A MelanieM Review :717 miles by Sophia Soames

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

The calculated flying distance from Oslo to London is equal to 717 miles which is equal to 1153 km. If you want to go by car, the driving distance between Oslo and London is 1732.79 km. If you ride your car with an average speed of 112 kilometres/hour (70 miles/h), travel time will be 15 hours 28 minutes.

Adam Vik Solheim should not be in London. He’s not supposed to be anywhere near the British capital, because Adam Vik Solheim, age 19, is supposed to be on a beach in Bali. He is supposed to be on the first stop on an Asian backpacking trip of a lifetime. That was the plan. That is where he is supposed to be. Not here. Alone in a weird house in a strange city, being paid to look after some troubled 17-year-old.

Felix Haugland has to survive the final 3 weeks of school. Make it through 21 more days of hell. Then he is going to hide out in his room for the rest of the summer until he can figure out how to get his life back on track. Find a school far far away, where he can start over and not make mistakes.
He doesn’t need a flipping babysitter. He just doesn’t. His life is messed up enough as it is.

This is a New Adult story and is set in the UK where the age of consent is 16. Trigger warnings: Severe bullying and mature content.

Several things intrigued me about this novel when I first heard about it.  It mentioned a discussion about the age of consent in Europe, the disparity in school systems from the US, an odd family dynamic, and of course, two countries (England and Norway) that it’s primarily set in.  Plus to top it all off it deals seriously with the issue of bullying.  All from a author I had never read before.  With an absolutely stunning cover to boot!  Yes, I grabbed it up and will forever be grateful I did.

717 miles by Sophia Soames is that not to be missed novel that you want to review.  Unexpected, beautifully written, that carries such an emotional impact with it’s characters and storyline that days later they and it are still with you, lingering in your mind and heart, scenes and phrases tumbling over and over.

The title from from the distance from Adam’s home in Oslo to his new temporary position as an au pair in London, England.  It’s exactly 717 miles and as he leaves home for the first time he is feeling every bit of it.  It’s not a place he thought he would be but extremely poor decisions from both himself and his long-time group of childhood friends has cost him and them dearly.  I won’t go into it here, it’s a tale for the story and Adam to tell, and it will unfold in the novel.  It too has both it’s heartbreakingly funny and deadly serious moments.  Just like everything in this book.  So human, so real, and young.

The story is told from both Adam’s and Felix’ perspective, a format that works so well here.  Their initial impressions of each other is important as is their descriptions, so we see them through each others eyes.  And it’s how we see Felix’s relationship with his unusual mother, Birgit, an expressive wonderful single mother whose style of parenting is not everyone idea of parenting but as Adam comes to realize it works for Felix.

I don’t think I can even begin to do justice to the incredible characterizations here.  Not just the two young men but all the families, and friends.  Each and everyone is an exquisite portrait of a real person, oozing with life and vitality.  You want to crawl inside this book and meet each and everyone.  Be a part of this unique circle of people in both countries.

Which makes one of the major elements here all the more realistic and frightening.  You see Felix is being badly bullied in school.  Physically beaten bullied. There is violence.  So if this is a trigger be warned.  It also marks such a major difference in my understanding of the school systems in the way it was treated.  I do understand some of  the difference between the UK systems and their as a good friend of the families was a headmaster but here the lawyers would have been outside the door, the headmaster held accountable the first time a student landed in the hospital and the culprit identified.  The inaction by the school and headmaster, however, realistic, frustrated me and made my heart hurt not only for Felix but for all those existing outside the story if true.  Adam is there to be his friend and Felix need a friend and more.  This entire thread, especially when told from Felix’s side, will make you weep.  It will get worse, and then get better.  Just know that.

Then there is the slow burn relationship between Adam and Felix.  Slow to develop because at first Felix sees Adam as an adversary, someone to drive away as he had all the other “babysitters” his mother has employed.  But Adam has younger brothers he loves and he knows how to deal with someone who clearly needed him.  It’s wonderful watching it unfold before you.  The dialog, the scenes, they alternate from hilarious (Adam learning to navigate the London traffic) to the serious (pulling out exactly what’s happening to Felix) to the amazing (all the cooking and baking that Adam does.  We  watch the transition from both pov and we start to cherish both the relationship and the  young men.

And oh that ending!  Sob.  Yes, I loved that ending too.  This book!  I’m already itching to reread it soon.

When you finish a book you love, you sort of bask in the glow of a story and characters so well done that you are just so happy.  Happy for them, happy you found the story, and in this case happy I found this remarkable author. Yes, I highly recommend this story to everyone! Go, go, go, grab it up and start reading immediately.  It will be on my Best of 2019 list.

Cover Artist: Miriam Latu. The cover artist is a Norwegian artist who works in charcoal on paper.  That’s the unusual beauty behind the cover and it’s Norwegian models that fit the story so perfectly.  Honestly this novel just continues to give starting with the cover and a link to the artist’s studio.

Buy Links – Available on Kindle Unlimited

Universal link

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Book Details:

ebook, 371 pages
Published April 30th 2019
ISBN139781092506168

A MelanieM Review: Wallaçonia by David Pratt

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

High school senior Jim Wallace faces the approaching Christmas holidays with a mixture of hope and dread. To escape the pressure, he imagines the woods and marshes around his home to be an independent country, Wallaçonia, where he is accepted and recognized as the “upright and sterling” young man people expect him to be. And he may make it yet: this could be the week he and his girlfriend Liz finally have sex, putting to rest any lingering doubts Jim has about what kind of guy he really is. But then Pat Baxter, a neighbor, asks him to help out in his bookstore during the holiday rush, and Jim starts making new connections – and rediscovering an old one. Will Jim leave the sanctuary of his imaginary Wallaçonia for the real world? And which real world will it be, the one with Liz or the one that beckons from the bookstore?

Wallaçonia by David Pratt is a beautifully written story of one man’s journey to self awareness about his sexuality and adulthood.  As you can imagine,  it’s not an easy journey.  Its fraught with the perils of expectations, the hurdles of high school cliques, hormones and feelings of inadequacies and so much more.

Sometimes I’m amazed anyone makes it out of the high school environment intact, even more a LGBTQIA youth questioning their sexuality.  The stresses and pressures from everyone, from parents to peer groups to society is intense.  It’s through David Pratt’s  character of Jim Wallace that we watch Jim and others around him try to navigate through rough waters to get safely onto the path that will lead out of town to college. Not all will make it.

Jim’s path is strewn with rocks and holes, some of which he digs himself.  Why?  Sigh.  Because he’s young, confused, scared, questioning…check all those boxes and create some more.  Nor are his actions ones that you will like, understand perhaps, but not like.  Fear and confusion can make you do some downright mean things, which Jim himself will later acknowledge.  Every character here, from Jim to Liz, to Pat and  more are layered, real people.  They are recognizable.  And that makes all their actions, relationships and interactions feel not only authentic but able to let us so deeply into their lives that we can hurt for them in their stumbling youth, wishing we could in some ways help make their paths easier even knowing, that’s not possible.

The narrative flows smoothly, I was swept so easily into Jim’s story, caught up in his life and that of those around him, not coming out until the book was done.  It made me think of all the young people it represents, past, present and probably future.  In some things, high school never changes.

Wallaçonia by David Pratt is a complex and gorgeous coming out and coming of age story.  It will stay with you long after you’ve put the book or Kindle down.  It’s one I highly recommend.

Cover art is touching and matches the character and story.

Sales Links:

Beautiful Dreamer Press

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 227 pages
Published March 25th 2017 by Beautiful Dreamer Press
ASINB01N7JFT93

A Free Dreamer New Adult Review: Crush by Caitlin Ricci

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Rating: 4.5 stars  out of 5

crush-by-caitlin-ricciGoing to college gives eighteen-year-old Trey Porter a chance to experience the world beyond rural Alabama and his overbearing family. After staying in a motel due to a housing error at the school, Trey’s friend, Bryce, offers to let Trey stay with him. The fascination Trey feels with Bryce’s gorgeous, glamorous, and somewhat outrageous boyfriend, Co-Co, catches him totally off guard, because Trey’s never considered himself even remotely gay. At least that’s what he’s always believed. Trey prides himself on being tolerant, but it’s hard to handle the questions he faces about life and himself—and even harder to accept that there might be no simple answers.

This was my second book by Caitlin Ricci. She recommended it to me herself, after I’d complained about the lack of detail in “Running With the Pack”. At first, I was a bit hesitant because several reviewers mentioned crossdressing and trans themes, which I’m usually not so fond of. But I’m really grateful for the recommendation, because I absolutely loved this book.

Trey, Bryce and Co-Co are three wonderfully unusual people. “Normal is a setting in the laundry, nothing more” will probably stay a favourite quote of mine for a long time to come. And it’s a perfect summary of our three MCs. I really liked all three of them, though Trey seemed just a tad too innocent at times. His utter lack of understanding of any sort of sexual innuendo seemed a bit unrealistic to me, even if he is asexual.

The plot itself is on the slower side, without all that much action. But that worked wonderfully for the story Caitlin Ricci was trying to tell. There was some angst and Co-Co made for plenty of drama, but it was never over the top. Just like in “Running With the Pack”, Trey’s asexuality and Co-Co’s gender identity were portrayed in a very positive way. I really liked that.

Even though Trey is asexual, there were quite a few sex scenes. It was really interesting to find out how Bryce and Co-Co let Trey be part of their love-making, without him being part of the action itself. The sex scenes definitely worked to further the plot and weren’t just there for the fun of it. They were still hot, of course, but it didn’t devolve into simple porn.

The love between the three of them was obvious, without ever turning cheesy. The ending was simply perfect and so very romantic it almost had me tearing up a little.

Long story short: “Crush” is a wonderful coming of age story, with three pretty unusual MCs. While Trey occasionally seemed a bit too naïve, I still really liked all three of them.

Cover: The cover by Caitlin Ricci shows Trey lying in the grass, looking thoughtful. It’s simple and yet somehow brilliant.

Sales Links

Harmony Ink Press

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Book details:

ebook, 200 pages
Published November 26th 2015 by Harmony Ink Press
ISBN 1634762711 (ISBN13: 9781634762717)
Edition LanguageEnglish

A Jeri Review: A Good Enough Reason by C.M. Lievens

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Rating: 4 Stars out of 5

A Good Enough ReasonComing of age/teenage romance stories can be tough. Too much can be….icky, but not enough leaves you wanting so much more. Just as teenagers skate a fine line between being children and adults, stories based on them can skate that line as well. But this book did that really well.

Ellis is your typical nerdy loner with one friend. Well, he had two but one of them moved away.  Dale is Mr. Jock Popularity in school. We all knew him, that guy that everyone loved and he loved everyone back. So when Ellis and Dale are paired together for an English topic to debate for and against a topic, Dale thinks he is being cool by suggesting they debate if gay teens should get the same perks as straight teens as far as prom goes. Ellis assumes Dale is mocking him and it takes a while to convince Ellis that even though he is popular, Dale is a good guy. He even wants to find him a prom date.

Dale and Ellis grow closer, with Dale pushing the boundaries of friendship. And while this could have come off as supremely cocky of him, it didn’t. He genuinely seemed like a kid who wanted to explore his bisexuality with someone he not only considered a friend, but someone he was really attracted to.

Ellis is wary, but doesn’t throw up walls of “stay away seemingly straight dude”! He has a sounding board in his friend who moved away and best friend who is witnessing it all.

The author also does an amazing job of dealing with bullying. Not only how easily and often it happens, but how it is so overlooked by teachers. They just don’t take it seriously until it goes too far. And usually the person being bullied doesn’t want to come out and say anything because ultimately that makes the bullying worse. One scene, which I will call “the locker incident”, when Ellis is just dumbfounded that he is getting in trouble for something that happened TO him, I was heartbroken. Because it happens every.single.day.

This was a really great young adult romance story with a lot of meat to it. I thoroughly enjoyed it and would actually love to read more about Dale and Ellis.

Cover art by Bree Archer is lovely and works for the story.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | ARe | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 220 pages
Published May 23rd 2016 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1634772520 (ISBN13: 9781634772525)
Edition LanguageEnglish