Friday review

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shut your faceWhen Charlie was eight years old, his mum bought him a microscope for his birthday. Since then, he’s known how he wants to spend his life. There have been trials, and challenges, but now – finally – the day is here for him to start college with his lifelong friend Anthony Pace.

Anthony is a red-haired force of nature. He writes poetry about their enemies and eagerly participates in all Charlie’s science experiments without understanding a word. Every morning, he waits at the end of their street so they can get the bus together.

But things are changing.

Families are important, and complex. Charlie’s mum hasn’t been well, and his relationship with Anthony begins to shine like a different star in the sky.

Can everything come together in this explosion of physics and chemicals that Charlie calls life? Will Anthony Pace ever share his poems with the world, and can the Chihuahua, Princess Arabella, ever learn to stop licking?

Once a boy shows you the stars, they’re a hard act to follow

Claire Davis and Al Stewart are word magicians. Shut Your Face, Anthony Pace! is the third story of theirs I’ve read. The previous ones, Dear Mona Lisa…  (review by yours truly here) and Up!, were fabulous, and so is Anthony Pace.

Davis and Steward don’t write your garden variety characters that you can find in a gazillion other books. No, their characters – and stories – are unique and quirky and humorous with a clear thread of sadness running through them. They are the kind of stories that grab you in the heart and refuse to let go for days after you finished them.

Charlie and Anthony have been friends for a long time, since they were kids. Now they’re starting college, and are very excited. Their friendship is strong, even though they’re very different. Anthony is the red-head poet who understands Charlie completely, and offers him a safe haven whenever he needs it.

Charlie is the scientist to Anthony’s artist. He’s somewhere on the autism spectrum, but when his mum took him to the doctor, they didn’t want to diagnose him.

Charlie firmly shut the door in his head, the way Mum showed him when he was eight years old. He shoved away the galloping horses in his chest, the wire around his head and the dam wanting to burst from his eyes.

It becomes clear at the very beginning of the book that Charlie’s mum isn’t well. He does his best to take care of her, but it’s overwhelming and difficult for a teenager with undiagnosed autism. His mother’s illness is the only secret he’s kept from Anthony, and it’s difficult as they grow closer and their relationship deepens and takes a new turn.

When everything explodes, it’s magnificent. I hid in the bedroom with a box of Kleenex and ached as I watched Anthony being there for Charlie. My heart throbbed for hours afterward.

Thank you, Ofelia Gränd, for recommending this book to me. I blame you for my puffy eyes and runny nose after finishing the book, though! 🙂

Shut Your Face, Anthony Pace! gets my warmest recommendations.

I finish this review with one of Anthony’s poems. They are naive and fabulous, and tells you everything you need to know about what kind of person Anthony is.

Now spectrums they will cause
Lots of speculation
Nattering about you and your supposed
Problems with communication
But I hear
And I see
You are not problems
Not to me
Your beauty is much bigger than mine
I know one day
You’re gonna shine

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Friday review

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40627465Seizing his one chance to escape, Ethan Hosking leaves his violent ex-boyfriend, leaves his entire life, and walks into the path of a raging bushfire. Desperate to start over, a new man named Aubrey Hobbs walks out of the fire-ravaged forest, alive and alone. With no ID and no money, nothing but his grandfather’s telescope, he goes where the Southern Cross leads him.

Patrick Carney is the resident lighthouse keeper in Hadley Cove, a small town on the remote Kangaroo Island off the coast of South Australia. After the tragic death of his lover four years ago, he lives a solitary life; just him, a tabby cat, the Indian and Southern Oceans, and a whole lot of loneliness. He’s content with his life until a stranger shows up in town and turns Patrick’s head.

Patrick never expected to be interested in anyone else.

Aubrey never expected to be happy.

Between Aubrey’s love of the stars and Patrick’s love of the ocean, these two fragile hearts must navigate new waters. If they can weather the storm of their pasts, they could very well have a love that eclipses everything.

If I was adrift and lost, and I certainly felt it some days, then he was my shining beacon, my tether and guide to something good and whole. My lighthouse.

This is not really a book review. This is just me gushing about a book, looking like a heart-eye emoji. This book has everything I love. Hurt/comfort. May/December. Lots of looking at stars and the ocean. And romance. Oh, the romance. *swoon*

Galaxies and Oceans is maybe the most romantic book I ever read. Full stop.

When I was in Sweden back in January, I had to go on a road trip I really didn’t want to do (family obligations). My husband and daughter took turns doing the driving, so I was cooped up in the back, reading this book. It was cold and snowy and foggy, so we could hardly see where we were going, and my family worried about the driving conditions.

But, not me. I was too busy reading. I read all the way to the destination, trying to keep my tears quiet so my family wouldn’t notice. When we arrived, I didn’t want to get out of the car and be social; I just wanted to finish reading. I continued on way back home, and when it ended halfway, I spent the rest of the car ride staring out the window at the stars (the fog had cleared by then), thinking that these were the same stars Aubrey was guided by…even though it wasn’t because they live close to Antarctica and I was pretty much as far away from there you can get without leaving Earth. I thought about Aubrey and Patrick, overflowing with love for these wonderful characters and this wonderful book.

It’s a slow and quiet book; character driven and focused entirely on the relationship. Aubrey and Patrick get to know each other: they look at the stars, have picnics, visit penguins, repair a washing machine, and do things that doesn’t sound very exciting. But it is. The excitement is in the stillness. There’s beauty is in the quiet. And it’s so, so beautiful, I have no words.

Sometimes you have to listen to the silences. When things aren’t said. That’s where the truth is.

Galaxies and Oceans promptly ended up on my feel good re-read list. And the cover is fabulous.

My warmest, swooniest recommendations. But I warn you: there’s a real risk you’ll suffer from severe book hangover after you finish it. I did 🙂

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Friday review

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39347033Last month, Alex Barrow’s whole life imploded—partner, home, job, all gone in forty-eight hours. But sometimes when everything falls apart, better things appear almost like magic. Now, he’s back in his Michigan hometown, finally opening the bakery he’s always dreamed of. But the pleasure of opening day is nothing compared to the lonely and beautiful man who bewitches Alex before he even orders.

Corbin Wale is a weirdo. At least, that’s what he’s heard his whole life. He knows he’s often in a fantasy world, but the things he feels are very real. And so is the reason why he can never, ever be with Alex Barrow. Even if Alex is everything he’s always fantasized about. Even if maybe, just maybe, Corbin is Alex’s fantasy too.

When Corbin begins working at the bakery, he and Alex can’t deny their connection any longer. As the holiday season works its magic, Alex yearns for the man who seems out of reach. But to be with Alex, Corbin will have to challenge every truth he’s ever known. If his holiday risk pays off, two men from different worlds will get the love they’ve always longed for.

“Corbin,” Alex murmured. And he imagined that Corbin had been right when he said that a name gives power over the named. He imagined that he could speak Corbin’s name over and over until the man was his. “Corbin,” he said again, leaning closer.

Sometimes, I’m contrary when it comes to popular things like books or movies or TV shows. If everyone adores something, I tend to steer clear of it. I don’t really know why, maybe it’s an innate need in me to be different from everyone else and like more obscure things. Things that not everyone know about and that aren’t praised as though they’re the next big scientific discovery like life on earth.

So when everyone was gushing about The Remaking of Corbin Wale last year, I bought it…and didn’t read it. It’s been sitting on my virtual book shelf all year, collecting cyber dust, feeling unloved. Until a few days before Christmas, when I scrolled through my book folder in Dropbox to find something to read, and chose Corbin Wale.

And was completely blown away.

Corbin Wale is truly one of the most unique characters I’ve ever read. He lives in his own world, something that the rest of the world makes fun of him for, bullied him for in school and even as an adult. Adults in school told him he’s mentally ill, but he’s really not. He’s just different. Not raised as other people, he’s raised without boundaries and without rules, and doesn’t conform well to the rules when he encounters them. He’s been taught to believe in magic, and he knows it’s real.

Alex is just what Corbin needs. He’s instantly drawn to Corbin and it’s much more than attraction. And where other people are rude to Corbin and dismiss him as crazy, Alex listens and believes in him. He’s patient and takes his time wooing him, afraid to scare him off.

The Remaking of Corbin Wale is 218 pages of pure magic. The language, the characters, the plot, everything is crafted with skill. The simplest words are woven together in a magical way that tugs at my heart and make me cry or smile or despair. The book is so full of emotion, I couldn’t keep it inside. “Get me my cuddly elephant,” I sobbed to my husband when my heart poured out of my eyes, and when he gave it to me, I hugged it tightly until I finished the book.

Panic gripped Alex as he stared at the empty space and his own outstretched hands. He didn’t know what he’d done, but it had ripped Corbin from him, turning intimacy to distance, and pleasure to fear. He’d reached for something gossamer, and he’d shredded it with rough hands. The most beautiful kiss he’d ever shared had turned to dust in his mouth.

The story is beautiful, the writing is beautiful, and the characters are beautiful. I’m sorry that my words aren’t enough to convey how deeply I loved this book, you just have to trust me when I say I give it my warmest recommendations.

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Friday review

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37909611Elliott Thompson was once a historian with a promising academic future, but his involvement in a scandal meant a lost job, public shame, and a ruined love life. He took shelter in his rural California hometown, where he teaches online classes, hoards books, and despairs of his future.

Simon Odisho has lost a job as well—to a bullet that sidelined his career in law enforcement. While his shattered knee recovers, he rethinks his job prospects and searches for the courage to come out to his close-knit but conservative extended family.

In an attempt to manage his overflowing book collection, Elliott builds a miniature neighborhood library in his front yard. The project puts him in touch with his neighbors—for better and worse—and introduces him to handsome, charming Simon. While romance blooms quickly between them, Elliott’s not willing to live in the closet, and his best career prospects might take him far away. His books have plenty to tell him about history, but they give him no clues about a future with Simon.

A blurb containing the words “historian,” “hoards books,” “overflowing book collection,” and “neighborhood library” is bound to attract my attention. I’m a book hoarder, too, but most of my books are of the electronic kind, so I can’t make a cute little library with them. But when I settle down in a place where I’m going to spend the rest of my life, I’m going to hoard physical books too, and THEN I can do a library just like Elliott did and spread joy and books to my neighbors.

A book written by Kim Fielding is also bound to attract my attention. She’s one of my favorite authors, and this book didn’t disappoint. Elliott is a very intellectual guy and he analyzes every little detail in his head. For example when he goes on a “date that’s not a date” with a guy from his sister-in-law’s job:

Elliott analyzed that statement. Did it mean Kyle didn’t really care about the not-date, or was he trying to minimize its apparent important? And how about that handshake? Had it been too short or too long? Was the amount of eye contact sufficient? Had Kyle looked disappointed when he caught sight of Elliott?

Elliott kind of reminds me of myself; I also tend to over-analyze everything so I can relate. Maybe that’s why I love him so much.

Simon is a genuinely likable guy with a huge family. He has lots of insecurities, his body is one of them, and he fears coming out to his family. Both MCs are at a crossroads in their lives, and they’re trying to decide how to move forwards, and I love how that aspect was explored in this book. What do you do when your life suddenly takes a turn you didn’t expect? How do you live up to society’s expectations on you, or your own expectations on yourself for that matter?

It’s a quiet book. Nothing much happens, and at the same time lots of things happen. Elliott and Simon meet and like each other immediately and they have to decide what to do about it. It’s not that they don’t want to be together; on the contrary. But the circumstances make it difficult. Simon isn’t out, and Elliott doesn’t want to be a dirty secret; he had enough of that in his last relationship. Elliott is looking for a job and a history professor in a narrow field can’t be picky, so he applies for jobs all over the country. How can he make a relationship with Simon work if he gets a job in Nebraska?

But here’s the thing. Elliott and Simon handle those issues by talking about them. Like two responsible adults who refuse to sweep any problems they have under the rug. And OMG, talking is so sexy!! (Almost as sexy as consent!) I’m sick and tired of misunderstandings, of characters not communicating, and of assumptions made only on the basis of half the facts. And this book is the complete opposite of that.

This book does not have chest-pounding alpha males or big drama or excitement. But it’s quiet and thoughtful and intelligent and romantic, with two flawed characters who are doing their best to navigate life together. And that is just the kind of book I love.

Buy link: Amazon

Sunday review

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therecruitAlbert Manlii has walked this earth for more than two thousand years, but survival on his own was never easy. Now he leads a faction of highly organized vampires who carefully guard the secret of their existence. Unlike the old days, potential recruits are carefully selected and presented with an offer.

Phillip Brewer has weeks to live—if he lets his disease run its course. He doesn’t want to die, but given a choice, will his desire to live outweigh his concerns about the vampires’ ethics?

When the new recruit’s missteps are cause for concern, can Albert control the fallout, or will Phillip’s life once again be torn apart?

I’ve been a lover of vampire stories my whole life. It started in my early teens when I discovered Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and I’ve read and re-read it so many times I’ve lost count. Not only because of the vampires, but also because of the epistolary format (love epistolary stories!) The love continued with Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire and even Twilight. (Yes, I liked it, the first book at least. No, I don’t have a problem with vampires glittering in the sun.) And with them, countless other vampire stories over the years.

So when Addison Albright, my dear friend and one of my favorite authors, decided to write a vampire story, I jumped with joy.

I had the honor of beta reading The Recruit way back when. Last week, I finally read the finished version, because I also had the honor of beta reading The Choice, which is the sequel (yay!!), and I needed to be up to speed on what happened in The Recruit, especially considering that Addison added several thousand words after I read it.

That was a great way of spending an hour on a lazy Sunday afternoon. If you’ve followed me for a while, you know by now that I’m a fan of Addison’s writing, and The Recruit is no exception. I like her no-nonsense style. I like that her guys are regular guys (even when they are vampires, though maybe not Albert in this story 🙂 ). I like her restrained yet emotional way of writing love stories.

The Recruit ticks all those boxes.

But what I like the most is her unique take on vampire lore. She’s created a completely different world than you’d come to expect (i.e. vamps dressed in flowy capes, sleeping in coffins in dusty old houses). Instead, Addison has brought the vampires into the 21st century. They use technology and other advancements to their advantage. They are organized and resemble a spy organization more than an ancient secret society. They are smart, clever, and even though they still need to drink blood to survive, they don’t attack humans, drain them and leave them for dead. In short, they’re civilized, while they still have that romantic glow vampires tend to have.

The Recruit is worth reading only for the interesting world building. But then there’s all the other good stuff like a cherry on the ice cream sundae, and what you end up with is a delicious read that I warmly recommend. Very warmly.

And it’s currently available on KU.

Also: if you’ve already read The Recruit, you will definitely want to read The Choice when it’s released. Trust me on this, I know. 🙂

Buy links:

JMS Books | Amazon 



Sunday Review

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Happy Sunday, everyone. To celebrate T.A. Creech‘s new release yesterday (Happy belated release day!) I thought I’d review one of her other books that I’ve read and enjoyed. And if you think it sounds interesting, today’s the day to buy it. All T.A. Creech’s ebooks are 40% off over at JMS Books today, Sunday, only. This link will take you to her author page, get ready to do some shopping. 😁

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sentinelSentinel by T.A. Creech

A fireball burning up the sky leads farmer Jason Thomas to the strangest thing he’s ever found in his pumpkin patch. A man with wings. And no, he doesn’t think it’s an angel, no matter what his brothers say.

Taking the stranger into his home is hard. Keeping his heart from the stranger’s hands? Harder. But everything in him calls to this being and Jason is so damned tired of only having his brothers at his back.

Castiel has no idea what this angel thing is, but the evil that knocked him out of the sky did him a favor. He’d heard the tales of his kin and their missions on Earth with envy and now he has the chance to experience it himself. Better yet, his mate takes him home. One small problem. Castiel has a duty and needs to find a way back. Of course it isn’t going to be that easy.

A lovely and well-written story. I really love how the relationship between Jason and the angel Castiel develops organically and I love how Castiel have absolutely no idea about how life on earth works, for example: the Halloween scene. It was truly hilarious and made me laugh out loud.

Castiel is fabulously written. The descriptions of him makes it easy for me to imagine him, and in my mind he’s the most beautiful creature ever written. I’m totally in love with his wings and how he looses control over them when he gets excited 🙂

I wouldn’t say that the story is a stand-alone, because at the end of the book I have even more questions than I did at the beginning, so be aware that you’ll need to read the sequels for closure. Except for the relationship part, that part I’m satisfied with 🙂

Warmly recommended.

Sunday Review

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Happy Sunday, everyone. A short review of a short book today, and be warned: my review contains a minor spoiler, so if that’s not your thing, don’t read it 🙂

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henry and jimHenry & Jim by J.M. Snyder

These two men who have spent a life in love, from the very first date arranged by Henry’s sister, through the rocky times they worked to make ends meet, and into their twilight years.

This is such a wonderful story about Henry and Jim that met and fell in love over 50 years ago. It’s a very short story that takes place over the morning one day in their lives, but we are treated to glimpses from their life together, among other things their first date that was set up by Henry’s sister.

Jim is suffering from Alzheimers, although he still remembers Henry. But every morning is a struggle for Henry because he worries that this will be the day Jim has forgotten him. I need to stop reading Alzheimer stories: I read Ofelia Gränd’s Trapped a few weeks back and bawled my eyes out, and this book had me sobbing the entire way through. My greatest fear in life is Alzheimers or dementia and that I will forget the love of my life, so this book touched me on a personal level.

It’s beautifully written; full of emotion and the love between the two men is almost tangible. The ending is beautiful and leaves me with a feeling of hope, despite the fact that I know Henry and Jim’s story inevitably can’t end well. This short glimpse from their lives, however, ends on a happy note, and J.M. Snyder stops before the inevitable happens.

Warmly recommended.