A MelanieM Release Day Review: Antisocial by Heidi Cullinan

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Rating: 5+ out of 5

A single stroke can change your world.

Xander Fairchild can’t stand people in general and frat boys in particular, so when he’s forced to spend his summer working on his senior project with Skylar Stone, a silver-tongued Delta Sig with a trust fund who wants to make Xander over into a shiny new image, Xander is determined to resist. He came to idyllic, Japanese culture-soaked Benten College to hide and make manga, not to be transformed into a corporate clone in the eleventh hour.

Skylar’s life has been laid out for him since before he was born, but all it takes is one look at Xander’s artwork, and the veneer around him begins to crack. Xander himself does plenty of damage too. There’s something about the antisocial artist’s refusal to yield that forces Skylar to acknowledge how much his own orchestrated future is killing him slowly…as is the truth about his gray-spectrum sexuality, which he hasn’t dared to speak aloud, even to himself.

Through a summer of art and friendship, Xander and Skylar learn more about each other, themselves, and their feelings for one another. But as their senior year begins, they must decide if they will part ways and return to the dull futures they had planned, or if they will take a risk and leap into a brightly colored future—together.

I’ve loved this author and her stories just forever and for so many different reasons.  And I have many several 5 stars reviews of her stories.  Cullinan always was one of my baselines in for bringing in unusual yet thoroughly realistic characters and situations and letting me connect emotionally on deep levels with each and every one.  Yet once I finished Antisocial, I was stunned by it’s beauty and its depth, Cullinan’s handling of asexuality and the main characters relationship.  I think it’s the best story she’s written.  Even now Xander and Skylar, their transformation from, well, if not frenemies, strangers on campus, to friends to lovers with their own HEA is one that continues to resonate within me.

The warmth of Cullinan’s style of writing is one that pulls a reader, this reader, intimately into her stories and lives of her characters.  Whether it’s the damaged, artistic Xander or stressed, high-society Skylar Stone, the Greek with the silver tongue and closet of secrets, Cullinan gently ushers you into their minds and hearts.  She reveals the detritus of Stone’s upbringing that’s keeping him from growing into the person he can be, the same being said for Xander too.  Then uses the Pygmalion story in a wonderful reversal that will thread elements together and bring closure in an emotionally satisfying and joyous climax.

In between, we get an amazing exploration of what asexuality in different forms can mean to a couple, to a person or persons and to a romance/relationship. The scenes with simple touches gave me shivers of delight as her descriptions telegraphed what it meant to Xander, Skylar and both of them as couple so beautifully.  Each explore the fact that there’s not just one “ace label” or two, but a spectrum of grey as it were.  Something other characters will or already understand.  Cullinan brings the element of asexuality and threads it throughout Antisocial in a number of ways, stunning, unexpected, and important ways.

A great plus?  The manga details and Japanese art history details that this story is laced with, like the woodcuts of Hokusai, seen to the right.  Finally, there is the cast of characters that surround and support Xander and Skylar, ones that I want to see so much more of.  All the tight members of the group from Lucky 7, especially Unc.  I would  plead with the author to bring them all back for more stories as I fell in love with all of them too.

But this is truly Xander and Skylar’s story and it’s in my top five of 2017.  The beauty of its story, its characters and relationship, the complexities of their romance, the growth and change each underwent in order for a future to be possible for them together.  Well, it still brings tears to my eyes and a glow to my heart.  I highly recommend this to you all.

 

Cover art by Natsukoworks, Cover design by Kanaxa Designs.  An absolutely perfect cover for an absolutely perfect story.  From the style, coloring and characters, its exquisite.

Buy Links  

Amazon US ebookAmazon US paperback,
Amazon UK ebookAmazon UK paperbackBarnes & NobleiTunesKoboScribdSmashwords

Book Details:

ebook, 460 pages
Expected publication: August 8th 2017 by Heidi Cullinan
ISBN13 9781945116094
Edition Language English

An Ali Audiobook Review: How To Be A Normal Person by T.J. Klune and Narrator Derrick McClain

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 Rating:  4.5 out of 5 stars

How to be A Normal Person AudioGustavo Tiberius is not normal. He knows this. Everyone in his small town of Abby, Oregon, knows this. He reads encyclopedias every night before bed. He has a pet ferret called Harry S. Truman. He owns a video rental store that no one goes to. His closest friends are a lady named Lottie with drag queen hair and a trio of elderly Vespa riders known as the We Three Queens.

Gus is not normal. And he’s fine with that. All he wants is to be left alone.

Until Casey, an asexual stoner hipster and the newest employee at Lottie’s Lattes, enters his life. For some reason, Casey thinks Gus is the greatest thing ever. And maybe Gus is starting to think the same thing about Casey, even if Casey is obsessive about Instagramming his food.

But Gus isn’t normal and Casey deserves someone who can be. Suddenly wanting to be that someone, Gus steps out of his comfort zone and plans to become the most normal person ever.

After all, what could possibly go wrong?

I really enjoyed this book.  This author has a distinct writing style and I realize it doesn’t work for everyone but I personally adore it.  I’ve read books of his that have made me laugh out loud and ones that have made me cry.  This book was the best of both worlds.  There’s the trademark humor Klune brings to his stories but there were also a lot of scenes that were serious and filled with emotions.
I thought both Gus and Casey were great characters.  Neither are the traditional type of characters we usually see in romance novels and that is a good thing in my opinion.  Gus is quirky and Casey is asexual.  As the story develops they learn about each other’s unique characteristics and they fall in love.  The romance is a slow burn and the progression of the relationship felt realistic.  There are some great side characters in this and the scenes they are in added some of the funniest parts to the story.  Gus’ memories of his deceased father add some of the more emotional scenes and his dad is just as much a side character as the living characters are.
I did this on audio and I thought the narrator was really good. I’ve done a lot of this author’s books on audio and I think his storytelling style works well in this format.
This book is a definite recommend from me.  It has a bit of everything.  There is some humor and some serious emotions, there are great characters and it is low on the angst and steam levels.
Cover by Reese Dante.  I love this cover.  I think it fits the story perfectly.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon | Audible | iTunes

Audiobook Details:
Audible Audio, Length: 11 hrs and 7 mins
Published April 15th 2016 by Dreamspinner Press LLC (first published October 16th 2015)
Original TitleHow To Be A Normal Person
ASINB01E9E5JOE
Edition LanguageEnglishsettingOregon (United States)

A Stella Review: How To Be A Normal Person by T.J. Klune

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Rating 5 stars out of 5           ★★★★★

How To Be A Normal Person coverGustavo Tiberius is not normal. He knows this. Everyone in his small town of Abby, Oregon, knows this. He reads encyclopedias every night before bed. He has a pet ferret called Harry S. Truman. He owns a video rental store that no one goes to. His closest friends are a lady named Lottie with drag queen hair and a trio of elderly Vespa riders known as the We Three Queens.

Gus is not normal. And he’s fine with that. All he wants is to be left alone.

Until Casey, an asexual stoner hipster and the newest employee at Lottie’s Lattes, enters his life. For some reason, Casey thinks Gus is the greatest thing ever. And maybe Gus is starting to think the same thing about Casey, even if Casey is obsessive about Instagramming his food.

But Gus isn’t normal and Casey deserves someone who can be. Suddenly wanting to be that someone, Gus steps out of his comfort zone and plans to become the most normal person ever.

After all, what could possibly go wrong?

This is my sixth book by TJ Klune, my sixth five stars review and I’m still amazed by this author’s work. Each time I read a new story of his is a fabulous journey, sometimes full of tears (BOATK series), other times full of laughters (The Lightning-Struck Heart). How to Be a Normal Person was the perfect balanced mix of emotional parts and unbelievably hilarious scenes. To me it was another amazing winner, since the first time I read about Harry S Truman, the albino ferret! Only Tj could have chosen a pet like Harry for our Grumpy Gus.

I’m not going to talk about the plot, TJ can write what he likes, I couldn’t care less because to me his creative mind is this fantastic place I want to know. I have no clue how he creates characters so unique and lovable. This time Gus won me over, I loved him through out the story. I  cheered him on through his journey in the discovery of a normality he thinks he doesn’t have and absolutely need to be with Casey. I so wanted to hug him and his friends, they gave me a warm sensation I needed so much.

Like all TJ’s books, there is a great cast of characters, I don’t like to define them as“secondary characters” because to me they felt like the main ones, all of them with a smart mouth, funny and supportive and perfect in their imperfections. The three queens were probably my favorite ones, the story would have been nothing without the lesbian/ sisters trio.

As I said I loved all of TJ’s books but I’m realizing he’s doing better with each new one he releases. He grows and improves and I have no idea what he wants to achieve. I always think he can’t do better than the book I’m currently reading and he duly contradicts me. And even though How To Be a Normal Person has the typical quality of Klune’s work, I think it’s really different from the previous novels, just a little over the top but not too extreme, no angst at all, maybe the right choice if you’re approaching this author for the first time. I’m going to re read it really soon to appreciate it better, I rush through it because I was too hungry and curious.

I just want to add, as you can read from the blurb, Casey, the other MC, is asexual. This was not my first time with this sexual orientation and to me not the better one cause it wasn’t addressed a lot, but still I think the author chose the perfect way to deal with it, most of all according to his style. There’s no sex in the story but please don’t let this be a reason to not give the book a chance. There was no need for sex, I got my steamy fix in other ways.

Maybe it’s not clear, but this is a highly recommended read, sweet, hilarious and emotional. I couldn’t ask for more.

Cover art by Reese Dante. It’s simply, fitting and FINALLY something different. I love it!

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | All Romance (ARe) | Amazon | Buy It Here

BOOK DETAILS

ebook, 290 pages
Published October 16th 2015 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1634765796
Edition Language English

AMAZON http://www.amazon.com/How-Be-Normal-Person-Klune-ebook/dp/B015VOHR0K

DSP 

A Stella Review: Coffee Cake by Michaela Grey

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Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

coffee Cake coverBran Kendrick never expected to fall in love. He’s asexual, after all. What chance does he have of finding someone who’ll see past that? So when Malachi Warren catches his eye, Bran tells himself his crush will pass. Malachi disagrees. He has been attracted to Bran for some time, something he is delighted to find Bran reciprocating. They begin to date and feel their way through an intimate relationship that meets both their needs.

Suddenly Bran finds himself juggling a new boyfriend, a demanding job, and a college degree he’s not sure he wants, but he couldn’t be happier—until a series of seemingly random accidents befall Malachi. When they escalate, Bran realizes someone is trying to take away the best thing that ever happened to him, and he must scramble to keep Malachi safe while they search for the would-be killer

 

I wanted to give to Michaela Grey a chance for a couple of reasons. First of all the cover. Congrats to Aaron Anderson that, albeit unknowingly, the artist has put in my favorite color and everything food related is a winner to me. Reading the blurb of Coffee Cake I was soon curious about the asexuality aspect. I’m pretty sure this book was my first one with an asexual MC and I can say that I really, really liked how it was shown to me. Being pretty ignorant about this specific subject, I wasn’t sure what to expect, as a matter of fact I was expecting no sex at all. I was so wrong, the sex scenes were interesting too, not just the book. I loved the author’s note at the beginning of the book, I found it beautiful.

“Asexuality is something that is sorely misrepresented by the media, and as a result, many asexuals grow up feeling they are broken or “freaks.” It is my goal to show these people that they can live a wholly satisfying, fulfilling life without ever wanting sex, and it’s not something to ever be ashamed of or feel guilty over.”

The plot is simple. Bran is an asexual young man who has a crush on Malachi, the popular college guy. What Bran doesn’t know is that the crush goes both way. Malachi is interested too and so they start seeing each other. When he has an accident, Bran starts taking care of Malachi. But when he gets hurt for a second time, they began wondering about coincidences or attempts at Malachi’s life.

Coffee Cake hit one of my weaknesses, the sweetness. Malachi and Bran are cute together, in their everyday life and in their intimate moments. I liked the way the author put Bran in a journey to the discovery of his sex life, letting him free to explore and to understand what he needed. We learn more about asexuality as Bran learns more about himself. It was lovely and instructive too.

“Um. I’m not… I’m not aromantic,” he said in a rush.
“Yeah? That’s cool. Do you know which way you swing in that regard?”
“I guess… gay,” Bran said. “Not that it matters.”
“Why wouldn’t it matter?” There was honest curiosity in Malachi’s voice.
Bran shrugged. “Because no one’s going to want me,” he said, and he couldn’t help the pain in his voice.
“That’s bullshit,” Malachi said flatly, and Bran jerked his head up. Malachi’s eyes were angry as they met Bran’s. “You’re an amazing guy, Bran. You have so much to offer. So what if you don’t want sex? It’s not as rare as you might think, and any guy would be lucky to have you.”

The writing was good and delicate and the combination with a mystery brought the story to an engaging level. Unfortunately there were some parts too stereotypical to my tastes, as the scene where Mal’s dad wants to pay Bran to leave his son, or all the “I-leave-you-because-I-don’t-want-you-to-be-hurt” drama. These clichés curbed a little of my enthusiasm for Coffee Cake. Nonetheless I want to recommend this book and I’m still curious about this author and her coming works. I really hope she will talk about asexuality again.

Cover art by Aaron Anderson. I love this cover! It’s different and cute, and the colors simply perfect. It’s what caught my attention and then reading the blurb I decided to read the book.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press ♦  All Romance (ARe) ♦  Amazon   ♦  Buy it Here

Book Details:

ebook, 220 pages
Published May 11th 2015 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN139781632168481
edition languageEnglish