Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Family Man by Heidi Cullinan and Marie Sexton

Family Man* * * *

Sometimes family chooses you.

How does a man get to be forty without knowing whether he’s gay? That’s a question Vince Fierro is almost afraid to answer. If he is gay, it’ll be a problem for his big, fat Italian family. Still, after three failed marriages, he can’t help but wonder if he’s been playing for the wrong team.

There’s only one way to settle it, once and for all—head for Chicago’s Boystown bars, far from anyone who knows him. Naturally, he runs smack into someone from the neighborhood.

Between working two jobs, going to school, taking care of his grandmother, and dealing with his mother’s ongoing substance abuse, Trey Giles has little time for fun, let alone dating someone who swears he’s straight. Yet after one night of dancing cheek-to-cheek to the sultry strains of Coltrane, Trey finds himself wanting to help Vinnie figure things out—no promises, and no sex.

It seems like a simple plan, until their “no-sex” night turns into the best date of their lives and forges a connection that complicates everything.

Warning:  This book deals with alcoholism, broken promises, and overbearing little sisters.


I’ve read a string of crappy books lately.  It was getting so frustrating that I actually decided to not finish one.  I rarely do that.  Then after not finishing a book, I went on to experience the supreme downer of reading a craptastic book  that was recommended to me and that had over 1000 5* reviews on GoodReads.  I needed some sort of palate cleanser after that piece of drivel.  Something to remind me how amazing gay romances can truly be.  How to do that?  Hmmmm…Oh, I know! Maybe look on my TBR shelf...  And that’s where I found Family Man.

Let me tell you.  This book was the saving grace of my August reads.  I think it actually started an amazing upward climb in good reading karma because I read two more books after this and I loved them as well.

While working on a plumbing job for a gay couple in Lakeview, Vince Fierro realizes that the loving relationship these two men have with each other might be what’s wrong with his love life.   Vinnie experimented with a guy in college but never went any farther than that.  Because what would his family think?  And if he’s cool with girls why take the risk losing his big close Italian family’s acceptance?  But Vinnie is starting to have an idea of what’s been missing in his life and he makes the decision to slowly explore the possibilities. 

So many gay romances revolve around the struggle of familial acceptance.  And Family Man is no different.  What was different from other m/m romances I have read was Vinnie’s family dynamic.  He comes from a large Italian family.  The kind that is all up in each other’s business every minute of every day.  It reminded me greatly of My Big Fat Greek Wedding.  I was waiting any minute for Vinnie’s grandfather to pull out a bottle of Windex. 

One of the most important people in this family is Vinnie’s sister.  She is the one he goes to when he needs to talk and she is the one he first comes out to.  What I found fascinating was how in the beginning his sister yells at him for buying into gay stereotypes; forcing Vinnie to realize that being gay only means that he likes men and doesn’t necessarily mean he has to fit into a mold.   But as Vinnie slowly explores his sexuality and educates himself, his sister is the one that is challenged with reconciling her gay brother with her inherent expectation of macho Italian men. 

Then there is Trey.  Trey is busting his ass; working two jobs, going to school part time, helping his aging grandmother and tolerating/helping his substance amusing mother.  With everything he has going on, Trey doesn’t have time for pursuing a relationship.  But sometimes life doesn’t give us a choice.  Like when you see Vince Fierri sitting alone at a gay bar in Boystown.  After an unexpectedly romantic evening of dancing at a nearby jazz club, Trey’s plans for avoiding a relationship are completely thrown out the window. 

I felt that Trey was not only dangerously close to being a forever boy but he was also an emotionally complicated character.  Which is no surprise when you are dealing with a 25 year old man that has been dealing with his mother’s addiction for at least the past 15 years of his life.  I really appreciated the authors’ portrayal of Trey and his feelings towards his mom.  His mother is an alcoholic that has gone through multiple programs (programs that cost Trey his college fund and forced his grandmother to take a 2nd mortgage on her home) but has never been sober for more than a few months.  Trey has a lot of anger and frustration and I liked how no punches were pulled when he was internalizing his feelings when his mom fell off the wagon yet again.

Trey has his grandmother and a small family of close friends.  But even though he is close to them he often feels he is isolated.   So when Vinnie offers the hope of more family, Trey isn’t sure if he should stay hidden in his bubble or embrace the gift of family that Vinnie is giving him.  Seeing Vinnie’s quiet and unobtrusive persistence when it comes to giving Trey the family he needs is wonderfully sweet. 

I highly recommend Family Man if you like a little bit of angst and whole lot of sweetness and romance.  It hit the spot for me and I hope it will for you too.


Monday, September 1, 2014

Beneath The Stain by Amy Lane Blog Tour & Giveaway

Beneath The Stain

by Amy Lane


In a town as small as Tyson, CA, everybody knew the four brothers with the four different fathers-- and their penchant for making good music when they weren't getting into trouble. For Mackey Sanders, playing in Outbreak Monkey with his brothers and their friends—especially Grant Adams--made Tyson bearable. But Grant has plans for getting Mackey and the Sanders boys out of Tyson, even if that means staying behind.

Between the heartbreak of leaving Grant and the terrifying, glamorous life of rock stardom, Mackey is adrift and sinking fast. When he's hit rock bottom, Trav Ford shows up, courtesy of their record company and a producer who wants to see what Mackey can do if he doesn't flame out first. But cleaning up his act means coming clean about Grant, and that's not easy to do or say. Mackey might make it with Trav's help--but Trav's not sure he's going to survive falling in love with Mackey.

Mackey James Sanders comes with a whole lot of messy, painful baggage, and law-and-order Trav doesn't do messy or painful. And just when Trav thinks they may have mastered every demon in Mackey's past, the biggest, baddest demon of all comes knocking.


* * * *

When you read an Amy Lane book, you’re guaranteed three absolutes: angst, heartbreak and elation when love conquers all.  It’s been a while since I’ve been able to read one of Amy’s books so I jumped at the chance for this because dear, awesome Amy combined two things I love -- boys who desperately need hugs and music.

Beneath The Stain (first of all, love this title) has such a hopeful start despite some of the more unsavory circumstances surrounding our guys here. Mackey may be the youngest of the group but he’s the most pensive of them. He observes and feels deeply, pouring all his emotions into his songs. There’s just something about him that captivates people and makes them want to be in his presence. Grant and Mackey share a bond that’s so intense but in their small-minded town, could be destructive. But they latch on to each other, stealing moments whenever and wherever they can because it’s all they can give each other. Mackey, for all his youth understands Grant’s predicament to a certain point. In turn, Grant is so comforting and nurturing. Their relationship is simply sweet. Forbidden love, no matter what form, burns with such an intensity and these two burn brightly.

Being that this is Amy Lane, we don’t get to keep that happy feeling for long. You have to lose this great love to really know it. And when it’s lost, it can destroy. As the band’s fortune rises, Mackey continues to suffer from his heartbreak unbeknownst to the rest of his bandmates.  At his lowest, their new manager Trav comes in affecting some sweeping changes. Some things go over well, some don’t. Mackey is the hold out. But what Trav comes to understand is the deep-lying loyalty these bandmates have towards one another, especially Mackey and that Mackey is the glue. But what holds Mackey together? Is it something that Trav himself can fix or does he need to help Mackey revisit his painful past in order to recover and move on?

Amy Lane is a very prolific writer who has the brilliant knack of describing love in all its extremes and in betweens.  I knew she had worked her magic on me again when I woke up the next morning thinking about Mackey and Grant, eager to get back to them as soon as possible. You see, it doesn’t matter that her stories feature gay characters because the emotions that she writes about are universal. And it’s perhaps because her characters are gay and could potentially have more to endure socially, that those emotions are amplified. She nails down those feelings, describing them in ways you’ve never thought of before. The fact that she can create such vivid imagery of falling in love or yearning for someone or the grief of having your heart broken so specifically is an incredible feat. This is one of the many reasons why I like to return to her books every so often because for me, I’m not just reading a story, I’m experiencing it. These characters feel very real to me which is why I also have a very special affection for many of Amy’s boys. And now I can add Mackey, Grant and Trav to the circle.

~ Bel


You Can’t Always Get What You Want

... from the Mighty Hunter Gazette— April 20
And special news, our very own homegrown band, Outbreak Monkey, will be performing a six- song set between D.J. Boomer’s dance music at the Graham Winters High School prom. The band, headed by McKay “Mackey” Sanders on lead vocals, Jeff Sanders on bass and their brother Kell Sanders on lead guitar, also features Grant Adams on second lead and Stevie Harris on drum set. All members are Graham Winters High School students and we are proud to have them play!

THE FIRST time McKay Sanders kissed his brother’s best friend, Grant, they were getting high in a burned-out car in the field behind Mackey’s apartment building. Kellogg, who looked old enough to buy even though he’d just turned eighteen, had spent ten dollars the brothers didn’t have on cheap Muscat. By the time Grant—whose father had money—brought out the pot, Kellogg, Jefferson, and Stevie were passed out on the old camp blanket Stevie had brought from his dad’s garage.

It was a celebration, of sorts, for landing the prom gig.

The older kids had hogged all the Muscat, though, and Mackey felt left out. Kellogg kept saying it wasn’t right to get his little brother drunk, and Mackey kept saying it wasn’t right to drink in front of him, but by the time Kellogg was too drunk to argue, there wasn’t any wine left.

Jefferson and Stevie had finished off the other bottle all by themselves—just sitting quietly, not making any waves like they usually did, passing the bottle between them.

“Boy, you two argue a lot,” Grant said after Kell let out a gut-buster of a yawn and fell asleep quick as a baby.

Mackey grunted and prodded at his older brother with his toe. The three brothers present looked nothing alike. Kell was built like a tank, with rounded shoulders, a brown-eyed glare, and plain brown hair that he buzz- cut short to his scalp. He was like born practicality, which was why hoarding the wine rankled Mackey so badly. An expenditure like that wasn’t going to happen again.

“He gets mad,” Mackey said, letting out a sigh. He slouched back inside the shelter of the car, peering through the doorframe at the iron gray sky. “He’s the one who takes care of us, you know? But not in the band.”

It was true.

Kell could play guitar ably enough, but Mackey....

“You can play everything,” Grant said with admiration. “You’re the one who puts the songs together, figures out who should be playing what. And the shit you write on your own....”

Mackey smiled at him a little shyly. Grant had the most interesting face, with a long, straight nose, full pink lips, and almond-shaped hazel eyes. When Grant looked at him with admiration, it stopped his breath and pulled rubber bands in his stomach. “I just....” He stopped because Grant was reaching into his pocket, and he pulled out a baggie full of weed and papers. “Ooh....”

Grant looked down at the other three, who were sleeping soundly in the late afternoon chill. “I was gonna share,” he said mischievously, “but Kell was a dick about the wine, so I thought you and me?” 

Mackey nodded, captivated by the thrill of the forbidden—and by the way that cherry-ripe mouth pulled up at the corners when Grant smiled.

“I’ve never, uhm....”

Grant shrugged. “Me and Kell do sometimes. But, you know, Kell’s usually a good guy.”

Mackey reflected on his sleeping brother. Kell was a good guy. For example, Mackey had a confused memory of their youngest brother Cheever’s dad, the one dad they thought would stick around beyond giving the baby a first name. Cheever’s dad hadn’t been very patient, and he’d hated Mackey. Well, Mackey was sort of a smartass. He’d probably had that fist coming. But that hadn’t stopped Kell from stepping up and hitting Enos Cheever right back. Mackey and Kell had both needed stitches after that, but their mom had kicked Enos Cheever out—child support or no child support. That was okay. Kell and Jeff had been almost old enough to work by then. They’d only needed assistance for a couple of months.

“He doesn’t like it that I can boss him around,” Mackey said glumly. “He... he’s the leader, right? But... but I hear the music, and it just makes sense, you know? And... and you can’t do it wrong just ’cause it’ll hurt Kell’s feelings. It’s augh!” He was waving his hands around, trying to find words, which was funny, because Mackey actually wrote songs. He closed his eyes, ignoring Grant rolling a number, and tried to make a song out of it.

“He wants to keep me happy and he wants to keep me fed, he makes sure that I’ve got blankets and a place to sleep in a bed, but the music in my heart is like a freight train. It goes and it goes and when I stop it, it’s like pain, but my brother doesn’t see it doesn’t hear it doesn’t feel it, and all there is to do is shove him out of the way. Don’t want to hit my brother with the freight train.”

Mackey’s eyes smarted, because the friction with Kell hurt. They were tight. They had to be tight, because Tyson, California, had a population of ten thousand, and it was a small enough town that the woman with the four sons and four fathers was sort of famous. They had to have each other’s backs or Cheever wouldn’t have survived kindergarten.

Mackey blinked and took a deep breath, then coughed.

Damn, pot was strong.

He gazed at Grant, who was staring back in awe over the glowing ember of the joint. Grant held the smoke for a minute and exhaled, shaking his head. “God, it’s gorgeous when you do that,” he said, his voice choked.

“Do what?” Mackey asked, not able to stop staring at him.

“Pull music out of the air,” Grant said, the dreamy smile on his full lips maybe a side effect of the pot, but maybe not. Grant was sitting in the back of the car, his feet at the foot of the blanket the others were sleeping on. He passed Mackey the doobie around the doorframe, and Mackey regarded the joint with a little bit of fear.

“Just inhale?” he asked nervously, and Grant grinned.

“Never done this before?” he confirmed, taking the doobie back.

Mackey shook his head, knowing his face was flushing in spite of the iron mountain chill.

“Here,” Grant murmured, taking another hit. He stood up, still holding the smoke in his lungs, and knelt in front of Mackey, so close their lips almost brushed. Mackey’s mouth fell open, because, holy God, Grant was right there, and Mackey had been trying not to look at him like he had wanted him right there since he was twelve years old.

Grant took his open mouth for invitation and exhaled, right between Mackey’s parted lips.

Mackey’s inhale was so gentle, the smoke hardly tickled. He didn’t choke or cough like he’d seen other people do, just breathed in subtle-like, afraid to startle Grant or make him move in any way. His exhale was even quieter, letting the smoke trickle out through his lips and his nose, where it stung.

He swallowed, his mouth dry from the smoke and from the way Grant was staring at him, seemingly as mesmerized as he was by those golden eyes and moist red mouth. “How’s Sam?” he asked, because Samantha Peters had been Grant’s shadow for the past year.

“Not here,” Grant whispered, and the movement made their lips touch.

Mackey closed his eyes, because Grant started this, and Mackey was fourteen to his seventeen. Grant would know what to do.

Grant’s lips on his were whisper-soft, then angel-soft, then Grant’s tongue swept into his mouth, acrid with the bitter taste of weed, but something in it was sweet. Something in it made Mackey open his mouth to beg for more.

Grant took advantage, pushing him back against the seat, taking his mouth more, and more and more, until Mackey was pressed against the burned-out seat frame, his hands buried in the thick top strip of Grant’s hair, his lips being bruised and his mouth plundered by his brother’s best friend.

The smell of pot smoke sharpened, turned plastic, and Grant jerked his head back.

“Shit,” he muttered. The joint had fallen onto the blanket at their feet, and he spent a moment stomping it out as it smoldered. When he’d killed the ember, he glanced at Mackey sheepishly.

“Got lost in your eyes,” he said, and Mackey watched curiously as two red crescents surfaced on his sharp cheekbones, like disappearing ink coming to life.

“I could get lost in you a lot,” Mackey confessed, feeling brave and bold, and Grant found something to look at far away.

“Mackey, maybe don’t count on me like that, okay?”

Mackey had to search far away too. Well, of course, right? Two guys get high and they do something crazy—didn’t mean shit, did it.

Didn’t mean a goddamned thing. “Yeah, well. You know. Strong weed, right?”

“Yeah,” Grant murmured. “Strong.” His hand was firm on Mackey’s shoulder then, and Mackey closed his eyes as he felt the rasp of Grant’s chilled palm against his cheek. “Stronger’n shame.”

Mackey had to. Had to see his face.

Grant was blinking hard, and they both knew he’d deny it, but one hit of pot didn’t give you eyeballs that red.

At their feet, Kell gave a moan and rolled over, and that was the cue for everyone to wake up. They were headachy and sick, and it was lucky Grant had brought a six-pack of water, of all things, so they could at least rinse out their mouths after they puked.

Grant had driven them out to the vacant field in his mom’s minivan, and later that evening, he stopped and let them run inside the grocery store to buy noodles and spaghetti sauce for dinner. They’d promised their mom they’d take care of groceries if she let them get away with not watching Cheever for the afternoon. When they got to the Sanders boys’ apartment complex, Grant and Kell were giving each other shit in the front seat. Mackey stared out the window and let their banter wash over him, just like he ignored Jefferson and Stevie talking in quiet undertones about comic books and naked girl pictures. Jeff and Kell had best friends. Mackey had brothers—six of them, if he counted Cheever’s little friend Kevin, which he did.

“So, is Sam excited you get to play at the prom?” Kell asked, laughing.

“Yeah,” Grant said. For a moment, he caught Mackey’s gaze in the rearview, and then he glanced back toward the road. “She wants to dress pretty and dance with me in a suit.”

Mackey didn’t make a noise or anything, but suddenly he knew, knew like it had been branded on his skin, that Grant didn’t want to dance with a girl in a dress. And that it would hurt worse than orange juice on chapped lips, but Mackey was going to have to watch him do it. 

Hey Look Here - Fantastic Giveaway Alert!!

How You Can Buy Beneath The Stain

Option 1: Serial Package
Automatically get each part with special content on your bookshelf as it is released and the digital novel upon release. Serial runs 8/29/14-10/10/14. Novel releases 10/17/14.
$12.99. This option only available through dreamspinnerpress.com.

Option 2:  Serial Deluxe Package
Automatically get each part with special content on your bookshelf as it is released and the digital novel upon release. Serial runs 8/29/14-10/10/14. Novel releases 10/17/14.
Also received a signed paperback mailed to you upon novel release.
$24.99 +shipping. This option only available through dreamspinnerpress.com.

Option 3:  Serial Only (7 parts)
Buy individual parts with special content weekly for $1.99. Serial runs 8/29/14-10/10/14.

Options 4 & 5: Novel
Purchase the complete novel in eBook or paperback, no special content included. Pre-sales begin 9/17/14. Novel releases 10/17/14.
eBook $6.99, paperback $17.99
Upon complete novel release, the serial will no longer be available.

About The Author

Amy Lane has four children, two cats, a love starved Chi-who-what, a crumbling mortgage and an indulgent spouse. She also has too damned much yarn, a penchant for action adventure movies, and a need to know that somewhere in all the pain is a story of Wuv, Twu Wuv, which she continues to believe in to this day! She writes fantasy, urban fantasy, and m/m romance--and if you give her enough diet coke and chocolate, she'll bore you to tears with why those three genres go together. She'll also tell you that sacrifices, large and small, are worth the urge to write.

Author Links:

Many, many thank you to our friend Amy Lane and Viviana at Enchantress of Books Blog Tours.

~ Bel

The Beautiful Ashes (Broken Destiny #1) by Jeaniene Frost

 * * *

In a world of shadows, anything is possible. Except escaping your fate. 

Ever since she was a child, Ivy has been gripped by visions of strange realms just beyond her own. But when her sister goes missing, Ivy discovers the truth is far worse—her hallucinations are real, and her sister is trapped in a parallel realm. And the one person who believes her is the dangerously attractive guy who's bound by an ancient legacy to betray her.

Adrian might have turned his back on those who raised him, but that doesn't mean he can change his fate…no matter how strong a pull he feels toward Ivy. Together they search for the powerful relic that can save her sister, but Adrian knows what Ivy doesn't: that every step brings Ivy closer to the truth about her own destiny, and a war that could doom the world. Sooner or later, it will be Ivy on one side and Adrian on the other. And nothing but ashes in between…

The Beautiful Ashes has a very creepy, cinematic opening where Ivy is driving around in the rain, hitting up hotels in the area looking for her sister. She lands at a B&B and while it doesn’t launch into the Rocky Horror Picture Show, things do get weird immediately and before she knows it, Ivy is running for her life. It’s nice that the action practically pounces on you so that there’s no time to fully process what’s going on. Then Adrian enters the picture and it’s not immediately discernible if he’s the good guy or bad guy. He’s just hot and aloof and complicated. Do they come any other way?

Ivy learns that her sister has been taken prisoner by an unspeakable evil and that she can trust no one. The only way to save her is with Adrian’s help (wait, we still don’t know if he’s good or bad).  That’s not the only things she learns – she’s also destined to destroy this evil that is waiting to unleash itself on the world.

Ivy has a very hard time absorbing this and it almost feels like she’s in denial because she spends most of her time drooling over Adrian instead. That part is a bit strange because her sister is in peril after all and she’s constantly wondering about Adrian’s lips. Really? To be fair it has something to do with their entwined destinies. Still, whenever she was wondering about Adrian or swooning over him, I was guilt-ridden about her sister.

The story is more exciting when it moves away from the whole Ivy/Adrian drama and focuses on the task at hand – travelling through realms, seeking out a way to destroy that pesky evil threat that’s hell bent on destroying them and the world and possibly may be, overturning their own destinies.  There were a couple of creative scenes that had me laughing out loud involving Ivy in ingenious situations. They may have been embarrassing but they were a nice reprieve from their gruesome task.

The Beautiful Ashes as the first book in the series shows promise. It’s take on some of the greatest stories ever told lends it some allure. While some of Ivy's behaviour puzzled me in this one, I’m still interested to see how her story continues to develop and if she still believes, as she preaches to Adrian repeatedly, that everyone has a say in their own destiny.

~ Bel

A Peek In The BiblioBin #114

Welcome to our Stacking the Shelves post! Stacking the Shelves (or as we like to call it, A Peek in the BiblioBin) has been created by the lovely ladies at Tynga's Reviews.

Stacking the Shelves is a way for bloggers to share what books they have won, received for review, bought from the bookstore, borrowed from the library or friend, etc.

For Review:

Priya In Heels by Ayesha Patel

Make It Right (Bowler University #2) by Megan Erickson

Surrender by June Gray

The Second Chance Hero: A Forever Love Story by Jennie Moon


Grasshopper Jungle By Andrew Smith

This Is Falling (Falling #1) by Ginger Scott (Kindle)

TWELVE by T.M. Franklin Trailer Reveal

Twelve Banner

Ava Michaels is gifted, powerful, and — whether she likes it or not — part of a plot to take over the world.

It’s only been a few months since Ava Michaels discovered she has ties to an ancient people living in the shadows of the human world, despite their superior gifts and abilities. A select few don’t like hiding, however, and think it’s time to take control.

Now Ava’s caught up in a conspiracy in the works before she was even born. In fact, her birth was an integral part of the plan. She’s one of the Twelve, the most powerful Race ever created, and they were created for a purpose.

Turns out, Ava doesn’t like being told what to do.

All she wants is to start a new life with her boyfriend, Caleb Foster, but before they can even think about that, they must join forces with former enemies, seek out some powerful new friends, and figure out what exactly the Twelve, and their power-hungry leader, are up to.

Then, they have to find a way to stop them.

About the Author:

TM Franklin

T.M. Franklin started out her career writing non-fiction in a television newsroom. An Emmy-Award winning Seattle TV news producer, Franklin is the author of the award-winning YA adventure, MORE, and its sequel The Guardians. In addition, Franklin penned the Amazon best-selling short stories A Piece of Cake and Window. Her new YA romance,How to Get Ainsley Bishop to Fall in Love with You, is Franklin’s first love story without a paranormal element, although she believes love is the best kind of magic.

TWELVE, the final installment in the MORE Trilogy will be released October 9, 2014. 

The Giveaway:

The Trailer:

Friday, August 29, 2014

Tristant and Elijah by Jennifer Lavoie

Tristant and Elijah* * 1/2

Tristant Whitfield has had a secret crush on straight Elijah Cambridge since the start of high school. He’s okay keeping his distance, but when Elijah starts visiting him at work and bringing his favorite coffee, Tristant begins to wonder if there’s something more there.

Then Elijah uncovers a scandalous old letter from Tristant’s great uncle tucked away in a book, and the two boys begin a journey through journals and letters to discover the real Uncle Glenn and the secrets he hid from his family. And Tristant realizes that Elijah has been hiding something as well.

A secret that just might change everything.


I had a hard time connecting to either of the characters in this story.  Tristant was a bit of a drama queen. And not in a fun endearing way (yes, that exists).  There were a few times he referred to himself as a drama queen; in a self deprecating way that fell short of humorous because it was so painfully true.  And Elijah just seemed somewhat unavailable to the reader.  I didn’t know enough about him other than he liked horror movies and video games and he was afraid to tell people he was gay.  For me it was all on the surface which made it almost impossible to connect with his character.   

I understood Elijah’s desire to reach out to Tristant.  How could he not?  Here is a classmate that has successfully done the one thing that Elijah is most afraid to do – come out.  What I didn’t understand was Elijah’s romantic interest in Tristant.  They seemed to have no connection other than Elijah’s fear of coming out and Tristant’s great uncle’s diary. 

There were two positive things that stood out to for me.  First, I loved that this story provides young readers with a protagonist that is not only comfortable in his own skin but also has family that supports him 100%.  The second thing the journal.  Tristant and Elijah slowly read Tristant’s great Uncle Glenn’s journal together  What unfolds is a heartbreaking story of a gay young man in the early 1900’s.  I found myself much more engaged with this story.  And although I had an idea of where Uncle Glenn’s story would go I was still on pins and needles.  Honestly, make that story into a novel and I would read it.  Even though I already know how it ends.

This was not my favorite LGBT YA but the fact of the matter is if this story makes into just one LGBT youth’s hands and gives them characters and story to connect to then that is what truly matters.


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Better off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg

Better off Friends* * * *

For Macallan and Levi, it was friends at first sight. Everyone says guys and girls can’t be just friends, but these two are. They hang out after school, share tons of inside jokes, their families are super close, and Levi even starts dating one of Macallan’s friends. They are platonic and happy that way.

Eventually they realize they’re best friends — which wouldn’t be so bad if they didn’t keep getting in each other’s way. Guys won’t ask Macallan out because they think she’s with Levi, and Levi spends too much time joking around with Macallan, and maybe not enough time with his date. They can’t help but wonder . . . are they more than friends or are they better off without making it even more complicated?

From romantic comedy superstar Elizabeth Eulberg comes a fresh, fun examination of a question for the ages: Can guys and girls ever really be just friends? Or are they always one fight away from not speaking again — and one kiss away from true love?


It’s the first day of 7th grade and Macallan can’t wait to throw herself into endless hours of school work.  Anything to keep her mind of feeling lonely and missing her mom.  But before she can even start her first class she is called into the principal’s office.   She’s quickly relieved to find out she isn’t going to be forced into another round of visits with the school counselor.  She’s not so relieved when she learns she is expected to show the new kid around.  That’s when Macallan meets Levi.  And she couldn’t be more put out.  She shows him where his classes are, drops him off at his first period and quickly dismisses him when he hopefully says “see ya around?”  But her dismissal doesn’t last for long because as serious as she might be, Macallan is a nice girl.  When she sees Levi struggling to find somewhere to sit at lunch she invites him to sit with her and her friends. That’s when Macallan notices the Buggy and Floyd button on Levi’s backpack.  She’s a huge fan of the British show as is Levi.  And on that shared love of a television show an epic friendship is born.

From there on out, Levi and Macallan are almost inseparable.  Like Best Friends tend to be.  The problem is that everyone assumes they are more than just friends which makes dating difficult.  And in some instances, horribly awkward.  One of the most awkwardly hilarious scenes in this book is when Macallan and Levi go on a double date together.  I think I audibly groaned while reading it.  It was so uncomfortable.  Amusing but uncomfortable.  Eventually, Levi starts to question his feelings for Macallan.  But is Macallan on the same page?  And if not, what’s more important?   Risking their friendship for love or ignoring their growing attraction so as not to upset one of the most wonderful friendships either of them has ever had. 

I’m a self-proclaimed romance whore.  I can’t get enough of it.  I’m rather greedy that way.  There are a lot of different romances I enjoy but one of my favorite types of stories is what I like to call “The Best Friend Romance,” or “Friends-to-Lovers.”   Whether they are cute and funny or full of angst, it’s guaranteed that a Best Friend Romance is going to put a smile on my face.  After reading Better Off Friends, I was trying to determine when my love affair with this type of story began.  And as if someone was whispering in her ear, Julia Quinn posted the following graphic on her Facebook page:

That’s it!  Emma!  I have three favorite Jane Austen’s  (Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion and Emma) but Emma and Mr. Knightley’s story was the one that put butterflies in my stomach.  And it was because, just like Macallan and Levi, Emma and her Mr. Knightley were friends.   And just like Emma and Mr. Knightley, Levi and Macallan value each other’s friendship above all else.  That’s what makes their love extra special.  They KNOW each other already.  And there is something miraculously romantic about that. 

If you are a hopeless romantic like me and love to read about friendships becoming something more then you must read Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg.