Title: Deprivation; or, Benedetto furioso: an oneiromancy
Author: Alex Jeffers
Publisher: Lethe Press
Length: 130k words
Genre: Gay Fiction
Heat: 2 – Tame
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Dreams, Delusions, Coming of Age, 1990s, Italian Renaissance, Poetry, Parents, Divorce, Family Issues, Secrets & Lies, Economic Downturn
Rating: So So
Reviewed by Sadonna
the interpretation of dreams in order to foretell the future.
Sleep deprivation does funny things to your head. Steeped in the romance of Renaissance Italian literature, Ben Lansing isn’t coping well with the routines of his first post-college job, his daily commute from Providence, Rhode Island, to Boston, the inevitable insomnia and lack of sleep, or the peculiarly vivid dreams when he does manage to sleep.
For Ben ”wished to be a paladin. He wished to mount Ariosto’s hippogriff and fly to the moon. He wished to sing a Baroque aria of stunning, shocking brilliance, bringing the audience to its feet roaring, ‘Bravo! Bravissimo!’ He wished to run mad for love.”
When Ben encounters a lost prince squatting in a derelict South Boston warehouse with his little sister and elder brother, exiles of an imaginary Italy, he resolves to rescue Dario and Dario’s family and himself. Stumbling from dream to real life and back again, Ben begins a fabulous quest. Amid visions of futures, pasts, strangely altered presents, he encounters mythic personages raffish bike messenger/artist Neddy, dilettante translator Kenneth, his own mother and father. He falls in and out of love. He witnesses the flight of the hippogriff and the collapses of the New England economy and his parents’ marriage. He discovers what he never knew he was looking for all along.
In Deprivation, a novel as real as a fairy tale or romantic Renaissance epic, neither Ben nor the reader can ever feel certain of being awake or dreaming, walking the streets of Boston or the mazy paths of dreamland. Can you separate wish from fulfilment? Do you want to?
I’m not even sure I can describe this book. The best synopsis I can come up with is what a long strange trip it’s been. Honestly at some points I wished I was on drugs reading this.
The story starts with a dream/hallucination/delusion – not sure how to even possibly describe it. The reader has no idea what is going on with Ben, our main character. It seems like he’s maybe on a bender or something and he comes across these squatters in South Boston. Or does he??
Ben is a temporary placement agency employee who finds temp jobs for people. It’s the early 90s and the economy is in the dumps. Originally from California, he’s got a degree in Comparative Literature – always a marketable skill. He has taken the job in Boston and he commutes from his college apartment in Providence that he is loathe to give up but which leaves him quite sleep deprived. (At this I had to laugh. I’m more than twice his age and I’m before 5 every day and have a 60 mile commute by bus into Chicago every day. I’m out of my house most days by 6 and can be home anywhere from 6 to 7:30 each night.) He is nearly run down one winter day by Neddy, a bike messenger who then proceeds to insure that they will see each other again.
Ben’s co-worker, Jane, then wants to introduce him to another guy – one of her temp workers. He claims that he’s not gay, but apparently he likes to dabble and he seems to like Ben. Turns out he’s a wealthy guy who is also quite well educated and is going to be translating and book and needs to take a trip. He might need an apartment sitting while he is gone. Ben still does not want to give up his Providence apartment for some reason.
Finally we meet Liam, Ben’s on-again, off-again college boyfriend. He apparently has a key and lets himself in whenever he’s in town and has the urge to see Ben. He’s Irish and a grad student. But is he real? We don’t really know.
Lastly among Ben’s potential paramours, he gets a letter from his old prep school Italian teacher/soccer coach and he’s coming to Boston on business as he’s left teaching and maybe they can get together. He was Ben’s favorite teacher. In addition, it seems that Ben’s mother is a novelist who is getting some notice. In her latest book, which Ben gets a galley copy to read, she writes about a woman who is married to a doctor has a gay son who is HIV-positive and a family trip to Italy where the husband is discovered with a man. Ben is furious with his mother and they have already had words – via a letter about this book. He is disinclined to read it, but then his father calls. Ian, Ben’s father, admits that his mother has asked him to leave and that he is in fact gay and even though Ben already knows this in his heart, it’s another blow. He has in the past suggested to his father that they should go their own ways, but Ian was having none of it.
Both Ben’s parents end up visiting him and there is of course quite a bit of family drama. Ian and Sandra, Ben’s mother in a surprise move, arrive the next evening in Boston. Ian tries to convince Ben to come back to California. Ben confesses his strange dreams/hallucinations and chalks it up to his sleep deprivation although he asks his father’s take on it – like maybe he is crazy. He also gets a disturbing call from Jane at the office.
After Ben’s parents leave, he has another encounter with Neddy that eventually results in him reaching out to Kenneth. He takes Ben to get his hair cut and he meets Colin, Kenneth’s hair stylist. Colin has his own opinion about Kenneth’s sexuality. Nothing is clear about any of these relationships but Ben is looking forward to Paul’s visit.
Throughout the novel, we also have this underlying current of Italian Renaissance literature and the imagery that entails. Ben has some vivid dreams/hallucinations of participating in this fantasy/fairy tale.
Boy where to start on this review. This was nearly a DNF for me, but I can say I’ve only given up on one book in the past 10 years. The beginning of this book reads like a 70s drug trip experience. The reader doesn’t know what’s real, what’s dream, what’s delusion for Ben. I was probably at least 30% in before I thought it might be worth finishing and even then I wasn’t sure. I’m a fairly educated and well-traveled person. I have a liberal arts degree and nearly a science degree as well, I’ve been to Italy, I have season tickets to the opera but this book made me feel stupid. I just didn’t get it. I kept thinking that I was missing something. I still think I am. It took me forever to read it and I had to go over a lot of it more than once because it just didn’t make sense to me.
The prose is interesting (although there are a few artifices and quirks that I didn’t like), but the story left me cold. At the end, I really didn’t care what happened to any of these characters. It’s not a good thing that the dream characters introduced at the beginning of the story elicited the most interest and empathy from me. I didn’t care for Ben’s parents at all. Everybody in this story has a LOT of issues and finally, I just didn’t care. I’m not sure who is the target audience for this story, but I guess it wasn’t me.
Posted by Sadonna in 126k+, 3 So So, Authors J-L, Gay Fiction, Heat 2 - Romantic & Tame, Sex Freq 2 - Few and Far Between Tags: 1990s, Alex Jeffers, Coming of Age, Delusions, Divorce, Dreams, Family Issues, Italian Renaissance, Lethe Press, poetry, Secrets & Lies
Author: Hayden Thorne
Publisher: JMS Books
Length: 76,977 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Paranormal YA Romance
Heat: 1 – Sweet/None
Sex Frequency: 1 – None
Keywords/Tags: Homophobia, Coming of Age, Self-Discovery Focus, Single Moms, Awesome Moms!, Bullying, HEA, Alternate Reality/Otherworlds, Ghosts/Spirits, Ghouls, Zombies, Vampires, First Times (Kisses Only), Magic, Mystery, Magical Realism, Nerds/Geeks
Rating: Pretty Good
All fifteen-year-old Noah Hipwell wants is to go through high school in peace. Yet he finds himself suspended after a bully pushes him too far, and Noah’s forced to defend himself. His mother, fed up with the school’s indifference to his plight, pulls him out completely and leaves Noah uncertain of his future while they look for a good and safe school for him.
All Dorothy “Dot” Hipwell wants is to go through single motherhood in peace. Yet she and her son are harassed by weekly phone calls from her evangelical family hell-bent on guilt-tripping them both back into the fold. Then Noah’s grandparents ask strange questions about their old van after dropping cryptic references to a group called The Soul Warriors. Fed up, Dot takes Noah away for a much-needed getaway, only to find themselves suddenly transported to an alternate world, where a town called Helleville awaits them and all other condemned souls.
Along with warm-blooded, living human beings, the Hipwells rub shoulders with zombies, vampires, house ghosts, and occasional “green vomit piles” while picking up the pieces and sorting out what could very well be an eternity in a bizarre, fanciful, and humorous world of ghouls and banned books.
When residents suddenly disappear one by one with no trace and for no logical reason, however, doubts being “housed” in an alternate world for their sins are raised, and time suddenly becomes of the essence as Noah and the rest of Helleville’s condemned race to find answers to what’s quickly turning into a dangerous puzzle.
It’s been a while since I read a Hayden Thorne novel and now I remember exactly why I always want to read them! She has a particular quirky brain that makes her books unique in a way that always pulls me in. This wasn’t my favorite of her books, but it might be hard to top the Masks books anyway. Still, by the end of this book, I liked it and I really liked Noah.
Noah is fifteen and out of school. After a bad situation at his last public school, where some kids bullied him and he fought back, getting suspended, his super awesome single mom Dot went ape-shit on the administration for their blatant disregard of the bullying in their school and pulled Noah out. Since then, he’s been staying at home while his mother works two jobs and looks for a new, more inclusive school. Noah and his mom are pretty close, they’re their only family and they stick together. Well, Noah does have grandparents (Dot’s parents), but they really aren’t considered family — more like righteous stalkers. The calendar by the phone with bloody X’s mark the days that they call to harass them about their wicked ways (which include that Noah is gay and that Dot had him out of wedlock). It isn’t until his grandmother threatens to set The Soul Warriors on them that they get a little more worried.
When Noah and his mother decide to take a weekend road trip to a B&B to get away from all the phone calls, they find themselves transported to a strange alternate world that seems to be a ridiculous mockery of Hell — a town called Helleville filled with residents with similar experiences as them, full of banned books like Harry Potter and science textbooks that teach evolution, and weird and strange creatures like ghosts, vampires, zombies and ghouls. The strange thing is that though no one there can really figure out where they are and why they’re there (other than the fact that The Soul Warriors are behind everything), it isn’t the classic representation of hell that you’d expect. They’re well cared for with all the food they want for no money, the kids don’t have to take school (although they can sit in a class with Satan as a teacher if they want), and they’re surrounded by pristine nature with no need for jobs. The people there have formed a community of sorts with a mayor and everything, but they all have time to relax and enjoy the things that they didn’t have time for in life. Dot decides to take up crocheting.
They are, however, haunted by one serious problem. Every so often someone disappears. Soon after Noah and his mother arrive in Helleville, the fourth resident goes missing and no one can ever find them, no matter how many times they organize search parties and a night watch to try to catch anything abnormal. It isn’t until Noah makes a friend named John who loves to take pictures that they start to piece together the strange occurrences and what could be behind it all. But before Noah can get too attached to his new hobby of playing Sherlock Holmes he meets Alex, a boy his own age who seems to like him. Alex invites him to hang out with a few of the other teenagers in Helleville and finds that he’s not the only one with a crush on the nerdy teen. Matt, a cool seventeen, muscular and gorgeous, highly intelligent and the most popular kid involved in the community has a thing for Alex and he doesn’t intend for Noah, who he looks at like a bug under his shoe, to get in his way.
Before all of you m/m romance readers out there get excited, the romance in this story is kept on the back burner. Instead, this story is really Noah’s coming of age tale and his road to self-discovery. Helleville and the alternate reality they’ve been sent to acts as a catalyst to force Noah to grow. Before he was sent there, a lot of his own exploration of himself as a teenager had been stunted because of the bullying he experienced at school. He calls himself an introvert, but he’s really afraid to get back out into the world and try again, making friends and even meeting a guy he likes and taking a change. He has a lot of latent social anxiety and Helleville acts as a skewed kind of microcosm of the real world to get him to open up again. In Helleville, Noah can be someone new. He can meet and go on dates with a boy like Alex, he learns that he can have friends. And most importantly he learns that people can rely on him, that he has worth. Alex acts as part of that self-discovery, of course, and their relationship also is a somewhat significant part of the story, but it never progresses very far on page.
The pace and plot mimic Noah’s journey in a way. The POV is strictly Noah’s, so the first half of the book is quite sedate. I even read one reader’s review on Goodreads before I started reading that said that this book was boring. I wouldn’t say that, I quite enjoyed it. But there were a few times in the first half of the book that I set it down, read some other things and then picked it up later. I think that as long as you don’t go into this book expecting it to focus on Noah’s romantic life and that the story will be more about action than reflection, you’ll enjoy it. Also, if you haven’t read much of Hayden Thorne’s work by now you might not realize that most of her work is cerebral. This book is a reflection of Noah’s life, in almost an allegorical way. If you’d rather just read for fun and not want to focus on the meaning of it all, then you might find this story a bit slow … in the first half anyway, the second half was much more exciting.
So I definitely recommend this one. I really like Hayden’s work and I’ll always pick up her books when a new one is out. She always has a really great point of view coming from gay teenagers that it’s so easy to connect with. That, and sometimes this book just makes you go — What the FUCK?
Posted by Cole in 4 Pretty Good, 76-100k, Authors S-U, Contemporary, Heat 1 - Sweet/None, Paranormal, Romance, Sex Freq 1 - None, YA Tags: Alternate Worlds, Awesome Moms!, Bullies/Bullying, Coming of Age, First Times, Ghosts/Spirits, Ghouls, Hayden Thorne, HEA, Homophobia, JMS Books, Magic, magical realism, Mystery, Nerds/Geeks, Otherworlds, Self-Discovery Focus, Single Moms, Vampire, Zombies!
Author: Will Parkinson
Publisher: Dreamspinner (Harmony Ink)
Length: 53,637 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary YA Romance
Heat: 1 – Sweet/None
Sex Frequency: 1 – None
Keywords/Tags: Debut Novel, High School, Unrequited Love, Closeted, Best Friends, Straight/Gay Male Friendships, Coming Out, Coming of Age, Art/Artists, Sports, Baseball, Athletes, Abuse, Machiavellian Bad Guy, Evil Teenaged Girls!, Secrets & Lies
Rating: Not Feelin’ It
The day Jackson Kern walks into Taylor Andrews’s classroom is a momentous day in Taylor’s life. He’s had crushes before, sure, but as time goes on, this is starting to look a whole lot more serious. Still, Jackson doesn’t return Taylor’s feelings.
Taylor has his own admirers, though. Kevin Richards is used to getting what he wants, and what he wants right now is Taylor, so when Taylor rejects him, Kevin retaliates. At first Taylor’s entourage rallies around him, but then Kevin takes his deception one step further and Taylor sees his support dwindle, teaching him the valuable lesson about who he can truly consider a friend.
I’m always eager to pick up a baseball book and even though I’ve been interested in several and still plan to review a few of them, it has been a while since I’ve picked up a book from DSP’s young adult imprint. From what I gather in the acknowledgements, this is Will Parkinson’s debut novel. Sometimes it’s a gamble picking books to read by a new author or an author I’ve never read, but that’s another part of reviewing that I like. Reviewing gives me the opportunity to read new authors and it feels like I get to enjoy more of the perks, like finding a surprise that’s worth it. Often, it’s different though and while I like some of those books I also don’t like some of them. I’m afraid to say that this book fell into the latter camp for me. While it wasn’t a total disappointment, I just didn’t connect with the book.
Taylor is a gay sophomore in a Milwaukee, Wisconsin high school. His best friend Benny is straight and the only person alive who knows his secret. They’re best friends and always have been and Benny is a rather special guy that is wise beyond his years, intelligent and loyal. Pitch opens on the day that a new student starts at Taylor’s school. Jackson walks into Taylor’s homeroom, looking nervous and totally sexy and Taylor immediately wants to draw him. What follows over the next year is an intense unrequited love that just doesn’t seem to go away, no matter how hard Taylor tries and Benny cautions. No matter how much Taylor is told that Jackson is disgusted by his little boy crush from Jackson’s cheerleader girlfriend, Taylor just can’t seem to stay away.
It isn’t until he and Benny gain some perspective on their problems during the next summer, camp counseling for abused kids, that Taylor starts to grow up. He still has feelings for Jackson, but he’s less likely now to follow him around like a lost puppy. So when a kid from a neighboring school asks him out during their Halloween dance, Taylor decides to take him up on it. He really starts to like Kevin, but he is prey unknowingly walking into Kevin’s trap. It takes some extremely tough decisions and way too much heartbreak and drama to realize that much of what he thought before wasn’t true, about most of the people he knew.
There are two aspects of this novella that I had a difficult time with. The first are the characters. This, especially, is subjective. Part of what oftentimes makes a young adult novel good are the bad choices of the characters. More often than not young adult stories have a moral and it can walk a fine line in the hands of the author between preachy and poignant. The style of this story went a bit over the top and that just wasn’t something that I was really looking for. For high school students, who I freely admit can be some of the cruelest humans on Earth, many of the actions of these characters went beyond immature and foolhardy. I would have appreciated the characters and their decisions (even the bad ones) more if their actions had been more subtle and less ascribed to their particular archetype. Kevin’s actions in particular required me to suspend disbelief a few times.
As I said before, those decisions and your own feelings about them are more subjective than usual. My other problem with this story was in the writing. I applaud this author for writing and writing and sharing their work. But like many new authors I think that there were some fundamental writing problems that this author needs to work on. Mostly it will just take continued writing, so even though this book wasn’t for me, I sincerely hope that this author keeps up with it. Part of the novice prose problems were dialogue and restraint. In a way, the second has quite a bit to do with the first. This book didn’t fall into too bad of a habit of telling rather than showing, but there is importance in letting the characters express themselves in their own ways instead of being a vehicle to express the author’s view. I’m not talking about preaching about issues or anything like that here. I simply mean the difference between the characters’ observations and personality and the author’s. Almost continually there were times while reading this that I stopped and thought that a character wouldn’t say or think that. The dialogue, in a similar way, oftentimes sounded familiar for all the characters and didn’t seem to represent the individual characters. Restraint is important because readers don’t need all the information. It’s a partnership, you know? The readers picks up on the clues the author leaves and pieces them together and in that way one small action tells you more about the character than a whole page of narration.
Ultimately, this book just wasn’t for me because of the more dramatic plot twists. I have seen a couple of 5-star reviews around so I’ll be interested to see if any other readers/reviewers feel the way I do, or if this turns out to be a reader favorite. I’ve been a part of the more unpopular opinion before!
Posted by Cole in 2 Not Feelin' It, 41-75k, Authors P-R, Contemporary, Heat 1 - Sweet/None, Romance, Sex Freq 1 - None, YA Tags: Abuse, Art, Artists, Athletes, Baseball, Best Friends, Closeted, Coming of Age, Coming Out, Debut Novel, Evil Teenaged Girls!, Harmony Ink Press, High School, Machiavellian Bad Guy, Secrets & Lies, Sports, Straight/Gay Male Friendships, Unrequited Love, Will Parkinson
Title: Running up that Hill
Author: Barry Brennessel
Length: 13,000 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 2 – Romantic & Tame
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Short Story, MLR Mixtapes, Recent Historical, Coming of Age, Kate Bush, Closeted, NYC, Fear, Best Friends, Technology, 1980s, 80s Music, AIDS, HFN
Rating: LOVED it!
Reviewed by Sadonna
For Jeremy Saura, a song by Kate Bush holds all the answers. Pushes him onward. Sends him running up that road. Up that hill. Up that building.
Jeremy gets chills as he listens to the lyrics. The song, a beautiful powerhouse of determination over despair, only gains in impact as he replays it. Seven times.
”I adore you Kate Bush,” he whispers to her photograph. For Jeremy, “Running Up That Hill” gives him the momentum he needs to navigate the trials and tribulations of a new job, a complex friendship, and a budding workplace romance.
I’ve been waiting for this story to come out with the summer Mix Tapes series from MLR. When I first read Tinseltown, I knew this was a writer to watch and I’ve never been disappointed.
It’s 1986 and Jeremy is a young man just starting out in NYC with his first real job after college. He works at a law book publishing company. They are just adopting Wang word processors and his coworkers are freaking out about the change. Jeremy is thankful to have the job, especially after he meets Adam, the editor on the project he’s working on J Adam is very cute and as Jeremy leaves his office after their first meeting, he catches Adam watching him.
Jeremy’s best friend Scott is his confidant and Jeremy tells him all about meeting Adam. While they have a lot in common, their taste in men is quite different. Jeremy also has a passion for music. He buys 45s at the Vinyl Attic, the local record store and in fact the store owner has nicknamed him Mr. 45. I loved the description of the store, the owner and the transition of the media of music. Jeremy’s conversation with Scott after his record purchases is like a comfortable walk down memory lane with references to the only 80s nighttime soap I ever watched and even a mention of my favorite grocery store chain – even though I didn’t know about it until 1999 – and I like Jeremy’s record choices.
Friday night comes and even though Scott is still a bit banged up from a fall while jogging, he and Jeremy decide to go out to the Liberty – a local gay bar. As he’s getting ready, he listens to Kate Bush’s single Running up that Hill. He loves the song and plays it again – 6 more times. Amazingly, Jeremy runs into Adam at Liberty. Their night continues after the club however 😉
Monday at work they see each other again when Jeremy completes his project, but things get weird when a female coworker interrupts their conversation and Adam clams up. t lunch with Scott, Jeremy tell him about his time with Jeremy. Things get back on track and Jeremy decides to celebrate by getting more new music. He is now obsessing on Kate Bush.
Things seems to be going well with work and with Adam, but then a scare with Scott and a nasty prank and the damn Wang word processors all try to get in the way of Jeremy’s happiness. But our Jeremy, inspired by the words and music of the lovely Kate Bush perseveres.
Where do I start about all the things I loved about this story? A little context – 1986 was without a doubt one of the worst years of my life. I was Jeremy’s age in 1986. My dad died in 1986 a couple weeks after his 46th birthday after a long illness. I had to have my mother committed in 1986. I was putting myself through college working as a secretary commuting 120 miles round trip every day, going to school at night and on Saturdays. I got hired for my job because I had worked with one of the other big word processing systems just coming on in the mid-80s, the late lamented NBI, and I was really good at it. I spent long hours on the train listening to my Walkman and in the car listening to my cassettes. Music has always been a big part of my life and I think particularly at that shit storm stage of my life it was a huge comfort to me. I heard Kate Bush for the first time in 1979 when I was an exchange student in Europe. I thought she was amazing – particularly Wuthering Heights (for you Anglophiles, search YouTube for Kate Bush and Noel Fielding – Wuthering Heights – it’s amazing).
For me, reading this story was like punch in the gut, followed by a comforting hug. Barry so eloquently captured the rhythms of the mid-80s – the big changes that were beginning in the role of technology and media in our lives in new ways, the tentative steps being taken by many towards living an authentic life and the horror and fear surrounding the AIDS epidemic. Listening to Jeremy’s inner dialogue and slightly sarcastic nature literally felt like I was stepping back in time. I loved his voice in this story. Once again, I am in awe of Barry’s talent in bringing to life characters in what I can only describe as movie-like story. Read this story. You won’t be disappointed.
Posted by Sadonna in 6 LOVE IT!, Authors A-C, Contemporary, Heat 2 - Romantic & Tame, Romance, Sex Freq 2 - Few and Far Between, up to 15k Tags: 1980s, 80s music, Barry Brennessel, Best Friends, Closeted, Coming of Age, Fear, HFN, HIV, Kate Bush, MLR Mixtapes, MLR Press, NYC, Short Story, Technology
Title: Chase the Storm
Author: V. M Waitt
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Length: 71,080 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Western Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 4 – Very Often
Keywords/Tags: Angst-alicious, Coming of Age, Cowboys, Emotionally Damaged, Grieving Partner, Horses, Hostile Work Environment, Hot & Cold, May/Dec, Secrets & Lies, Yearning
Rating: Really Liked It!!
Reviewed by Nikyta
*****This review contains minor spoilers*****
Up until he buys an old truck, Elijah Morgan lives life according to his family’s plan, never feeling like he belongs. Desperate to find his own path, he heads out on the open road, only to end up stranded in Nebraska. Not wanting to ask for his parents’ help, he takes a job with tough, independent farmer Chase McKenzie.
Despite their age gap, the attraction between Chase and Elijah soon becomes undeniable. They give in to their desire, but that night changes everything and threatens the secret Chase guards so carefully.
As the summer heats up, so does their relationship. When autumn arrives, Elijah is due back at college, and he’ll have to choose whether to continue his education and follow in his family’s footsteps… or to stay in Nebraska with the man he loves.
I’m sure we’ve all experienced those books that have pulled so much emotion from us that we really don’t know how to even grasp how we feel about the story. Hate it or love it, it is a very fine line and you just don’t know exactly how you feel. In this case, I didn’t hate the book, in fact, I loved it but I must admit that I sort of hated Chase but, oh man, this book pulled so many emotions from me it had me crying like a baby a few times and I can’t dismiss that even if the book does have its faults.
This story features Elijah and his journey to finding himself and his own path in life. As his school semester ends, he impulsively buys an old truck and drives to places unknown only to end up in a small town with a broken down truck. Forced to find a place to stay while his ride gets fixed, he takes a job working for Chase on his farm and learning what hard work really means. As their time together becomes longer, the chemistry they have becomes harder to fight. Elijah’s finally finding the one place he feels like is home and losing his heart in the process but Chase is still healing and doesn’t want to feel what he does for Elijah because if he gives in, he doesn’t know if he’ll survive it if Elijah eventually goes back to college.
I loved Elijah. He’s like a new baby colt… innocent and lost. He doesn’t fit in anywhere so he’s trying to find himself. He’s sweet and hard working even though he’s never worked on a farm before. Elijah broke my heart but I loved that I was able to connect with him. So well, in fact, that when he was angry I was getting angry and when he cried, I was crying. It was a great feeling to have. Chase, on the other hand, is harder and more gruff. He’s put a wall up around himself because he doesn’t want to let anyone else in but Elijah threatens that wall. I loved but hated Chase. He’s so mean and harsh to Elijah to the point of being cruel and he has no problems with shattering Elijah’s hopes over certain things. I hated how he treated Elijah sometimes for no reason on Elijah’s part but then, I can understand why he’s the way he is. With what he’s gone through and experienced, it’s just so sad. When he finally caves and embraces his feelings for Elijah fully… it’s the sweetest moment of the book, IMO.
I loved this book so much but as the story progressed, more and more of it was focused on the sex between Elijah and Chase to the point that it was too much for me. With everything going on, I was hoping that we’d see more of them talking and working things out but it seemed like whenever they tried to talk things through, they’d end up in bed and never actually talk. It grew slightly annoying towards the end because of the tension of knowing that Elijah was potentially leaving, these boys needed to talk more than ever. When they do talk, I felt like most of it was told instead of shown. My only other issue is that Elijah never really stood up for himself. He took Chase’s anger and sometimes he felt like it was his fault when it wasn’t and he had no reason to apologize to Chase. Beyond that, I still have one question. Just how old is Chase? It’s never said! There were a few inconsistencies and I’m sure there were other problems with this story but to be honest, I was so caught up in everything that I didn’t much notice or even care about them.
In the end, this was a great book. It’s a coming of age story of the journey Elijah takes to finally find his place in the world but also about healing. Elijah heals Chase but Chase also saves Elijah. It’s a beautiful story and I could probably read these boys over and over again. I loved that it brought out so many emotions in me. It’s not a perfect book but it is one that grabbed hold of my heart and didn’t want to let go. This was my first book by this author and I’m looking forward to reading more from her. So, to all you cowboy lovers out there, give this one a try because you might like it 😉
Posted by Nikyta in 41-75k, 5 Really Like It, Authors V-Z, Contemporary, Heat 3 - Sexy & Mild, Romance, Sex Freq 4 - Very Often, Western Tags: Angst-alicious, Coming of Age, Cowboys, Dreamspinner Press, Emotionally/Physically Damaged, Grieving Partner, Horses, Hostile Work Environment, Hot & Cold, May/December, Secrets & Lies, V M Waitt, Yearning
Author: Jamie Sullivan
Publisher: Less Than Three Press
Length: 30k words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Paranormal Young Adult Romance
Heat: 2 – Romantic & Tame
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few & Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Coming of Age, Young Adult Characters, Friends to Lovers, Kids, First Times, Childhood Friends/Sweethearts, Ghosts/Spirits, Orphan, Foster System, NYC, Awesome Covers!, Sweet & Light
Rating: Really Liked It!
Aaron is a lonely, unloved boy when he first meets James. Their friendship seems like a dream come true—or perhaps just a dream, because no one else can see or hear James. Aaron stubbornly clings to his new friend, however, even when the friendship makes him an object of scorn and ridicule. No matter the years that pass, or the challenges they face, Aaron refuses to give up on his best friend—but life might just find a way to take James from him anyway.
I wish I had an award to give out to this book! The Sweetest, Most Heartfelt, Make Me Go Gooey award. For those readers that take a chance on this book (and I’ll go ahead and say I bet it’ll probably be less than should), you’re going to find a book that is both a classic love story and at the same time unique in the romance world. The focus of this story is on love itself, in it’s most pure form, without sexuality (well, there’s a little bit of it, but it’s not the point) and while doing that, it whittles down the relationship to it’s purest form. It just hits a note early on that really harmonized with me. I felt like — as soon as I started the book — I got it and I was there with it right to the very end.
Imaginary starts with the line Aaron is five the first time he sees James. Aaron is a lonely orphan, raised in the foster system and bounced from home to home until he lands with Tiffany and Shaw, a travesty of a pair of parents that make Aaron know very well that they only want him for the paycheck he gets them. His dirty clothes and lack of toys mean that he’s set apart from the other kids. So when Aaron sees a boy sitting on the fence around the field near his house, he introduces himself and finds a friend that seems interested in all the same thing he is — running through the field and exploring the forest and the rabbit warrens, making up their own games. The gig is up, though, when the gossip-happy Tiffany tells Aaron that no boy named James lives in their neighborhood. And James is silent on answers. He doesn’t have any. He doesn’t know who his parents are or where his house is. He doesn’t remember anything before meeting Aaron except wandering around and being lonely.
Aaron is frustrated and angry that no one seems to believe him that James is real. Like all kids with imaginary friends, he’s told he’ll grow out of it, though Aaron talking to James around Tiffany or Shaw is a recipe for punishment and the threat of sending him away. Aaron learns to stop talking about James, but James doesn’t go away. As Aaron grows up over a series of ten years, James seems to grow with him, through puberty, making new friends and the confusing feelings about girls and Aaron’s feelings about them in relation to his best friend James.
Aaron doesn’t know if anyone will ever be able to see James besides him. But James means too much to him to ignore.
No matter the fact that the story is similar to a few that I’ve read/seen before in books and movies, I still couldn’t see the direction that this story was headed. I’m glad that I didn’t, I got to enjoy the story as it was intended, growing up with both boys and like them, not knowing the possibilities of their future, apart and hopefully together. It’s a story that produces natural angst, but despite tween and teenager years the story never delves into it. It remains a sense of purity, the same sort of purity and innocence that James brings to Aaron.
It’s truly a beautiful story and for most of it, I read it wearing a smile. It’s definitely a recommended read. I liked that the story was heavier on their earlier years as quite young boys and then more quickly moved through the 12-15 years, though I would have liked more story at the end.
For those looking for a sweet read, definitely check this one out. I feel lucky that I got to read it ahead of time and I wholeheartedly want to support it and make sure that more people are aware it. If you like sweet stories that aren’t fluff but have little to no sex then this is a good fit for you. And no matter how you might feel about the story’s execution, I challenge all of you who read it to not find it beautiful, heartfelt and touching 🙂
Note: This is by far, The BEST cover that I’ve seen from LT3, made by HM Burns and London Burden. It drew me to the story in the first place and it is perfect for the story.
Posted by Cole in 16-40k, 5 Really Like It, Authors S-U, Contemporary, Heat 2 - Romantic & Tame, Paranormal, Romance, Sex Freq 2 - Few and Far Between, YA Tags: Awesome Covers!, Childhood Friends, Childhood Sweethearts, Coming of Age, First Times, Foster System, Friends to Lovers, Ghosts/Spirits, HM Burns, Jamie Sullivan, Kids, Less Than Three Press, Light & Sweet, London Burden, NYC, Orphan, Young Adult Characters