An Ali Audiobook Review: Murmuration by T.J. Klune and Kirt Graves (Narrator)

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Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
murmuration-audioIn the small mountain town of Amorea, it’s stretching toward autumn of 1954. The memories of a world at war are fading in the face of a prosperous future. Doors are left unlocked at night, and neighbors are always there to give each other a helping hand.

The people here know certain things as fact:

Amorea is the best little town there is.

The only good Commie is a dead Commie.

The Women’s Club of Amorea runs the town with an immaculately gloved fist.

And bookstore owner Mike Frazier loves that boy down at the diner, Sean Mellgard. Why they haven’t gotten their acts together is anybody’s guess. It may be the world’s longest courtship, but no one can deny the way they look at each other.

Slow and steady wins the race, or so they say.
Something’s happening in Amorea. And Mike will do whatever he can to keep the man he loves


But something’s wrong with Mike. He hears voices in his house late at night. There are shadows crawling along the walls, and great clouds of birds overhead that only he can see.
So this book is a trip. It’s impossible to discuss the plot without spoilers so I’m going to skip that. I will say that this book had me hooked from the beginning. At first I wasn’t sure what was going on. Then part way in I thought I had figured it out. I was wrong. Then I had a new theory and I was part way right. And then…….gah. (I could do this all day.) 

Here’s what you need to know. The writing was fantastic. It is some of TJ’s best work imo. I literally couldn’t put this down because I was dying to know what was going on. There are plot points that I really disliked. Plot points I’m not comfortable with. And yet……..I was captivated by this story.

There is a really unique romance. It’s so different than anything I’ve ever read before. It’s this sweet, pure, 1950’s courting type romance and I never would have thought that was my thing but apparently it is. (I still need my smut and won’t be running off to find these kind of romances in general but it really worked with the plot).

The end keeps you guessing. I mean right up to the very end. The very last paragraph or two. I was holding my breathe and while I knew I was intrigued I under estimated how emotionally invested I was because all of a sudden I had tears in my eyes. 

I did most of this on audio and the narrator, Kirt Graves, was excellent. One of the best I’ve listened to. I got about half way through on audio and then switched to reading because I was so impatient to find out what was going to happen. I then switched back to audio for the last few chapters. If you like audios I recommend doing this story that way. It was top notch and really added to the overall storytelling. 
Cover by Reese Dante: I love the cover.  I had seen the guy on the cover on some other books so I didn’t think much about it going into this story.  After reading it though, I have to say the cover is perfect for the story.  
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Audiobook Details:
Audible Audio
Published January 16th 2017 by Dreamspinner Press LLC (first published October 28th 2016)
Edition LanguageEnglish

A Caryn Review: Unspoken by R.A. Padmos

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Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

unspoken-2I wanted to like this book so much.  Historical (yes!), set in the Netherlands (yes, yes!) during the  years prior to and during the second World War.  I expected a romance that would develop during a time of danger, sacrifice, and privation.  And I got – well, I’m not quite sure.

Stefan was a married man with 3 children, a caring wife, and a tremendous sense of pride responsibility for them.  In the interwar period in Europe, even in countries that had not been allies of Germany during WWI, there was too much unemployment, too much poverty, and too much hopelessness.  Stefan was a hard worker, and humiliated to find himself on the dole most of the time, punctuated by brief stints of working.  In his daily walk about the city to find work, he ran into Adri, an out of work painter, who was also in line to receive benefits.  Stefan had never been attracted to men in his life, but something about Adri just struck him, and the passion between the two of them was more than he’d ever had with his wife.

Adri always knew he was a homosexual, and had discovered those subtle ways to find other like minded men.  And though homosexual activity was not illegal – as it was in most of the rest of the world – it was still frowned upon and something to be kept hidden.  (The author was insistent upon repeating, frequently, that as long as the men involved were both over the age of 21 that sex between two men was legal.  Although Stefan and Adri did get arrested once, I wan’t quite clear on why that happened, but maybe public indecency?)  Adri was also drawn to Stefan from the beginning.  The men became friends first, then lovers, and eventually Adri was even adopted by Stefan’s family as a sort of honorary uncle.

The majority of the book takes place before the war starts, and was primarily an ongoing monologue in Stefan’s mind of what it meant that he and Adri were lovers.  He insisted to himself and Adri pretty much right up until the end of the book that he was not really a homosexual, and that effeminate men were worthy of ridicule and abuse.  He kept trying to walk away from Adri – resulting in his wife getting pregnant with a fourth child – but always ended up coming back to him.  He felt responsible to provide for his family, so he would not abandon them, even when he eventually realized that he loved Adri more than he loved his wife.  When the Germans occupied the country, he was even more sure that he needed to stay with them and provide food, shelter, and safety, but he still carried on with his affair with Adri.

I was never really sure where this book was going, whether it reached any particular goal, or even how to classify it.  It’s not a romance, not a memoir, certainly not an adventure.  To be honest, the closest I can come is saying that it was Brokeback Mountain set in prewar Holland – but I never connected to these characters.  To be honest, Stefan just irritated me – I wanted him to either accept that he was going to carry on an affair, or break up with his lover, or his wife (to be fair, I felt the same way about Ennis in Brokeback Mountain).  His ongoing denial of who and what he was just didn’t touch me at all.  In the end, it was just a long, meandering book with what seemed like endless angst without resolution from Stefan, that ended abruptly and unsatisfyingly.

I do not know this author, but I guess from the writing that English is not her first language.  I would believe that she was Dutch, or at least from some part of Europe, as she had excellent grasp of the culture and the history of life in occupied Europe, as well as the hidden culture of gay men of the period.

Cover art by Posh Gosh is absolutely beautiful, and the park bench is an important symbol in the book and really the perfect image to use.

Sales Links

Pride Publishing

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Book Details:

ebook, Revamp Edition
Published March 29th 2016 by Pride Publishing (first published May 1st 2012)
ISBN139781786513946
Edition LanguageEnglish

An Alisa Release Day Review: Rushing Love (States of Love) by Meg Bawden

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Rating:  4 stars out of 5

 

rushing-love-by-meg-bawdenAfter a devastating breakup with the man he thought he’d spend his life with, Flynn Webb takes a vacation to a South Dakota dude ranch. It’s something completely different from anything he’s done before, and it helps that it’s as far away from his ex as possible. Trapped in his own depressive thoughts, Flynn is surprised to meet Grayson Harland. Not only is Grayson a sexy cowboy—one fifteen years younger—but he’s the most charming man Flynn has ever met.

 

Flynn doesn’t have much experience with being seduced, and he has even less with guys like Grayson taking an interest in him—and Grayson is definitely interested. What begins as a fling while visiting iconic South Dakota sights soon develops the potential for much more. But Flynn is afraid that falling in love again so soon—and with a man so much younger—will lead only to another catastrophic heartbreak. Luckily for them both, Grayson isn’t giving up without a fight.

 

This was such a sweet story.  Flynn’s life is thrown completely off balance by his breakup with his partner of nineteen years.  Despite his age he is completely innocent to relationships and dating having been with he same person since high school, but Grayson is determined to show him that despite their age difference they are meant to be together.

 

Flynn decides to take this vacation to get away from his troubles for awhile, when Grayson starts to pursue him he knows he needs to stand his ground and stay away from the younger man.  I loved seeing Flynn’s defenses soften as Grayson helps to take care of him after he is injured.  Even though they have an age difference their personalities fit together perfectly.

 

Cover art by Brooke Albrecht is nice and gives a good view of the setting for the story.

 

Sales Links: Dreamspinner Press | Amazon | B&N

 

Book Details:

ebook, 93 pages

Published: February 22, 2017 by Dreamspinner Press

ISBN-13: 9781635333169

Edition Language: English

Series: A States of Love Story

A Jeri Release Day Review: Off Stage (Off Stage #1-2) by Jaime Samms

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Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5

off-stage-sets-one-two-by-jaime-sammsI’m sorry, but this was a giant jumbled mess. These books were previously released separately, but now are together as an “anthology”. I don’t think they were re-edited. If they were, they need to be re-edited again. And then again.

Damian is the lead singer of “Firefly”, a grunge band that was a runner up on a tv reality show. Because that wasn’t their big break, they are still trying to make it big. But then a big time country music agent discovers them and takes them on. But the band is imploding.

Damian and Lenny are best friends- lead singer and guitarist in the band. But they have a volatile and at time violent relationship. Apparently they are both subs and need guidance. Lenny takes a leave of absence from the band because his new Dom, Vance, basically told him to. Damian stays with the band, but lives with their agent as  his sub. Even though this agent has not only never had a sub, but has never been a dom before.

There is WAY too much going on in this book(s). So many complicated relationships to follow that none of them really get the time and attention that they deserve. They needed to go deeper into WHY things are going on. Damian does drugs, then he doesn’t. Heroin in fact. Pretty sure that isn’t something you can just start and stop on a whim. Lenny had an abusive boyfriend, but is totally abusive to his best friend Damian- who just takes it.

The rest of the band apparently doesn’t see what is right under their noses. They are ready to throw Damian out of the band. Then they want to throw Lenny out. Two other band mates hook up- one may or may not be trans as it got a two sentence mention.

The book is filled with inconsistencies, way more information that is needed, long run on sentences and giant time jumps. Besides the fact that the BDSM element is so bad, any real dom or sub would cringe and run to read that “other” famous BDSM series for some normalcy.

This could be a good book(s). It needs a good beta reader or two and a series edit.

Cover art by Paul Richmond is a combination of the two covers.

Sales Links

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Book Details:

ebook, 614 pages
Expected publication: February 22nd 2017 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1635332990 (ISBN13: 9781635332995)
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesOff Stage #1-2

Tour and Giveaway: TWO NATURES by Jendi Reiter (exclusive excerpt)

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Title: Two Natures
Author: Jendi Reiter
Release Date: September 15th 2016
Genre: LGBT fiction, MM Romance

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Two Natures is the coming-of-age story of Julian Selkirk, a fashion photographer in New York City in the early 1990s. His faith in Jesus helped him survive his childhood in the Atlanta suburbs with an abusive alcoholic father, but the church’s condemnation of his sexual orientation has left him alienated and ashamed.

Yearning for new ideals to anchor him after his loss of faith, Julian seeks his identity through love affairs with three very different men: tough but childish Phil Shanahan, a personal trainer who takes a dangerous shortcut to success; enigmatic, cosmopolitan Richard Molineux, the fashion magazine editor who gives him his first big break; and Peter Edelman, an earnest left-wing activist with a secret life.

Amid the devastation of the AIDS epidemic and the racial tensions of New York politics, Julian learns to see beyond surface attractions and short-term desires, and to use his art to serve his community.

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Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK | B&N | Saddle Road Press

**Kindle Price $0.99 from February 20th – March 17th ** (normally $9.99)

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Honors:
2016 Rainbow Awards: First Prize, Best Gay Contemporary General Fiction; First Runner-Up, Debut Gay Book
Named one of QSPirit’s Top LGBTQ Christian Books of 2016

TN Ch 8  Exclusive Excerpt for Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

“No repeats,” I told Phil. Again.

“What if there’s no one new around?”

Phil’s sulky tone, and the tickling of his fingers up my bare leg, distracted me in opposite ways from fixing us the sole breakfast dish in my repertoire, green tea and cheese grits, with a little something extra to chase away his hangover. “Try a different club. This is NewYork. They have more than one.”

“I don’t tell you what to do at your fancy-ass parties.”

“There are no parties. The only time I get down on my knees is to fix the wind machine.” Fourteen-hour days in the studio didn’t leave me much time to enjoy the no-strings-attached side of our relationship. Sure, I’d squeezed in a few gropes and groans in the back room of New Eden, jolts of furtive pleasure that left me dizzy with the momentary assurance that catching a boy like Phil hadn’t been just a fluke. Until I remembered that he could have the same adventures, and more, all day at the Ironman, training athletes who bench-pressed more than I weighed, while I was hauling tripods on the subway.

“So…no repeats, right?” I breathed out in a rush, before his hand between my legs could sidetrack the conversation. My arm jostled the pot on the stove, spattering the dingy wall.

“Okay, okay,” he murmured into my neck. His breath was hot, like cigarette embers. Phil was like that, rough words at cross-purposes with his body language. I was happier when I only believed half of it.

“And no bringing them back here.” I pressed my advantage, and my hip into his groin.

“You paying rent?”

“I will be, next month, I promise. But that’s not the point. I thought maybe, out of the goodness of your heart, you would spare me the sight of somebody else’s pubes on my soap when I shower in the morning.”

“Come on, maybe you’d like one of them. Probably take him away from me ’cause you’re so gorgeous.”

You’re all I want, I nearly said, but smiled and settled for the compliment, rather than admit something I wasn’t sure was true. Two months into living with Phil, and more than a year since our first hookup, I was working up the nerve to clarify our open relationship, and gaining a begrudging appreciation for its opposite. Marriage has the advantage of simplicity, like government forfeiture of your assets. Over here: you get the last name, the bankbook, the steering wheel, the 60-hour workweek, and the drunken tumble with your wife’s best friend. And you: here’s the kids, the white dress, the dinner table, the paid-up mortgage, and the moral high ground. As for me, right now the good life looked like a mattress in the basement with only two pairs of sneakers by the door, but this was proving more complicated than ordering a McDonald’s Happy Meal without the fries.

I was in my final semester at the Fashion Institute of Technology, and interning as an unpaid assistant to the photographer Dane Langley. More like assistant to the assistants; while Pierre accompanied Dane to Paris and Vince lunched with ad agency reps, I fixed lighting equipment and shopped for organic baby food. Everyone at school said I was lucky to have landed a spot with Langley, who had done album covers for Paula Abdul and Gloria Estefan, and had an ad contract with Revlon. Last week his girlfriend had dropped by with their new baby, which they left with me, sans backup diaper, while they went to lunch at Lutèce. The baby’s name was Taylor, which didn’t give me a clue to its gender. I figured, since the girlfriend was Swedish, it might respond to Abba, and indeed, it fell asleep for a full twenty-five minutes after I sang “Dancing Queen” four-and-a-half times.

Between these glamorous assignments and my job pouring three-dollar coffees at The Big Cup, I was barely at school anymore except to pick up my mail. Phil had resisted my switching my address to his apartment, claiming that his sublet wasn’t, technically speaking, totally legal. On the bright side, this spared me from telling my parents that I was living with him.

Having a male roommate wasn’t suspicious in itself, but combined with a career in fashion, and the fact that Phil and I could quote long stretches of dialogue from “The Prince of Tides,” my mother might be forced to recognize that her sensitive boy was experimenting with the homosexual lifestyle. Then would come the weekly letters, suddenly seeded with references to girls I hadn’t thought about since junior high, who had all grown up to be God-fearing, bosomy

A-students and were miraculously still single. Last week in Dane’s studio I had seen Allure cover model Cheryl Kingston’s rose-tipped breasts, pale and translucent as porcelain teacups. I was replacing the roll of seamless paper for the backdrop, and she ignored me, as was her right. Dane was all honey to her, a come-to-Papa smile on his swarthy bearded face. She didn’t have to worry about being touched, not like your average Tatiana or Mary Lou, as Dane guided them into

poses for some designer’s spring catalog, his hand steering this one’s waist, unbuttoning that one’s sweater. The Swedish girlfriend was half his age. They seemed very happy, but that was probably because her mother knew where to send her mail.

I was sorting through the latest stack of bills and credit card offers on our bed one morning while Phil fed me strawberries. He could be very sweet. Just when I’d gotten used to his blue-collar tough-guy routine, he’d surprise me with little things like washing my back in the shower, or reading to me from one of the books he read to make up for not going to college. As pillow talk, I ranked the I Ching above Atlas Shrugged but below Arnold: The Education of a Bodybuilder. But it’s the thought that counts. Without Phil, I might have forgotten that there were publications without pictures in them.

Leaning back against Phil’s warm bare stomach, I tossed my junk mail on the floor without looking through it. He ran juice-stained fingers through my hair. Sometimes I was so happy that a place like this existed, where I could be with a guy, naked and alone. He understood what it meant, too, a privilege that was all ours, no matter how many hours we spent running other people’s errands.

“Wait, that looks like a real letter,” he said, picking an envelope out of the discard pile.

I recognized my mother’s square ivory-tinted stationery. “See, I told you I’d be able to pay the rent.”

After depositing two fifties in the coffee tin on the windowsill (I never worried about our communal accounting; Phil had too much pride to be a sponger), I skimmed the closely written pages. “Huh, my sister’s looking at colleges in — whoa!” I caught my breath and my vision blurred for a moment. My jerky hands hunted around for the envelope. “What’s the postmark on this letter?”

Phil found the cast-off envelope under our rumpled blanket. “Last Monday. Why?”

“You see, this is what happens because I don’t get my mail here,” I snapped at him.

“Man, we’ve been through this. What is your problem?”

I reread the paragraph that had raised my heart rate faster than a triple espresso. “They’re coming.”

“Who? Where? Careful, your elbow’s in the bowl.” Phil rescued the strawberries in time to spare me from washing the sheets twice this month.

“My family. Here. Next week.”

###

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About the Author

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Jendi Reiter’s books are guided by her belief that people take precedence over ideologies. In exploring themes of queer family life, spiritual integration, and healing from adverse childhood experiences, her goal is to create understanding that leads to social change. Two Natures is her first novel; a sequel is in the works. Her four published poetry books include Bullies in Love (Little Red Tree, 2015) and the award-winning chapbook Barbie at 50 (Cervena Barva Press, 2010). She is the co-founder and editor of WinningWriters.com, an online resource site for creative writers.

Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter

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