraction between Wyatt and Grayson is terrifying — and incredibly exciting.

As Grayson and Wyatt discover the power of love to provide them with safety and comfort in the present, they find new ways to write the unwritten history of their own lives and the lives of people like them. With sympathy and cutting insight, Ottoman offers a tour de force exploration of contemporary trans identity.

Review

This is rich romance filled with nerdy historical details of Upstate New York, queer history, and reading the text of photographs.

It is moving looking at falling in love between two working class people–one a trans man and one gender queered person not yet out.

There is angst and the ties of family and work in the middle of this winter. The writing is lyrical and academic and tender.

The love story hopeful but realistic. Very good!

4.5!