Sunday book recommendation

Last week, I read the most breathtakingly romantic book, and I just have to share it with you. Last year, I read Galaxies and Oceans by N.R. Walker, and in my review of it, I wrote: “Galaxies and Oceans is maybe the most romantic book I ever read. Full stop.”

But maybe Galaxies and Oceans has been overtaken by this book. Or at least, it now has another book sharing first place as the most romantic book I’ve ever read.

Which book am I rambling about?

a worthy manVannguard Shaw has spent the last ten years serving a life sentence and adjusting to the ache of solitude. He accepts his fate, a sacrifice for the only man he ever loved and the one person who saw beyond his rough edges.

Drayton grew up with a trust fund and pre-planned future, but an unexpected encounter one night forces him to abandon everything and start from scratch. He is now a self-made man and developer of one of the most sought after electric exotic automobiles in the world with a fortune greater than that of his birthright. Yet, he’d surrender it all—again—for the only man who’s still ever-present in his heart.

After a decade and entirely too much distance between them, Vann is suddenly released back into a world that has been nothing but cruel. Drayton never lost hope they would once again reunite and pick up where they left off, but Vann’s stubborn nature and repeated encounters with a heartbreaking world prove to be a challenge.

Vann needs to tap into his fighting spirit’s reservoir of strength and hope life doesn’t punish him for taking a chance. Only then will he realize his own value and feel worthy enough to finally have Drayton’s heart. And their chance at forever.

halfway house

A Worthy Man is book five in The Men of Halfway House series by Jaime Reese, and I’ve read books 1-3 (pictured above) before. All three books were five-star reads for me, but when the fourth book was released, the blurb didn’t speak to me, and neither did the reviews. The fifth book, on the other hand, did speak to me, so I bought it when it was released back in 2017. But as you all know by now, I’m a short story lover, and A Worthy Man is 425 pages long. Yes. 425!! So I put off reading it because I wasn’t in a mood for such a long story…and I forgot about it.

Until last week, when I scrolled my Kindle app on my e-reader and found it. And lately I have been more in the mood for lengthy books, so I thought “Why the hell not?”

And wow. Wow, wow, wow, wow. 😍

I was hooked from the first page, and Dray and Vann’s story never let me go. It’s a pretty slow story, focused on their relationship, and those are the kinds of stories I love the most. Yes, there are secondary plots, but they never steal focus from the romance. Dray and Vann’s emotions leapt off the page and settled in my heart and my stomach…and in my tear ducts, as evidenced by my tweets below 😀


And it did kill me, in the best possible way. I read it slowly because I didn’t want it to end. I re-read passages that were swoonworthy, and highlighted almost the entire chapter 9 because it was so beautiful and emotional. When I finished it, I lay slain on my couch with my e-reader pressed to my heart and stars (or maybe hearts?) in my eyes.

How will anything ever measure up to the romance level of this book?

If you’re in the mood for action or angsty or gritty or a book with the classic romance plot points where something bad happens at around 75% that makes you doubt there will ever be a HEA, this is definitely not the book for you. But if you, like me, love to read about an underdog who’s had to fight his entire life and finally gets something good in his life, if you love second chances and true love, if you love to read about people who really love each other, who’d do anything for each other, who are always there for each other, who never waiver in their feelings, this is the book for you.

Yes, it’s long. But it’s worth it.  And it can be read as a standalone even though it’s part 5 in a series.

I’d give this book ten stars if Goodreads allowed me.

Amazon link

Sunday book recommendation

There are two tropes I’m not really a fan of when it comes to romance: the fake boyfriend and vacation romance. For the first, I don’t like fake anything, and for the second, I don’t want an expiry date on my romances. I want my romances to have forever-ever-after in sight, not “two weeks, then we go back to our normal lives.”

Despite that, I just read and loved a book with both those tropes: Honeymoon Sweet by Allison Temple. The reason I even tried it was that a while back, I read a post on my friend Addison Albright’s blog, one of her “what I’m reading on the treadmill post.” In these posts, she always includes her favorite quotes from the book she’s currently reading, and for the Honeymoon Sweet post, I fell in love with every single quote. I don’t think that’s ever happened before. So I went to Amazon and downloaded the sample, loved it, so I bought the whole books.

52672329._SY475_Doug is a cheese pizza kind of guy. A honeymoon cruise around the Caribbean is the most adventurous thing he’s ever done. Going on that honeymoon alone is unthinkable, but here he is, with a luxury suite and a broken heart.

Tripp is a hopeless romantic. He’s in a sinking relationship that’s been taking on water for months. He’d throw in the towel if he had one, but he’s naked and locked out of his room.

No one should be on a cruise alone, and Tripp has a simple solution: he and Doug will pretend to be husbands and enjoy everything a week of sea and sun has to offer. But as the days and nights heat up, can a cheese pizza kind of guy be brave enough to give love a second chance?

And oh my god, the book was fabulous. Tripp is a hilarious character, and Doug is a sweetheart and I loved them together. There were several laugh-out-loud moments in the book, and my husband looked at me fondly when I laughed so hard I almost fell out of the couch, and asked “Is it a good book, honey?”

I mean:

Sometimes half the problem with sex is people take it way too seriously, when it’s really just bodies flopping around like seals and making noises your mother would tell you aren’t polite at the dinner table.

But it’s not only funny. There are many serious, heartbreaking moments, too, when the laughter got stuck in my throat and I had to hide my trembling lower lip from my husband who likes to gently tease me when I cry to books. And that’s one of my favorite kind of books: the ones that can both make you laugh and cry and that leaves you feeling happy when you’ve finished it.

Another thing I really loved about it was how distinct the voices were: the story is told in first person alternating point-of-view, and it’s really easy to know which chapters are told from Doug’s POV and which are from Tripp’s. That’s not always the case with stories told in alternating first person POV, but Allison Temple did a great job with Tripp and Doug.

All in all, this was a very satisfying read and I’m very happy that I ignored the fact that I don’t like the fake boyfriend or the vacation romance tropes. I would have missed out on a great book if I’d stuck up my nose at it just because of that reason.

I give it my warmest recommendations and send my thanks to Addison Albright for pointing me in the direction of this wonderful read.

Amazon link

Friday review

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heel Heel by K.M. Neuhold


“I’ve never thought of calling a man Daddy before, but I can’t think of a word that fits Vale better. He’s my Daddy, and I’m his pup.” 

Broken and bruised, there’s nothing I won’t do to protect Adrian. I picked him up and made him whole before, and I’ll do it again. Adrian is a sweet pup with a smile full of sunshine and a heart made for love. A sweet pup needs a gentle hand, and that’s exactly what I intend to give him.

There’s nothing quite like slipping an expensive pair of high heels onto Adrian’s feet and watching him light up. If he wants a fairytale, I’ll happily be his Prince Charming.

CW: This review (and the book) contains mentions of domestic abuse, so if this is something you find difficult, please don’t read any further.

I know we’re not supposed to judge books by their covers, but when I saw this book at a release blitz over at my friend Addison Albright’s blog, I instantly fell in love. It’s so cuuuuute! 😍 I downloaded a sample and loved it, so I bought the book and I do not regret it.

This is a puppy play romance with very light BDSM elements about Adrian and Vale, containing many of the things I love to read about: age gap (Adrian is 25, Vale is 40), the power dynamics of BDSM without most of the props (except for puppy related props), a flamboyant character (Adrian), and a caring, soft-hearted dom (Vale).

It also contains two fabulous characters. The story starts with Adrian at the hospital with a broken wrist, because his current partner and dom, Nathan, has hurt him. Adrian returns home despite the objections of his friend who works at the hospital, because it was the first time Nathan was violent. The situation escalates when Nathan gets home that evening and more violence ensues. Adrian realizes that it wasn’t a one-time experience and he runs out of the house—without shoes—to get away. He calls the friend from the hospital and he and his partner pick Adrian up and let him stay in their house.

As the story unfolds, we learn that even though Nathan was never physically violent toward Adrian before that night, he’s been verbally abusive for most of the six years they’ve been together, and Adrian displays signs of being abused. Despite this, he tries his hardest to keep a hold of his sunny personality, which is different from how a lot of other domestic abuse victim characters I’ve read handle the situation. And I’m not saying that to minimize anyone’s reaction to being abused (either book character or real person) but it was an interesting take on the subject I haven’t encountered before.

“I won’t hide, and I won’t cower. I’ve been through worse than this, and I can make it through this too.

I’m going to be just fine, I resolve as if thinking it can make it so. If anyone is stubborn enough to pull it off, it’s me.”

Vale, the other MC, calls Aidan “Sunshine” and that’s the most appropriate endearment I’ve read, I think.

“I read somewhere once that if you keep smiling, you can trick your brain into being happy. It worked when I was living on the street, and it’s going to work now if it kills me.”

And this is how Adrian approaches his life after Nathan. He tries so hard to be his normal, sunny self and for most part, he succeeds. Then there are the moments in between, the moments when he can’t help but to react to situations in the way he’s learned to react around Nathan over the years, and those moments break my heart.

Vale is a puppy trainer (yes, people-puppies, not dog-puppies) and he’s know Adrian for seven years. Vale helped Adrian off the streets when he was 18 and living in his car, gave him a home, and helped him get on his feet. He agreed to train Adrian to be a puppy (in a non-sexual way) because that’s something Adrian had wanted for years. Overall, Vale was Adrian’s super hero.

Adrian has had a crush on Vale ever since, but at the time Vale felt that the age difference was too great for something to happen between them (when Adrian was only 18 and he was in his 30s). When Vale finds out what has happened to Adrian, he immediately steps up and helps, and he’s just what Adrian needs. Adrian’s crush on Vale has never faded, and the reader learns that Vale likes Adrian back, but he fears that Adrian only wants him because he’s grateful.

That is not the case, as I’m sure you’ve realized by now 🙂

Adrian and Vale both help each other to grow. Vale helps Adrian get over the abuse, to grow and find happiness. Adrian in turn brings life and happiness into Vale’s lonely existence, because despite having trained countless of puppies over the years, he’s never had a puppy of his own. Even though Vale is the dom caretaker, Adrian is equally important for him and his growth.

Arguments can be made that the relationship happens too fast, that Vale is just a rebound for Adrian, but I don’t feel that way at all. They’ve known each other for seven years, it’s clear that Nathan feels threatened by Vale, and Adrian liked Vale from the start – all this tells us that it’s not a rebound. If anything, Nathan was a rebound for Vale, for a relationship Adrian wanted with Vale but never got.

It’s a very sweet story with two great characters whose love for each other jumps off the page. Adrian is a ray of sunshine, and I love how the author gave him puppy-like characteristics even when he’s not in his puppy-gear. He wiggles and scrambles and bounces, and it endears him to me even more. Vale is a big teddy bear in a dom package with a big heart. They are just the kind of characters I love.

If I have to complain about something, it’s that after they have sex for the first time, there are a bit too many sex scenes for my taste, but since I think most romance books have too many sex scenes, that’s probably just me 🙂

This book is the second in a series, but it can be read as standalone. I haven’t read the first book and had no trouble following the plot.

I warmly recommend Heel. I dare you not to fall in love with Adrian! 🙂

“[…]he’s standing completely nude by the sink, doing his best to wrap his cast.

“Only a few more days,” I say, taking the cling wrap from him to help get it on correctly.

“I can’t wait. I’ve been making a list on two-handed things I want to do like play the piano and juggle.”

“Do you know how to do either of those things?” I ask with a half-smile.

“No, but I’m a very fast learner,” he assures me in a sultry voice that makes me think we’re not talking about playing the piano anymore.”

Buy link: Amazon

Friday review

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always another sideAlways Another Side by Annabelle Jacobs

Starting over at forty is hard work for landscape architect Jack Bowman. His long-term partner hurt him badly. With his self-esteem dented by the break up, trusting a new lover is going to take time.

Tyler Freeman is equally unlucky when it comes to love. Now that he’s over thirty-five, he’s tired of getting played. All he wants is someone special. How hard can it be to meet a man who’s honest, with no hidden surprises?

Being set up on a blind date might be a classic cliché, but it’s a stroke of good luck for Jack and Tyler. They have a lot in common, including previous relationships steeped in deceit, but it’s worth navigating their trust issues if it means laying those ghosts to rest.

Making it work finally seems possible—until an accidental discovery threatens their newfound happiness.


This was a re-read; I read it the first time in 2016 when it was new, and I’ve read it several times since then. It’s on my feel good re-reads list on Goodreads and I absolutely love it.

The MCs, Jack and Tyler, meet on a blind date neither of them want to go on, but they connect instantly. They both come with bagage; Jack’s partner of 16 years cheated on him 8 months ago and Jack is understandably angry about it. Tyler has wanted a partner for a long time but only found temporary ones, the last one of the bunch had a boyfriend and Tyler was just his side piece (something Tyler didn’t know at the time).

They’re both wounded. And the blind date ends with them blurting out the truth about how they feel, how broken they are, to each other. Jack in particular isn’t sure if he’s ready for a relationship. They both are surprised at the honesty considering it’s the first time they meet, but that’s the way their relationship goes from then on out: they talk to each other. And that’s the reason I love this book so much.

Jack and Tyler feel an instant connection to each other, but don’t know if their pasts will stand in the way of a relationship. They both have doubts and fears, and are in their heads a lot, but instead of mulling shit over by themselves and jumping to the wrong conclusions, they communicate. They share their fears and feelings with each other. You know, like two real people would.

And when it’s time for the big conflict of the story – and it is big – it could so easily have escalated into The Mother of All Misunderstandings. But it didn’t. Yes, they both were hurt after the revelation, but during the entire thing, they keep talking to each other, trying to understand the other person’s point of view. No one listens to half a conversation and storms out. No one jumps to conclusions and refuses to talk about it. They act like rational human beings.

And if you know me by now, if you’ve followed me for a while, you know this is right up my alley. My biggest pet peeve is The Big Misunderstanding, and this book is the complete opposite of that.

Always Another Side isn’t a book full of grand love gestures or dramatic I love yous. It’s quiet, full of introspection, and with two characters that want to be together and try their hardest to understand the other person’s side of the story, and work to overcome the obstacle that in any other book wouldn’t have been handled even half as elegantly as here.

In short: it’s the kind of romance I love to read the most and I give it my warmest recommendations.

Buy link: Amazon

Friday review x2

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Today, you get two shorter reviews instead of one. I pre-ordered The Naked Remedy by Vivien Dean from JMS Books and read it immediately on release day. I loved it so much that I went on the hunt for more books by the same author, and found Wild Fragile Vines that I also loved. So here are my short opinions on why you should buy these wonderful books 🙂

The naked remedyFrom the moment he finds The Naked Remedy, Noah Booker is enthralled. Not only because the blog owner is gorgeous or that the nude photos are hot, but because Fisher uses his platform to face his fears about a crippling accident, as well as the aftermath of putting his life back together.

Noah isn’t brave. He copes with his shyness by staying in his comfort zone. At twenty-six, he still hasn’t come out or left his conservative hometown. Finding the blog offers a beacon, but when he summons the nerve to comment, he never expects Fisher to respond.

The two men strike a friendship. Sparks fly, but dating isn’t easy. Noah lives in California, and Fisher’s in Florida. But making it work takes more than coordinating schedules. It means taking risks. For Fisher, though, Noah will try. Because if he’s learned anything, it’s that change only happens one step at a time.

This book is everything I love: angst free, feelgood, romantic and sweet. It brings a smile to my face and fills my stomach with the warm fuzzies. I also have a soft spot for books where the characters meet online, like they do here.

It all starts by Noah finding Fisher’s blog, and with Noah making a comment about being brave. When Noah does something that he himself considers brave and comments on the blog about it, he gets backlash from other readers of the blog. But Fisher doesn’t allow hate on his blog, and he reaches out to Noah to assure him that he sees the bravery, that bravery looks different for everyone.

And I think that message is important, for all of us. For some, bravery is taking pictures of their naked body to show the aftermath of an accident, like Fisher. For others, bravery is dyeing their hair, like Noah. But whether the courage is big and bold or small and quiet, it’s equally brave. Neither is more important than the other.

And that message is what I’m taking with me into the world.

Buy link (JMS Books)

wild fragile vinesWhen his boss’s twenty-year-old son announced he wanted to be more than friends, Tim Kammerling told him no. He wasn’t ready to have a relationship with someone more than ten years younger than him.

Devin, however, knew he couldn’t stick around Napa and honor the status quo. Instead, he left town, and he and Tim became long-distance friends.

Now, through the letters he’s kept over the years, clippings he’s collected, and the memories he’ll never shake, Tim stands on the threshold of a new beginning.

Yes, a lot can happen in eighteen years. Letters are sent. Calls get made. And lives are changed…

This is a short story told with letters, phone calls, flashbacks, and snippets from current day. It’s a story of holding on to hope even when there seems to be none, how feelings can grow even over distance in time and location. Of how two people who weren’t in the same place in their lives at first, can end up there eventually.

It’s a series of snapshots into a friendship and a budding relationship over eighteen years. It starts out with a very melancholy tone, and for the first half of the book I had a lump in my throat and worried if this story really would have a HEA. I shouldn’t have worried, though, and the HEA was worth waiting for and felt real. Even though it’s such a short story, we get enough glimpses into the Tim and Devin’s lives that I’m satisfied at the end. Their story couldn’t have developed in any other way. The HEA was right for them, even if they had to wait for it.

I also want to say that I adore the title. Wild Fragile Vines is the perfect name for this lovely story.

Buy link (Amazon)

Friday review

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aftercare tanya chrisAftercare (Ever After #1) by Tanya Chris

Aayan Denir knows Garrett Hillier was once a high-powered defense attorney, and—thanks to a leaked photograph—he knows Garrett is sexually submissive, which makes him ideally qualified to defend Aayan’s brother from the charge of murdering his sub. Aayan would do anything to protect Syed, even if he doesn’t understand how Syed could hurt someone he loves. He could never hurt Garrett. He only wants to take care of him—love him, serve him, cherish him. And maybe torture him. Just a little.

Garrett probably shouldn’t be dating his client’s brother. Right? And what’s the use in a confirmed sub dating a guy who doesn’t want to be a Dom anyway? The important thing is to get Syed cleared of the discriminatory murder charge he’s facing. Aayan is a distraction. But for the first time in the three lonely years since Garrett’s husband died, he’s feeling hope, ambition, and desire. Can he give up the pain he craves to find the love he needs?

As Syed’s trial date looms, Aayan and Garrett explore what a BDSM relationship means for them, and what they mean to each other.

(There is a newer cover than the one pictured above, but this is the version I read)

My last review here on the blog (Leather and Tea by K.L. Noone) was a BDSM book, and so is this one (I swear I don’t only read BDSM even if it seems like that 😀 ). In that review, I said that my favorite kind of BDSM book “What I like is the power dynamics, the BDSM not overpowered by props, the BDSM where the emotions are in focus, where the need to give up control is respected and handled with care” and Aftercare is another book that fits into that category.

Aside for that, Aftercare has three other things I love in my books:

  1. Court proceedings – I’m a sucker for court proceedings. I love court TV-shows or movies or stories, it’s really my thing. (Fiction though, not real life court TV)
  2. The MCs communicating. Gawd, is there anything sexier (except for consent – consent is always the most sexy thing to read) than people talking to each other? I think not!
  3. Diversity. Aayan and his brother Syed are Turkish Muslims.

So considering all that, it won’t come as a surprise to you that I really, really liked this book.

The characters were interesting and complex. I like that Garrett is a submissive masochist, but he’s also fierce in his profession and has backbone enough to stand up to Aayan when necessary. Aayan has problems incorporating his identity with his Muslim faith, but he tries so hard to accept who he is, and who his brother is, even though their parents aren’t exactly supportive.

This story line resonates with me. The brother, Syed, wanted to marry his boyfriend Jamie, but wanted to wait until he got his parents’ blessing. Unfortunately, he never got it and then it was too late. I have a gay friend who’s Muslim, and he’d like to be able to commit to his partner of many years, but he can’t do it because of his family. I know people like this which makes it even more real and touching and sad.

I would also like to go back to the communicating. If you’ve been following me for awhile, you know that I hate misunderstandings, and love talking. (So much that my current WIP is about two characters NOT misunderstanding each other!)  And there were a couple moments in Aftercare that had the potential of ending with misunderstanding, but didn’t. Tanya Chris handled these situations with utmost grace, and neither of the characters let the other get away with it. And that is how you do it, people. Because in real life we don’t always want to talk about the hard stuff, but we have to. If we have a grown-up partner who’s invested in our relationship, they won’t let us get away with crap like that. So kudos for that.

If you like an emotional BDSM story about two people who really want their relationship to work, and who struggle to find themselves in the circumstances they’re in – this is the book for you.

Buy link

After finishing Aftercare, I one-clicked book 2, Aftershock, which is Syed’s book. Can’t wait to read his story and HEA – he deserves it.

Friday review

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40946883Some nights, American secret agent Ben Smith just wants to come home to his husband. He misses that English accent and smile and, of course, Simon on his knees. He wants his perfect submissive at his feet, so the world and his mission can fall away.

Some nights, romance writer Simon Ashley misses his dashing American other half. Tea is nice, but it can’t pin him down in bed and make him beg, reminding him he’s loved and belongs to someone. He wants to forget everything and everyone he’s left behind, and just belong to Ben.

Tonight they both get what they want when Ben comes home early. tea is very nice … but so is leather.

After reading this book, I was left with one very important question: why on earth isn’t everybody reading K.L. Noone??

If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile (at least since the advent calendar last December) you know I loved K.L. Noone’s holiday story Revelry. I’ve been meaning to read Leather and Tea for awhile, since the release of the 2018 Top Ten Gay Romance anthology where it’s is featured. But somehow it slipped my mind, until I read this fabulous review of the anthology by Becca over at Love Bytes. The first few sentences of her review (“Damn this story was amazing! It was almost like reading a love letter. It was so poignant and beautiful.”) reminded me of this book’s existence, and I decided to read it at once.

And wow, Becca is right; it’s a 7779 word long love letter. It’s 7779 words of pure perfection, of a love so bright and beautiful between Ben and Simon, and I simply adored it.

This story is everything I love about short stories. It’s a slice of life in the main characters’ lives with enough back story to make me care for them deeply. Combined with K.L. Noone’s mastery of the English language, I’m a goner.

Summer-morning eyes found his gaze with excitement, disbelief, hope like emerging sunrise.

This book is a BDSM erotica. I’m ambivalent when it comes to BDSM; I’m not a fan of the St. Andrew’s Cross-filled dungeon, or the kink club BDSM. What I like is the power dynamics, the BDSM not overpowered by props, the BDSM where the emotions are in focus, where the need to give up control is respected and handled with care. What I like, is the BDSM described in this book.

I love you, you give me everything, you trust me with all of you and I want to deserve that, to deserve you. Those eyes and that smile and the way you looked up with that little gasp the first time I spanked you, only teasing, in bed. The way you offer me all those pieces of you to hold secure and sacred and I will, I will, forever. 

Ben and Simon are two fantastic characters, and I loved them both, but maybe I loved the sassy, British Simon just a tad more, with his gilded locks, his clumsiness, and his complete trust in Ben. And who wouldn’t want to come home…

To crossword puzzles in bed and a trail of books like breadcrumbs from room to room and trusting fearlessness.

And then there’s the language.

Simon turned his head, studied their hands anew: Ben’s fingers tanned and powerful over that slender wrist, a study in light and contrast painted with the light from the bedside lamp. 

Like I said; I read this book in the 2018 Top Ten Gay Romance anthology, but when I finished it, I marched (I marched virtually, okay?) to JMS Books and bought it separately, too. And I bought three other books by K.L. Noone too, because everything I’ve read from her so far have been bloody fantastic, and I need to support writing like this.

Thank you Becca at Love Bytes for reminding me to read this book, and thank you to K.L. Noone for writing it.

Leather and Tea gets my warmest recommendations and I added it to my re-read feelgood shelf at Goodreads. *Happy sigh and heart eyes*

JMS Books | Amazon

Aaaaand I’m looking forward to the sequel that will be released tomorrow: A Leather and Tea Morning. I pre-ordered it weeks ago and I can’t wait to read it. I mean, this line from the excerpt made me one-click faster than you can say tea 🙂

Simon asleep looked like dawn, he decided: pale sunshine curls and fair skin and careless contentment, a miniature masterpiece painted in gold that’d collided with a pillow and learned how to very quietly snore.

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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