Whatever by S.J. Goslee is a hilarious and honest YA coming out story and it’s in many ways unlike anything I’ve ever read before. It’s not a romanceWhatever by S.J. Goslee is a hilarious and honest YA coming out story and it’s in many ways unlike anything I’ve ever read before. It’s not a romance by any usual standards, but it can be painfully romantic and endearing at times. It’s a heart-warming story with so many laugh-out-loud moments and unparalleled honesty in dealing with subjects like self-discovery, bisexuality and coming of age.
Our protagonist Mike Tate is so easy to fall in love with, despite (or because of) his many shortcomings. He drinks, he smokes weed, he challenges his friends to do insane things. He is really a fairly typical and pretty obnoxious 16-year-old boy with wild hormones and plenty of time on his hands. At the same time, though, we see him caring for his 6-year-old sister, being secretly (and sort of reluctantly) kind to his friends and putting himself into danger to save a younger boy from a sure beating. Even when he’s being insufferable (which is often), there is such potential shining in Mike that it’s easy to imagine him becoming a wonderful adult.
That being said, teenage Mike is often kind of an idiot, prone to lashing out when he’s hurt or when he’s feeling insecure. Even though this isn’t a romance, there is a clear romantic interest, albeit one that Mike has a hard time processing. Through Mike’s relationship with Wallace, Goslee shows us that we never know what happens inside a person. The relationship was built realistically and brilliantly, which can also be said about other relationships in this book.
This is a story that teaches us, first and foremost, about the process of coming out and how intensely personal it is for everyone. Even when someone isn’t exposed to homophobia, even when judgment from friends and family isn’t forthcoming, they have a right to choose their own pace and come out (or not come out) when and how they see fit. Mike uncovers his own sexual identity slowly and reluctantly, preferring to not make waves. His mom is completely accepting, his hilarious grandmother has her own way of dealing with things, his friends are mostly open, but Mike just isn’t ready to face things. It should also be said that homophobia sometimes comes from completely unexpected directions. Preparing yourself for this careful and slow process isn’t a small matter at all. We follow Mike as he learns new things about himself and slowly finds his footing. His journey is poignant, honest and funny, painful at times, but so worth it in the end.
I loved every second of this book and I was so very grateful for its honesty and its authentic voice. Hopefully we won’t have to wait too long for Goslee’s next novel. ...more
4.5 stars After a hugely successful dystopian trilogy and her standalone exploration of insanity in a historical setting, Mindy McGinnis delves into a4.5 stars After a hugely successful dystopian trilogy and her standalone exploration of insanity in a historical setting, Mindy McGinnis delves into a new territory with The Female of the Species, which is perhaps best described a hyper-realistic contemporary examination of teenage life, human resilience and revenge. It’s a bold, daring book that shoves hard realities right into our faces, making no effort to soften the blows or make us feel better along the way. Those who are a bit more sensitive to drugs and violence in young adult books might have a hard time reading it, but in truth, the pain and heartbreak, the shock and outrage are so worth your time and trouble with this book.
The Female of the Species is an exploration of humanity at its best and at its worst, with no hiding or sugarcoating whatsoever. McGinnis’ teens have sex, they cheat, bully and take drugs, they live with no thought for tomorrow or their own safety. Sexual violence, date-rapes and slut-shaming all happen on a daily basis, perhaps not always visible, but lurking under the surface nevertheless. McGinnis does a fantastic job of bringing to light things we’d like to keep hidden. As a policeman points out during a school assembly, one in three girls and one in six boys are sexually assaulted in high school, but the statistics mean nothing until we give them names and faces. McGinnis gives us names on both sides of the fence, she gives us characters to care about and exposes them to more than enough to incite our anger.
The female of the species is more deadly than the male. The female defends, she protects herself and others. When pushed to her limits, she becomes quietly deadly, a force that shows no mercy while fighting for those who can’t fight for themselves. This story is told from three perspectives: Jack, the popular boy; Peekay, the preacher’s kid, and Alex, the girl with the dead sister, the female of the species in the truest sense. Each of them somehow represents one conflicting, primal part in each of us. Peekay represents the kind, innocent part that still believes people are inherently good. Jack is that constant fight between right and wrong, he represents the choices each of us make daily trying to do what’s right. Alex is the most hidden part, the part that screams for justice and revenge, that violence that hides in everyone, tempered and suffocated by societal norms and expectations.
Make no mistake, this book will open your eyes and shatter your heart, and if you by any chance, have a preadolescent child like I do, it will leave you terrified of the future. This may be a gritty and grim portrayal of teenage life, but it’s painfully honest and necessary, designed to make us question gender stereotypes, the way we assign blame and the abnormal behaviors we take for granted.
The Female of the Species is a hard book to read, but a great one to absorb and take to heart. I have to applaud McGinnis for approaching these topics in a way that will surely stand out and remain vividly emblazoned in our minds, hopefully leaving us slightly more aware than we were before picking it up.
I’ve loved (loved!) John Corey Whaley ever since he published his first novel, Where Things Come Back, before all the awards and accolades that are noI’ve loved (loved!) John Corey Whaley ever since he published his first novel, Where Things Come Back, before all the awards and accolades that are now attached to his name. As a National Book Award finalist, winner of William C. Morris award for his debut and Michael L. Printz gold medalist for his sophomore novel, Whaley needs no more official confirmations of quality for his work. It’s becoming quite clear that he is extraordinary.
Highly Illogical Behavior seems lighter than Whaley’s previous work. It’s very approachable and easy to read. The lightness, however, is merely superficial. This is a novel that can be discovered one layer at a time. It’s a deceptively simple story that’s actually quite complex underneath, making us feel as though it could read it over and over and discover something new each time.
Solomon Reed is agoraphobic. He doesn’t leave the house and doesn’t really communicate with people outside his family. He realizes he’s a burden to his parents, but he simply can’t face the world outside. His house is safe, and the safe environment keeps his panic attacks at a minimum. When Lisa shows up with her understanding and friendliness (and her hidden motives), Solomon is terrified, but ready to let her in. As difficult as it is to allow Lisa into his life, Clark challenges him in whole new ways, making him see that the world can be even more dangerous than he thought, but that it also has so much to offer.
Whaley does a fabulous job in bringing us close to our three characters. Although their story is told from just two perspectives, the three of them are equally important. Paradoxically, the one who is being fixed isn’t the one who needs fixing the most. For all his troubles and phobias, Solomon has a loving family, a stable home and a very firm sense of self. Perhaps Lisa is the one who needs interventions even though she is initially the only one who seems to have it all together. Despite her ambition (or perhaps because of it), she is in many ways far less steady than she appears to be.
This author excels at gentleness and subtleties – there is no need for big sentences, dramatic solutions or grand gestures. He understands that life is in the small things and that there are no definitive solutions. There can be hints of hope, possibilities and changes in circumstances, but life offers no easy fixes for any of us.
This is a quiet, gorgeous little book that seems simple at first, but leaves you deep in thought and profoundly happy to have read it. This young author has already achieved so much, and we still have so much to look forward to. ...more
Girl Mans Up, M-E Girard’s astonishingly honest book, might just be one of the best things that happened to YA fiction in a very, very long t4.5 stars
Girl Mans Up, M-E Girard’s astonishingly honest book, might just be one of the best things that happened to YA fiction in a very, very long time. There have been books about gay, lesbian and trans teens, but I don’t think there are many, and certainly not this good, about genderqueer characters. Written with a light hand and breathtaking emotion, Girl Mans Up shows us how damaging traditional gender roles can be.
Pen doesn’t quite meet the expectations of her traditional family or the teachers of her catholic school. She is a girl, but she is only comfortable with her hair short, her clothes loose and doing things that are traditionally viewed as “men’s work”. She doesn’t feel like a boy in girl’s skin, she is quite comfortable with who she is, but the people around her, her parents included, are making her life a lot harder than it needs to be.
Then I realized I don’t have to be trans to still confuse people with the way I look. I had my hair then. Now, there’s nothing left that makes me a girl, except for the fact that I am one.
The best thing about Pen is that she is quite comfortable in her own skin. She has no doubts about her identity, gender or otherwise. Her problems come from the discrepancy between who she is and how the society sees her. She doesn’t fit into any of the expected roles, therefore she needs to be cast out, changed or made to fit some stereotype, at least.
During the course of this book, Pen deals with everything from whispers and gossip to outright bullying. She finds very little true acceptance for who she is, but she does find it in her brother Johnny, her girlfriend Blake and several new friends. Pen’s relationship with her older brother Johnny is a true thing of beauty. At one point, she calls him her friend, her brother, her parent, and he really is all those things. He is pure acceptance, the epitome of unconditional love with plenty of patience and a few flaws that merely make him more real.
There is also a very healthy relationship between two girls that has a supporting role and changes things for Pen. Blake’s only dated boys before falling for Pen, but she is attracted to Pen exactly for who she is. Several friendships are born in this book and several others die in flames. All of them, as well as Pen’s thoughts om them, come across as genuine, realistic slices of teenage existence.
I don’t want to be her girlfriend, though. But there’s this part of me that totally knows I could be her boyfriend. I don’t want her to think of me as a boy, or a boy substitute, though. I want to be a boyfriend who is a girl. I have no idea how to explain that stuff to anyone, let alone a girl I like. I just wish it was already understood.
This book should be required reading in every high school, not only because of Pen’s gender identity and the society’s acceptance, but also because of the healthy lesbian relationship, wonderful friendships, and the example of a non-traditional, supportive family. ...more
By now, Renae Kaye is a well known name in the gay romance genre. She writes light-hearted romances low on angst that leave her readers smiling and beBy now, Renae Kaye is a well known name in the gay romance genre. She writes light-hearted romances low on angst that leave her readers smiling and begging for more. To this day, her biggest success seems to be her debut, Loving Jay, a book that won readers over with fantastic characters, gentle and believable romance and just a spoonful of Aussie culture.
When you love characters as much as we’ve all loved Liam and Jay, it’s natural to want to check in with them down the road, peek into the life they’ve made for themselves and hopefully witness them making more decisions and crossing milestones. It can be addictive if you love them enough, but it can also be dangerous for the characters born in their shadow.
Unlike Jay, who was the brightest star from the get-go, Kee takes some warming up and a whole lot of understanding. Having spent a year in solitude after an abusive relationship, he is a bit socially awkward and not really ready to trust. Tate is more outgoing, but set in his ways. He is devoted to his career and suffers from issues that come with a job in fashion industry. The two are such an unlikely pair, but somehow they work, and in Kaye’s usual fashion, their romance progresses smoothly, with only a few bumps along the way.
Their romance would have been pleasant enough were it not for Jay and Liam’s overwhelming presence. They shine brightly even in this book and they steal every chapter in which they are mentioned. I’m sure fans won’t be able to resist revisiting them, but an update on their life is the best thing this book has to offer. Kee and Tate had potential, but they weren’t explored enough or strong enough to get out of Jay’s massive shadow.
Overall, though, this is a very pleasant, sometimes adorable book that has several laugh-out-loud moments. Just try reading it on the beach and see where that gets you. It’s no wonder my neighbors look at me funny.
Pawsitively in Love is a cute new romance novel by M.J. O’Shea, author of Rock Bay, one of my favorite gay romance series. Although the title would lePawsitively in Love is a cute new romance novel by M.J. O’Shea, author of Rock Bay, one of my favorite gay romance series. Although the title would lead you to the conclusion that it’s very light and entirely angst free, the book actually has several darker moments and a lot of issues for our two heroes to deal with.
Austin is a fantastic romance hero, open and earnest, with nothing to hide. He has a lovely family and a fantastic group of friends, and if he occasionally suffers from insecurity caused by his lack of education, he deals with it in good time. Despite owning a successful pet salon and being surrounded by amazing people, Austin is often lonely. When Evan first shows up, Austin reacts a bit strangely to the first person he’s been attracted to in a while and they end up in a series of ugly misunderstandings.
Unlike Austin, Evan is closed off and solitary. He has family issues that always come in the way of his relationships, so he simply stopped trying. He gets lonely, but dating someone is too much hassle when he knows it can’t possibly last. Austin is the first person to tempt him to change his mind. But when Evan’s sister suddenly shows up in town, Evan knows he can’t have a normal relationship and take care of Della.
I really expected a super light romance after seeing the cover and the title, but the actual story was a bit darker than expected. Evan’s family struggles with some serious issues and he’s quick to lash out at anyone willing to help. No matter how much he wants it, he isn’t ready for a relationship with Austin, not until he resolves some of his problems, and it leads to a lot of heartbreak for them both.
The narrator, Mark Schindler, did an excellent job reading this light, entertaining story. Sometimes the switches between the two points of view weren’t very clear and I had to struggle to understand whose thoughts I was listening to, but that had less to do with Mark and more to do with production. There should have been a longer pause, a chapter break or something along those lines. For his part, Mark delivered the story well, with a sure and pleasant voice. If you decide to read this, audio is a good way to go.
Overall, this is an enjoyable story with some (but not too many) heart-wrenching moments. I highly recommend it for a relaxing weekend read.
Robyn Carr is famous for her two series, Virgin River and Thunder Point. With Thunder Point nearing its end, I was so very excited to see that she’s sRobyn Carr is famous for her two series, Virgin River and Thunder Point. With Thunder Point nearing its end, I was so very excited to see that she’s starting a new series, with yet another small town community at its center. It was clear from the start that Sullivan’s Crossing has a whole lot of potential, with so many interesting characters already prepared to take the spotlight.
What We Find, however, wasn’t quite up to Robyn Carr’s standards. Centered around Maggie and Cal, What We Find shows both of them during their most vulnerable time. They both have reasons to be a little bit lost and disillusioned. As a neurosurgeon, Maggie is being sued for malpractice, her practice is closed and her boyfriend of two years abandoned her after a miscarriage. She goes to regroup to the only place she feels completely safe – her father’s camping ground and store at Sullivan’s Crossing. There she meets Cal, a homeless hiker with secrets. She is distrustful at first even though Cal tries very hard to help her and her father. She is curious about his story and more than willing to pry, but Cal keeps his reasons for wandering very close to his chest.
Although Carr’s characters are very much alive, What We Find suffers from a serious lack of plot. Nothing actually happens in it. We follow these people as they slowly uncover each other’s secrets and admit their feelings for each other. I usually prefer romances with very little tension and angst, but there has to be something to keep me engaged. Aside from the secondary characters like Maggie’s father Sully or neighbor Tom, there was very little to keep me turning those pages.
I think I was mostly bothered by the lack of chemistry between Maggie and Cal. It didn’t seem like one of those romances that are meant to be, but rather a marriage of convenience for two wounded souls. Books with no tension and very little plot have to make up for it somehow, and a strong magnetic pull between characters is usually a way to do it. Unfortunately, What We Find was mostly unsuccessful in that, and almost every other department.
The book was saved, as so many books are, by Therese Plummer’s fantastic narration. Yes, she’s one of those narrators who could read grocery lists and make them interesting. She brings characters to life and ads something uniquely hers to every story she reads. I will read the next book in this series because I trust Carr to make it a whole lot better than this unfortunate beginning, and as always, I’ll choose Plummer to read it to me.
4.5 stars A World Without You is one of those books that invades your every thought, controls your every breath and breaks your heart, only to rebuild4.5 stars A World Without You is one of those books that invades your every thought, controls your every breath and breaks your heart, only to rebuild it as the better, stronger version of itself. In this genre-bending gem of a book, Revis explores mental illness, loss and guilt that lead to never before seen depths of self-delusion and fear. For a more careful reader, reading it can be an eye-opening experience, as each new page peels away one more bit of prejudice of which we were completely unaware.
Revis succeeds in making us question our own minds as we slowly discover the depths of Bo’s psychosis. We know that he doesn’t actually travel through time – even the book blurb doesn’t attempt to hide that fact – but Bo is so deeply convinced by his own delusions that at times his conviction influences us, too. The sobering moments in which well meaning people try to make Bo see the truth serve as an awakening for us too, and they fill us with sadness and sympathy for this deeply delusional boy.
As we witness the life of Bo’s family through his sister Phoebe’s eyes (several chapters are from her point of view), we see that mental illness still carries the stigma it once did. The deep shame felt by Bo’s father, the complete denial from his mother and the jealous anger coming from his sister would have surely hurt Bo even more deeply had he been fully aware of their actions. None of them ever told anyone that there was something very wrong with Bo, that he was mentally ill and essentially hospitalized. Phoebe lied to her friends, their father buried himself in piles of work and their mother closed herself off from life. Revis showed quite clearly how illness affects more than one person, how it spreads and how the family rots from within. It is very hard not to assign blame, not to despise those who are not supportive enough, and very difficult to understand that people’s defense mechanisms often fail when they need them the most.
Every aspect of Bo’s journey in this book is incredibly painful. He is drowning in guilt for failing to notice the full extent of Sofía’s depression, he’s running from all the hard truths and becoming increasingly paranoid with each new collision with reality. Revis’s powerful writing carries us through all his moods and hallucinations, and through her immense skill, we drown in Bo’s mind, we feel his heart and we understand his pain all too well. Reality abandons us as it abandons him, and oftentimes we get carried away, believing him in our hearts instead of trusting our own minds.
We see the important secondary characters only through Bo’s eyes and we can merely guess at the nature of their illnesses. Bo’s perspective is terribly skewed, his narration the very definition of unreliable, and most people aren’t strong or important enough to penetrate the fog of his mind. His tunnel vision focus on saving Sofía prevents him from seeing anything else, and as he slides down into hallucinations and paranoia, his views of other people become even more unreliable. Nevertheless, one can conclude just enough from things written between the lines, enough to see that each of Bo’s classmates is a tragedy unfolding before our very eyes.
After The Body Electric, which happens to be one of my all-time favorites, I had no doubts left about Revis’ ability to captivate and enchant. In A World Without You, her approach is somewhat different from her previous works, her prose is quieter and more subdued, but it’s all the more powerful for it, and her incredible insightfulness and feather-light touch make this a novel people will talk about for years to come.
Vanessa North’s books are always such quite wonders, studies of melancholy with superb characterization. The honesty of her prose makes her books a raVanessa North’s books are always such quite wonders, studies of melancholy with superb characterization. The honesty of her prose makes her books a rare find, and her rich style consistently leaves me in awe. Her two-book Lake Lovelace series is one of my genre favorites, and Blueberry Boys easily joined that list.
On the surface, this seems like a fairly simple story about two men with deep hurts and a whole lot of love. But once Vanessa North starts exploring those hurts, all kinds of things come to light and the story proves to be anything but simple or superficial. She explores these characters deeply and efficiently, giving us a complete picture and two characters we never want to leave.
Through Jed, North addresses the troubles of one deeply religious gay man, but she does so delicately, with no moralizing whatsoever. It’s so difficult to find that balance between your true self and your beliefs even when you’re merely an ally. I admire authors who dare to tackle this subject and especially those who do so with sensitivity and respect. Jeb struggles with coming out to his family and uncovering his dishonesty from the past. He sees his dates with various women over the years as a great sin and his lies as something that doesn’t deserve forgiveness. North approaches this with deep sympathy and understanding, and if there’s a message here, it’s that coming out is a deeply personal process, and the steps along the way something that doesn’t require an apology.
Unlike Jed, Connor spent his life in the open, but it was so hard for him to be accepted and loved for who he was. His family rejected him and the people of his small town made him feel like an outcast until he finally left and never looked back. Now that he’s finally returned, things are mostly changed, but in some ways they are just the same, and Connor needs to find within himself the strength to forgive and to separate his present from his past.
Blueberry Boys packs a strong punch for such a brief novel (or a longish novella). North unfailingly delivers strong emotions, even in her shorter works. There is very little relationship angst here, but both men go through difficult journeys. Blueberry Boys is a novel I highly recommend to fans of the genre and those who are new to it.
Underwater, Marisa Reichardt’s wonderful debut, is a book about the debilitating depths of fear and the stunning power of courageous hope. It begs to Underwater, Marisa Reichardt’s wonderful debut, is a book about the debilitating depths of fear and the stunning power of courageous hope. It begs to be read in one sitting and commands to be felt deeply. Underwater is a story about Morgan, a 16-year-old girl suffering from agoraphobia after a traumatic event. Morgan hasn’t left the house in months – she attends school online, has her own little rituals while her family is away and she meets her pro bono therapist in her own living room. Even the thought of going outside makes her panic until the right motivation comes along.
When I talk about motivation, I want it to be clear that Evan, the boy that moves in next door, isn’t some easy fix for her illness. I was afraid of that approach when I first read the description, but Reichardt was very careful not to make it seem superficial and easy. She gave Morgan time to heal on her own. Morgan was pushed by her desire to spend time with Evan, but there were so many steps she needed to take first and all of them had very little to do with him.
Morgan’s issues aren’t the only thing she faces in this book. Her father struggles with mental illness and alcoholism after many tours in Afghanistan. Morgan doesn’t understand how her father could abandon his family. She can’t forgive him for time lost and for choosing to be homeless rather than live with them. This was, perhaps, the most genuine, honest part of the book. I love that Morgan had to go through her own condition and disappointments in order to better understand her dad. Their (non)relationship was done exceptionally well and I admire Marisa Reichardt for approaching the subject so tactfully. Once again, no easy fixes were offered because such things simply don’t exist in life, but one could take away a strong message of hope even with the open ending and issues that were left unresolved.
I love Reichardt’s style mostly because it’s understated. She knows how to convey genuine emotions without resorting to cheap tear-jerkers. The things she introduced in Underwater are some of the biggest open wounds of modern society and yet they were done sensitively and thoughtfully. I can’t wait to see what she does next.
Indra Vaughn doesn’t write average romances, M/M or otherwise. She tends to write books that challenge her as a writer and us as readers. They are alwIndra Vaughn doesn’t write average romances, M/M or otherwise. She tends to write books that challenge her as a writer and us as readers. They are always somewhat removed from what we’re used to in this genre and it’s clear that the word ‘trope’ simply isn’t in her vocabulary. Therefore, Patchwork Paradise is no simple romance. It is a book primarily about grief and second chances, described in a way that is utterly convincing, frightening and painful.
When Oliver loses the only man he’s ever loved one month before their dream wedding, he feels ready to just give up on life. Through several months of depression and despair, all he can think about is the thing he’s lost so unexpectedly and violently. His friends and family gather around to help, but Ollie has a difficult time imagining any sort of future without his Sam.
As a romance reader, I went into this not knowing what I was about to put myself through. I knew to expect more from Indra, but I had no idea I would be getting a romance only in the final part of the book. Ollie’s grief took time and Vaughn put us through every single stage of it in great detail before she allowed him to love again. If you’re primarily interested in the romance, perhaps this is not a book for you. I likely wouldn’t have picked it up had I known in advance what I was getting myself into. After all, Ollie spends almost all his time grieving for his dead fiancé, and Thomas has so many flings and relationships that it quickly becomes difficult to track. In a simple romance, this would be a deal-breaker for me because I like my MCs to only be with each other over the course of a story. In this case, however, the romance came as a consequence of healing on both sides and it was a healthy, logical, beautiful conclusion to this book.
There have been many books about the complexities of grief lately, but very few struck me as completely honest and insightful. I’ve said this already about her previous work, but Vaughn truly understands grief and how it can change our perspectives and thoroughly alter us as individuals. Grief causes us to do irrational, inexplicable things, things so out of character that we become unrecognizable to everyone, including ourselves. The only other author I can think of who captured this feeling so perfectly (albeit in YA) is Jandy Nelson in The Sky is Everywhere.
With it’s gorgeous setting (Antwerp, Belgium), unexpected developments and emotions so deep that they’re often difficult to bear, Patchwork Paradise should be every reader’s dream come true. It will put you through so much, but the hope that stems from it will be worth the effort.
Those of you who are familiar with Renae Kaye’s work probably know her as this bright little Aussie ray of sunshine. Her books are always clever, alwaThose of you who are familiar with Renae Kaye’s work probably know her as this bright little Aussie ray of sunshine. Her books are always clever, always honest, always heartfelt, but they rarely follow any usual romance tropes and angst is a word that’s simply missing from her vocabulary. I honestly love everything about Renae and her books have become comfort rereads I pick up when I want to smile, laugh outright and generally feel good about myself and about the world.
Because of this, Safe in His Heart came as a complete surprise. It’s a pretty serious book that represents a new direction for Renae. It’s mostly about that uncomfortable place between religion and conviction, about catholic guilt and living the life you think you’re supposed to and not the life you actually want to live. The truth of the matter is that Safe in His Heart is a necessary book. Finding balance between what we’ve been taught to believe and what we know is right in our hearts and minds is difficult not just for LGBTQAI folks, but for us allies as well. As someone who’s a former catholic precisely for this reason and who’s struggled with these issues for a very long time, I applaud Renae for choosing this direction in her latest book.
His whole life Andrew was told that being gay is dirty, wrong, sick, so he did what he had to do, married a woman he didn’t love and had two kids he pretty much lives for. That doesn’t stop him from having anonymous hook ups in gym showers, however. It’s easy to see Andrew as a coward and judge him, but while he does fear his parents and the rest of his community, the vast majority of his problems are actually internal. The self-hatred and the guilt are what’s stopping him from being true to himself.
We’ve met Paul in Lon’s story, but here we finally get to know him as the brave, bright person that he is. Paul’s religion taught him a completely different lesson from Andrews, which means that being openly gay was never an issue for him. But when he falls for Andrew, all his principles are soon forgotten. The two start an affair that’s as unhealthy for Paul as it is necessary for Andrew.
For the most part, I wanted to shake Paul and force him to dig up his self respect. Although I understood Andrew, I was extremely uncomfortable with how he treated Paul, how he thought about his children and how he preached his misguided beliefs. Even when he chose Paul, I wasn’t convinced in his truthfulness. Mostly I felt that the circumstances forced him to make that choice. So even though I feel that the subject of this book is a necessary one, I also feel that Renae could have handled some things better. I was bound to feel uncomfortable at some point, but I was actually uncomfortable for all the wrong reasons.
Unlike Renae’s other books, this one is not to be chosen for entertainment alone. It makes you think, and even when you don’t like the direction it takes you in, I’d say Renae’s goal was achieved.
4.5 stars Grief is a very strange thing. It makes people behave differently, uncharacteristically and unpredictably. Grief often causes us to act out a4.5 stars Grief is a very strange thing. It makes people behave differently, uncharacteristically and unpredictably. Grief often causes us to act out and neglect those we care for the most. In order to write about it, truly write about it, one must understand it completely and intimately, otherwise it’s just an empty plot device that leads absolutely nowhere. Julie Buxbaum fully understands the subtleties of grief, the isolation and odd behaviors that come with it, and because of her thorough understanding, Tell Me Three Things stands out among others of its kind. It is, in fact, quite extraordinary.
The book is not about grief, which is precisely the point. It has many layers, each one more beautiful than the last. I liked Jessie from the start, and as someone who’s been in her situation, I could completely relate. But even if I couldn’t, Buxbaum’s excellent characterization would have made her stand out. Finding herself in a prestigious school on the other side of the country while still grieving for the loss of her mom and pretty much everything else she ever knew and loved was extremely difficult for Jessie. And yet, she kept her sense of humor the entire time. Her conversations with Somebody Nobody, a mysterious boy who decided to help her learn the ins and outs of her new school, were often very funny. Although the book was sometimes hard to read, especially for someone like me who’s been through very similar things, Buxbaum found the perfect balance between challenging emotions, romance and fun.
Tell Me Three Things is really about loneliness and finding comfort in the strangest of places. There’s a nice mystery going on throughout the book, and while it wasn’t too difficult to guess, I still doubted my answers enough to make things interesting. The romance is one of those rare few with actual substance. It’s a bit different in that it took a lot of time to develop, but that’s something that certainly worked in its favor.
Overall, while I don’t read much contemporary YA, when I do decide to read it, this is precisely the kind I want – mature, emotional and, above all, entertaining. ...more
Finishing a favorite series never really means saying goodbye, at least not for me. If I’m attached enough to the characters, I often revisit them andFinishing a favorite series never really means saying goodbye, at least not for me. If I’m attached enough to the characters, I often revisit them and read my favorite parts just to feel close to them once again. I must have read every one of the first five Cole McGinnis books at least three or four times and I don’t see why Dirty Heart would be any different.
Rhys Ford has kept her secrets very well for a long time now. We’ve been dancing around the mystery of Cole’s past for years now and although everyone had a theory about it, I think all of them proved to be wrong. Finding out what really happened when Cole’s best friend and police partner Ben shot him and killed his boyfriend Rick was unbelievably painful, but necessary. All things considered, Cole has been handling the traumas from his past extremely well through the first five books. In Dirty Heart, however, everything he’s buried for so long comes back out as the truth of what happened finally comes to light. It’s the most difficult and emotional journey Cole and Jae have had to endure from the beginning of their relationship, but I admire them even more for how they faced their hardships.
On the other side, the love and hope Cole shares with his Jae made the darkness of this book somewhat easier to stand. The two are still such an odd pair: Cole, always affectionate and demonstrative, and his quiet, reserved Korean man. Both of them have been rejected by their families for loving a man, and I’m glad that Rhys offered no easy fixes for either of them. Instead, she gave them a new family, made of blood relatives and friends they picked up along the way, and their new people (including the most brilliant surrogate mother for our Cole) are far better than anything either of them were born to. The Cole McGinnis series is one of the best M/M fiction has the offer, if not THE best. Keep that in mind, especially if you’re new to the genre. Oh, and if you decide to read these, which you should, the audiobook narrator is simply amazing and his voice has long ago become Cole’s voice in my head. He is so awesome, in fact, that Rhys named a character after him. So thank you to Rhys Ford for giving us all these amazing characters, but also, thank you to Greg Tremblay for making them come truly alive.
What on Earth did I just read? I swear my head is still spinning…
The Queen and the Homo Jock King was one of those sequels that I’ve waited a very loWhat on Earth did I just read? I swear my head is still spinning…
The Queen and the Homo Jock King was one of those sequels that I’ve waited a very long time to read, and that I finally picked up with no small amount of trepidation. You see, the first book, Tell Me It’s Real, is one of the funniest, most endearing books I’ve ever read, and writing something that could at least come close was likely very difficult. However, it would appear that TJ Klune was more than up to the task. The Queen is hilariously funny, and as usual, TJ had me laughing myself into stitches mere minutes after I started reading. Seriously, I almost died laughing. He named a drag queen character Sofonda Cox, for heaven’s sake. And that was one tiny detail of many.
However, if you pay attention, The Queen and the Homo Jock King is a pretty serious book underneath – admittedly far, far, far underneath. But TJ manages to slip in loss and grief, deep insecurities and even increase awareness about drag queens. He does it all in his typical way, with much humor and by refusing to pull back punches. Avoidance of issues isn’t in his repertoire. He pushes them right in your face and makes you deal with them… with style.
In terms of plot, QATHJK leaves a lot to be desired, only you don’t desire it in the least. When you think about it with a cool head, you realize that it’s just a flimsy excuse to push our protagonists together, a romance cliché if there ever was one, but while you’re reading, you simply don’t care. Besides, TJ made even the cliché his own and he hid several small surprises within.
If I have to point out one objection to this book, I’d say it’s a tiny bit too long. You just can’t laugh that much at once so it must be read in smaller doses, which isn’t something I normally do. Every concession is worth it, however. This book is a treasure, just like Tell Me It’s Real before it. Read it and enjoy.
A copy of this book was kindly provided by the publisher for review purposes. No considerations, monetary or otherwise, have influenced the opinions expressed in this review.
3.5 stars For the most part, Tara Lain writes romance after my own heart. There is something so alluring about her characters, these men that always
3.5 stars For the most part, Tara Lain writes romance after my own heart. There is something so alluring about her characters, these men that always exude incredible loneliness, but show bravery when it’s most needed. While I can do without Lain’s shifter romance (or anyone’s, really), her Long Pass Chronicles are a guilty pleasure of mine. Hot, lonely football players, closeted or not, are bound to steal my heart.
In this ongoing fight for equality, it is most useful to remind ourselves over and over again that not all cultures suffer from our prejudice. I love Lain for bringing forth Native American beliefs about two-spirited people and doing a darn good job of explaining them. How I would love to live in a culture where being gender fluid is not only accepted, but respected as well. With Raven Nez, a huge, macho football player from a different culture and with an entirely different set of beliefs, Lain delivered a character that entertains and educates, all at the same time.
While amazing in many ways, the book is not without its problems, mostly in the romance department. I loved Lain’s approach to cultural issues, but Dennis’s life and struggles seemed just a bit over the top. I don’t doubt that there are people like Dennis’s parents, but somehow, the entire set up didn’t seem at all believable to me. Consequently, I never quite believed his interest in Raven wasn’t some kind of reaction to the mess he was going through, an attachment to the first person who was genuinely kind to him. On the other hand, with so many secrets between them, Raven basically fell for someone he barely even knew, which made both their feelings seem a bit unfounded and rash to me.
Nevertheless, there are so many positives to point out, starting with Raven being so openly gay as well as the cultural insights we are offered. Overall, while it’s not my favorite in the series, Tackling the Tight End (and I refuse to discuss the ridiculous title) is a book worth reading for many reasons. I’d recommend giving the entire series a try.
A copy of this book was kindly provided by the publisher for review purposes. No considerations, monetary or otherwise, have influenced the opinions expressed in this review. ...more