A Caryn Review: Becoming Andy Hunsinger by Jere’ M. Fishback

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

The opening of this book really summed up the theme and was nicely done (even though the quote was misattributed to Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat https://quoteinvestigator.com/2012/12/04/those-who-mind/)

Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.

This is a year in the life of Andy Hunsinger, a gay man entering his senior year of college at Florida State University in 1976.  He’d always suspected he was gay, but that summer had his first sexual experience which not only confirmed that he was queer, but made him want to explore that world and that side of himself.  He moved into a cheap apartment for privacy, and proceeded to expand his life.

The level of detail is pretty extraordinary (at times to the point of boredom, especially in the beginning of the book), as the author takes us through the experience of a young man living alone for the first time, paying bills, feeding himself, and overall learning how to be responsible.  Meeting new people outside of his previous comfort zone, going to new places, and gradually coming out.  Learning how to cruise men at the bar, finding a boyfriend for the first time, and navigating a relationship with someone who was not out and never wanted to be.  I don’t remember 1976, but I loved the descriptions of the handlebar mustaches, the clothes, and the music.  I was shocked to read about sex without condoms, but then again, this was before the AIDs era, when most gay men didn’t worry about STIs.  Andy is exposed to a level of homophobia that I am so happy is no longer so prevalent – demonstrating against Anita Bryant was a pivotal moment for him, and for me her platforms sound absolutely ludicrous in 2017, but that was Andy’s world.  Everything changed for Andy after that moment – he decided to live his life as an out gay man.

Andy’s coming out process was very realistic and believable.  Being forced out of the closet at work, coming out to his family, joining the campus “Gay Rap Group”, coming out to his friends…  He met these hurdles with trepidation, but handled them with grace, and was blessed to have loving and supportive friends and family.  And exposed to enough gay men who didn’t have the same experience to know exactly how lucky he was, so he never took them for granted.  The ordeals some of his friends went through were absolutely harrowing, and unfortunately are still happening today.

I enjoyed Andy as a character, the detailed descriptions of everything Andy saw and felt, his eclectic friends, his amazing family, and the way he took all of that and used it to become a better man.  I think there was a lot of character development.  The only reason I can’t give the book a higher rating is that it was so unemotional.  The descriptions are vivid, but never moved me.  I watched Andy fall in and out of love, but he always felt a little detached from everything.  I think it was a matter of too much telling and not enough showing – the introspection was good, but at times Andy seemed almost indifferent.  Granted, the end of the book was a bit more feeling, but it wasn’t enough.  It took longer than usual for me to read the book, and it was not wasted time, but I have no desire to read it again, and will think twice before reading more from this author.

Cover art by Natasha Snow is very nice – the water tower in the back is an important symbol in the book – but the model’s clothes and hairstyle are definitely not 70s.

Sales Links:

NineStar Press | Amazon | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Book Details:

ebook, second, 194 pages
Published August 14th 2017 by NineStar Press (first published December 30th 2014)
Edition LanguageEnglish
URLhttps://ninestarpress.com/product/becoming-andy-hunsinger/ settingFlorida (United States)

A Whistle Stop Tour for Lisa Henry’s Sweetwater (contest)




Hi! I’m Lisa Henry, author of Sweetwater! I’m touring the web talking about my inspiration, my writing process, and giving you a behind-the-scenes look at Sweetwater. And of course there’s a giveaway! You could win a title from my back catalogue, as well as a $20 Riptide gift voucher!  And you can follow along at every stop on the tour schedule!

About SweetwaterSweetwater cover

Wyoming Territory, 1870.

Elijah Carter is afflicted. Most of the townsfolk of South Pass City treat him as a simpleton because he’s deaf, but that’s not what shames him the most. Something in Elijah runs contrary to nature and to God. Something that Elijah desperately tries to keep hidden.

Harlan Crane, owner of the Empire saloon, knows Elijah for what he is—and for all the ungodly things he wants. And Crane isn’t the only one. Grady Mullins desires Elijah too, but unlike Crane, he refuses to push or mistreat the young man.

When violence shatters Elijah’s world, he is caught between two very different men and two devastating urges: revenge and despair. In a boomtown teetering on the edge of a bust, Elijah must face what it means to be a man in control of his own destiny, and choose a course that might end his life . . . or truly begin it for the very first time.

About the Author

Sweetwater_150x300Lisa Henry lives in tropical North Queensland, Australia. She doesn’t know why, because she hates the heat, but suspects she’s too lazy to move. She spends half her time slaving away as a government minion, and the other half plotting her escape.

She attended university at sixteen, not because she was a child prodigy or anything, but because of a mix-up between international school systems early in life. She studied History and English, neither of them very thoroughly.

She shares her house with too many cats, a dog, a green tree frog that swims in the toilet, and as many possums as can break in every night. This is not how she imagined life as a grown-up.

You can visit Lisa her website, at Goodreads, or on Facebook or Twitter.

Contest:  Thanks for following the tour! To celebrate the release, I’m giving away an ebook from my back catalogue, as well as a $20 Riptide gift voucher. All you have to do is leave a comment on this post with a way for me to contact you, be it your email, your twitter, or a link to your facebook or goodreads account. Please put your email in the body of the comment, not just in email section of the comment form, because I won’t be able to see it otherwise! On October 8, I’ll draw a winner from all eligible comments! Be sure to follow the whole tour, because the more comments you leave, the more chances you have to win the prize!

Authors News, Book Reviews and Book Giveaway

What an exciting and blustery week this has been at Scattered Thoughts!  Things are quite topsy turvy around here! There are  so many notable and anticipated books being released this week that I can almost hear the twitching and scrambling as people get ready to click “download”.  Two of those books are being touted here this week and the next.  And I am equally scampering around trying to get my reviews finished for all of them.  But I will just say this, you are going to love them, hate parts of them and reread them often! Just saying.

Now another thing to bring up is that I had scheduled T.J. Klune’s latest novel, Into This River I Drown for review on Saturday and that is notInto This River I Drown going to happen and here’s the reason why, I finished the book and then just sat there speechless, just absolutely floored.  Really, folks, I was in no way prepared for this novel.  I have read all of Klune’s books, most of which I adored, one not so much and still would never have guessed he would have written such a milestone of a novel, one that people always hope to write but few do.  But I can’t figure out how to write the review, don’t know even where to start yet.  So look for it at the end of next week, hopefully I will have figured it out by then.  But please go get this book, right now even if you have to drop what you are doing to do so.  Read it, finish it, and then let me know what it means to you. I really want to know.

Next on the agenda is that I am participating in Riptide Publishing’s Cut & Run Web Hunt in celebration of the release of Abigail Roux’s seventh??????????????????????????????????????? book in the Cut & Run series, Touch & Geaux.  On April 8th, Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words, along with other terrific book blogs, will be joining the party by posting about the book and including one of their favorite quotes from any book in the Cut & Run series. Readers who collect each quote and submit their findings to marketing@riptidepublishing.com will be eligible to win one of two runner-up prizes and one grand prize, to be revealed soon.   I will have more on this web hunt on Saturday so stay tuned in.  Again, fyi, I think this is one of the best books in a superlative series, just outstanding, but you will have to wait until Monday to read the full review.

Finally, I know this is going to be a very expensive week for all of you book buyers so I hope to lighten the financial load just a bit for one lucky person.  Tomorrow Sarah Black’s latest book, The General and the Horse-Lord is being released by Dreamspinner Press. To celebrate, Sarah Black is guest blogging here about her characters and soap making.  It’s fascinating post and the book is just terrific. Sarah Black is a must read author for me and you can always find her on my “favorite” lists (see Marathon Cowboys and The Legend of the Apache Kid).  So stop buy tomorrow and leave a comment.  At the end of the day, one lucky person will be chosen from those who commented and they will receive a free copy of The General and the Horse-Lord.GeneralandtheHorse-Lord[The]

Wow, so much going on around here!  Later today I will be reposting my Author Spotlight on Sarah Black in preparation for tomorrow’s giveaway.  So mark all these dates on your calendar, check in with us tomorrow, and let’s finish this week up in style shall we?

Review: Promises Made Under Fire by Charlie Cochrane

Rating: 4.5 stars

Promises Made Under FireIt’s France, 1915, and Europe has been fighting WWI for a year.  Lieutenant Tom Donald and his fellow officer Frank Foden help alleviate both the tedium and the terror by sharing confidences about their family and friends back home.  Frank Foden, a confident popular officer with a positive outlook on life, happily shares his letters from home with Tom, including those from his physician wife, a rarity at that time.  Letter after letter, arriving sometimes twice a week, enliven their day. Frank and Tom laugh about her “doctor’s scribble” of handwriting and her accounts from home, and soon Tom begins to feel that he knows her as well as Frank.  The one thing he doesn’t share with Frank is the knowledge that Tom prefers men to women,  a fact that would see him booted from the army and most likely imprisoned.

Then Frank is killed on the front and Tom injured.  Tom is sent home to recover and act on a last request from Frank.  Frank left several letters for Tom to deliver in person.  One to Frank’s mother, and one to a man named Palmer who Tom has never heard Frank mention.  Tom’s journey to fulfill his mission will uncover some starting facts about Frank, and his life back home, starting with the fact that everything he knew about the man was a lie.

Promises Made Under Fire is just another fine example of historic fiction from author Charlie Cochrane.  Cochrane returns us to the front.  It is WWI and England has been fighting for a year. We are given Englishmen under incredible stress and facing imminent death every moment they are in the trenches and yet touches of civilized society still order the soldier’s day, including their officer’s servant who serves them tea and acts as “nursemaid and housekeeper” to both Tom and Frank, a decidedly English detail.  And because this is Charlie Cochrane, you can count on the historic details she presents during the story as being accurate as well as interesting.  I have always admired the manner in which Cochrane folds her  historical facets into her story while bringing it all effortlessly to life in front of us.  I could hear the sounds of guns nearby and smell the powder on the air but the main focus is always on her characters.

What amazing characters are laid out before us.  Cochrane has a remarkable ear for dialog and her character’s “language” is true for each person and their social status.  Here is Bentham, their officers servant, talking about the Jerry’s(Germans):

“He’s probably plotting even when he’s kicking up Bob’s a dying.” (Bentham)

“Bob’s a dying?” (Tom)

“Dancing and frolicking, sir.”

In just those few sentences, you understand immediately that Bentham is lower class, given his colloquialisms, and that Tom is decidedly upper class, given his  lack of understanding about the same.  Loads of backstory in a few simple phrases, just perfection.

In fact, without realizing it, the reader is absorbing tons of information about the men in the story without having it spelled out for us just through the dialog alone.  The front and it’s horrors are quite real as is its impact upon our main characters.  In fact there is not one element here that isn’t brought fully to life.  This story and its characters, live, react, and painfully try to recover from the devastation the war has wrought  upon them and their world.

I love how this story slowly unfolds, giving us time to know and care about Tom and Frank, and Tom’s journey home is a revelation in more than one way.  The use of letters is a  form of narrative that always charms me and it is used to perfection here to move the story forward. But you never forget that this is a love story, and that love between men is something to be carefully hidden and protected.  Discretion is the rule these men live by and the lengths they must go to in order to protect the ones they loved.

This is an absolutely marvelous love story but the end is in keeping with the times and perfectly realistic for the men involved.  The more I thought about it the more I appreciated the manner in which Cochrane remained true to her characters, and her period.  And leaves us with the possibility of more should she ever wish to return to Tom and see how he is getting on.  Put a pot of tea on, place some biscuits on a plate and settle down with Promises Made Under Fire to return to war torn England and a love that dares not speak its name.

17,000 words

cover artist is unknown which is a shame considering how perfect this cover is for the story.  Lovely in its detail and design.

Review of Gregori’s Ghost by Sarah Black

Rating: 5 stars

Gregori's GhostDr. Steven Russell’s grandfather, Charlie,  is dying. And in his pain, Charlie keeps calling out two mens names, that of Gregori and Alexi.  When Steven asks who those men are Charlie begins to tell his grandson a story, one he has never heard before, that of Charlie’s time in the Army in WWII. Charlie tells Steven that when he meet a Ukrainian war photographer, his live divided into two parts, that of “before Gregori and after Gregori”. Charlie tells Steven a horrific story of a mass execution that Gregori photographed and asks Steven to bring Gregori’s old camera to him in the hospital.  Charlie also gets Steven to promise to find  Alexi, Gregori’s grandson and make sure he is safe.  But when Steven returns to the hospital with the camera, his grandfather has already died and Steven has a promise to keep.

But there is so much more going on than just a promise.  When Steven pulled out the camera from its storage place, he noticed its mint condition and looked into the lens.  To his utter astonishment, he sees exactly what Gregori saw that day in the Katyn Forest when over 23,000 people were slaughtered and dumped in a mass burial to be hidden.  Steven can smell the oder of the guns and feel the cold creep into his bones.  Looking into the camera, he is there with Gregori as it happens.  And then Gregory and Charlie start to speak to him and tell Steven that he has to help Alexi right the wrongs and save the spirits of the two old men.

All his life, Steven has lead a self indulgent, golden life.  Now to honor his  promise to Charlie, he must leave it all behind to go to the Ukraine to find Alexi Temchanko  a Ukrainian journalist investigating the old crime.  While they have never met, they have talked on the phone, and the attraction Steven feels for the journalist is unsettling as is the fact that Gregori is still speaking to him, telling him that time is running out and Alexi is in danger.  There are people all around them trying to stop the truth from coming out.  Will Steven get to Alexi in time to save him and honor his promise to the ghosts of two men depending upon him as well?

Gregori’s Ghost is a wonder of a story on so many levels.  We have an historical element based on fact, that of Katyn massacre, a mass execution of Polish citizens in 1940.  Then around this monstrous crime Black builds a tale of family, obligation, honor and love.  Sarah Black is an expert on old men, as crazy as that sounds.  She knows how they sound and how they move and her characters resonate with authenticity of age and knowledge, how I loved Gregori and Charlie. But  Steven Russell is something of a new character for her.  He is a “golden boy”, a neurologist who is emotionally removed from everyone around him with the exception of his grandfather, who sees the true Steven.  He is a bit of a cad, taking from lovers and never giving of himself.  But Black takes this unlovable character and makes him grow and discard his shallow lifestyle to carry out his grandfather’s wishes. But there is no personality transplant but a realistic difficult change that Steven has to undergo.  It is just so very well done that I came to like Steven by the end of the story.  But Gregori’s Ghost is peopled with characters you will come to love and entrust with your affections, including Gregori and Charlie, the two entwined men who start it all.

On top of her characterizations, Sarah Black gives us a mystical element, that of the ghosts or spirits of Gregori and Charlie who continue to talk or berate Steven into action.  The author gives her ghosts as many layers as her living persons, right down to their sexuality as well.  Gregori finds himself tempted by the gorgeous Steven and gives in to their mutual sexual needs in several stirring scenes.  How you feel about the supernatural might dictate what you feel about this part of the book, but I ask  you to just go with it because the end is worth it all.

But most impressive is that Gregori’s Ghost is so different in that her traditional love of the land is missing here. Unlike all her other books where the characters are as wedded to the land as they are to each other, here the landscape is reduced to a minor supporting role.  Instead of the land being the characters foundation, it is each other that provides the emotional and mental support they need to go forward.  With the exception of Steven, Alexi, Gregori, and Charlie are men who by their nature and the circumstances they find themselves in, are men pared down to their core.  In pain, dying, they still act with honor and determination, something Steven learns along the way.  Like I said , a remarkable book.  Now this great book is free at All Romance Books.  Find it here and download it for free.  Run, don’t walk to the nearest computer and get it.  I hope you will love it as much as I do.  And while you are there, pick up some other Sarah Black books, starting with Marathon Cowboys. You will want them all.

Author Spotlight: Sarah Black


The Legend of the Apache Kid by Sarah Black , review here

Marathon Cowboys by Sarah Black, review here