An Alisa Review: Step Into Love (Taboo Love #2) by Lili Draguer

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Rating:  3 stars out of 5

Colton Johnson has successfully buried the crazy attraction he feels for his younger stepbrother for so long, he can pretend he’s not attracted to Asher at all. Graduating and dealing with the daily chore that is his bipolar disorder are the only two things on his mind. Then Colton makes the impulsive decision to accept his stepmother’s invitation to visit. What Colton doesn’t know is that Asher has been making plans.

With boundless enthusiasm, good looks, and endless amounts of persistence Asher Miller usually gets what he wants. The one plan that hasn’t worked out for him is falling in love. He never thought his off limits, damaged, hot-as-sin stepbrother would be the one to catch his heart. For years Asher has squashed down his forbidden desire but now he’s eighteen, he’s following Colton’s footsteps to college…and all bets are off. It’s time to take the steps that will seduce Colton into love.

I enjoyed this story and liked that they gave a glimpse of what a relationship can be life with someone who is bi-polar.  As my spouse is it hits close to home for me, there are times that they can never think anything positive and it can be a struggle.  Colton has worked hard to keep his hand off his step brother and when Asher starts to come onto him it sends him running.  Asher knows what he wants and isn’t scared to go for it, even if he has to push a little bit.

I liked both of these characters.  Asher is quite mature for his age and the openness he has with his mom helps the situation also.  Colton has to deal with a jerk of a father while trying to succeed at school, when Asher stands up to his father it gives him the chance to see that there is someone who would want to be with him.  We get to see how both of them feel and their reactions to what the other does.

The cover art by Latricia Waters is cute and gives a nice visual of the characters.

Sales Links: Extasy Books | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 102 pages

Published: June 29, 2018 by Extasy Books

Edition Language: English

Series: Taboo Love #2

A MelanieM Audiobook Review: Runner by Parker Williams and Patrick Zeller (Narrator)

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Rating:  4.5 stars out of 5

Matt Bowers’s life ended at sixteen, when a vicious betrayal by someone who he should have been able to trust left him a shell of himself, fighting OCD and PTSD, living in constant fear and always running. When he buys a remote tract of land, he thinks he’s found the perfect place to hide from the world and attempt to establish some peace. For ten years he believes he’s found a measure of comfort, until the day a stranger begins to run on Matt’s road.

He returns every day, an unwelcome intrusion into Matt’s carefully structured life. Matt appeals to the local sheriff, who cannot help him since the jogger is doing nothing wrong. Gradually, after tentatively breaking the ice, Matt begins to accept the man’s presence—

But when the runner doesn’t show up one day, it throws Matt’s world into chaos and he must make the hardest decision of his life.

I’ve been sitting here wondering what to write.  How do I write a review when I thought the writing was exceptional and the narrating so perfect that I was emotionally pulled into the story from the very beginning? There’s no getting around the fact that Parker Williams can write heartbreaking stories.  This is certainly one of those.  What happens to Matt Bowers at the young age of sixteen should never happen to anyone and yet it does.  We hear stories of sexual abuse over and over again until it almost numbs you.  It takes stories like Matt’s to make those numbers personal and give them a face again.  And a narrator like Patrick Zeller to give them a voice.

Something else horrible happened to Matt that day the teacher attacked him, a deep part of him died or maybe it just permanently changed in order to survive the attack and to try to heal as best he could.  He became a different Matt, a post attack Matt that handled  living post attack far differently than pre attack Matt ever could have envisioned.  He had to take control of his life in the small ways he knew how,  he had to clean, and, he had to make sure he was safe.  Words we would apply to Matt would be PTSD and OCD, however, those words would not be words he applied to himself.

Because this story is told from Matt’s pov, after the attack, Matt finds nothing but  pity and an inability for his Mother and brother to see him as anything other than a wounded preattack Matt, not as the functioning post attack Matt he’s become.  In that frame of mind,  with the help of lawyers, Matt takes charge of the settlement fund at the age of 18, leaves home, buys a remote house with land and basically becomes something of a hermit, remaining isolated and in his mind safe from harm.

So I have major issues there with an 18 year old and his mother not looking at other options for treatment, counseling etc.  Yes, a book can have literary license but my issues with the mother and brother will continue on throughout the story and it’s origins begin here.  I find them irresponsible and their following actions more so.  That Matt “writes off” their actions or apologizes for them because they love him?  That I find equally troubling.  That they  continue to do what they think is best, whether it actually is or not, is something I find controlling bordering on abuse.  That it’s done with love?  Doesn’t make it right or downright creepy.  Especially now that the local sheriff is also his brother.

The runner, a writer named Charlie, gets to know Matt in an unusual way.   And slowly they build a tentative relationship, one that also allows us to see that Matt has also built a life for himself on his land that has its own riches.  There is true beauty here in Parker’s narrative.  Descriptions of  Matt’s life on the land and his inner thoughts of his life and schedules.   And how it all starts to slightly fracture and enlarge as Charlie wedges himself into Matt’s life.

Its only as the brother bludgeons his way back in over and over, harsh and with such a shattering impact that I had to really think about the story and the way the brother is included into Matt’s life.  That he’s such a vivid character is due to the author’s terrific characterization, but I just never “liked him” or the manner in which he felt he had the right to control Matt’s life.  Same goes for Matt’s mother.  Ah well.  Great writing if you make me dislike the characters so.

Either way, these are difficult subjects to address and I’m not sure everyone is going to be able to look at them objectively.  Its far too emotional a story for that.  It is, however, a wonderfully moving one.  I love how it ended.  And for me Patrick Zeller will always be the voice of Matt.  Fragile at times, wounded certainly, and finding the strength that was there all along.  How I love him.

Yes, I absolutely recommend this story and this narrator.

Cover art: Reese Dante is perfection.

Sales Links: Dreamspinner Press | Amazon | Audible | iTunes

Audiobook Details:

Listening Length: 6 hours and 11 minutes

Audible Audio
Published January 23rd 2018 by Dreamspinner Press (first published July 28th 2017)
ASINB0796Z54VX
Edition LanguageEnglish
URLhsettingMaine (United States)

A MelanieM Review: Junk (Bristol Collection #1) by Josephine Myles

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Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

Letting go is the first step to healing…or bringing it all crashing down.

When an avalanche of books cuts off access to his living room, university librarian Jasper Richardson can no longer ignore the truth. His ever-growing piles of books, magazines and newspapers can no longer be classified as a “collection”. It’s a hoard, and he needs professional help.

Professional clutter clearer and counselor Lewis Miller thinks he’s seen it all, but even he has to admit he’s shocked. Not so much by the state of Jasper’s house, but by the level of attraction he still feels for the sexy bookworm he remembers from school.

What a shame that Lewis’s ethical code forbids relationships with clients. As Jasper makes slow but steady progress, though, the magnetic pull between them is so strong even Lewis is having trouble convincing himself it’s a temporary emotional attachment arising from the therapeutic process.

Jasper longs to prove to Lewis that this is the real deal. But first he’ll have to lay bare the root of his hoarding problem…and reveal the dark secret hidden behind his walls of books.

Product Warnings
Contains a level-headed counselor with a secret addiction, a bespectacled geek with a sweet tooth, a killer “to-be-read” pile, embarrassing parents, a van called Alice, and deliciously British slang.

In some ways I thought I ought to give Junk (Bristol Collection #1) by Josephine Myles two different ratings.  One for its superb treatment of mental illness of hoarding and another for the romance.  Junk is not a light hearted romance.  At its center is a man who’s been deeply wounded by life and his mother.  Its manifested itself (although it is can be genetic in origin too ) in a hoarding situation that has taken away what little remained of his life and now his home.  Jasper is reduced to a cold house and a few rooms.  From the moment we meet Jasper in his despair, stacking his newspapers and journals in hallways and rooms, we want to cry for him.  Its an awful situation, one he realizes he needs help for if he can only dial the  number he’s programmed into his phone.

The way in which Myles writes Jasper and his illness allows us to see someone with this illness and view them with compassion instead of the disgust or pity you might feel from a newscast.  It brings us inside Jasper’s head and emotions, allowing us to feel his hopelessness, loneliness and pain over his life and inability to let go of his books and papers.  Plus there’s something more lurking in the background waiting to be revealed. How it’s slowly pulled out of Jasper is heartbreaking.  It makes for hard reading because it’s authentic emotions pouring forth from Jasper and those around him, especially Lewis and his sister, Carroll, who are trained to work with hoarders.    We see it from Jasper’s side and from Lewis and Carroll’s when their frustration builds up as Jasper and others refuse or are unable to move forward.  Lewis has more insight as he too is a hoarder of clothing, now his is under control.  I wish the author had given us more of Lewis here but the story is so full as it is, I’m not sure there was room – no pun intended.

I give Junk a 5 star rating when dealing with the element of hoarding and Jasper.  It delves deep into the issues that spark hoarding and the successful recovery for people such as Jasper.  I was cheering for Jasper here with tears in my eyes.   This whole part of the storyline is so gripping and huge that emotionally I’m not sure it leaves that much for the romance here.

I thought the romance and back history to Jasper and Lewis was so touching and sweet but their courtship/relationship is shadowed by the bigger issue of Jasper’s hoarding.  Lewis uses it as an excuse not to get involved (and I found myself agreeing with him up to a point) because getting Jasper better should be the priority here.  After a bit my frustration was with Lewis.  I liked the romance, it was sweet and rewarding.  In a way it could have used its own story.  But because I was so focused on Jasper’s illness and his recovery, I had less emotion left over for his romance.  It’s just the way it worked out.

I enjoyed all the secondary characters, from Carroll the sister, to Mas (a hookup who became Jasper’s friend), truly a wealth of friends here.

All in all, this is a terrific story.  I took Jasper to heart, rooting for him, loving him and when we and Lewis walked through his house, all newly done and clear, I bawled like a baby.  Trust me, this is one book you won’t want to miss out on.  I highly recommend Junk (Bristol Collection #1) by Josephine Myles.

Cover art by Lou Harper is so perfect for this story and characters. Loved it.

Sales Links:  Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 2nd Edition, 351 pages
Published May 25th 2017 (first published August 27th 2013)
Original TitleJunk
ASINB071Z4KPR8
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesThe Bristol Collection #1
CharactersJasper Richardson, Lewis Miller