Nell Iris


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Sunday Review: Dear Mona Lisa…by Claire Davis & Al Stewart

dear mona lisaTom, shy office clerk by day and drawer of foxes by night wakes up one Monday knowing the most extraordinary week of his life is about to begin. In five days time a lifelong ‘secret’ will be made gloriously public—but will it mean losing the person he loves most?

Getting married…

It seems like only yesterday Tom changed nappies and sang nursery rhymes to a laughing baby. He relishes the demands of being a daddy; especially teaching his little girl to draw and paint as she grows up. But the years tick by and times change. Long-buried secrets must come to the surface which may test even the strongest ties.

Tom and Lawrence…

He writes a list of all the things he has to do before the weekend and sticks it in the middle of his wall. The names and goals hang like threads of a spider’s web, inevitably leading to the centre, and all to the same place.

Dear Mona Lisa…

How to explain?
Each morning he notes the colours of dawn, listens to the birds and waits for the perfect moment. In one hand rests the balance of life and a terrible responsibility, in the other a wedding ring. Difficult days and the past loom, but his friends rally round and one by one the words come to life. Everyone waits as Tom finds the strength to open up and set free the secrets of his heart in a celebration of family, friendship and love.

A quirky story of modern life, set within the breathtaking landscape of Bradford.

This book…Wow. From the first line, it reached into my chest and grabbed my heart in an iron fist of emotions. It’s a work of art painted with words. It’s beautiful and heartbreaking and wonderful.

I love stories featuring quirky characters, where the authors bravely color outside the lines and turn their backs on stereotypes. And this book is all that, and more!

Main character Tom has had a very difficult past and a hard time coming to terms with his homosexuality. It’s a short story (65 pages according to Amazon) but the authors do a great job telling his backstory and giving just enough to break my heart. It’s less than a week before he’s getting married, and Tom has a hard time telling his beloved adult daughter that he’s getting married to a man. He’s terrified he will lose her, for very understandable reasons and this gem of a book shows how he goes about it.

Tom is an artist and draws quirky animals (foxes) and sees the world in colors. It’s difficult to explain, so I’ll show you in a couple quotes (I highlighted a gazillion when I read it. So many it would have been copyright infringement to post them all here 😁)

His purple rage consumed and grew, and I disappeared somewhere in all that aubergine.

His orange was the sun to my cold, lonely planet.

That last quote is about his husband to be, Loz (Lawrence) and it makes me week in the knees. Someone hand me my smelling salts, because I’m about to swoon!

The emotions in this book are amazing. The way Tom desperately loves his daughter leaps off the page. I can feel the love between the main characters all the way to my bones. The supporting characters are great, especially his ex-wife. And isn’t it great when the ex-wife isn’t portrayed like a villain?

I have one minor niggle: I would like to have known more about Loz. His love and support for Tom is abundantly clear, but I would have loved to get some more backstory. But in the end, it’s not enough for me to lower the rating, and I curse myself for making up a stupid five-star rating system, because this book deserves all the stars.

And if you manage to read through the wedding vows without grabbing for the Kleenex, you have no heart and you’re dead inside. Dead! 😁

Dear Mona Lisa… ends up on my re-read shelf. I want to kiss it and hug it and scream from the rooftops how great it is. If you’re in the mood for something different, something beautiful and artistic and emotional, this is the book for you.

5-stars

 

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Book review Sunday

It feels great to have gotten back into my reading habit again. I miss reading when I don’t take time for it. But no more of that! I decided Sundays are for reading…and maybe reviews on the blog? I’m not promising every Sunday, but I’ll try to write—and post—more reviews because I want to. Sound good?

Today, I’m gonna gush about For a Reason by Jessie G. It’s part two of the Sizzling Miami-series, but this book is standalone (I haven’t read part one and had no problem following along.)

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for a reasonFormer Marine and full time big brother, Bull Connor spends his days helping those in need of a second chance and his nights fighting the inner demons that won’t let go. During a routine tow he comes face to face with the only person who refuses to need him and the one man he wishes would.

As a throw away, Ian Jones is used to being alternately overlooked or ridiculed but hasn’t given up on the idea that with just one chance he could turn it all around. Rescued by the one person who neither overlooks nor ridicules him, he longs to be seen as more than just a man in need.

Ian isn’t pining for the family he’s never known but when they descend, unwanted and uninvited, Bull must prove that he’s the man who will protect Ian’s long neglected heart by sharing the demons that torment his wounded soul.

I love stories where the main characters connect early on and really want to make a relationship work. So many books out there are about people not looking for relationships or not having time to fall in love, and I guess those kind of stories are trying to tell us that because the MCs fall in love despite these conditions, their love must be very special and unstoppable. And as true as that might be, my favorite kind of story is the one where the guys meet, like each other and decide they want to take a chance on being together, and then they spend the rest of the book working on the relationship.

For a Reason is exactly that. It is also a story about courage, about being brave, and about making your own family when the one you were given at birth is found lacking. It’s about loyalty and friendship, and about having each other’s backs, no matter what. But most of all it’s about love. A beautiful kind of love that wild and passionate, but at the same time tender and romantic. It’s about two people that come to trust each other implicitly, who will fight tooth and nail for each other and work hard on their relationship by talking, communicating, and trusting.

Both MCs are fabulous characters. I love that even though Ian has had a really tough life, he isn’t broken. And I love that Bull is everybody’s protector and caretaker, but has no one to take care of him…until Ian. I love the way they accept each other completely and how they both pour their hearts and souls into making life better for each other.

I have a minor complaint and that’s not even about the story. Bull’s real name is Jon Connor, and every time I read his real name I heard Arnold Schwarzenegger saying John Connor with his Austrian Terminator-accent in my head and I giggled loudly to myself. But that’s just my twisted brain playing tricks on me – can’t be helped 😁

This is going on my re-read shelf, for books to read when I need a big hit of romance or for those dark gloomy days when I need something that makes me feel better, that fills my stomach with happy, fluttering this-book-is-so-darned-good-butterflies.

Highly recommended.

5-stars


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Short Story Sunday

Lately, I haven’t really been reading much. I’ve been too busy writing, or doing other stuff to take the time to read. For a writer that’s not good. A writer needs to read just as much as they need to write. So I decided I’d spend the day reading.

If you’ve followed me for a while, you probably know by now that I love short stories. A well written short is like magic; writing a believable love story on just a few pages is an art and I appreciate the ones who are good at it. The ones who manage to make me feel all the feelings and get to know the characters enough to root for them.

Not many things make me as happy as reading a well-written short story. So today, I’ve read several (six, to be exact), and I thought I’d share my three favorites with you.

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Double Exposure by Sam Kadence

A high school boy helping out his aunt on a photo shoot is asked to fill in as a model but as a girl, not a boy. The session leads to a kiss with another boy from school and opens the door to many emotions, dreams, and self-discovery.

This is a YA short and it was seriously cute. I admit that I had to suspend disbelief when I read it, but isn’t that part of why we read anyway? To take us away from the mundane, everyday life? The story is about Tory who dresses up as a girl for a photoshoot and finds his true self. And goodness, his family was absolutely perfect. Adored them, especially his father. I wish everyone had a dad like that. If you want something cute and swoonworthy and fairytale-y, this is the perfect read for you.

four-stars

 

mine

Mine by M. Caspian

Noah McCormack spent his life looking up to his best friend’s dad, Logan Kavanagh. Now Noah wants to do more than look, but can Noah convince Logan to see him as someone other than the boy next door?

A May-December story about a boy falling in love with his best friend’s dad, loved and admired him since he was eleven. Don’t worry, nothing inappropriate happens before Noah is of age…but when he is…Oh myyyyy. This story is kinky, but still very romantic in a non sugary way. And the final scene took me by surprise. It was unexpected, borderline forbidden, and totally hawt *fans myself*

four-stars

yours

Yours by Kim Alan

Kyle is a lost boy. “Freed” for his own good, he’s doing his best to follow through on promises made. But he’s struggling, there’s no doubt about it. That is, until he suddenly finds himself in a place he least expected. 

Beau is an independent man, answering to no one but himself. If he’s lonely, it’s a small price to pay. That is, until a beautiful, lost young man stumbles into his bar on Valentine’s Day. He can’t turn him away. The boy needs him. Or is it the other way around?

This is why I love short stories so much. In 21 pages, the author manages to make me feel all the feelings, surprise me, and make me sob in the end. BDSM can be so oddly romantic. I say oddly, because I could never kneel at anyone’s feet and call them Master or have it the other way around. I like equality in my relationship. But I love reading about it and when it’s well done, it can be very romantic. This story was fantastic. The ending was completely unexpected and I adored it. I sobbed under my blanket so my husband wouldn’t see 🙂 It definitely ended up on my re-read list. And when I write this, it’s free on Amazon. Run and one-click it now!

5-stars

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Is there a better way to spend a Sunday than reading great stories? I don’t think so! 🙂


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Review tour and #giveaway: Year One (Would It Be Okay To Love You #2) by Amy Tasukada

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK
Length: 22,000 words approx
 
Blurb
A robot fanboy. An erotic voice actor. Will their secrets overwhelm their love?

 

Sato doesn’t get out much. The anime company accountant spends his days at a desk and his nights working on his own small-scale robots. His geeky life is like a dream, but it has just one piece missing…

The world only knows Aoi for his moans. The erotic voice actor has legions of fangirls obsessed with his gasps of simulated ecstasy. And his new boyfriend Sato can barely handle the attention.

As Aoi’s popularity rises and secrets about his past begin to reveal themselves, can the accountant and the voice actor rise above their problems to create something real?

Year One is a short story anthology collection unlike anything you’ve ever read. If you like geeky settings, and sweet romance, then you’ll love Amy Tasukada’s slice-of-life story.

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My review:

This is the published version of Amy Tasukada’s monthly newsletter about Aoi and Sato. The reader is treated to a glimpse of the couple’s lives every month and because of the format, it’s low angst.

Aoi and Sato are cute and I love following along as they grow closer as a couple over the year and being there for important milestones like moving in together. I appreciate how they both are trying to show their love and appreciation for one another. Like in the March chapter when Sato wants to dazzle Aoi with his cooking for White Day, but even though he’s planned it perfectly and practiced the meal several times, he fails when when the big day arrives. He’s understandably miserable, but Aoi does his best to cheer him up. I love those intimate moments between them.

Both characters are adorable. Aoi’s job as an erotic voice actor (a professional moaner) is very creative, but Sato is my favorite of the two. He’s a bona fide geek and lives for gundam and spread sheets, but he’s not portrayed with any negativity. Instead, Amy Tasukada celebrates his geekiness and I love that.

One of my favorite things about Amy Tasukada’s writing is her meticulous research. Every little detail is correct and it’s evident that she’s spent hours and hours checking her facts and getting everything just right. One of my pet peeves are when authors get easily googlable facts wrong, so I really appreciate a writer who’s done their due diligence.

I can’t write this review without mentioning the fabulous illustrations. Every month there’s drawing to go with the story, and Alexandra Pilzner has done an amazing job in capturing Aoi and Sato. I couldn’t decide which one was my favorite, but it’s between March when Sato burns dinner, or June when Aoi hides from the cat in the bathroom (look at that little paw under the door! So cute!)

aoi and sato

If you’re in the mood for a quick, sweet read with lots of Japanese flavor, this is just the story for you.

5-stars

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September 11 – Bayou Book Junkie, Gay Book Reviews
September 13 – Wicked Reads
September 15 – The Novel Approach
September 20 – Alpha Book Club, Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words, Nell Iris, Bayou Book Junkie

Author Bio
 

Amy Tasukada lives in North Texas with a calico cat called O’Hara. As an only child her day dreams kept her entertained, and at age ten she started to put them to paper. Since then her love of writing hasn’t cease. She can be found drinking hot tea and filming Japanese street fashion hauls on her Youtube channel.

 

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Book review: To Love and To Cherish by Addison Albright

to love and to cherish

Warning: my review probably contains spoilers!

I love Addison Albright’s books. Simple as that. Ever since I read Cultivating Love the first time, I’ve connected with her books and her characters on a deep level. There’s something about the realness she manages to convey that speaks to me. She writes about real people, people I would love to be friends and hang out with. Don’t get me wrong: there are a time and a place for the stereotypical romantic heroes. Who hasn’t swooned by the imaginary feet of the broody bad boys, the smoking hot firemen, or the tortured heroes?

But lately, I’ve found myself craving something different. I’ve found and fallen in love with Willow Scarlett and their quirky, wonderfully weird characters. And I’ve fallen in love with Addison Albright’s real, regular guys.

They are guys with regular jobs, regular lives, and regular feelings. That might sound boring, but to me, it’s very exciting. Almost anyone can write about imaginary things like werewolves and hobbits. But it takes a skilled person to write realness.

I’ve fallen in love with most of her heroes. They aren’t guys that express their love in a large bombastic way by proposing on a billboard or sweeping their stuff off the desk so they can make love right this minute. No, they’re guys that show their love in small, but meaningful ways. Like leaving a glass of water and pain pills on the bedside table for your injured fiancé, like Emmitt does for Nash in To Love and To Cherish.

When we meet Nash he’s bitter and jaded because of how his engagement with Sam from ‘Til Death Do Us Part ended. And with good reason. In fact, he’s so cynical, he proclaims “Fuck love!” and agrees to marry Emmitt for convenient reasons.

But after Nash’s accident and subsequent memory-loss, he gets a reboot. Nash and Emmitt agree that Emmitt won’t tell Nash what happened, that he will regain his memories in his own time, if at all. Usually, I’m not a fan of keeping secrets, but the way Addison handled it was excellent. Emmitt doesn’t go behind Nash’s back. Instead, they talk about it like mature adults and agree on it together. You know, like real people would do.

There are several instances in the book that easily could have gone south but don’t because the characters behave in a rational manner. The way Nash feels about what happened with Sam for example. He realizes it wasn’t Sam’s fault and he’s being the bigger person about it. I love that about Nash.

Reading about how Nash evolves from bitter and jaded and following along as he falls in love with Emmitt, is wonderful and believable. Both Nash and Emmitt are wonderful, three-dimensional characters. Nash has a really hard time all through the book, but he tries his hardest to move on and to be a good person. Emmitt is really dreamy; how he’s secretly been interested in Nash for a long time, but still offers to set him free when Nash loses his memory. It’s lovely to see how they’re both committed to each other from the start, but especially after Nash’s accident.

What I love the most about this book is the intimate moments between Nash and Emmitt that’s sprinkled throughout the story. I really love how Addison writes intimacy between lovers. It’s another thing that feels real to me. Like it could be a scene taken from my own life.

I would be remiss if I wrote a review about this book without mentioning Grampy, Emmitt’s grandfather. He’s a wonderful character, a mischievous old man who loves his grandson wholeheartedly and who accepts Nash fully. In fact: if I got one complaint about To Love and To Cherish, it is that Grampy needs more on-page time.

TL;DR: this is a heartwarming story about two men finding love after giving up hope on finding The One. But most of all it’s a story full of real, wonderful characters. I warmly recommend it!

5-stars

 

 


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Short story recommendations

I’ve said it before and I’ll probably say it again: I absolutely love short stories. Many times I prefer to read a short story instead of a 400+ page novel. I’m not necessarily a big fan of all the side plots and the unnecessary drama you need to fill up all those pages. I want to read about the romantic couple, not about everything else happening in their lives.

And these last few weeks I’ve read three excellent collections of short stories, so I thought I’d share.

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Snapshots by Addison Albright

I’ve already told you that I had the privilege of beta reading Addison’s collection of short stories, but that didn’t make me any less excited to read the finished versions. I absolutely love reading the final product of something I’ve critiqued or betaed: it’s like watching a child grow up.

And I wasn’t disappointed with the result: I loved every one of them. What I like most is that it’s such a diverse collection of stories, ranging from a meet cute in an adult video arcade to an established couple getting married, and everything in between. It’s an aptly named book: the reader is treated to snapshots from the different couples’ lives, a brief look into their relationship.

Most of them leave me wanting more, which I consider a good thing. It means I wasn’t bored with the story, it kept my interest the entire time, and I’m hungry to know what happens next in their lives. I want to know what happens to George and Blaine in King Kong vs The Skinny Pirate—will their relationship work out despite them being so seemingly different? I would love to read about how Darryl and Warren in Now and Forever met, their story before the marriage. And I definitely want to read more about Evan and Gary, in my favorite story Cow Pie Bingo.

TL;DR: Snapshots is awesome. Read it. 😀 

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Falling Hard: Stories of Men In Love by Dale Cameron Lowry

I found this collection of stories via the #RainbowSnippets group I joined a few weeks back. I click around and read all the other authors’ contributions and this jumped out at me immediately. It was something about the language and the way the author treats the words that made me weak in the knees. And after the second week in a row with the same reaction, I decided I needed to buy it.

And I was not disappointed. All of the stories are magical, there’s no other word for it. The emotions leap off the page in Dale’s writing and I was mesmerized and couldn’t put it down. I even loved Far From Home, which is a sci-fi story and I don’t read sci-fi (I prefer to watch it, thank you very much!) But the concept of the story was so clever and original, so it was impossible not to love it.

The stories in this collection is also diverse and interesting. I loved everything from the shy ghost in Ghost of a Chance, to reading about how established couple Mike and Ken meet a third guy that they can’t seem to forget in Pacific Rimming. But I think my favorite was Loggerhead. I’ve always said I don’t like reading about established couples because the author always fucks up their relationship for the sake of the story—but that’s not the case here. Loggerhead tells the story about how Jake and Eric find their way back to each other. And it contains my favorite quote:

“I never forget that I love you. But sometimes I forget how important that is to me.”

*swoon*

TL;DR: Falling Hard is awesome. Read it. 😀 

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A More Perfect Union by B.G. Thomas, J. Scott Coatsworth, Jamie Fessenden, and Michael Murphy

I’ve read this collection of short stories before, when it was just released. But the other day I felt like something short and cute and thought I’d just read one of the stories before bed time. 

Yeah, right. As if. *snort*

At 5:30 AM, I put it down after re-reading all of the stories again, and they were even better this time. I love the premise of the collection, I’ll cut and paste it here for you (taken from Goodreads), if you’re not familiar with it:

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I can’t decide which story I love most. Flames by Coatsworth tells the story about Alex and Gio, and how Gio gets badly hurt in a fire. I love to read about Alex’s journey from being afraid of commitment to how he’s willing to do anything to get Gio to come back to him.

Jeordi and Tom by Michael Murphy is about a young couple. They show extraordinary bravery and loyalty and fight for each other against a homophobic family in a small Kentucky town. Someday by B.G. Thomas is a story about a Lucas who met Dalton in kindergarten and knew from the start they would get married one day.

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So cute! And so right. What if two boys fall in love, why shouldn’t they be allowed to marry? It’s incomprehensible.

But maybe it’s Destined by Jamie Fessenden that’s my favorite after all. And even though I love the story about how Jay and Wallace meet, get separated by life and circumstances, meet again, and finally start building a life together, I think it’s the dedication from the author that makes me love it the most.

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 TL;DR: A More Perfect Union is awesome. Read it. 😀 

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I warmly recommend any of these collections of short stories. If you haven’t read them, I strongly suggest you run to your nearest virtual bookstore and buy them—you won’t regret it.

And if you have suggestions about short story collections you think I’d like, feel free to tell me in the comments 🙂


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Book review

I wrote in my summary of the best books I read 2016 that I’d review some of them here on the blog eventually. Here’s the first: 

Cultivating Love by Addison Albright

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This is a story about an established couple, and usually I don’t read those kind of books. I prefer reading about people getting to know each other and falling in love. Another reason I try to steer clear of established couples, is because authors tend to be mean, mean people, who think up lots of drama for the poor unsuspecting couple, and I prefer my HEAs to be of the forever, totally unbelievable, kind. You know, where the guys ride off into the sunset, holding hands, professing their undying love, and never ever break up or argue.

So this was a different read for me, but good different. Don’t get me wrong, there was drama, but it came from outside sources, and I’ll even go so far as to say it was beneficial for the guys as a couple.

The relationship between Ed and Joe starts out being solid, but not very romantic. They don’t cuddle, or hold hands, and they have very specific rules for sexy-times. So while they’re both in it for the long haul, the other doesn’t necessarily know it.

But when something happens that changes their lives and their relationship, it pushes them both to takes risks in their relationship. To dare to ask for more and to give more. To want more, not just sex, but intimacy and closeness.

Addison Albright has done a phenomenal job of showing the progression in their relationship. They take small, careful steps and they worry about what the other person is going to think, but I love that they both put themselves out there. I love seeing them taking a chance on each other, even if they aren’t always using so many words doing it.

It works wonderfully with the characters Albright has created. They are two ordinary guys, trying to find their way in life. They’re not super ripped, alpha males showing their love in grand, bombastic gestures, but that doesn’t make the story any less romantic. It might not be not flowers and chocolate and loud declarations, but instead they express their love in a way that’s deeply meaningful for the characters, something I find incredibly romantic.

I’ve read several of Albright’s novels, and one of my favorite things is how well she writes quiet, intimate moments between characters. Moments that fill me with warm, fuzzy feelings and makes me sigh happily. This book is full of them and I simply adore it.

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The only thing negative thing I have to say about it, is that I don’t like the cover very much. I mean: why is the N in “Cultivating” so large compared to the other letters? It’s weird. Unfortunately, it put me off reading this book for the longest time, which is too bad because it’s a wonderful story.

I give Cultivating Love my warmest recommendations. Just skip the cover and immerse yourself in a quick, heartwarming read. You won’t regret it.

5 feel-good stars.

5-stars