A MelanieM Review: Not Gonna Lie (#lovehim #4) by S.M. James

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Everyone has their secrets.

Last year Digi walked out on Webcon, on his fans, and on Gram.

Now he’s back determined to give what they had a real shot, but Gram is more prickly than ever, not willing to risk his heart again.

Despite trying to stay out of the spotlight, the anonymous Public Service Announcements draw Digi back in. As the secrets of the internet’s top celebrities are leaked to the world, it’s only a matter of time before Digi and Gram are next.

To get through it, they have to set their rivalry aside.

Will Digi handle the pressure of the bright lights long enough to find who is tearing their world apart? Or will the threat of full exposure be too much for him to handle?

LGBTQ Enemies to Lovers Romance

Not Gonna Lie (#lovehim #4) by S.M. James is the tale I have been waiting for since I finished To Be Continued (#lovehim 3.5), the so aptly named novella and the first part of Digi and Gram’s story.  At the end of that complex bit of storytelling, Digi walked away from everything, including Gram, in order to find himself after the escalating events of that story.

Now in Not Gonna Lie, we dive into back Gram and Digi’s lives a year later.  It’s not exactly what we expected to find for both of them.

One thing I will mention immediately is the length of this story.  It’s much longer than any other books in the series and because of that we get a story richer in layers, more plot threads throughout the novel, and on whole just a thoughtful, authentic, beautifully written story. James takes a deeply honest look into the “media culture” of vloggers and their fans, including the dark side of popularity and online mass bullying and attacks.  If you’re familiar with beauty vlogger James Charles, who is people forget only 19, and the current morass he finds himself the center of, then this story will resonate with you. One minute you’re 18 and your yearbook photo goes viral, then you’re a star with a Cover Girl contract and a popular vlog at 18, and then a feud and the loss of millions of followers.  All still at the age of 19.  Such is the fickleness of the media and popularity and James gets it.

And makes it painful and intimately more real for us when we fall back into the lives of Gram and Digi.

What the blurb is not saying is why Digi is returning to Webcom and that is as big a part of this story as his reuniting with Gram.  And yes, it has also to do with the media, and bullying in the worst way.  Everything that Digi thought he was getting away from and had found him again.  It’s hard to mention aspects of this story without giving away details that lead to spoilers because the blurb is so vague that I feel that anything I mention is a surprise and important element that the reader should find out for themselves.

There are so many large things here that S.M. James gets into because of the characters.  It’s not just bullying and cyberbullying but also bulimia and eating disorders, something that Digi has been fighting for a long time (and was brought on in To Be Continued).  Along with this in the story goes cutting and self harm, so if these are triggers for you, please sake note.    Again, I will say that the longer length of the book gives the author the time to delve into the reasons behind such actions and the treatment received. It will make your  heart hurt and hold out hope for others in Digi’s situation.

And still there’s more.  Along with Gram and Digi reconnecting and working through a strained and tumultuous past history (along with their mothers competition as well), we also get a mystery, and the stress and strain of Gram’s new ever higher level popularity and the effects its having on him.  And his crazy fans.

Oh the complexities of this amazing story and all the characters.  Yes, still a romance and oh, so much more.  A social commentary, and perhaps a subtle warning too.

After all the many stories I have been reading in this remarkable YA series, I wasn’t quite prepared for just how exceptional Not Gonna Lie (#lovehim #4) by S.M. James turned out to be. A beautiful continuation of Digi and Gram’s story from To Be Continued, a social commentary on the media, vloggers and the powers of popularity and its whims.  And even more, the stress these days of just being young.  That’s heartbreaking too.

So you can imagine how you feel when a romance posts a win, even a HFN, and it makes your heart soar.  If only for a while.  This is one you will want to read and cheer for the win.

I truly love all the stories that come with this series but this one?  Oh, this one is really something exemplary.  Pick up To Be Continued and then read it and Not Gonna Lie (#lovehim #4) by S.M. James together for an amazing reading experience.  I highly recommend them and the entire series which I have listed below.

Cover art: Story Styling Cover Designs. Brands the series and works for this story.

Buy Links – Available on Kindle Unlimited

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Amazon AU

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 430 pages
Published May 16th 2019 by May Books
ASINB07PSMHV8Y
Edition Language English
Series#lovehim #4

Series #lovehim

That Feeling When (Archie and Landon)

No Big Deal
To Be Continued(3,5) Digi and Gram
In Real Life(4.5)  Archie and Landon  coming soon, hopefully.

A MelanieM Review:The Deafening Silence (The Yakuza Path #4) by Amy Tasukada

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

An unproven alliance. A broken promise. A mafia boss must shed blood to secure peace…

Nao Murata is on the verge of brokering peace between his syndicate and the rival Mafufgumi mob. To seal the deal, he’ll need to pick up Russian prostitutes to appease his newest ally. When the exchange goes sour, both sides draw blades and Nao has no choice but to care for a blood-soaked enemy. If the man doesn’t make it through the night, Nao and his crew will pay with their lives.

Outnumbered and stranded in enemy territory, Nao is forced to fight his way out before the Mafufgumi Godfather takes the deal off the table. As his wounded enemy’s heartbeat slows, Nao must act fast or condemn his syndicate to a brutal war.

The Yakuza Path: The Deafening Silence is the third book in a series of Japanese mafia thrillers. If you like twisty action, authentic settings, and a touch of gay romance, then you’ll love Amy Tasukada’s pulse-pounding series.

Since my first introduction to Nao Murata in the bloody and absolutely brilliant first story in this series, Blood Stained Tea, I’m almost confounded by my deep emotional involvement in the welfare of someone who is admittedly a murderous psychopath, one who’s barely contained rages have seen him want to spill the blood of dozens, often by his bare hands or any implement nearby.

But this is Japan, centuries old with ancient traditions and a culture to match. All built with such subtle nuances and  layers that can shield or hide behind.  Just as its many characters  demonstrate with their personalities.  Tasukada clearly loves and understands Japan in all it’s natural and historic beauty to the gritty darkness of the Yakuza underworld.  It has all  figured in greatly in this series as both the foundation, setting, and emotional framework for it’s characters.  Kyoto, Nao’s personal passion can stand in as another character all its own.

All those layers are built into the labyrinth personality of Nao as well.  Part of the reason for his murderous rages and psychotic breaks?  That can be found in the horrendous death of his first lover, perhaps his only love, at the hands of a rival gang boss.  It broke him, and whatever way he mended was not rational.  Of course, it doesn’t help that he was the son of the rival Yakuza gang and was already familiar with a brutal way of life.  But the dichotomy here is that the author shows us repeatedly another man.  One who loves his cat, and his tea, and who once wanted only to flee with his lover….

That is the one still seen occasionally, one the reader is still privy to his thoughts, when the rages are quiet.  Nao is a narrative tour de force.  Scary, memorable, everchanging, especially since he become the head of the family.  He needs to navigate the Korean crime families constant infiltration of Kyoto, manage his Yakuza’s many businesses and shaky alliances, all while reporting to the very top of the Yakuza boss who doesn’t trust him.  All while his mind seethes and surges like a red tide within him calling him to kill.

And at his side is another character who has shown incredible growth over the series,Aki Hisona, Nao’s personal secretary.  Aki loves Nao, a terrible fate as everyone who has cared for Nao has died, horribly. The reverse has also held true.  Everyone Nao has loved has died as well.  Nao has become convinced that the city of Kyoto has killed them.  A jealous mistress indeed.

This is not a romance.  Don’t even begin to look for one.  This is a brutal, bloody, gritty tale of crime, murder, culture, and a Yakuza crime family you can’t turn away from, starting at the top.

Amy Tasukada writes so beautifully, so skillfully here that just a twitch, a slip in a conversation sets off an avalanche of foreboding.  Everyone here is playing a game, some are merely good at it, some are masters, you have to read the story to find out who is playing the long game.  There is betrayal, untold amounts of bloodshed, and complexities beyond belief.  I expect nothing less from Nao and his gang and from this author.

I was astonished at Aki.

The author informs us at the end it will be a while until the next release as she wishes to “get it right”.  She has never, ever, gotten it wrong yet.  I would wait years for the next in this series if I had to.  It’s troubling, brilliant, and there’s no way I can predict the path going forward.  For any of them.  So yes, I’m obsessed.  So hopefully it won’t be terribly long for the next installment, maybe end of next year.

I absolutely recommend this   story and all the others in the series but they must be read in the order they were written.  Line them up like the narrative finds they are, and then devour them.  Just don’t expect any romance, unless it’s Nao’s love for Kyoto and even that comes with it’s own layer of pain and angst.

Cover art by Natasha Snow.  I’m in love with these covers.  Simple, bloody, perfection.

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Universal Buy Link


The Yakuza Path Series


Book #1 – Blood Stained Tea – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #2 – Better Than Suicide – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #3 – One Thousand Cranes – Amazon US | Amazon UK

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 228 pages
Published December 1st 2018 by Macarons & Tea Publishing
ASIN B07KKFK1XB
Series The Yakuza Path #4 setting Hokkaido, 2015 (Japan

Blood Stained Tea

Better Than Suicide

One Thousand Cranes

The Deafening Silence