A Stella Release Day Review: Gone by the Board by August Li

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RATING 5 out of 5 stars

The sea is full of jealously guarded secrets, but everything washes up eventually….

Betrayed by a trusted partner, Nathan figures he might as well be lost and heartbroken in the sunshine, and he heads to the coast of South Carolina, to stay with a friend and find a new direction for his life. But despite his efforts, he is lost in the fog, unable to find a guiding light and sometimes unable to find a reason to go on. His only respite from depression and anxiety is the soothing rhythm of the tides and the comfort he draws from proximity to the water.

When the sea sends a lifeline in the form of a strange and beautiful man, it’s easy for Nathan to ignore all the things that don’t add up about his new friend. But the tides can turn without notice, and it’s those mystical traits that will either finally lead Nathan safely to shore or drown him in confusion and despair.

I probably have a weakness for this author, some of his stories, like The Kitchen Boy or The Union of Sun and Moon, were a huge success to me but Gone By the Board is exactly what I like to read, exactly what I want from books like this. Maybe it’s just cause August Li has a way with words that are able to bring me in the characters’ world and let me live and breath their lives with them. This is a specific quality of the author writing, the reason why I come back to his books (new and old ones) quite often. His works are always so evocative and well done I can’t have enough of them.

Gone by the Board is a moving story, it’s about Nathan and his deep struggle with a dark depression, very hard to live with. Add to it a breakup with a husband who deserves really nothing from life, least at all a man like Nathan. So Nathan decides to move to South Carolina where his best friend Rachel lives in a peaceful place along the beach. Just what Nathan needs. Some quiet to put his life back on track. And then Brume happens.

Since I received this story I already read it twice and I surely will reread it sooner. Something caught my heart. Don’t let the blurb scares you, this is not a dark story, although it deals with important themes like depression and anxiety (SPOILER ), they aren’t there to turn the story into a dark one, like often books that deal with those themes do, they put me down and give a sense of resignation, the bad kind of it. Although these themes, Gone By the Board is sweet, light, heartwarming and so full of feelings. And with an unexpected HEA. I was waiting for the author to develop the plot into the obvious (to me) kind of ending, instead he went to the opposite and it was more perfect. I still smile rethinking of it.

I didn’t reveal a lot of important details in this review, because I don’t want to spoil anything at all. I think the right way to approach this reading is knowing just what the blurb tells you and no more. That way, this new release will conquer you, surprise you and leave you with fluffiness in your tummy. I feel to recommend Gone by the Board if you are looking for something different and real even if real it can’t be.

The cover art by Anne Cain is just perfect, so well done and fitting. I can see Brume and it’s just how I imagined him in my mind.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

BOOK DETAILS

ebook, 98 pages

Publication Date: May 24th 2017 by Dreamspinner Press

ISBN 1635334977 (ISBN13: 9781635334975)

Edition Language English

A MelanieM Review: Hawaiian Orchid (The Hawaiians 2) by Meg Amor

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

 

Kulani is “The Orchid,” a young, insecure, pro-surfer who comes from a rough background on the Big Island of Hawai’i. He’s Beau Toyama’s cousin from Hawaiian Lei. But he’s also a healer and has a heart as deep as the ocean he’s part of. Like the great Hawaiians, who have gone before him, warrior Kulani Mahikoa epitomizes the spirit of aloha and love. Kulani’s not only healing his own wounds, but “The Lost Boys”—young, homeless, abandoned and abused gay boys he’s taken under his wing.

Rob Masterson is a wounded psychologist who’s trying to come to terms with his husband Tony’s death. When he died, they were separated but still living together. Can the lone and lonely New Zealand widower reconcile all the pieces of guilt and love, to heal and fall in love again? When he drops anchor in Kona Harbor and meets the exotic islander—young, bolshie Kulani—explosive heat makes sparks fly between them.

Is the age difference between them a barrier or something they’ll get past? Kulani has more layers than Rob ever bargained for. And Rob’s tangled knot of responsibility, grief and guilt with his New Zealand heritage and past life is something he needs to untangle.

Two wounded men have to learn to trust and love one another. Traveling between the South Sea Islands of beautiful New Zealand and the exotic Hawaiian Islands—they forge a sea change, finding a home for their shrapnel laced souls.

I discovered Meg Amor through the first terrific book in this series, Hawaiian Lei. Hawaiian Orchid (The Hawaiians 2) by Meg Amor cemented the fact that I’ve found something incredibly special, in this series and in this amazing author. From that forward where I learned the author had suffered two losses central to her heart, she brought that pain and loss to this story, making it ours through the character of Rob.  All the way, from the first sentence through to the dictionary at the end, Meg Amor held me captive by a tale layered in the need and search for love in all its aspects, from romantic to familial.  It does so within a deep and encompassing framework of various Pacific Island cultures and religions, the spirituality flowing through the storylines like a healer’s chant.  It takes place not only on the Big Island (BI) of Hawaii but also in New Zealand as Rob searches for closure for himself and a start anew finally with Kulani. For Kulani, he’s looking for acceptance, healing, and love too.  It’s his journey as well. This is a big story, big in heart, big in scale and the author makes this vast narrative intimate in emotion and connectivity for the reader.

Rob Masterson is a complex character. He’s older than Kulani, wounded by the loss of his husband, torn and beaten in ways by the way in which his marriage was ending and the way his husband died. Rob hasn’t healed when he meets Kulani, a gorgeous younger man.  Rob immediately recognizes in Kulani someone with wounds as deep or deeper than his but there’s an attraction between them than neither can resist.  Kulani is a character full of surprises for us and Rob.  That initial meeting of a sullen, young man lays the right superficial impression for the author to blow us away with the depths of pain and beauty awaiting below the surface.  She peels away the first layer slowly for Rob and us as Kulani slowly begins to open up and show his true self, only for Rob to realize how much he’s been holding back himself. Amor makes us believe in each man.  Their pain, sometimes awkwardness (Kulani’s), abruptness (Rob’s), and tenderness to and for each other is vivid, authentic and real.  So is the steps they take, forward and back,  towards a relationship.  It includes help and support from a number of other characters, including Beau and Matt from Hawaiian Lei and even their respective parents.  Again, the relationship dynamics here are complex and real.  And they make the story.

Now this story also contains a third element I won’t go into here.  It sets the stage for the third book in this series, Hawaiian Fragrance (The Hawaiians #3) which I’m going to read and review next.  Going into it here would I believe spoil something wonderful so I’m leaving it out.  But again, this aspect of the story, again just elevates Hawaiian Orchid and this series into another realm for me, that of the comfort read and the story I’ll read again and again.

The mysticism and spiritualism present in the first story is still here, toned down somewhat but it flows through as naturally as breathing air.  So beautifully done you might not even notice how deeply ingrained it is for these men and families.  But it’s there, especially in the reading Rob has done for him, one more important necessary step in the healing process for him.  Plus there are other elements that appear in the story as well, folded in so easily that I believed in them as much as Rob and Kulani.

This is an incredible story.  I highly recommend it as I do the one that starts the series. Hawaiian Orchid (The Hawaiians 2) by Meg Amor will be on my Best of List this year and it’s highly likely the series will as well.  Hawaiian Fragrance is next.  There’s something else you might want to look at! There’s a link here to the Hawaiian Orchid page on Meg Amor’s website. It contains more information on the meaning of the different orchids, the characters, the big island of Hawaii and much more.  Check it out!

Cover artist:  Syneca Featherstone. I just love these covers.  Beautiful and as lush as the islands themselves, the men are perfect!

 

Sales Links:  Amazon |    Loose Id LLC

 

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 302 pages
Published September 15th 2015 by Loose Id LLC
ASINB015G3F1N6
Edition LanguageEnglish
Series The Hawaiians :

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Audiobook Review:Summer Lessons (Winter Ball #2) by Amy Lane and Nick J. Russo (Narrator

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Rating 5 stars out of 5

I finished this several days ago, and I still remember every moment of the story. I loved the story itself, especially the author’s description of this young boy growing up in a loving, supportive family, where Mom has to lace the Kool-Aid to survive Mason’s fascination with his penis once he discovers all the wonderful things it can do. Honestly, only a mother with a rich sense of humor—and perhaps maybe a similar life experience—can so humorously describe that life with a young boy. Kudos, Ms. Lane! And to make this story even better—a feat that hardly seemed possible since it was already so great—add in the narration by Nick J. Russo and Mason’s story comes to life with fantastic vocalizations.

Sadly, as Mason grows older, he fails to lose his awkward tendency to shoot from the mouth before his brain engages. That’s cost him many potential boyfriends and now in his thirties, he’s far from finding a life partner. All he wants is kindness and love and someone who enjoys sex as much as he does. After all—penis! What’s not to like? He’s an exec now at the firm where Skip, the MC from Winter Ball, is working. To get him out of his shell and out to the playing field where he might meet a nice guy, Skip and Mason’s brother Dane drag him out to learn how to play soccer with their team.

There he meets a cute guy named Terry. Terry is much younger and still lives with his mother—a woman who gives nasty mothers a run for the money as top contender. She’s thrown all her responsibilities his way all his life. After all, she’s on welfare due to being burdened with a baby when she was just a kid. How could she get out of that slump? She’s put the burden of the household on his shoulders all his life so he finds it pretty hard to get out. But aside from that and the guilt he carries about carving out time to have his own time for fun, he manages to play on this soccer team and he finds Mason pretty hot. Awkward and clumsy, but hot, and though Terry doesn’t like to admit he’s gay, he is, and Mason realizes he may have found the man of his heart. Now, if only he can find the patience to let Terry come to that same conclusion and to let Terry make the moves he needs to get away from his mother.

In the meantime, Mason is dealing with Dane’s lifelong battle with manic depression—the reason Mason chose to live with Dane while Dane finishes college in a town far from their family. Mason assures that Dane stays on track with his meds, but when he goes off and his behaviors change, it comes at the worst time as Terry is finally making a move away from his mother but not cementing his relationship with Mason. The man finds the patience of a saint to continue to work with his brother and to allow Terry to spread his wings and fly. He can only hope and pray that he’ll find his way back to Mason.

Mason is one of my favorite characters, ever. I love the voice given to him by the narrator and the emotions imparted by the author. If anyone ever deserved love, it’s this smart, humble man with a sense of humor, a tendency to awkward conversations, and a heart as big as the great outdoors. Terry is the perfect companion to him and I love the way he developed as a character throughout the story. The deep voice given by Nick Russo was so individual and so right for the character as well. I’m very impressed with this audiobook version and I would highly recommend it. Though it’s book two, and the characters from book one play a minor role in this, it can definitely be read as a standalone.

The cover by Anne Cain is a simple design, yet manages to capture the three activities that dominate the outdoor summer fun experienced in the book: soccer, golf, and swimming. Simple, colorful and appropriate.

4.5 stars for the story plus an extra boost due to the outstanding narration = 5 stars for this one!

Sales Links

Dreamspinner Press |

Audiobook Details:

8 hrs 25 mins

Audible Audio

Published March 31st 2017 by Dreamspinner Press (first published November 25th 2016)
Original TitleSummer Lessons
ASINB06XXMQ6N7
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesWinter Ball #2

May Flowers and This Week at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

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May Flowers

After my blog last week, May flowers are taking up all my time this Sunday.  Yesterday was garden time prep and today is planting.  So its short and sweet today.  Thanks to all the comments, its been certainly dreary enough for lots of reading, crocheting and other indoor pastimes!  Hopefully now I can catchup outdoors too!

Melanie’s Soppy Garden Contest

The winner of my giveaway is Ami!  Congratulations, Ami, Stella will be in touch about your gift card!

Now onto this week’s schedule!  More next week I promise!  Is that June I see peering around the corner?  Oh my!

This Week at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Sunday, May 21:

  • This Week at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words
  • Release Blitz Lace by KC Wells

Monday, May 22:

  • Blog Tour The Lure of Port Stephen by Sydney Blackburn
  • DSP GUEST POST Sean Michael on Golden
  • Release Day Blitz Drama Queens and Adult Themes by Kevin Klehr
  • Surrender the Dark Blog Tour (M/M Contemporary Romance)
  • A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review:Surrender the Dark  (M/M Contemporary Romance)
  • An Alisa Audiobook Review: In Your Eyes​ by Cardeno C and Charlie David (Narrator)
  • A MelanieM Release Day Review:  Farlough by Xavier Mayne
  • A MelanieM Review: How We Operate By A.R. Moler
  • An Ali Release Day Review: Lochlann by Andrea Speed

Tuesday, May 23:

  • Blog Tour Frozen Heart by Heidi Cullinan
  • DSP GUEST POST Laura Bailo on The Sun Still Rises
  • INTERLUDE PRESS TOUR And It Came to Pass by Laura Stone
  • Release Blitz for Isobel Starling ‘s As You Wish
  • A MelanieM  Review: Frozen Heart (Love Lessons #1.5) by Heidi Cullinan
  • A VVivacious Review: Reckless Seduction & Reckless Behavior by Amanda Young
  • An Alisa Review: Truth or Lie by Lynn Lorenz
  • A Barb the Zany Old Lady Audiobook Review:Summer Lessons (Winter Ball #2) by Amy Lane and Nick J. Russo (Narrator

Wednesday, May 24:

  • Release Blitz Tour Request – RJ Scott – Back Home
  • Release Blitz Equality (Dublin Virtues #2) by Helena Stone
  • Review Tour – Laurent and the Beast – KA Merikan
  • A MelanieM Review: Hawaiian Orchid (The Hawaiians 2) by Meg Amor
  • A Stella Release Day Review: Gone by the Board by August Li
  • An Ali Review: The Well by Marie Sexton
  • An Alisa Review:  Laurent and the Beast by KA Merikan

Thursday, May 25:

  • RIPTIDE TOUR & Giveaway: The Wrong Woman by Cass Lennox
  • Release Blitz Keira Andrews – Road To The Sun
  • DSP GUEST POST Andrea Speed on Lochlann
  • DSP GUEST POST Diana Copland
  • A Caryn Review: A Good Neighbor by Clare London
  • A Free Dreamer Review: Seidman by James Erich
  • A VVivacious Review: Performance Review by Tamryn Eradani
  • An Alisa Review: Cutting Cords by Morticia Knight

Friday, May 26:

  • DSP GUEST POST Mario Kai Lipinski
  • Review Tour – By The Numbers by RJ Scott
  • Review Tour The Devils Pride MC Series by Jessie G
  • A MelanieM Review: By the Numbers by RJ Scott
  • An Alisa Review: The Devils Pride MC series by Jessie G
    (Tricking Chase (The Devils Pride MC #1) Talk Dirty to Me (The Devils Pride MC #2)
    Tys that Bind (The Devils Pride MC #2.5)

Saturday, May 27:

  • Release Blitz Before You Break (Secrets #1)  by KC Wells
  • Release Blitz Josephine Myles – Junk (Bristol Collection #1)
  • A MelanieM Review: Wallaçonia by David Pratt

A MelanieM Pre Release Review: On Point (Out of Uniform #3) by Annabeth Albert

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

 

Never fall for your best friend…

Pushing thirty, with his reenlistment looming, decorated navy sniper Maddox Horvat is taking a long look at what he really wants in life. And what he wants is Ben Tovey. It isn’t smart, falling for his best friend and fellow SEAL, but ten years with Ben has forged a bond so intimate Maddox can’t ignore it. He needs Ben by his side forever—heart and soul.

Ben admits he likes what he’s seen—his friend’s full lower lip and the perfect muscles of his ass have proved distracting more than once. But Ben’s still reeling from a relationship gone to hell, and he’s not about to screw up his friendship with Maddox, too.

Until their next mission throws Ben and Maddox closer together than ever before, with only each other to depend on.

Now, in the lonely, desperate hours awaiting rescue, the real challenge—confronting themselves, their future and their desires—begins. Man to man, friend to friend, lover to lover.

Really, it’s so hard to have favorites among Annabeth Albert’s series. Worse even to try and chose among her myriad of stories within those series.  I love her Out of Uniform series, which gets better with each book. On Point, the third installment, is now my favorite to date.  In On Point Albert takes secondary characters Ben and Maddox, makes them complex individuals with a relationship dynamic fraught with challenges and the potential for pain and growth if only one of them will make a move.

Ben especially has a lot of emotional growing to do and the reader follows him along every painful step in this journey.  Maddox too has some memorable moments here and the two men together, as friends and as potential lovers are narrative magic.  Albert writes real people with problems we can relate to and understand.  It happens here, even if some of the most drama scenes are ones we may never experience.  It’s the emotions that telegraph through the vivid descriptions and dialog that grip you and won’t let you go.

If you love friends to lovers, this is an excellent example of why that trope is so popular.  You understand Ben and Maddox as friends, your heart wants them to be more as much as they want each other. You absolutely believe in their love and that they can have a HEA if only they reach for it and each other.  Powerful stuff but I expect nothing less from this author.

I highly recommend this story and this author.  This series too!

Cover art works for the couple and for branding the series.  I like it.

Sales Links: Carina Press


ebook, 320 pages
Expected publication: June 5th 2017 by Carina Press
Original TitleOn Point
ISBN139781488022630
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesOut of Uniform #3

A VVivacious Review: A New Beginning (Cascade City Pack #1) by Rebecca James

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Rating: 5 Stars out of 5
 
River and his group of werewolves find themselves in Cascade City after wandering about trying to find a new place for themselves. But things are far from pleasant, for one, they have no place to stay and River’s refusal to accept help from humans could very well spell their downfall.
 
Meanwhile Josiah wants to help rogues once again though he is aware that his mate might be less then open to the idea given how the last time they took in rogues, it ended with them being ousted from their own pack.
 
While Jax, David and Brooks are battling all new problems… Brooks is pregnant and no one knows for sure if the baby is David’s or Jax’s but if that didn’t make things complicated enough, David’s wolf is being obsessively protective of Brooks during his pregnancy to the extent that he perceives Jax as a threat. What will these new developments mean for these three, will they manage to make it through together or will the strain of things make something give way?
 
This book just about killed me with the roller-coaster of emotions it had me on. This book is sooooo good. I mean books in this series truly just seem to get better with each new book. Hats off to the author for doing an excellent job.
 
This book is a sequel to the Third Mate which is the third book in the River Wolf Pack series and you can read this book even if you haven’t read Omega Arrival though that is also one awesome book.
 
The moment I finished this book I wished I could read it again for the first time. It was just so good and gave me the worst book hangover in recent times and urgh… just can’t wait for the next one. I read this book in a single sitting and I think what I loved the most about this book was that it was lengthier than its predecessors which meant that I was going to get extra time with all my favourite characters.
 
This book mostly follows David, Jax, Brooks, River, Josiah and Foster and is also told from the perspective of five of these six characters. I truly believe that the multiple POVs really work for this book because people have different priorities. Particularly in this book River is more concerned with getting the pack on track and David is concerned with Brooks’ pregnancy so when the perspective shift it’s just a new way of looking at the problem while simultaneously giving you another POV and storyline. Also the fact that you get to see all the important things happening in your beloved characters’ life is a definite plus point. There are two scenes in this book where the conversation between Jax and David happens off page and that really irked me out because those conversations were just something that I wanted to know so badly but since the book was at that time being told from River’s perspective I was out of luck, but this also drove home the point that had this book been from a single perspective I would have missed out on so much that was happening in other characters’ lives.
 
This book just has an amazing story to tell. The pack is finding it hard to adjust to the city but just when everything seems down in the dumps, River comes through for his pack. River and Josiah’s storyline in this book is focused on restoring the pack to its former glory. Someone makes this observation about River and Josiah in the book that while they might fight they always find a way to make things right. Also I loved how the author approached the problem of River worrying about the fact that his mate had too much of a sway over his decisions, I mean this was the best way to solve the problem by making River see the truth and realizing that in a way it is awesome that there is someone there to help him and find a way through problems even ones where you wonder if he might be one. I loved how Josiah comes through for River in this book, it was amazing. Their relationship was a bit worrying at the starting of the book given the pressure they were both under but by the end I was simply amazed.
 
Foster has a short story line in this book which wraps up very quickly when he finds his true mate. I really don’t know what the author plans to do with Foster’s character in the future but I for one didn’t mind him being gone all that much for one because that meant he was with his true mate, though I loved how the author handled the goodbyes.
 
Now coming to the very best part of this book which is undoubtedly the relationship between David, Jax and Brooks. I love how the author writes these three and their relationship as something effortless. I loved the implication that Brooks was scared of loving Jax because he knew that while David would never leave him Jax could, which made him guard his heart a little around Jax which made me wonder if that is what Jax did with Brooks as well because the whole reason he wanted David to mate was so that David wouldn’t be alone when Jax left but this isn’t something explicitly stated in this book and that is because this book doesn’t offer Jax’s perspective. I really want a book from his perspective; in fact I need it, considering everything that happens in Jax’s life in this book I really wish the next book in this series would feature him in a starring role. For all I care it could be entirely from his perspective. But while Brooks and Jax are guarding their hearts around each other, David and Jax have kind of already committed to misery when they fell in love with each other fully well knowing that it may someday lead to a world of hurt. I simply loved David and Jax and their relationship in this book. There are two scenes that particularly stand out for me and these were two such amazing scenes, that they took my breath away and then that fact that was revealed in the epilogue seems to promising much more, hopefully. I just can’t wait for the next book because I can’t wait to know where David and Jax’s story is going to go from here.
 
Amazing amazing book. If you have been loving this series this book is one to be devoured and for people who haven’t gotten on the bandwagon yet this series is simply amazing.
 
Cover Art by Written Ink Designs. Love the cover.
Sales Links:  JMS Books LLC | Amazon
Book Details:
ebook, 257 pages
Published April 29th 2017 by JMS Books LLC
Original TitleA New Beginning
ISBN139781634863827
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesCascade City Pack #1

A Stella Review: The Seafarer’s Kiss by Julia Ember

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RATING 5 out of 5 stars

Having long-wondered what lives beyond the ice shelf, nineteen-year-old mermaid Ersel learns of the life she wants when she rescues and befriends Ragna, a shield-maiden stranded on the mermen’s glacier. But when Ersel’s childhood friend and suitor catches them together, he gives Ersel a choice: say goodbye to Ragna or face justice at the hands of the glacier’s brutal king.

Determined to forge a different fate, Ersel seeks help from Loki. But such deals are never as one expects, and the outcome sees her exiled from the only home and protection she’s known. To save herself from perishing in the barren, underwater wasteland and be reunited with the human she’s come to love, Ersel must try to outsmart the God of Lies.

I fell in love with this book since the first time I saw its cover, too cute and well done to be ignored by a cover whore like me. Then I read the blurb and guess what? The first cartoon I remember from my childhood, which videotape I still save, is The Little Mermaid, that’s why I was so curious to see how a new to me author would turn this fairytale into a FF retelling.

I have to say I loved The Seafarer’s Kiss a lot. I took my time at reading it and each time I put my eyes on a new chapter, I was surprised and satisfied. First of all the characters were awesome, each of them, they were beautifully delined and the growth they went throught was clear and always positive. Ersel in particular was beautifully done, she was fierce and brave, as Ragna was too. And that was the reason why they were a match made in heaven.

Nothing in the plot has been left to the chance, how and why our MCs met, why they needed to be parted, how they were together again, and the lovely happy ending. Mixed with these, a lot of things happened, event after event that took me engaged till the end. I got to know some great characters, like Ersel’s mum, who broke my heart with her huge love for the daughter she is ready to let go, and then Havamal, the ex-bestfriend who betrayed Ersel, and the dreams they made together, to join the guards of the evil king.

The story took place in a well craft world and it surprised me, I wasn’t waiting for so many details, I was able to understand and emphatize with not just Ersel but with Vigdis too, the popular girl. I felt the despair they had in their souls, how both of them, differently, were ready to do everything it was possible to fullfill their dreams. The writing was perfect for a book like this, where I so wanted to be able to see in my mind this magic world and its ihnabitants. It’s an evocative writing, I could picture every word I read, every new character I met. And I fell for all of them.

I don’t want to say more about the plot because I don’t want to spoil your reading, but I was deeply conquered, all the little twists the author gave to me, were little steps to the success The Seafarer’s Kiss was to me. In this book you can find a contemporary story, with some young adult elements and a fairytale with some mythology added. All blended together.

I have to say, I would so love to read the same story told by Ragna, it would be a copletely different story. I think following her in her travellings and mis/adventures would be incredible and truly exciting. I have just to try and convince the author.

The cover art by CB Messer is so fitting, the same scene can be easily find in the story, exactly like this. And it’s cute, and the style and the colors just perfect.

Sales Links:  Interlude Press | Amazon

BOOK DETAILS

Kindle Edition, 224 pages

Published May 4th 2017 by Duet, an imprint of Interlude Press

ASIN B01MUJHWTO

Edition Language English

A Julia Review: The Rest is Illusion by Eric Arvin

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Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Magical realism meets coming of age as four Verona College students are thrown together by choice as well as circumstance. When their lives and loves are threatened by blackmail and violence, they respond by using all the means at their disposal—including some they aren’t even aware they possess. But will that be enough to prevent tragedy or even death?

The Rest Is Illusion was first published in 2006 and a second time in 2016. This new third edition allows readers once more to enjoy the incredible story behind Eric Arvin’s first novel. And incredible it is indeed.

The fact that this is the author’s very first novel makes it all the more impressive how refined and confident his writing style already felt by then. Every phrase and sentence seems to be placed precisely and deliberately contributing to the unfolding of the plot and reading experience as a whole. The author upholds this style unbroken throughout the entirety of the book, nothing ever seems out of place. At this point, I usually talk about how location was handled, but since the environment plays such a pivotal role in this novel, I decided to dedicate a whole paragraph to it further down. Let’s take a look at the characters first.

The novel is written in third-person and the perspective, from which the story is told, switches frequently between five students: Dashel, Ashley, Sarah, Tony and Wilder. The author makes very good use of this technique by, for example, hinting at what one character is about to do through the eyes of another or presenting the consequences of the same event from different points of view. The transitions between characters feel fluid and unobtrusive. What’s best, each character is given a very distinct voice befitting his or her unique personality. They all have their own strings of story to tell that frequently intertwine and part ways. I never found myself not getting into a line of narrative or wishing that it would switch back to another. Every single one felt meaningful and worthy of attention.

It would be difficult to pick a favourite character since they are all interesting, likeable or hateable in their own right. But I would say that Ashley, the albino agnostic (as he has been described), and Dashel, who is stricken with a terminal illness, are probably the ones I felt the strongest sympathy for. They both look at other people free of prejudices and strive to embrace life (and death) on their own terms. I loved their free and creative spirits and how they imagined the world around them. Sarah, the Baptist minister’s daughter who struggles to come to terms with the relationship to her father, completes the trio of close friends (and maybe more). They complement each other very well and their interactions were heart-warming to witness.

Tony and Wilder feel very much like outsiders in contrast to the above group and yet they all come to play a significant part in each other’s lives. Tony, who despite first impressions turns out to be a considerate and caring person, tries to suppress his homosexual orientation in fear of losing his current way of life. Wilder’s horrible schemes to assert dominance over his fellow students, on the other hand, present a thoroughly hateable as well as deeply pathetic and wounded character. Seeing how these five people – each one with their own specific set of values and worldviews – interact and clash with each other was a thrilling and fascinating experience.

As mentioned above, the environment in this novel plays a role unlike any I have ever seen before. The deep forests, hidden vales, steep cliffs and hillsides that surround Verona College are alive and teeming with an ancient magic of their own. Being a fan of Magical Realism myself, I was in love with the way the author teases, hints and opens the possibility to a secret otherworld that lies beyond our common field of perception and understanding. But at the same time it is not painted as unreachable for us but closer than we think as long as one approaches it with an open mind free of preconceived opinions. Through his descriptions of the natural world Eric Arvin creates a truly enchanting and deeply mysterious atmosphere that had me hooked immediately and unable to stop reading. The landscape felt so full of personality and life as if it was a character (or many, in fact) on their own.

The story deals with a number of fundamental and timeless issues: the fear of dealing with one’s own mortality, the struggle for recognition and acceptance from others, finding and learning to embrace your true self in a world that tries to dictate who you should be. The subject of sexuality (as well as sexual violence) is breached too but if you’re looking for some light-hearted, steamy tussles beneath the sheets, you will not find them here. This is definitely not a quick read to just kill some time with a bit of superficial distraction.

I loved and enjoyed every aspect of this novel – from the characters to the plot to the world it took place in. I can only highly recommend this to anyone really who is looking (or not) for a profound narrative about the way people interact with one another and the world – or rather, worlds – around them. I know that I will certainly pick up more from this author in the future.

I very much liked the effect of smoothly changing colours and light patterns for the cover art by Wilde City Press. It gives the whole design an almost ominous, eerie feeling that is befitting of the story. The photos of the students looking directly at the reader lend support to that impression as well.

Sales Links:   Dreamspinner Press  | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 200 pages, also available in paperback where if you buy paperback you get the ebook free

Published April 3, 2017

by Dreamspinner Press

ISBN-13 978-1-63533-825-6

Edition Language: English

A Julia Review: The Seafarer’s Kiss by Julia Ember

Standard

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Having long wondered what lives beyond the ice shelf, nineteen-year-old mermaid Ersel learns of the life she wants when she rescues and befriends Ragna, a shield-maiden stranded on the merfolk’s fortress. But when Ersel’s childhood friend and suitor catches them together, he gives Ersel a choice: Say goodbye to Ragna or face justice at the hands of the glacier’s brutal king.

Determined to forge a different fate, Ersel seeks help from the divine Loki. But such deals are never straightforward, and the outcome sees her exiled from the only home and protection she’s known. To save herself from perishing in the barren, underwater wasteland and be reunited with the human she’s come to love, Ersel must try to outsmart the God of Lies.

Being an avid reader of the Fantasy genre myself, The Seafarer’s Kiss by Julia Ember had me intrigued as soon as I laid eyes on it. I find mermaids to be one of the most fascinating mythical creatures and yet I can hardly recall any Fantasy novels in which they play more than a supporting role. So, since the protagonist in this one is in fact a mermaid, I was really hoping that the author would grant a closer look into the society, customs and lifestyle of the merfolk. And thankfully I was not disappointed in the least!

The novel features a close-knit community of merfolk living inside a glacier far up in the frozen North with strict societal rules and traditions. As a reader you get to experience their way of life through the eyes of young Ersel from whose first-person perspective the story is told. World and lore building are one of the key aspects of Fantasy writing and I was immediately drawn in by the loving details the author used to describe how the merfolk lived and their society worked. The people of the sea really take the centre stage here and we are handed only small pieces of information on what the lives of humans are like in this world. I also very much enjoyed how the merfolk’s way of life was so closely entwined with the harsh and cold environment they lived in. The author did a good job in depicting the icy landscape and some of its inhabitants (most prominently a pod of beluga whales). A nice touch of magic and Norse mythology is added as well.

The novel features a varied cast of characters with the mermaid Ersel as its main protagonist. She does not want to lead the life dictated to her by the community’s traditions and laws but is too scared and timid to openly oppose them at first. A focus of the story lies on her personal development as she is repeatedly faced with new experiences and difficult decisions that impact her own future as well as others’.  The most profound of said experiences being when she meets Ragna, a fierce young human woman bent on survival and revenge. Ragna acts in many ways as a mirror for Ersel: They both have dreams and goals they want to achieve but unlike her Ragna has the courage and will to actively work towards and fight for them. At the same time Ersel comes to Ragna’s aid and becomes the friend and support the human girl desperately needs. The relationship that starts to blossom from this encounter was a delight to witness and I found myself rooting for them to succeed in their ambitions as well as their growing feelings for each other. Their story is one of self-discovery, compassion, determination and sacrifices.

Other types of relationships are explored as well, especially the one between Ersel and her childhood friend Havamal with whom she used to share a strong bond before he decided on a different path in life than the one they had once dreamed of together. And then there is of course Ersel’s deal with the infamous trickster god himself who, while being a divine entity, displays some rather human-like traits as well. I also quite enjoyed the magical aspects of this part of the story. 

Since this is a Young Adult novel the sex scenes are not described in detail but they are still teased enough to let the imagination run wild.

I had a great time reading this novel and enjoyed learning about the fascinating world the author had created. The characters, their motivations and interactions were very engaging as well. I will definitely be keeping an eye out for more from this author. 

The intricate cover design by CB Messer is what drew me to this novel in the first place. It is probably one of the most beautiful book covers I have ever seen. The art and colour choices are truly lovely. It immediately invokes a sense of ancient legends and fairy tales.

Sales Links

 Interlude Press | Amazon |Barnes & Noble   | Target | iTunes |  Google Books 

Smashwords | Book Depository  | Indiebound

Book Details:

ebook, 224 pages

Published May 4, 2017

by Interlude Press (Duet Books, a YA Imprint of Interlude Press)

ISBN: 978-1-945053-34-4

Edition Language: English

An Ali Audiobook Review: Everyday History by Alice Archer and Daan Stone (Narrator)

Standard
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Headstrong Ruben Harper has yet to meet an obstacle he can’t convert to a speed bump. He’s used to getting what he wants from girls, but when he develops a fascination for a man, his wooing skills require an upgrade. After months of persuasion, he scores a dinner date with Henry Normand that morphs into an intense weekend. The unexpected depth of their connection scares Ruben into fleeing.

Shy, cautious Henry, Ruben’s former high school history teacher, suspects he needs a wake-up call, and Ruben appears to be his siren. But when Ruben bolts, Henry is left struggling to find closure. Inspired by his conversations with Ruben, Henry begins to write articles about the memories stored in everyday objects. The articles seduce Ruben with details from their weekend together and trigger feelings too strong to avoid. As Henry’s snowballing fame takes him out of town and further out of touch, Ruben stretches to close the gaps that separate them.
I just read this book about a month ago and loved it. 

When I had the chance to review the audiobook I jumped at it and I’m really glad I did. First off, the narrator, Daan Stone, was super good. I had never listened to him before but he’s now on my radar because his narration was flawless. It was a 5+ stars.

As I’ve already said, I loved this book on the first read. The writing style is very unique. It’s lyrical and poetic and something about it just drew me in and held me from the beginning till the end of the story. This time I was able to go through the story more slowly (I’m a fast reader). The narration made me pace myself and I found there were things I had not caught the first time through. I also found the narration to make the story more emotional and I found my eyes filling with tears more than once (which I did not do when I read it).

The plot of the story is one we’ve seen before, an age gap between teacher and student. This was done differently though. It seems all of the age gap books I’ve read before have had the older person worried about the age difference and the younger one adamant that they know what they want and they have no concerns about it. In this, Ruben, the younger of the two, falters. He knows he cares for Henry and he knows he wants to see him and have sex, but he also knows he’s a kid. He wants to go to college and party and sleep around and do fun things that most of us do/did during this time of our lives. So while this story is definitely a love story, it’s also a coming of age. Ruben has a lot of lessons to learn and unfortunately he hurts others and himself along the way.
The story is told in a quiet way. A lot of it is based on conversations. A lot of it is told through stories that the characters tell each other. Some of it is told through newspaper columns and post cards. Everything that happens in this story matters. You need to pay attention because everything will circle back at some point and you’ll have these “ah-ha” moments. (You probably won’t ever be able to eat apple pie again without feeling a bit emotional.)

While there is a feeling of melancholy as you read this, I wouldn’t say it’s particularly angsty. It’s more a quiet study of how we come to learn what’s important in our lives and how we learn to put aside our fears to reach for what we want. It looks at the people in our lives and the roles they play and it looks at the importance in the things we hold on to and how they tell the story of who we are.

I am a giant sucker for the “grand gesture” in romance stories and this one tops the chart. There is also a lovely HEA and an epilogue that is just beautiful. I really can’t fan girl enough about this. The writing style is so distinctive that I realize it won’t be for everyone. I personally loved it though and I think both the ebook and the audio were hits out of the ballpark so I recommend either or both.
 
Cover by Bree Archer:  I love the cover.  I always really like black and white cover with a splash of color.  This one in particular I really like because it is a signifies a very important part of the story.
Sales Links
Audiobook Details:
9 hrs 53 mins
Audible Audio, 10 pages
Published March 24th 2017 by Dreamspinner Press (first published June 29th 2016)
Original TitleEveryday History
ASINB06XSMXH4R
Edition LanguageEnglish