A Barb the Zany Old Lady Audiobook Review: Antisocial by Heidi Cullinan and Iggy Toma (Narrator)

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

I really enjoyed this audiobook.  No wait—let me rephrase that—I immensely enjoyed this outstanding audiobook performed by the incomparable Iggy Toma. He brings characters to life, making them real people I’d enjoy meeting—even those like Xander, who is antisocial.

Xander Fairchild is an Introvert with a capital I.  He really dislikes people and his only friend is sharp-tongued Zelda, a person who might, or might not, be friendly to him on any given day.  Zelda is one of several people who work with Xander at Benton College to create a manga serial.  Zelda’s forte is not art, however; that right belongs solely to Xander, who is highly talented and creative, though repressed socially and very self-deprecating. 

Skylar Stone was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and his every move has been planned by his very overbearing lawyer father. Skylar must score high on the LSAT test, and he must get into Yale and then, upon graduation, he must join his father’s law firm.  Period the end.  Per his father.  But Skylar takes one look at Xander’s art and falls head-over-heels in love with it.  And eventually, through a series of enlightenments about his own inner turmoil and life choices and new information about his feelings toward men and women and his own sexuality, he also falls in love with Xander. 

The journey Xander and Skylar take to love and acceptance is not typical.  The author gives us a totally different and unique perspective on love and sexuality.  Xander learns that he can express his love for Skylar through painting and his sexual connection can be expressed through touch and through use of his paint brushes.  Skylar learns what really makes Xander who he is and comes to love and accept him fully without attempting to change either his appearance or his personality. 

This is a very yaoi manga-slanted story and I loved the information passed to the reader through the characters in the delightful voices created by Iggy Toma.  I am an older woman who reads MM romance and LGBTQ lit for pleasure.  When I read, and certainly when I listen to an audiobook, I am looking for a real story to go along with whatever sex scenes an author may use to advance a plot. In other words, I’ve moved beyond choosing books because the sex scenes may be hot.  In this case, I’m pleased to say that I not only didn’t have to listen to gratuitous sex on page, but I was also gifted by a completely unique perspective on sexual pleasure and the simple enjoyment of connecting with one’s life partner. 

I can’t go heavy into details on the plot since I don’t have the book to refer back to for notes on character names, especially the Japanese character names affectionately given to Xander and Skylar and their friends.  That’s one of the few disadvantages of listening to an audiobook over actually reading an e-book version.  I will say, however, that the story was well-sprinkled with references to cherry blossoms and whether intended to be symbolic or not, I felt that watching Xander and Skylar come to a maturity and self-acceptance—each at his own pace and in his own way—was like watching a cherry blossom bloom. 

I highly recommend this audiobook!

~~

The very attractive cover depicts two young men drawn in manga-style but wearing clothing typical of each character in this book and, appropriately, cherry blossoms are sprinkled all over the page.   

Sales Links: Amazon | Audible | iTunes

Audiobook Details:

Audible Audio, 14 pages
Length: 13 hrs and 52 mins
Unabridged Audiobook
Published August 21st 2017 by Heidi Cullinan (first published August 8th 2017)
Original Title Antisocial
ASINB074VCZXSD
Edition Language English

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

Antisocial by Heidi Cullinan Release Day Blog Tour (exclusive release day short and giveaway)

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Antisocial by Heidi Cullinan

Cover art by Natsukoworks
Cover design by Kanaxa Designs

August 8, 2017

Buy Links:  Amazon US ebookAmazon US paperback,
Amazon UK ebookAmazon UK paperbackBarnes & NobleiTunesKoboScribdSmashwords

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have  Heidi Cullinan here on her Antisocial tour.  Welcome, Heidi!

 

Thanks so much for having me here today! I’m stopping by as part of my tour for my new novel Antisocial, a new adult gay and asexual romance set in a fictional college in upstate New York between a one-percenter fraternity boy and a highly antisocial artist. It released today, and in celebration I’m going to give you an extra special peek inside the story: I’m going to tell you a bit more about the story within the story, the manga the characters create, The Adventures of Hotay & Moo.

The Adventures of Hotay & Moo is, within the story of Antisocial, a manga within the school magazine Lucky 7, but it has been in the magazine’s history a comic and a short story as well. (The comic and manga versions are identical, of course, except in style and direction of the print.) What is consistent are the main characters, Hotay, who is based on the Shinto god Hotei, one of the seven gods of fortune, and Moo, who is based on Fudō Myōō, the Japanese version of Acala, a Buddhist deity.

I regret that I can’t draw worth a damn—and I mean that I cannot draw at all—but I can give you a short, very short scene between Hotay and Moo. The characters in the book make several guesses as to who among them might most be like Hotay and Moo. There is of course no wrong answer. You’ll have to let me know what you think when you read it yourself.

For now, please enjoy this exclusive release day short from The Adventures of Hotay & Moo.

Moo was lying on his bed, contentedly reading when the door to his room burst open and his friend Hotay exploded into his serene space, red-faced and beaming. “Moo, it’s the cherry blossom festival today.”

“I know.” Moo turned a page and kept reading. “I saw the flyers.”

“Well, why didn’t you tell me? Moreover, why are we sitting here when there’s a festival to go to?” Hotay leaned over Moo so that his round face blocked the view to Moo’s page. “Put down your book, and let’s go into town.”

Moo glared at the interruption to his solitude. “I didn’t tell you because I assumed you still knew how to read. The flyers were everywhere. They’d attached them to everything tall and post-like. I’m frankly astounded they didn’t staple one to you.”

As usual, Hotay refused to rise to Moo’s jab. “Nah. I’m too fat to be mistaken for a post.” He flopped onto the end of Moo’s bed with a dramatic sigh. “Come on, Moo. Let’s go to the festival. It sounds amazing. There’s going to be a firework display and everything.”

“I hate firework displays. They’re far too loud.”

“There will be food. Grilled squid, pork kabobs, mochi ice cream.”

Moo did enjoy mochi ice cream. But he hated crowds more. “If you want to go so badly, go. You don’t need me along.”

“But I do need you.” Hotay nudged Moo’s foot with his elbow, jostling his book so soundly he dropped it. “I can’t enjoy myself if you’re not along.”

Moo refused to dignify this comment with a remark, settling instead for a withering glare.

Hotay laughed, hard enough to shake the bed. “See, who else is going to look at me like that?”

“The look wasn’t supposed to amuse you, Hotay.”

“I know, but it does amuse me. You make me happy, Moo.”

Everything makes you happy.”

“Well, that’s true. But you make me especially happy. You’re my dearest friend.”

Moo sighed and picked up his book again. “Your dearest friend wants to be left alone to read.”

“Then I suppose I shall have to let you do so.”

Hotay made no more commentary about the festival, and he didn’t even fidget overly, only sat idly at the foot of Moo’s bed, as if he truly were content to remain there while Moo read and the festival continued without him. Moo, of course, couldn’t read a word, knowing Hotay was missing out, not even when he tried to tell himself his friend had made his choices and it wasn’t Moo’s problem.

Eventually Moo put the book down and scowled. “Please. I’m begging you. Go to the festival without me. Surely you’ll run into someone there you know.”

Hotay shook his head, smiling, as if he hadn’t a care in the world. “Can’t do it. But don’t worry. I’ve decided you’re right, it’s a perfect night to stay at home. Though I wish I had a way to let Benny know, because I’m afraid she’s going to be terribly disappointed.”

Moo closed the book and sat up straight, all his senses on alert. “…Benny?”

“Oh? Didn’t I say? Benny is going to be at the festival. In fact, she specifically asked me to make sure I brought you along.”

Moo had never felt so many emotions at once. Euphoria that Benny had asked for him. Terror that Benny had asked for him. Confusion over why Benny would ask for him.

Fury that Hotay had withheld this from him for so long. Was Benny somewhere in the festival waiting for him? How long had she been waiting? Was she still there?

Hurling the book at Hotay’s head, Moo swung his legs off the bed and rose.

“Are you going somewhere?” Hotay asked, still lounging, though he was also rubbing his forehead where the book had hit him.

“Get your damn coat,” Moo muttered, sifting through his closet for his own. “Are we going to a festival, or not?”

When he turned around, coat in hand, Hotay was at the door, wearing his cloak, hat, and shoes, ready to go, grinning like the fool he was. “I thought you’d never ask.”

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.

Heidi Cullinan has always enjoyed a good love story, provided it has a happy ending. Proud to be from the first Midwestern state with full marriage equality, Heidi is a vocal advocate for LGBT rights. She writes positive-outcome romances for LGBT characters struggling against insurmountable odds because she believes there’s no such thing as too much happy ever after. When Heidi isn’t writing, she enjoys playing with new recipes, reading romance and manga, playing with her cats, and watching too much anime. Find out more about Heidi at heidicullinan.com.

Blurb

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.

About the Author

Heidi’s Bio

Heidi Cullinan has always enjoyed a good love story, provided it has a happy ending. Proud to be from the first Midwestern state with full marriage equality, Heidi is a vocal advocate for LGBT rights. She writes positive-outcome romances for LGBT characters struggling against insurmountable odds because she believes there’s no such thing as too much happy ever after. When Heidi isn’t writing, she enjoys playing with new recipes, reading romance and manga, playing with her cats, and watching too much anime. Find out more about Heidi at heidicullinan.com.

Giveaway

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A MelanieM Review: Frozen Heart (Love Lessons #1.5) by Heidi Cullinan

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Proposals don’t come with instructions.

Walter Lucas knows his boyfriend has been looking forward to the newest movie about a certain snow princess, but he isn’t prepared for the reality that is the front-row seat of Kelly Davidson’s cartoon obsession. There’s more going on in November than just the movie, however—Walter’s been working up the nerve to ask Kelly a certain question. When Walter set up his elaborate Thanksgiving marriage proposal, it seemed like such a good idea, but as the holiday, the movie premiere, and the question Walter never dreamt he’d be asking anyone converge…let’s just say even Hollywood’s best couldn’t sing and dance their way out of Walter’s tangle.

A short story or interlude in the Love Lessons series from Heidi Cullinan,  Frozen Heart is the proposal story of Walter and Kelly.  If you have followed this series, then you know this couple.  Kelly loves and for a special reason his Disney movies.  He’s been waiting for Frozen to come out and Walter has been waiting to  propose to Kelly.  Its hugely emotional, heartwarming, and everything I love about this series in a small bundle.

Plus if you have been oversaturated by the movie Frozen, Heidi Cullinan, through Kelly and Walter’s eyes and ears, reminds you why it resonated with millions of people young and old world wide.  Don’t be surprised if you find yourself singing those songs out loud once again.  You  really can’t help it.  It’s magic and so is this little story about a Frozen proposal.

Cover art by Kanaxa is adorable and works for branding the series and story.

Buy links: Amazon USAmazon UKBarnes & NobleiTunesKobo,  Smashwords

 

Book Details:

ebook, 2, 32 pages
Expected publication: May 23rd 2017 by Heidi Cullinan (first published December 24th 2013)
Original TitleFrozen Heart
ISBN139781945116025
Edition LanguageEnglish
URLhttp://www.heidicullinan.com/frozen-heart
SeriesLove Lessons #1.5

In the Spotlight: Frozen Heart (Love Lessons #1.5) by Heidi Cullinan (giveaway)

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Frozen Heart (Love Lessons #1.5) by Heidi Cullinan
Cover Artist: Kanaxa

 

FULL BLURB:

Proposals don’t come with instructions.

Walter Lucas knows his boyfriend has been looking forward to the newest movie about a certain snow princess, but he isn’t prepared for the reality that is the front-row seat of Kelly Davidson’s cartoon obsession. There’s more going on in November than just the movie, however—Walter’s been working up the nerve to ask Kelly a certain question. When Walter set up his elaborate Thanksgiving marriage proposal, it seemed like such a good idea, but as the holiday, the movie premiere, and the question Walter never dreamt he’d be asking anyone converge…let’s just say even Hollywood’s best couldn’t sing and dance their way out of Walter’s tangle.

Buy links: Amazon USAmazon UKBarnes & NobleiTunesKobo, Tolino, Smashwords

RELEASE DATE: May 23, 2017

Original free edition release date December 25, 2013

Format: Short Story • Genre: Contemporary New Adult Romance • Length: 9,000 words

Publisher: Heidi Cullinan

Cover Artist: Kanaxa

ISBN: 978-1-945116-02-5

Series: Love Lessons #1.5

Characters: Walter Lucas, Kelly Davidson

 

About the Author

Heidi Cullinan has always enjoyed a good love story, provided it has a happy ending. Proud to be from the first Midwestern state with full marriage equality, Heidi is a vocal advocate for LGBT rights. She writes positive-outcome romances for LGBT characters struggling against insurmountable odds because she believes there’s no such thing as too much happy ever after. When Heidi isn’t writing, she enjoys cooking, reading, playing with her cats, and watching television with her family. Find out more about Heidi at heidicullinan.com.

A MelanieM Review: Shelter the Sea (The Roosevelt #2) by Heidi Cullinan

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Some heroes wear capes. Some prefer sensory sacks.

Emmet Washington has never let the world define him, even though he, his boyfriend, Jeremey, and his friends aren’t considered “real” adults because of their disabilities. When the State of Iowa restructures its mental health system and puts the independent living facility where they live in jeopardy, Emmet refuses to be forced into substandard, privatized corporate care. With the help of Jeremey and their friends, he starts a local grassroots organization and fights every step of the way.

In addition to navigating his boyfriend’s increased depression and anxiety, Emmet has to make his autistic tics acceptable to politicians and donors, and he wonders if they’re raising awareness or putting their disabilities on display. When their campaign attracts the attention of the opposition’s powerful corporate lobbyist, Emmet relies on his skill with calculations and predictions and trusts he can save the day—for himself, his friends, and everyone with disabilities.

He only hopes there isn’t a variable in his formula he’s failed to foresee.

The Roosevelt series by Heidi Cullinan is unusual and quite wonderful to begin with. It’s about young men whose disabilities don’t allow them to live and mostly function in the “mean’, the normal world.  It’s almost guaranteed to make some people uncomfortable enough to not want to pick the books up and read them.  If so, they would be missing out on an astonishing jewel of a series and characters, no people so memorable and heroic I’ve already read this story twice.

The Roosevelt is a special needs living facility, home to Emmet Washington, a highly functioning autistic young man and his boyfriend Jeremey, who has severe anxiety and depression disorders, along with other disabled young adults.  The story alternates between Emmet’s and Jeremey’s pov, a powerful framework.  Cullinan’s strong and moving narrative allows you to delve into each young man’s mind and see how they live with their disabilities, how it affects speech, thinking and even emotions and connectivity to each other.  The commonplace adjustments they make, not only between themselves, but for others within The Roosevelt and visiting friends (this includes making signs that say “silent communication going on”),  well,  time and again, I found my  own preconceptions needing swift readjustments as I was swept more deeply into Emmet and Jeremey’s story and relationship.

There is so much to this  story that the author fits in, easily I must say, that enriches both the characters lives and the story, while letting the narrative progress and flow forward effortlessly.  I found myself learning about service dogs and sensory sacks, about ball pits and great companies but mostly I learned about love, the power of love from Emmet and Jeremey.  Oh, and The Roosevelt Blues Brothers!  I really wish somehow Heidi Cullinan had come up with a pic for that!

Such an extraordinary love story.  Honestly, I think this review is a failing me because I really don’t have the  words I’m searching for to describe how this book made me feel.  The laughter, the tears I shed, the hope it left me with, all the reassessing I’m doing about my preconceived thoughts about disabilities and group homes.  This book shook me up in a good way, in the way books should.

The story starts off with Emmet telling the reader that he accomplished his goals and this is the story of how he did it.  So right away, the tone is one of incredible hope.  That hope carries you through the book, even when things look realistically painful and down, right through to that heartwarming ending. For me, this story is well, perfect in its own way, right up to the title, Shelter the Sea, something that Emmet wants to do. How that works out?  Well, this is a book you should read to find out.  Its one of my Best of 2017.

Cover art is gorgeous and so pertinent to the story.  I love it.

Sales Links

Amazon US, Amazon UK, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo,  Smashwords

 

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 190 pages
Published April 18th 2017 by Heidi Cullinan
Original TitleShelter the Sea
ASINB06XYT6SNL
Edition LanguageEnglish
URL http://www.heidicullinan.com/shelterthesea
Series The Roosevelt #2
setting Iowa (United States)

Blog tour and Giveaway: Shelter The Sea by Heidi Cullinan

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Shelter the Sea (The Roosevelt #2) by Heidi Cullinan

Release Day
Available for Purchase at

Buy links: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo,  Smashwords

✒︎

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host Heidi Cullinan here today with her latest release, Shelter the Sea.

Welcome, Heidi!

✒︎

Service Dogs, Therapy Dogs, and Emotional Support Animals by Heidi Cullinen

In Shelter the Sea, one of the characters acquires a service dog during the course of the novel, and in researching for the book, one of the most interesting things I learned was that the terms service dog, therapy dog, and emotional support dog are not interchangeable, that each animal does a slightly different job and has a distinctly different classification.

Service dogs are specifically trained to assist one person, and their primary function isn’t to provide companionship or emotional support, though the individual they care for often forms a tight bond with the dog and vice versa. They’re required (and trained to) tolerate a wide variety of experiences, environments, and people. They’re also covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act, meaning their owners have a right to bring them into public establishments, and they may live with their owners even if the building has a “no pets” policy.

Therapy dogs can also tolerate a wide variety of experiences and environments, but they aren’t trained to support just one person, meaning they aren’t tailored specifically for them. They’re trained to assist generally, helping multiple people. They aren’t covered by the ADA, as they aren’t designed for individuals, only for specific spaces and instances where there would be no conflict for their use.

Emotional support animals, which can include dogs but don’t always necessarily only include them, are mostly there to provide, as the name suggests, emotional support. They aren’t covered by the ADA, as the ADA has ruled their work isn’t directly related to their disability and they’re not specifically trained for that individual, and therefore they can’t necessarily go everywhere. They are, however, sometimes allowed in places with “no pets” policies.

You can read more about the rules about service, therapy, and emotional support animals on the ADA website.

Blurb

Some heroes wear capes. Some prefer sensory sacks.

Emmet Washington has never let the world define him, even though he, his boyfriend, Jeremey, and his friends aren’t considered “real” adults because of their disabilities. When the State of Iowa restructures its mental health system and puts the independent living facility where they live in jeopardy, Emmet refuses to be forced into substandard, privatized corporate care. With the help of Jeremey and their friends, he starts a local grassroots organization and fights every step of the way.

In addition to navigating his boyfriend’s increased depression and anxiety, Emmet has to make his autistic tics acceptable to politicians and donors, and he wonders if they’re raising awareness or putting their disabilities on display. When their campaign attracts the attention of the opposition’s powerful corporate lobbyist, Emmet relies on his skill with calculations and predictions and trusts he can save the day—for himself, his friends, and everyone with disabilities.

He only hopes there isn’t a variable in his formula he’s failed to foresee.

 

Author Bio

Heidi Cullinan has always enjoyed a good love story, provided it has a happy ending. Proud to be from the first Midwestern state with full marriage equality, Heidi is a vocal advocate for LGBT rights. She writes positive-outcome romances for LGBT characters struggling against insurmountable odds because she believes there’s no such thing as too much happy ever after. When Heidi isn’t writing, she enjoys cooking, reading, playing with her cats, and watching television with her family. Find out more about Heidi at heidicullinan.com.

Giveaway

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Carry the OceanShelter the Sea signed paperbacks and Roosevelt Blues Brother kit (black fedora and skinny tie)

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A MelanieM Review: Santa Baby (Minnesota Christmas #4) by Heidi Cullinan

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Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

santa-babyTrimming the tree is more fun with three.

Twin Cities developer Dale Davidson has come to Logan, Minnesota, to turn it into Christmas Town, not to give in to Arthur Anderson’s offer to join him and his fiancé, Gabriel Higgins, for a Christmas Eve threesome. Dale is polyamorous, but it’s clear Arthur is offering a night of fun and nothing more. Maybe one night with the couple he admires so much won’t hurt…

Together the three of them light a fire hot enough to boil Lake Superior in January, and one night of fun becomes an extended engagement as Dale puts down some tentative roots in his new hometown. Everyone loves Dale, Logan’s own Santa Claus, and somehow no one knows what wild times are happening right underneath their noses. No one knows, either, the complicated ways they’re falling in love with one another.

But a shadow from Dale’s past emerges, an abuser threatening him with violence and shame. Ronny doesn’t want a happy ever after for Dale, only to draw him back into a consuming darkness. It will take the love of not only Gabriel and Arthur but all of Logan to convince their Santa he has nothing to be ashamed of—and that he will always have a home in their hearts.

I fell in love with Heidi Cullinan’s Minnesota Christmas series from the very first story, Let It Snow (Minnesota Christmas, #1).  That featured our first couple Frankie Blackburn and Marcus Gardner.  It was heartwarming and introduced us to the town of Logan.  Then followed Sleigh Ride (Minnesota Christmas #2) whose tale revolved around librarian Gabriel Higgins and fiery red-headed Dom Arthur Anderson.  That book set my heart to blazing.  It had kink, hot scenes, a gentle librarian with a love of literature and a need to let his own kink needs free and a Dom to love him.  And it had Christmas.  If I wasn’t hooked before, I certainly was now.

Cullinan followed Arthur and Gabe’s story with Winter Wonderland (Minnesota Christmas #3),  Paul Jansen and Kyle Parks story.  This novel, like all the others, had humor (snow penis sculptures), poignancy, heartbreak and so much love it threatened to spill off the page.  And it introduced us to a new character, Dale Davidson.  The town of Logan needs help and the idea is to turn it into Christmas Town, a year around tourist destination.  Towards the end of that story there was some little sparks flying between our engaged kinky couple Arthur and Gabe and Dale.  But Winter Wonderland belonged to Paul and Kyle and it remains one of my favorite of the series.

But that spark refused to die and grew into this story (see my interview with Heidi here about the inspiration and future of the series).  I have to admit I wondered how I would feel about Arthur and Gabe and a polyamorous relationship.  Would it effect their original one and how I felt about them?  Could I accept that Gabe would be a part of this couple?  Turns out (and yes, this surprised me) the answer is yes to both questions.

Its in the way Cullinan not only came at the idea of polyamory, the details, the reality of it as described and emotionally felt by Dale and Gabe, but how Arthur worked through the impact on his relationship with Gabe and his new one with Dale.  We see them connecting with each other, the struggles to understand it themselves, how the loss of the potential relationship was devastating in its impact and the work it took to resolve everyone’s issues.  It made Arthur, Gabe and Dale’s loving relationship believable and in the end, something I really connected with myself.   I worked it through with them.

This is such a wonderfully adult book.  Its there in how these characters look at the issues that must be addressed, at the situations they find themselves in (there’s a story thread about violence with a non-con element here that’s equally well done), and even how to come out as a polyamorous couple to their friends.  So many different elements and they all  work due to wonderful writing and  intelligent handling of the subject matter.

And the romance is never forgotten, not once.  Along with some very hot and sexy scenes.

I loved the end of this story.  I always hate to leave Logan and all the couples there, including now a polyamorous one.  Turns out Heidi Cullinan isn’t done with Logan yet.  Be still my heart.  There will be a return to Christmas Town and I, for one, can’t wait.   Love this series.  Be sure to pick up Santa Baby (Minnesota Christmas #4).  Its unexpected, hot, heartwarming and everything you’ve come to expect from this series, town and author.  I highly recommend it and all the books that make up the Minnesota Christmas series.

Cover art by Kanaxa is just terrific.  Just brings out the smiles.

Sales Links

AmazonAll Romance Ebooks Barnes & NobleiTunesKoboSmashwordsHeidi’s Patreon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 227 pages
Published November 8th 2016 by Heidi Cullinan
Original Title Santa Baby
ASIN B01MTKD04T
Edition Language English

In Our Holiday Spotlight: Santa Baby (Minnesota Christmas #4) by Heidi Cullinan (author interview, excerpt and giveaway)

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santa-baby

Santa Baby (Minnesota Christmas #4) by Heidi Cullinan

Cover Art by Kanaxa

Buy links

AmazonAll Romance Ebooks Barnes & NobleiTunesKoboSmashwordsHeidi’s Patreon

 

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is so happy to have Heidi Cullinan agree to answer a few questions for us about her latest story, Santa Baby in the wonderful Minnesota Christmas series, a favorite here at STRW.  Along with the interview, we also have 2 giveaways for our readers to enter and an except to read. Now lets get started.

My interview with Heidi Cullinan

 

  • I was surprised to see another story in one of my favorite series, what was the inspiration?

Well, I’d always thought there would be at least a little hanky-panky after the way they made eyes at each other during the end of Winter Wonderland, and I thought maybe I could write a short story for fun this Christmas. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized there was something deeper between them, particularly between Gabriel and Dale. That was quite a revelation, and I couldn’t resist the rabbit hole.

  • Does this mean we might get even more?

I do want to do a spin-off series, probably not linked just to Christmas exactly. I’ve thought of calling it Minnesota Summer, or maybe it’s simply Christmas Town. This way we could go out on the lake in the summer, etc., and see some of the tourism Dale is drumming up. But yes, we’ll go back to Logan in one form or another. Eventually. I have a long writing list.

  • You’ve added a third to one of my favorite couples, was that a surprise to you or something you  always saw the potential for?

It was a surprise. I wasn’t planning on it any more than Gabriel or Arthur. But it all worked out for the best, I feel. I hope readers do too.

  • What’s next for Heidi Cullinan?

 Right now I’m working on book two of the Roosevelt series, Shelter the Sea. It will be a continuation of Carry the Ocean, not yet David’s book though that had been my original plan. This is a theme, you may have noticed. My plans are not always the plans that happen. I’ve learned not to argue. After that I have a long list of what’s coming, but what is precisely next and in what order depends on a lot of things. I intend to publish novels in February, May, July, September, and November if I can, though. We’ll see if I can be that ambitious or not.

For those of you who love to follow along with Heidi’s playlist for each novel, here is her playlist for Santa Baby:

For Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words review of Santa Baby, visit here

About Santa Baby

santa-babyTrimming the tree is more fun with three.

Twin Cities developer Dale Davidson has come to Logan, Minnesota, to turn it into Christmas Town, not to give in to Arthur Anderson’s offer to join him and his fiancé, Gabriel Higgins, for a Christmas Eve threesome. Dale is polyamorous, but it’s clear Arthur is offering a night of fun and nothing more. Maybe one night with the couple he admires so much won’t hurt…

Together the three of them light a fire hot enough to boil Lake Superior in January, and one night of fun becomes an extended engagement as Dale puts down some tentative roots in his new hometown. Everyone loves Dale, Logan’s own Santa Claus, and somehow no one knows what wild times are happening right underneath their noses. No one knows, either, the complicated ways they’re falling in love with one another.

But a shadow from Dale’s past emerges, an abuser threatening him with violence and shame. Ronny doesn’t want a happy ever after for Dale, only to draw him back into a consuming darkness. It will take the love of not only Gabriel and Arthur but all of Logan to convince their Santa he has nothing to be ashamed of—and that he will always have a home in their hearts

Excerpt from Santa Baby

Dale put a hand on Gabriel’s other leg, appearing concerned. “Are you all right?”

Now the two of them were touching him, sending their heat, their intensity into him, both of them laser-focused on his comfort, his needs, his pleasure. Suddenly he had a clear idea of how this evening was going to go. Gabriel held up his hands and let out an unsteady breath. “I’m fine. Shall we eat?”

He was relieved to find they settled into a rather normal meal, giving him a respite to collect himself. His body was a little sleepy from the orgasm, and he declined his second glass of wine, opting for water instead. The food was familiar, simple, and delicious. In the year they’d been together, Arthur had perfected the set of spices for venison steak, knowing just what and how much to season with to bring out the flavor in a way that made the meat exactly right. It was the same meal as the disastrous first dinner between the three of them—had it been deliberate? Arthur’s way of giving them a complete do-over? Probably. Except all Gabriel needed from the spread was the steak. The potatoes and salad, as far as he was concerned, were there for show—though he did try Dale’s bread, since he’d gone through the trouble to make it himself and since it happened to be Gabriel’s favorite.

It was quite good, in fact, especially since Arthur had kept it warm in the oven. Gabriel slathered it with butter and ate several large pieces, to the point that he put himself in a conundrum of which did he finish, his meat or his bread.

Arthur nudged him with his elbow. “Don’t make yourself so full you’re sick. Plenty more coming later.”

Gabriel understood what he meant by more—activity, not dinner, but Dale said, “Oh, is there dessert?”

Arthur didn’t move his gaze from Gabriel’s. “Yeah, I was thinking some cream.”

Gabriel blushed scarlet.

Dale chuckled and eased into his seat. “Goddamn, Arthur, but I love how you don’t muck around.”

“Not something I’m known for, no.” Arthur poked at the last few potatoes on his plate and swept up the remaining juices with the crust of his bread. “And since we’ve brought it up now, let’s lay out some rules for this evening’s entertainment. First, as a reminder, I’m making all of them. Second, and most important, if anybody doesn’t like what’s going on or needs us to ease up, we use yellow and red.” He rested a hand on Gabriel’s shoulder and toyed with a lock of his hair. “Gabriel does enjoy, in the right circumstances, saying no when he means go. But obviously it’s a risky game, and if we end up going there tonight, you’ll be following my lead, Mr. Davidson.”

Dale nodded, his expression hooded. “Yes, sir.”

Arthur glanced across their plates. “It looks like we’re all pretty much finished. Let’s get this table cleared, shall we? And then we can have a little fun.”

Gabriel carried the bread to the counter, because it was the only thing he dared carry for fear he’d drop it in his shaking hands. He wasn’t fearful, really, simply so stimulated and primed, aware both Arthur and Dale were focused on him. It made him excited, but it was overwhelming too. Part of him wanted to throw up his hands and tell them to leave the leftovers, for God’s sake, but for the first time ever he hadn’t finished his steak, and he watched it go into the fridge, thinking of when he would like to eat it next.

Then everything was put away, and they were heading into the living room.

Here we go.

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Giveaway Times 2

We are giving away one copy of Santa Baby to one lucky reader.  Leave a comment along with your email address where you can be reached. Giveaway ends December 9th at midnight.  Must be 18 years of age or older to enter both contests.

There is also a Rafflecopter giveaway of  Books 1-4 of the Minnesota Christmas Series (Let It Snow, Sleigh Ride, Winter Wonderland, Santa Baby), Santa Hat, Handkerchief, copy of American Gods) from Heidi Cullinan.  To enter that  giveaway use the Rafflecopter code below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

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Heidi Cullinan head shot (1)

About the Author

Heidi Cullinan has always enjoyed a good love story, provided it has a happy ending. Proud to be from the first Midwestern state with full marriage equality, Heidi is a vocal advocate for LGBT rights. She writes positive-outcome romances for LGBT characters struggling against insurmountable odds because she believes there’s no such thing as too much happy ever after. When Heidi isn’t writing, she enjoys cooking, reading, playing with her cats, and watching television with her family. Find out more about Heidi at heidicullinan.com.

How to find the author:

Twitter

Spotify (pretty much entirely work in progress soundtracks, and past stories)

 Facebook: Author Profile (more posts, more randomness, easy to tag)

Facebook: Fan Page (not as many posts, sticks to largely books and the occasional interesting bit)

 Instagram (mostly my kid and cats)

Blog (lots of back content, not much news)

Goodreads

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Enjoy the Dance (Dancing #2) by Heidi Cullinan

Standard

Rating: 5 stars out of 5

enjoy-the-dance-by-heidi-cullinanWhen Spenser Harris spots a young man with a black trash bag hovering outside his apartment door, his first thought is panic, the second is that the boy must belong to the Spanish-speaking family across the hall.  But then he learns the true story, and all the compassion of this kind-hearted kindergarden teacher comes to the forefront as he opens his arms and his heart wide to take in the homeless teen. They have more in common than the teen, Duon, suspects. Spenser was once a child of the foster system and didn’t find family until he had aged out of the system when Avenues for Homeless Youth placed him with a lesbian couple through the GLBT Host Home Program Spenser is determined that Duon won’t have to go through what he did and immediately makes plans to become an eligible home. 

Speaking of the neighbors across the hall, Duon was indeed looking for them, more specifically for Tobias, the adult son of the household, a man who instructs dance at the studio where Duon takes lessons in exchange for work. The studio is owned by Ed and Laurie (Dance With Me) and is the best thing in Duon’s life to-date. Tobias also works as a barista at Starbucks and as a nursing home janitor and sometimes even squeezes in an extra job when it looks doable. He’s the sole support of his undocumented immigrant parents who, in turn, are the sole support of his sister’s three kids. His sister, an addict and all around ne’er-do-well is generally MIA, and between avoiding INS and needing someone to watch over the kids, his parents can’t work so earning money to support everyone falls to Tobias.

This story is the love story of Spenser and Tobias but the theme is family—family of the heart as well as family of origin—for better or for worse. And it’s about the love of one person for another, with or without a blood relationship. Spenser lost his sisters when they were taken into the foster care system after his mother was arrested when Spenser was a young child. His mother is out of jail now, and he’s seen her once, but his sisters are lost to him. His heart and psyche bear the scars of abandonment from that incident and from the loss of all his foster homes. It seemed to him at the time that no matter what he did, he was never good enough. Wheras Tobias has grown up in a loving family but in a world where every misspoken word could lead the INS to their door. And every wrong deed done by his sister could bring the focus of DHS children’s services to their door and therefore INS as well. Fear is a very real emotion for Tobias, every single day.

But Duon seems to bridge a gap for both men, and Spenser finds family where he least expected it, as he’s virtually adopted by Tobias’s parents, and Tobias finds not only his own family in Spenser and Duon, but help where he least expected it. Together, they forge a new future as Tobias, Duon, and Laurie teach Spenser how to overcome his fear of failure and enjoy the dance.

I hope it’s obvious by now that I totally enjoyed this story, and I highly recommend it. It’s one of those stories that gets better with each page turn. In fact, I have never highlighted so many passages, so many quotes, so many things I thought were memorable and worth saving—not just to write the review, but to use in my life choices. A simple example is: “All lives cast shadows. Pretending otherwise is how we end up accidentally living in darkness.”

And this next passage really sent an arrow to my heart as I am aging, hopefully gracefully, while attempting to maintain my integrity and dignity: “…one day, no matter what we do, there will be darkness and end. But the time between the spark and the curtain’s close is ours to shape.” I have no words that would truly do justice to how much I respect Heidi Cullinan. After reading this book, both my eyes and my heart have been opened to the plight of both undocumented immigrants and teens in foster care, particularly “queer teens.” Please don’t skip over the Author’s Note at the end of the story. I’m trying to force down the tears as I write this, knowing there are young gay, lesbian, or transgender youth out there who are suffering at this very moment. I wish I was in a situation to do more right now, but I can donate something, and I will. 

On a much lighter note, I really need to thank the author for introducing readers to the joys of using Tajin as a seasoning. It’s as good as, or maybe even better than, described in the story. It just goes to show, you never know what you will find when you open a book by Heidi Cullinan!

Cover Artist: Kanaxa is perfect for the story.

Sales Links

AmazonKoboiTunesBarnes & Noble • All Romance Ebooks  • Smashwords • Scribd

Book Details:

ebook, 273 pages
Expected publication: October 11th 2016 by Heidi Cullinan
Original TitleEnjoy the Dance
ISBN139780996120364
Edition LanguageEnglish
URL http://www.heidicullinan.com

Series:Dancing – add to your Goodreads page below:

 

Avenues for Homeless Youth