A Stella Review: Strong Medicine by JK Hogan

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RATING  4 out of 5 stars

Strong MedicineTwo men who meet in a psychiatric institution couldn’t possibly find happiness together—could they?

The world seemed to be telling disgraced former child star and singer Cameron Fox that he would never be happy again. A drunken car accident gets him sentenced to a work release program at Riverbend Behavioral Health Facility.

Reclusive, traumatized writer Jonah Radley has an entire graveyard of skeletons in his closet. Jonah regularly hospitalizes himself for psychotic episodes caused by a horrific childhood trauma, his biggest secret—one he refuses to speak about in therapy.

Jonah and Cameron form a bond inside the hospital, forged in mutual pain and hope for a better life. Once they leave the hospital, they must decide if they are brave enough to explore the intricacies of living with mental illness—and find a new normal together.

Strong Medicine was my first book by JK Hogan and it really surprised me. Reading  the blurb I have to admit I was a little scared at the start, afraid it was going to be hard to take. It was exactly what I was expecting, I hurt  so much through all the story. Still it was so worthed.

Cameron and Jonah are completely different: the first is a former child prodige, just being excluded by his whole big family from their band and sent by a judge to a behavioral health facility, where he will work for a year and learn to never drive after having drinking. Here Cameron is soon attracted to Jonah, the young man who will later steal his heart (and mine). Jonah is a survivor, each time he needs to committee himself, afraid to hurt not only himself, he comes back to life, sure he is more shattered than ever but he is working on his illness.  And hoping for a better life.

I think what I loved more were the characters, they were real and flawed just like us. And this is something I really need in books like Strong Medicine, true and painfully beautiful stories. Yes it scared me and brought tears to my eyes more than one, following Jonah in his psychic breaks wasn’t easy, seeing through his eyes what he was seeing. But I have to say everything, every single detail, was IMO well delivered, I enjoyed a lot.

This book is not for everyone, if you like sweet and romantic stories, it is really none of that. It’s  almost unbearable in some parts but the changes in Cameron and Jonah’s lives were emotional and believable. I feel to recommend Strong Medicine to everyone but please keep in mind my previous words.

I like the cover art by Wilde City Press, the style and colors are different from the usual covers and so it’s a winner to me.

Sales Links:  Wilde City Press | ARe | Amazon

BOOK DETAILS

Kindle Edition, 289 pages

Published May 18th 2016 by Wilde City Press (first published May 11th 2016)

ASIN B01FEH1GL0

Edition Language English

A Barb, A Zany Old Lady Review: Left of Center by Zathyn Priest

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Left of CentreBrandon Faulkner has a thing for Goth guys and hangs out in the Goth chat room hooking up with strangers. He hasn’t met any of them yet, but since he can’t decide between the three that he considers the hottest or most intriguing, he decides to play all three as if they were the only man in his life. Making plans to meet with all three over the course of a weekend leads to a few shocking discoveries when his “dates” turn the tables and he’s the one sent off-balance.

Pre-meeting them, Brandon finds the most interesting, and stunning, of the three to be Enigma. And in person he turns out to be a youthful, but domineering, guy with purple bangs and a bizarre set of behaviors. When Brandon finds himself in hot pursuit, despite Enigma’s obvious dislike of him, he can’t believe that this time he’s the one who can’t seem to walk away.

I liked this story and discovered that it had much more depth of characterization than is usually found in something this short. Brandon appears to be no more than a shallow, self-involved slut of a man who can’t even count how many men he’s been with, but with Lewis’s help, he taps into self-discovery and is horrified at what he learns. Lewis, aka Enigma, turns out to be a very complex character with secrets of his own, and he manages to flip Brandon’s world upside down.

I liked the storyline and the author’s ability to create these very three-dimensional characters. And I especially enjoyed watching the way Lewis got Brandon to face some surprising self-truths.

Cover Art by the author’s company, Scarlet Tie Designs, features a black-and-white floor resembling a game board with one man sitting on a stool slightly to the left and another balancing on a plank to the right in the background. The cover cleverly represents both MCs: one who seeks to be the center of attention and the other who is slightly off-balance.

Sales Links:  Torquere Press |

Book Details:

ebook, 1st Edition, 47 pages
Published January 2010 by Torquere Press
Original TitleLeft of Center
ISBN139781603709132
Edition LanguageEnglish

A Lila Audiobook Review: Love Hypothetically by Anne Tenino ~ Narrated by Nick J. Russo

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

 

LoveHypothetically_AudiobookPaul’s been called many things—graduate student, humanities tutor, jock-hater, even broke—but “forgiving” isn’t one of them. When the new women’s softball coach at Calapooya College specifically requests Paul to tutor his athletes, Paul’s forced to put aside his strict “no athletes” policy for the sake of his paycheck.

Enter Trevor Gardiner, former Major League Baseball player and Paul’s high school boyfriend. Yeah, that one—the guy who sacrificed Paul for the safety of his closet and his future career. But Trevor’s come out and retired from baseball, and now he’s looking for forgiveness and a second chance.

There’s no earthly reason Paul should give him one, but he keeps letting the man state his case. And touch him. And take him sailing. The waters are far from smooth, though, and Paul says awful things to Trevor he isn’t sure he means. Now Paul has to decide: apologize and forgive Trevor for everything, or chalk it up as revenge and move on.

Love, Hypothetically is a sweet second chance novella. I read Frat Boy and Toppy about four years ago, but it was easy to remember Paul and his larger than life attitude. As a series, the two stories have a great sense of place and age group. The author did an excellent job bringing the previous characters into this installment.

I’m not a fan of YA or NA, but this book was a good example of the genre done right. The characters acted their age; first as high school students, and then, as young adults. Their story is believable and doesn’t go over the top to get the characters separated or back together. The chain of events that brought them back into each other’s life seems possible.

Both main characters have very defined personalities that stayed true through the story and varied depending on their interaction with other characters. I wanted them to get another chance to happiness from the very beginning, and the pacing of their reconciliation worked for the short format.

Perhaps I wanted a little more, but that happens with every novella. I wished we got more time for Trevor to beg for forgiveness and to see how their future turns out. But since this is only book #2 in the series, I guess we will have a chance to learn a little bit more about them in the next installments.

The hypothetical conversation Paul has is perfect for the story. I can see anyone having that type of exchange with a friend. It was well-written and quirky enough to keep the reader entertain. Plus, his friend attitude added to the color of the story. We get to see how much Trevor means to Paul and how he used this hypothetical situation to open up and think about a solution to his troubles.

Overall, a story that has found a way to stay relevant several years after publication. The plot is universal, and the ‘love conquers all’ theme closes the deal. A sweet summer read.

Nick J. Russo is one of my favorite MM narrators. His voice went accordingly with the characters ages and the rest of the characters’ voices were well-represented. It was easy to be into the story the further it got. The difference between the main characters worked nicely.

L.C. Chase did an excellent job creating a cover that felt young as the characters were when their love story started. At the same time, it includes one of their dates during their rediscovery.

Sales Links: Riptide | Amazon | Audible

Audiobook Details:

Narrator: Nick J. Russo
Length: 3 hours and 2 minutes

Published:  June 13, 2016 (Audio Edition) by Riptide Publishing
ASIN:  B01GW5WW3E
Edition Language: English

Series:  Theta Alpha Gamma
Book #1: Frat Boy and Toppy
Book #2: Love, Hypothetically