Can you remember who you were before the world told you who you should be?
A friend posted that on his blog yesterday. He talked about painful memories of his seven-year-old self being made fun of for being different than people thought he should be. He may not have fully understood those differences at the time, but the message was clear: there's something wrong with you. It breaks my heart to think of a child's self-esteem being crushed like that.
Today is Valentine's Day, and I can't think of a better gift to give my friend than Be My Valentine, Bobby Bryson by Geoffrey Knight. The plot may not be exactly the same as what he experienced, but the overall theme is relevant.
In this short story, seven-year-old Mikey doesn't understand why everyone is so upset about the Valentine's Day card he made at school. His teacher told him to make a card for someone he had feelings for, and that's exactly what he did. He made a Valentine's Day card for Bobby Bryson, which sets off a chain of rather unpleasant events.
Mikey struggles to understand what he's done wrong; he can't grasp how something as simple as caring about someone could cause such a kerfuffle, and despite numerous protests, he is determined to deliver his Valentine. (Let's Go, Mikey!) I loved cheering him on each time he pushed back against the confusing messages the adults were telling him. Little Mikey is an inspiration.
This is such a sweet and charming tale. It reminds me not only of how simple and innocent love can be, but also how fragile. Mikey is stubborn and resilient, but not all children are. Good intentions or not, we all need to be careful of the messages we send children. A few poorly chosen words can scar a person for years to come. I hope Mikey's story touches your heart as deeply as it touched mine!
The odds are against Alex. He lives in the ghetto in a run-down apartment with his neglectful mom and her abusive boyfriend. He’s already flunked a grade in school and although he's only fifteen, his friends are pressuring him to join a gang and deal drugs. To make matters worse, he can’t risk having anyone find out he’s gay. This isn’t the life he wants for himself but he’s got no other options. Not until an outside force intervenes and things spiral out of his control. Alex is ripped from the life he knows and is placed in a group foster home against his will.
Alex remains guarded and distant, but takes a liking to Seb, one of the other boys in the group home. Seb seems harmless enough. He can’t speak and everyone says he’s got “special needs”. He can do simple tasks, but can’t communicate with others. Alex feels safe enough around Seb to open up to him, since Seb can’t understand what Alex says anyway. He doesn’t realize how much he needs someone to talk to until he begins revealing his secrets to Seb, who just stares at him, expressionless. But then Seb begins seeking out Alex’s company more and more, and Alex begins to feel more for Seb than brotherly love. And he starts to suspect that Seb understands more than he’s letting on...
The emotions in this story run so very deep. Alex thinks he’s a tough guy who can take care of himself, but really, he’s just a kid whose overconfidence gets him in over his head. He means well. He wants so badly to take care of the people he loves, and Sara Alva does a great job of portraying those feelings of invincibility so many teenagers have. It's painful watching Alex's internal struggle as he comes to realize his limitations and is forced to make some truly difficult decisions, but those growing pains are what shape him into the remarkable young man he is.
Sara Alva does a fantastic job of bringing her characters to life with authentic dialogue, a vivid sense of setting, and a strong internal voice. Alex and his living situation are portrayed so realistically, the story almost feels like it could be a documentary. I have no doubt that there are a devastating number of children out there just like Alex, who are growing up in "families" just like his. The hopelessness of poverty is heartbreaking. And it's impossible not to care about this problem after reading about these boys. The saddest part is knowing that given a choice, many kids would opt to stay in their abusive environments, because it's all they know. It's their life. To the author's credit, I felt so in tune with Alex that I too balked at the nice, wealthy couple who wanted to take care of him. I never once questioned any of Alex's actions. He surprised me (pleasantly) a time or two by showing his softer side, but that too felt very right for him. He's a tough kid with a tender heart.
Not only is the dialogue between characters spot on, but the silent communication that eventually develops between Alex and Seb is also thoroughly believable. In his silence, Seb speaks volumes, and he and Alex form a deep bond. I loved the special connection between these two, and I loved watching Seb slowly come out of his shell under Alex's care.
The shoe metaphor is beautifully done and I love the way it's subtly carried throughout the book. It's a fitting symbol for Alex's journey. Silent is one of the best books I’ve ever read. Although the characters are young adults, it doesn't read like your typical YA story. It's powerful enough to move audiences of all ages, and I highly recommend it for all fans of down-on-their-luck-but-lucky-to-have-found-each-other love stories.(less)
I can't find the words to do this incredible story justice. If the blurb has piqued your interest, rest assured, this story delivers every bit of hear...moreI can't find the words to do this incredible story justice. If the blurb has piqued your interest, rest assured, this story delivers every bit of heart, hurt, and hope you'd expect it to. And the ending is so achingly beautiful! Highly recommended.(less)
If you've read The Mingled Destinies of Crocodiles and Men, you've already met Azrael, the mysterious, dark-winged angel who resides in the tree tops and watches over the humans of the Valley with curiosity. His purpose is not to intervene in their lives, but to help wandering souls cross to the other side of the river once they've passed. Most humans aren't able to see these angels (who exist in great numbers), but a few of the Valley's inhabitants catch a glimmer of them now and then. Although angels aren't meant to form emotional attachments to humans, Azrael finds himself drawn to a young boy—a Light Bringer—named Lucifer. Lucifer is a special boy who is spiritually connected to the Valley. He can even talk to the trees.
Excerpt (Lucifer talking to Azrael):
Anyways, I know what he was talkin’ about. Everyone knows about the snovelfark. We’d always played battles against it, but I never seen Uriel truly rattled by it. Not never. ‘Snovelfark’ may sound like a silly name, like it’s harmless as a baby bunny, but we all know different. We all know that’s just another mask. Ingrid True told me once all about the snovelfark, about how deathly it is. It’s a lurer and a trapper, Mr. Angel. Ingrid told me where she thinks the name comes from too. There’s three possibilities all told: a misspeak of the true name from the lost ancient tongue; the sound the snovelfark makes when it comes near; or (and this is the one Ingrid thinks is the truth) a river-naming ceremony gone all wrong. River-namings are important things and if they ain’t treated with respect there’s no tellin’ what’ll come from ’em.
The fact is, though, most of the valley folk don’t care where the name come from just so long as it stays away from them and theirs. Nobody goes huntin’ for the snovelfark ’cause who would know what to look for? Mother True taught me about the Law of Perception, how we all see everything so different cause nothing’s really one thing or another anyway. I suppose if the snovelfark did look the same to everyone it might be easier to find, but that would mean also that it had become lots stronger and maybe more dangerous. No. Ingrid always said, ‘You can’t hunt the snovelfark.’
The trees know when it’s near, though. I’m sure of that. They can sense when anything is not right, anything at all. My view of the trees comes through real crazy sometimes, Mr. Angel. Sometimes I don’t see trees at all, not with bark and limbs and leaves, but more like men and women with a hundred arms each, raised to the sun and eating the light with their fingertips like it was sweet honey. But when there’s something bad moving in the orchard or some sense of fright in the air, they close up like flowers, bringing their hundred arms all around them. I’ve had to go around to each one of them before and tell ’em it was going to be all right.
This is not merely a story about Azrael and Lucifer, but rather an epic tale of the quest that they embark upon together: to wipe out the evil forces unleashed upon the Valley. To understand their mission and all it entails, we must meet a wide variety of players, some who live in the Valley and some who do not. So for much of the novel, Azrael and Lucifer are off-page. Their existence, however, is ever present and is crucial to the events that transpire.
Azrael and the Light Bringer is set in the same river valley as The Mingled Destinies of Crocodiles and Men. As I turned the first few pages, I felt as though I had come back home. I knew this mystical and captivating place! I understood these people! It is set in an earlier time, however, so we get to go back a generation and meet characters like Mother True who had already passed in Mingled Destinies. We meet the preacher, Dark Eyes, and know how foreboding his presence is. If you haven't read Mingled Destinies, you'll still get a good sense of how evil he is, but knowing the utter devastation he eventually brings to the valley made his emergence in Azrael and Light Bringer all the more horrifying.
Overall, I'd say this story isn't quite as intense as Mingled Destinies. It doesn't reach the same level of horror, of death and destruction, of overwhelming sorrow (although it does have moments of all these things). While there is a battle against Dark Eyes in the end, it isn't as gruesome as the final encounter in Mingled Destinies. That's fitting, however, since we know he isn't permanently thwarted here, but only banished for a period of time. The romance between Lucifer's older brother Uriel and a ferry boat boy named Roman is also a bit more front and center here than the romance in Mingled Destinies. For me, that was a special treat.
What Azrael and the Light Bringer does so beautifully, so remarkably, cannot be fully appreciated until you get to the end and see the larger scope of things. The final conversation between Azrael and Lucifer had me in tears as it all clicked into place. It changed everything I thought I knew, which made me want to pick up Mingled Destinies and read it again. (Similar to the way I felt after the big revelation in the movie The Sixth Sense.) There's a scene in the novel where Lucifer's brother sees a miniature model of the Valley and remarks how different it looks from a bird's-eye (angel's-eye?) view. When I reached the end of the book, that's how I felt, like I could finally see the big picture, and it was breathtaking.
Azrael and the Light Bringer adds so much depth and emotion to this epic saga. It is a breathtaking follow-up to The Mingled Destinies of Crocodiles and Men , unveiling the beauty and triumph of the human spirit. I don't think I would have had the same reaction had I read these two books in chronological order rather than the order in which they were published. Although they could be read in any order, I highly recommend reading Mingled Destinies first.(less)
Superhero begins with the main character, Jordan Carson, telling us about the two things he wants most in the world: 1) to become a DC comic book artist, and 2) to win the heart of his best friend, Owen. In a scene that manages to be incredibly sweet and funny, while realistically depicting two young boys at play (oh, the morbidity!), Jordan takes us back to second grade when he and Owen first meet and henceforth become inseparable.
Wherever he’d come from, I liked Owen. And I wanted Owen to like me. So I, at the ripe age of seven, set out on my very first seduction.
See, I have this cool aunt on my mom’s side who lives in California, Aunt Beth. She makes lots of money at her job in computer games. Every birthday and Christmas she showers me with toys. Get what I mean by lucky? By second grade I had what was probably the biggest, baddest collection of action figures and Matchbox cars east of the Mississippi. Every day I’d bring some of my stuff in my bag and flaunt it in front of Owen, acting like I was perfectly happy to play with all that shiny stuff by myself.
For a couple of days I took notice of which toys Owen looked at the most. He liked the Matchbox cars, and he particularly liked the ambulance. So one day I brought in my fire engine, ambulance, all my cop cars, and a couple of cool racers I had. At lunch time, I sat alone in the play area, unpacked them all and began zipping them around. Owen came over and sat next to me.
“You have really neat cars,” Owen said, watching them yearningly.
“Thanks.” I shrugged. I kept zipping the ambulance around, up and down my legs making a siren sound. I opened the back and took out the little roller cot with the victim on it. I was going for the maximum drool factor.
“Hey, I need help!” Owen suddenly said. He took one of my racers in each hand and ran them toward each other. When he banged them together, he slowed down and was careful not to actually hurt them, which was mighty fine elementary school manners.
I smiled into his blue eyes. Those eyes stared back into mine for a few seconds, then went comically wide with a vacant glaze.
“Help! Help! We need an ambulance!” he said in a high voice. His eyes rolled back into his head, and he shook all over.
I put my hand over my mouth and faked a hissing sound. “Dispatch 9-1-1, please send an ambulance to Jefferson Prince Elementary School. Yes, it’s awful. There’s been a terrible accident. Body parts everywhere. I think... I think I see a glove on the monkey bars—with a finger in it! Please, hurry!”
We then move forward in time, stopping to witness a few defining moments, and end up in their high school years, where the remainder of the story takes place.
Jordan is a lovable character with whom I immediately connected. The use of first person was a perfect choice here, as Jordan is an engaging storyteller, and being inside his head made me feel like his confidante. I felt the passion he had for his art and the close bond he shared with his best friend. I loved that they partnered to create the Pin Man and Pencil Boy comic book, with Jordan illustrating and Owen writing the storyboard. (My son created a hilarious comic strip about a crab-man when he was in middle school, so I easily identified with Jordan and Owen's passion for their hobby, and the pride they took in their work). The way they stuck with it over the years showed how special it was to them. The one comic book issue that was detailed in the story was really creative and funny. It would be awesome to actually see the comic. C'mon, all you fan-artists out there!
The comic was a fitting metaphor for the relationship between Jordan and Owen as well. Owen, the school's star wrestler, was Jordan's idol, his hero. With his strength and commanding presence, Owen protected Jordan from the bullies over the years. But as any great dynamic duo, Owen was nothing without his sidekick. Though Jordan may not have realized it, he had a lot to offer Owen in return. Jordan has more emotional strength, whereas Owen has more physical strength. They have great chemistry and compliment one another well. It's heart-warming to see the way each feels comfortable enough to lean on the other when the need arises; it's a beautiful friendship.
Regarding the romance, Jordan was in tune with his feelings from an early age, whereas things were never so black and white for Owen. Was he straight? Bi? Gay? Owen's confusion felt genuine, and I like that it is a gray area for him. Parts of the story are told from Owen's point of view, so we get a real sense of the unique conflicts both Jordan and Owen experience as they navigate inevitable growing pains, reflect on who they are and what they truly want, and work to keep their friendship intact after Jordan reveals his unrequited love. It broke my heart to see Jordan pining for Owen, to see him settle for being "just friends" even though it hurt like crazy, because he loved Owen too much to let go. And it hurt to see Owen hide behind his fear. Oh, how these boys work for their happy ending!
I loved every minute of this emotionally charged story. One of Harmony Ink's best titles to date! And I have a serious case of cover love! The cover art fits the story perfectly.(less)
So. Many. Feelings. There are so many things to love about this book. Yes, it's sad — and when I say sad, I mean really sad. Devastatingly so. The characters suffer great loss and loneliness. But there is also comfort. There is hope. There is peace. There is love.
Five years after his father drowns in a river, Benji still hasn't been able to let go and move on. He's drowning in his own sorrow, literally and figuratively. The river calls to him. It haunts his dreams. He has visions he can't explain. And just when he thinks he can't bear it any longer, his cries for help are answered. A stranger picks him up and carries him home, where he remains by his side, promising to look after him. As it turns out, Cal isn't exactly a stranger. He's been watching over Benji for a long time.
TJ Klune does a brilliant job relaying the bond Benji had with his father, Big Eddie. Through a series of brief flashbacks (memories are woven in at seemingly random moments, but isn't that the way it happens in real life), we come to know what a good man his father was, and why his father's death was such a great loss. A major theme in the story is the special relationship that exists between fathers and sons, and how painful it can be when that connection is broken. Here Benji and Big Eddie take center stage, but the theme is carried through to other characters as well. Benji's separation from his father was painful enough, but my heart completely shattered reading about Cal's estranged feelings toward his own Father.
"I left to speak with Father. For days. For all those days in the trees, I waited. I prayed. I screamed. I asked him why. I asked him why he had forsaken me. I demanded an answer. I demanded to know why this was happening to me, why I had been tested again and again and again. It wasn't fair. It wasn't right. Who was he to do this to me? I've given him everything. I've done everything he's ever asked of me. I've done all that I can. I've made mistakes, yes, but every living thing does. But what was it I'd done wrong that caused him to ignore me? I was his son and he'd abandoned me, cast me aside as if I was nothing. I was alone in a place where no one knew who I was."
Cal is a wonderfully complex character. We are told early on that Benji and Cal are very much the same, but it's not initially clear how so. They seem quite different. Over time, however, we see Cal's pain, his loneliness, his anger, his questions, his conflict, the choice he must make—all of which are similar to Benji's struggles. I was mesmerized by everything about Cal Blue. Such a beautiful soul. I love the way he introduces himself to the people of Roseland. So endearing. He is so much more than just a protector, but what a protector he is! A BADASS protector!
That was another major theme in the story: protecting and caring for those you love, those who belong to you. Again, this played out in many of the character arcs: Big Eddie trying to protect his family, Big Eddie caring for his old friend Abe after his wife's death, Abe looking after Benji (and vice versa) after Big Eddie's death, Cal protecting Benji, Benji ultimately realizing his need to take care of Lola, Michael trying to protect Cal, the entire community looking after Benji and Cal. I loved the small town setting. I loved the way the community banded together to protect their own. Even though big Secrets are revealed, I know the town will keep them safe. They're good people.
Of course, they're not ALL good people. There is evil in Roseland, and it's at the heart of all this suffering. Greed, murder, betrayal. The mystery reveals itself slowly, and I found that I was so worked up with worry for the fate of these characters that I could not put the book down. I had to keep turning the pages until I knew they'd be all right. I shed so many tears for these beautiful people. Sometimes tears of sadness, and other times, tears of utter relief:
I squeeze his hand and give him fifteen words that mean everything. "It's okay to sleep now, Dad. I know that one day, we'll be together again."
If you read the story, you'll understand the significance of "fifteen words". My creys! TJ Klune knows how to pack an emotional punch. Ultimately, it was the message to Cal from his Father that snapped the final piece of my heart back together in the end. The ending is a happy one, though not without sacrifice.
I don't have a single criticism of this book. The prose is beautiful, reading like poetry in many places. The use of present tense throughout the story, which is difficult to pull off successfully, works well here, as we watch the mystery unfold right along with Benji. This story would make a great movie, but we'd miss out on all that lovely prose. And the special effects budget would have to be considerable. How beautiful it would be, though, to see all that blue, to see Cal in all his glory.
I also like that Benji's sexual orientation is not a focus of the story. It's not ignored, but it simply doesn't play a major role in the events that occur. That's not to say there isn't romance. While this is not what I would call a traditional m/m romance, the love that blooms between Benji and Cal will surely satisfy m/m romance readers. Their love for one another runs deep and true. The story is so much more than a romance, though. It's a story about humanity, about faith and love and sacrifice. This is undeniably TJ Klune's best work to date. I highly recommend it for all audiences.
And the cover is breathtaking. Very fitting.(less)
A wonderful combination of hot and sweet! I enjoyed the unspoken connection between these guys. Neither was out, nor did they admit to each other they...moreA wonderful combination of hot and sweet! I enjoyed the unspoken connection between these guys. Neither was out, nor did they admit to each other they were gay. In fact, one of them overtly denied it, but the other dismissed that immediately and followed his instincts instead. The parking lot scene? Hot! Hot! Hot! And Kimber Vale has a lovely way with words, especially during sex scenes. Very sexy short with a sweet ending!(less)
Beautifully written! I felt every bit of the emotional turmoil Jason experienced. My heart ached for him as he told Ben how he felt about their "relat...moreBeautifully written! I felt every bit of the emotional turmoil Jason experienced. My heart ached for him as he told Ben how he felt about their "relationship". I loved the younger brother character, too. All three guys felt very real.(less)
Sensual and emotionally charged. Nice example of how two people can communicate their feelings through touch and eye contact rather than words. The au...moreSensual and emotionally charged. Nice example of how two people can communicate their feelings through touch and eye contact rather than words. The author made great use of the short story format. I was completely drawn into the scene and the characters, yet satisfied at the end after only a few thousand words. Beautiful interpretation of the prompt!(less)
Absolutely adorable. I loved the dichotomy of Jonah's online persona (confident, flirty, social) and his real life persona (insecure, withdrawn). The...moreAbsolutely adorable. I loved the dichotomy of Jonah's online persona (confident, flirty, social) and his real life persona (insecure, withdrawn). The tumblr posts were hilarious, especially the #hash tags.
Such a fun and totally sweet read. Loved it!(less)
So many creys! I've put myself through this three times now... and what I want to say more than anything is Thank You! Thank you for allowing me to ge...moreSo many creys! I've put myself through this three times now... and what I want to say more than anything is Thank You! Thank you for allowing me to get closer to Jace, a beautiful soul. He is a remarkable man. Despite the pain of losing him once again, I feel honored to have gotten to know him better, to see where he came from and how his past shaped him into the man he ultimately became. And I'm so very grateful that he found the love and intimacy he so desperately wanted.
I found it easy to relate to Rafe. Who hasn't thought about getting away from it all and making a fresh start somewhere new? Rafe knows he's fortunate to have family and friends who accept him for who he is. He knows he's lucky to live in a community where he can be openly gay without fear of harassment. But he's also feeling smothered by the label, as if it's the only thing people see when they look at him. He wants his sexuality to be a non-issue, so he decides to move to a private boarding school on the other side of the country and reinvent himself. He doesn't want to be straight. He just wants to not be gay for a while, so people will get to know the real him.
His plan seems to be working. He makes new friends right away. On his first day, he's invited to join in a pickup game of touch football, and manages to do all right. That seems to be all it takes to be accepted into the jock crowd, and he loves the feeling of being "one of the guys". The trouble is, as time goes by, he finds that in order to fit in, he has to deny the truth more and more, and one little white lie compounds into major heartache. I loved the progression from Rafe being in a position early on where he seems to have gotten everything he's wanted to one where he slowly discovers the flaw in his plan. Ironically, he does what he does so that people will look past the label and get to know the real him, but the "him" they get to know isn't the real him.
Throughout his experiment, Rafe keeps a journal, in which he reflects upon who he is, where he came from, and why he's doing what he's doing. With some careful prodding from his English teacher, he slowly realizes what the label "gay" means to him. Rafe learns a lot about himself over the course of the semester, and he comes to appreciate his family and friends in a new light as well.
So what is the lesson to be learned here? Just be yourself? It's not that simple. Had Rafe not hidden the fact that he was gay, would he ever have gotten close to Ben? Is he better or worse off for that? This is a story worthy of further reflection once that last page has been turned. The message seems to be "embrace the gay". You can't be a whole, healthy, happy person if you deny that part of who you are. But at the same time, the message seems to be "quit making such a big deal about it." A person shouldn't be defined by his/her sexuality alone. In an ideal world, people won't have to "come out"; being gay will just be another attribute.
The blurb says this book will appeal to both gay and straight kids, and I whole-heartedly agree. The book's main theme is about the power of labels. Anyone can relate to that. It offers a poignant look at how we perceive not only other people in our lives, but also how we perceive ourselves.(less)
Asher is a Dom who frequents the leather bars and doesn't get attached to his subs. He's never been a relationship kind of guy. He doesn't even bring guys home for the night. His life is sterile, but he's content. At least, he thinks he's content, until he meets Daniel, who turns his world upside down. He first sees Daniel tripping over some luggage in a hotel lobby, and there's something about him that immediately draws Asher in. He watches him from afar for a short while and quickly concludes that Daniel is an adorable mess who could use a strong helping hand. Unfortunately Daniel, although he's obviously attracted to Asher, makes it clear that he's not interested in a weekend fling. Not only that, but Asher gets the feeling that Daniel isn't into anything kinky. Even so, Asher can't deny how much he wants him.
To complicate matters, Asher's best friend, who knows all about Asher's sexual exploits at the leather bar, is related to Daniel and doesn't want Asher involved with him. But the last thing Asher wants is to hurt Daniel. A good Dom knows what his sub needs and gives it to him. Even if it's a little...unconventional. A good sub trusts that his Master knows what he needs and will take care of him.
I adored this book. Although Asher makes considerable changes in his life to accomodate Daniel's needs, I never felt that he was making a sacrifice. He genuinely adored making Daniel happy, while retaining the feeling of power in the relationship. He was able to give Daniel what he needed, but what was even more heartwarming to watch unfold, was the way Daniel was able to give Asher what he needed—what he didn't even know he needed until Daniel gave it to him. Asher makes more than a few mistakes, but his heart is in the right place. The story took an unexpected twist near the end, which made things even more interesting, and just when I thought Cardeno C. had broken my heart for good, she wrapped me in a warm hug and made everything right again.
I absolutely adored this book. I read it in one day because I could not put it down. Danny was a strong, beautiful, effeminate, proud gay man who was...moreI absolutely adored this book. I read it in one day because I could not put it down. Danny was a strong, beautiful, effeminate, proud gay man who was more than happy to entertain straight but curious/questioning Lance. Lance was very sweet, and showed Danny in so many ways how much he cared for him, despite the fact that neither wanted to vocalize their feelings and Lance was unwilling to come out of the closet. My heart broke for them as they went their separate ways, but thankfully, their love stood the test of time, and I was very pleased with the ending (for the secondary characters too!).
I will most definitely reread this one! LOVED IT!(less)
All Clay wants is to find a decent guy who'll love him, but experience has taught him that men just don't see him as relationship material. He's too fem. Good for a fling, but nothing more. The last guy he got close to flat out told him to his face: I don't date fems.
Hurt by the rejection, Clay cancels his beach vacation plans and opts for a wilderness retreat instead. He wants to prove to himself that he can man up, that he's more than the sissy others perceive him to be. It seems like a great idea until he actually gets there and finds out how hard it is: rock climbing, land navigation, survival training. What was he thinking?
Despite his attempts to blend in with the butch mountain men, they peg him as being a fag immediately. It seems Clay just can't escape his outer shell. Then he gets paired with gruff and broody Trent for the wilderness challenge. Just when he thinks things couldn't get worse, he discovers that Trent isn't the man his surly exterior would have everyone believe.
The POV alternates between Clay and Trent, so we get a real feel for who each of these men truly are. Cassandra Gold's writing style allows both inner and outer dialogue to flow effortlessly across the page. I felt a strong emotional connection with both of the main characters, and their actions and responses felt realistic. I thoroughly enjoyed this beautiful love story!(less)
Seven-year-old Charlie is wandering alone at the pier one morning when he takes a tumble that would've been deadly were he not rescued by an older boy named Ant. Unfortunate circumstances led each boy to be at that unusual place at that unusual time, but fate smiled upon them that day. Charlie is instantly enamored by the older boy, and they proceed to spend the day together, palling around and having a bit of an adventure until it's time to part ways.
Their interaction is all very sweet and innocent. Although the reader might identify Charlie's feelings as first love, Charlie is much too young to put words to his experience. He leaves Ant unsure if he'll ever see him again, but knowing somehow that Ant has made a lasting impression on him.
I love Geoffrey Knight's voice in this story. The characters and their surroundings spring to life in vivid detail, especially the sights and sounds Charlie experiences throughout his day. There's also quite a lot of humor throughout the story, which made it all the more enjoyable. The Boy from Brighton is nestling into a cozy little spot on my favorites shelf, where I will revisit it often! (less)
This story is centered around a group of five college students: Dashel, Ashley, Sarah, Tony, and Wilder.
Dashel knows he is terminally ill but hasn't told anyone at school. His condition is the same one that claimed the life of his father, and when Dashel's symptoms worsen, he knows his days are numbered. Although we get alternating points-of-view, and rich character development, Dashel is the nucleus of the story. The other characters are all connected to him in some way. Ashley is Dashel's roommate and close friend. They're both considered outcasts in their fraternity; Dashel is openly gay and Ash is an albino. Tony is also a member of the fraternity. He's the "big man on campus" but harbors his own big secret and finds himself drawn to Dashel. Sarah is close to Dash, and although she loves him, she's accepted that they'll never be more than friends. And Wilder is a manipulator on a power trip who has his eye on Tony.
Throughout the story, we follow Dashel as he ultimately makes peace with his fate, and we see how that affects the people around him. There's a definite mystical quality to his journey as he turns to nature for comfort and understanding. He's particularly drawn to a large old tree on campus that he affectionately refers to as Old Lady. Dash finds such solace at the end of his journey that I found myself in tears, not from sadness (well, not just from sadness), but from the beauty of it.
Eric Arvin has done a masterful job at creating vivid characters that completely suck you into their surroundings and make you a part of their journey. The prose is beautifully crafted, particularly descriptions of setting. And those final few paragraphs--so powerful, so moving. I want to be thinking those thoughts in my final moments. (less)
I have a soft spot for characters with disabilities. This story really touched my heart. There are no magic cures, but with love, patience, and unders...moreI have a soft spot for characters with disabilities. This story really touched my heart. There are no magic cures, but with love, patience, and understanding, things do get better for Caleb and Logan. I was happy the ending didn't go the predictable route (I won't spoil it) and that Caleb made a huge leap in sticking up for his man! :-D
Mark is going through the motions of life. He's living in the town where he grew up, working a job he hates, and playing mediator for his family's many relationship problems. He's the "good" son, the go-to guy. Mark is a very giving person, but his selflessness comes at a price. He doesn't take time for himself or worry about his own needs.
Jamie can hardly believe his luck when he runs into Mark after all these years. He's had a crush on Mark since high school, and now it seems he may have a chance to live out those schoolboy fantasies. Mark is quiet, reserved, and in the closet, whereas Jamie is out, outgoing, and a bit outlandish (read: “recyclopath”). When they realize they mean much more to each other than a passing fling, they have to learn how to navigate life's obstacles as a couple.
I adored this book. Mark and Jamie were both such likable guys. Jamie never took Mark's kindness for granted, nor did he push him to come out. Mark never dismissed Jamie's radical ideas and likewise very much appreciated the way Jamie took care of him. They each genuinely wanted to make the other happy. They were different enough to keep things interesting, and honest enough to keep things real. The supporting characters added a lot to understanding who Mark and Jamie were and where they came from.
The story doesn't feel like it needs a sequel, but oh, how I will miss these boys. The Boys and the Bees is finding a sweet spot on my favorites shelf! (less)
I want to find Charlie Cochet and give her a great big hug! This story was adorable. The dialog and descriptions were perfectly peppered (or rather, p...more
I want to find Charlie Cochet and give her a great big hug! This story was adorable. The dialog and descriptions were perfectly peppered (or rather, pepperminted) with delightful holiday catch-phrases. Ex: "Would you go get cleaned up already? You look like day-old fudge," and "Geez, Tim. You should try a few less marshmallows in your morning cocoa." A very sweet story that I will no doubt reread for many Christmases to come!(less)
Once upon a time in a kingdom by the sea, there lived a gentle giant named Brute. He wasn't actually a giant, but he was big—built like an ox, and as ugly as one too. But he also had a very big heart. Orphaned at a young age and sent to live with a cruel, uncaring uncle, Brute lived a hard and lonely life as a laborer. Then the unexpected happened, causing everything to change for Brute.
Because Gray is blind, he comes to know Brute without the distraction of his ogreish appearance, and over time, falls deeply in love with him. Brute is such a kind and caring soul. These two are a match made in heaven. They're able to comfort each other in ways they've never known or thought they'd ever have.
One of the many things I loved about this story was that homosexuality was a nonissue. Although not the norm, it was accepted in this society. There were other stigmas they had to deal with, but being gay was not one of them.
I also loved the way Kim Fielding wove folklore into the story and used it to build a deeper understanding of the people and to foreshadow upcoming events.
But most of all, I just really loved Brute. All of his life people had told him he was ugly and stupid, and he believed it. He didn't dare to dream of a better life. He was so deserving of all the good things that eventually happen in his life. Stories like these restore my faith in humanity.
The book was too long for me to read in one sitting, but I hated to put it down! Each chapter left me eager to continue on and many left me in tears. Nothing comes easily for these two—they suffer and have to work hard for their Happily Ever After ending. And it is a happy one indeed. A remarkable tale!(less)
Shy is a love story about two men who suffer from social anxiety disorder. Tom is a city dweller. He’s still trying to let go of his ex-boyfriend who cheated on him and kicked him to the curb nearly two years ago. His social anxiety disorder makes it difficult for him to meet men, so he’s been alone for a long time now.
Frank is a country boy. He grew up on his family’s farm in Indiana, and has just recently come to San Diego to visit his brother and spread his wings. Frank’s brother (who is dating Tom’s ex), however, doesn’t want to be bothered. Knowing Tom and Frank both suffer from social anxiety disorder, the brother pawns Frank off on Tom and asks him to keep him company.
Their meeting is adorably awkward, made even funnier by Tom’s highly misbehaved Chihuahua, but Tom and Frank eventually hit it off, much to the dismay of both Tom’s ex and Frank’s brother. When Frank’s father falls ill, Tom takes a leave of absence and returns home with Frank to help tend the farm. Even more hilarity ensues…
“One lone butterfly flapped his wings somewhere in the vicinity of my spleen. He was probably a scout. No doubt six million other butterflies were hot on his heels, if butterflies even have heels.”
This is the funniest book I’ve read to date. Tom is plagued by a series of bad luck, bad timing, and unpredictable animal mayhem. He is a funny guy to begin with, but then he keeps finding himself in these hilarious situations. At times I laughed so hard, it could only be described as cackling.
But this story offers so much more than a good laugh. Frank’s love for his dad and the farm he grew up on, Tom’s love for Frank and his willingness to give up the life he’s always known to support the one he loves, and watching two people who seemed doomed to loneliness connect and fall deeply in love, is all so sweetly satisfying.
I highly recommend this book for anyone looking for a laugh-out-loud funny and sweet romance.(less)
Thank you, Jay, for giving us Tim's story. In some ways, this was a difficult read for me, because I knew when the sad parts were coming, but pressed...more
Thank you, Jay, for giving us Tim's story. In some ways, this was a difficult read for me, because I knew when the sad parts were coming, but pressed on through the tears. It felt so much more heart-breaking this time around, now that I had a deeper understanding of why Tim made the choices he had. Even when reading Something Like Summer, I always felt sympathetic towards Tim. He was a jerk at times, but I knew underneath it all, he really loved Benjamin. I knew there was more to his story than what we were able to see through Ben's eyes. I enjoyed learning more about Tim's relationships with Eric and with Ryan. They really helped to define who Tim had become by the latter part of the story. I also loved that we went further into the timeline and got to see what happened after their final reunion. Their trip to Mexico City was beautifully written. This was such a wonderful love story.
I highly recommend this book for anyone who doesn't mind shedding a bucket of tears in the name of true love.(less)
If I had to sum up the story in one word, it would be forgiveness, followed closely, of course, by love, family, and friendship. When we first meet Mark, he’s in a rough place. He recently ended a long-term relationship after his partner cheated on him, he’s working overtime to keep up with the demands of his job, and his mother is suffering from a terminal illness. On top of all of that, he’s the one his family is counting on to be strong and hold everyone else up. He’s under an inordinate amount of stress, and something has to give. That’s when he meets massage therapist Antonio.
Now you may be thinking you already know how this is gonna play out, that Mark and Antonio will fall in love and Antonio will heal Mark’s broken heart and make everything better. At least, that’s what I was thinking. That’s what I wanted. I was ready to hate Brian for cheating, and I was waiting for Antonio to swoop in and save Mark. But then a funny thing happened. And it happened for me perhaps sooner than it did for other readers. I felt sympathy for Brian. We’re not given a sob story (although Brian’s tragic backstory is revealed over time) or a dramatic plea for forgiveness. In fact, we never do find out why Brian cheated or what exactly happened during the aftermath of being caught. Instead, we’re shown in just a few lines of dialogue, how deeply Brian regrets his mistakes. That scene where Brian first comes back into Mark’s life moved me deeply.
(view spoiler)[I was just as angry as Mark was when Brian showed up unexpectedly, but he (and I) suddenly realized he wasn’t the only one who had loved Brian. His family had loved him too. And Brian loved Mark's family. And in their time of crisis, Brian wanted to be there with them. When Mark learns that both of his parents had reached out to Brian and offered their forgiveness, I was right there with Mark as he clasped Brian’s hand and led him to sit by his family. And when Brian confessed that he’d been alone all these months, had gotten his old job back but hadn’t tried to contact Mark out of respect for his feelings—ugh, my heart went out to him. (hide spoiler)]
Their reconciliation was slow, and Mark was understandably wary, but my doubts disappeared after their first post-breakup sex. Somehow Brian won me over completely. A lot of what happens between Brian and Mark occurs off page, so it was obvious to me that the relationship between Mark and Antonio was the main storyline. Even so, I savored every moment shared between Mark and Brian. For Mark, Brian was home. He was his family, his love, his life, and the feeling was mutual. Despite the pain and hardship they’d been through, I was so glad Mark gave Brian a second chance.
Mark’s relationship with Antonio also develops gradually as they become close friends. In many ways, Antonio is the rock that Mark has been missing and desperately needs in his life. It’s a beautiful friendship, and I felt how much (platonic) love was there between them. Mark and Antonio remain the focus of the story, although several other characters make meaningful appearances.
I don’t want to say much more for fear of giving away the plot. Suffice it to say, there are several characters who are given second chances at life and love, and they are all deserving of them. There is tragedy to come, and Mark’s life is turned upside down. I cried. I grieved. I cried some more. Then I marveled at how much strength Mark had when he needed it most. I applauded the people in his life from whom he drew that strength and from whom he learned what it meant to be a man. I wept over those lessons learned and loved ones lost. These men will stay with me for a very long time.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
In Ethan, Who Loved Carter, Ryan Loveless tells the story of two young men, each with a disability affecting their ability to interact socially.
Carter has Tourette’s Syndrome. Because of his stuttering and jerky body movements, he is uncomfortable being out in public. At best, people stare; at worst, they mock or insult him. If it weren’t for his best friend coming around to check on him and pushing him to go out, he’d probably never leave the house. His past relationships have all ended badly, and he’s afraid to put his heart out there again.
Ethan, now in his mid-twenties, suffers from a traumatic brain injury resulting from an accident that occurred nearly ten years earlier. His injury prevents him from living independently, although he can do most things for himself. He lives at home with his parents and his fifteen-year-old brother. He works in a local coffee shop, where his co-workers are friendly, but the customers aren’t always patient or kind. He’s had sexual encounters with men, but has never been in a lasting relationship.
These characters had me in tears as I experienced their heartaches and struggles in navigating the world around them, yet at the same time, it moved me to see how much people truly cared about them. Even Ethan’s angry younger brother, who was often mean to them both, displayed moments of such tenderness and acceptance, it made my heart ache with joy. The way Carter took care of Ethan with patience and kindness when he needed it, never treating him like a child, and the way Ethan then took care of Carter in return, was simply beautiful.
One of best books I’ve read. A must read for anyone who likes their romance sweet and emotional.(less)
In Speechless, Kim Fielding tells the story of Travis, a lonely machinist who falls in love for the first time with reclusive Drew. Travis has a physical disability (he lost an eye in a freak accident), which has made it difficult for him to find work and forge relationships. It doesn't help that he's shy and relatively new to the city.
On his walk home from work every day, he passes Drew, who sits on his front steps and plays guitar. After watching Drew from afar day after day, Travis eventually works up the nerve to talk to the man, but discovers Drew doesn't speak. He can understand Travis, but cannot use words to speak or write to him. Drew has lived a life of solitude ever since he developed aphasia. Most people don't have the patience to try and communicate with him.
"Travis began to wonder about the guy. Who was he? Did he have a roommate who didn’t like to listen to his music? Was he waiting for someone to get home? His lover, maybe? That would be nice, Travis thought, to come home every day and find your lover sitting there, waiting for you. Nobody was ever waiting for Travis except his cat, Elwood, and there were days when Travis was fairly certain that Elwood was only in it for the Meow Mix.
Travis easily sees past Drew's limitations, and Drew likewise sees past Travis's disfigurement. The two fall in love in this very sweet and satisfying romance. The heat level is relatively low, but I didn't miss the graphic descriptions of their love life. It was enough to watch them fall in love and give each other the care and comfort they so desperately needed. Although this is a short story, I very quickly fell in love with these characters.
I highly recommend this one for those looking for a sweet hurt/comfort.(less)
In Dressing Up, Todd Young tells the story of Skipper, a college athlete who must come to terms with his sexuality in an environment where being gay is not accepted. Beyond that, Skipper suffers the pain of unrequited love, made worse by the fact that the boy, who insists he's not gay, constantly flaunts his goods in front of Skipper.
Skipper is a "dumb jock," attending college on a football scholarship. He works hard to keep afloat in his classes, but it takes tremendous effort. Not only does he lack book smarts, but he doesn’t have much in the way of street smarts either. He’s been made fun of all his life for being stupid, and it’s a sore spot with him.
The guys in the dorm all talk about him behind his back. They suspect he's gay, and they get their kicks by playing cruel pranks on him. Skip denies being gay in order to fend off further harassment, but it's a secret that is harder and harder to keep as he becomes closer to the object of his affection.
It's not only the guys in his dorm that treat him badly. He is taken advantage of by all sorts of people in his life. Because he's so gullible, he doesn't even realize he puts himself in risky situations until it's too late. Once he realizes people are making fun of him or trying to hurt him, he gets angry with himself for being so stupid. It’s agonizing.
Todd Young does a remarkable job of pulling the reader into Skip’s head. I felt Skip's pain and anguish right along with him. I was worried and frustrated and confused and angry and sad and sorry with him too.
Somehow Todd Young manages to deliver these emotionally intense scenes with an edge of humor. Poor Skip keeps finding himself in positions where his clothes are either too tight or too small. The man is just fated to have his junk on display! The hospital scene, where he discovers he’s wearing a catheter, and then the too-small hospital gown was just brilliant.
Skip spends a lot of time thinking about sex, especially since his roommate likes to walk around naked after his evening shower, and he also sleeps in the nude, with the covers never quite covering him. Poor Skip! He’s a walking bundle of sexual frustration. He spends a lot of time in the shower and under his covers taking care of business. The sex in this book is not sugar-coated. It's realistic and gritty. And sexy! (The piano scene was soooo hot!)
I love Hurt/Comfort, and this story was "hurt" at its best: a long, slow burn that intensifies until you feel like your heart will just break for this beautiful boy. At one point I feared there wouldn't be a happy ending for Skip, but thankfully he did find his comfort in the end. The ending isn't what I would call "sweet" but it was real and satisfying and yes, happy.
As he did in Jumbo, Todd Young manages to deliver a very emotional character without being sappy or overly sentimental. His boys are such boys.
I highly recommend this story, especially to those who are looking for an unconventional romance with realistic characters and edgy storytelling.(less)