Flashback Friday

Flashback Friday and Giveaway: The Why Haven’t You Read This Book Yet? Edition

Flashback Friday

Welcome back to another edition of Flashback Friday, everyone! This week’s FbF Feature is all about the books we’ve read and would love to force feed to every single person we’ve ever met ever in our entire lives. Extreme, no??? But yes! This begins a potpourri of prose that has made us cry, squee, giggle, you name it, we’ve loved it, and we wish everyone would read these books.

Last week’s winner of the Flashback Friday Speculative Fiction Edition was Julie Small, who made the wisest of wise choices and went with Jordan L. Hawk’s Widdershins as her e-book prize. Congratulations to you, Julie, and thanks so much to everyone who’s played along with us!

I hope you’ll find a title or two amongst our choices that you haven’t read yet because if you click on the Rafflecopter widget below, you can enter for the chance to win an e-copy of one of them, winner’s choice.

Good luck!

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TNA_Signature_JulesThere are a LOT of books I want to shove in people’s faces and make them read. Ha! But, I chose this week’s book because I just read it – tardy to the party – and I want to make sure that no one else leaves it languishing on his or her TBR pile! The book is Shattered Glass by Dani Alexander, and I want you to go right now and load it up on your e-reader. Don’t wait another moment, folks. This is an absolute must read!

Austin Glass killed me. Killlllllllllllled me. The king of snark. Zero filter. Inept in all of his female relationships. Yet also smart, funny, a brilliant detective, and somehow manages to come off as endearing a large portion of the time, despite the no filter issue.

While waiting for an informant on a case, Austin sees Peter. Well…what he sees are bunny slippers…and, he can’t get the slippers, or the man, out of his head. Austin is a complete goner for Peter, and it ends up sending him on the roller coaster ride of his life as he tries to figure out his feelings for Peter, and solve his case at the same time.

The action in the story is fabulous. The characters are interesting, eclectic, and entertaining. I found Peter’s background, including that of his “brothers” Darryl and Cai, fascinating, and was on the edge of my seat as their story unraveled. And, Austin Glass in particular is a character that will stay with me for a very long time. I LOVED this freakin’ book, man.

Bonus note: I actually listened to the audio for this book, and it was AH-MAZING. The narrator does a phenomenal job with the pacing, the accents, and the whole performance in general.

shattered glassA male prostitute, a mangy cat, a murder and an obsession that threatens his career, his impending marriage and his life. Nothing is going as planned for Austin Glass.

Austin Glass seems to have it all, A loving fiancee, a future with the FBI and a healthy sized trust fund. At least on the surface. He also has a grin and a wisecrack for every situation. But the smile he presents to the world hides a painful past he’s buried too deeply to remember, and his quips mask bitterness and insecurity. Austin has himself and most of the whole world fooled—until he meets a redhead in a pair of bunny slippers.

As events unfold in the biggest case of his life, Austin’s carefully planned future unravels, and he finds himself pushed into making quick, life-changing decisions. But can he trust himself or anything he feels, when each event seems to be just a series of volatile reactions?

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TNA_Signature_CHRIS*Runs up and shoves a book under your nose*

If there is only ONE book that I could make someone read it would be Conquest by S.J. Frost. This book, actually this whole series, is one of the reasons I became utterly hooked into the M/M genre. It’s also one of the first romances I stumbled on that featured a rock band as part of the main story. Considering I love my rock music as much as I love reading, well this book was a match made in book heaven!

Jesse and Evan are the couple that I hold up as an example of how you can make a relationship work. They are also two of my all time favorite characters in this genre. They aren’t just lovers but they truly are the other’s soul mate, even if it takes them time to get to that point with each other. While they are two completely different people, at different stages of their lives and careers, there is something about the other that constantly draws them together.

Did I mention that Jesse and Evan are smoking hot together? The sexual tension between these two will literally set your ereader on fire! Not to overlook Jesse and Evan’s musical talent which takes the book to a whole different level. There’s nothing I love more than a book that can actually capture the emotion that is wrapped within music and this entire series gives you that feeling.

You definitely need to give Jesse and Evan a chance, because once you pick up the first book in the series you’re going to want more!

conquestVocally gifted singer, Jesse Alexander, has dreams of taking his band, Conquest, to the top.

Evan Arden was thought of as a musical genius when at the height of his career he vanished from the spotlight. Together, their relationship is just as intense as their music careers. With success pushing down on them, Jesse must decide between his life of music, or his life with Evan.

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TNA_Signature_SammyIf I Could Force You to Read This Book, I Would. Oh yes, indeed I would—and I would also provide a bottle of liquor and a box of tissues ‘cause this one is a tough read, but the rewards? They are oh so great!

A Note in the Margin was a difficult book to read. This story cut me to the core for many reasons and on many levels. Remembering the synopsis I wrote a few years ago reminded me once again of the great impact this novel had on me.

John is “taking a break” from the corporate rat race. In fact, he must; otherwise, he will spin apart, perhaps have a nervous breakdown, a heart attack. One is never sure because Ms. Rowan is not specific in the reason, only that the break must occur or John will not survive. And so, John invests in a small, unassuming used bookstore named Margins. Here he meets and employs the son of the previous owner, Jaime. Jaime, in turn, introduces John to the homeless man that, every afternoon, occupies an old leather chair in the back of the shop, sketching in his notebook and reading. And so the story begins…and you are sucked into the sometimes violent, oft times horrific life of David, a former corporate man, father and husband. A formerly closeted gay man…a shell of his former self…mentally broken, whoring for bus fair to travel to see the son whom he is never able to speak to or interact with…living in fear and only sometimes dwelling in reality.

Wounded…broken…desperate…David…John—both equally fragile, equally needy, find each other.

This is not an easy story to read. My gut clenched often and unhappily as David worked his way back from the abyss to life with John, to love, to acceptance of himself, and forgiveness as well. Ms. Rowan paints a picture that is teeming with realism, gritty with emotion and remarkable in its depth. Her characters are achingly real, so much so that I found myself yelling at them so they would move before disaster struck again. Several times the stark raw emotion leapt off the page, forcing me to stop dead, turn off the kindle and step away. It was too much, too overwhelming.

Do not tread lightly into this book—for a light read it is not—at all. But it is a worthwhile read…a stunning look into the homeless man’s world…a glimpse into the intricacies of mental illness…yes, it is this and so much more. At this novel’s core is a love story that is so sweeping in its scope and tender in its telling that you are carried along in its mighty wake.

You should read this book—honest, you really should! Just bring along tissues…and maybe a stiff drink or two.

**As a side note when I visited Australia a few years ago, I had the honor of meeting Isabelle Rowan—such a lovely woman, smart and kind to a fault. I have enjoyed many of her stories to date and strongly recommend her lovely work to you.

NoteintheMarginJohn McCann, a man who judges life by the tally of an accounts ledger, has a supreme goal in life: To achieve, live, and enjoy the rarified executive lifestyle. But he’s encountered one problem: The migraines are going to continue to get worse unless you make some major changes in your lifestyle. What you need is a ‘sea change’… Perhaps buy a nice little business in the country, settle down, something easier to occupy your time…

While John knows the doctor is right, he just can’t resign from the job he’s fought so hard for. He decides the sacrifice of taking a year’s leave of absence won’t interfere too much with his plans, and so he finds himself running Margins, a cozy little bookstore, with the help of the former owner’s son, Jamie. John expects to put in his year, get his stress under control, and then get back to business.

What John doesn’t expect is how Margins and its denizens draw him in, particularly the quiet, disheveled man who takes refuge in the old leather chair in the second-hand book section. John’s plans for an unattached year of simple business crumble when he meets David and is forced to reevaluate life, love and what he really wants from both. John and David are forced to come to terms with their pasts as they struggle to determine what possible future they might build together.

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TNA_Signature_SadonnaDiane Adams – Making of a Man series

This is one of the BEST series I’ve ever read in any genre. Jared and Alex meet when Alex is a teenager – and just figuring out that he’s gay. Jared is an old soul in a young man’s body. He’s had to face a lot in his life already, and he truly isn’t that much older than Alex in years but is light years ahead in life’s hard knocks and experience. He’s been unlucky in love, and he’s already lost his father and inherited a business that he needs to keep going to keep a roof over his and his mother’s head. He takes the time to be a friend to Alex (and Alex’s best friend Clark) while they are still in high school and Alex is still in the closet. This series is currently at 6 books with some shorter freebies in between. There is still one more promised book to come.

So far this series has taken us through about 20 years of Jared and Alex’s story, and it’s an absolute pleasure to watch Alex grown up and grow into his relationship with Jared. Jared is one of the best men on the planet – bar none. There are wonderful supporting characters, realistic conflicts, no pat answers and some of the best dialogue around. Completely believable and if this series doesn’t convince people that Love is Love, I don’t know what would. Just absolutely some of the best storytelling in the genre and beautifully done.

Our DecemberSometimes two people fit together so well it seems their love was preordained, as if every step taken led inevitably to a happy ending. Deeply in love, Jared and Alex are such a couple, but the path to true and lasting love is rarely smooth. At fifteen, being gay isn’t the best thing that ever happened to a guy. In fact, Alex Ross thinks it’s down right scary. Then he meets twenty year old construction worker Jared Douglas, and Alex starts to think the gay thing might not be so bad after all.

The attraction between them is intense, but — mindful of Alex’s age — Jared is determined to keep the sparks from igniting. The stress of controlling his feelings makes it almost a relief when Alex’s father ships him off to prep school. Jared expects Alex to forget him and find a boy friend his own age; he doesn’t anticipate how much it will hurt. When Alex comes home for Christmas, just turned 16, with his heart on his sleeve, Jared knows he can’t continue to keep everything he feels a secret.

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TNA_Signature_LisaI read a quote once by a man named Alfred North Whitehead, who was a philosopher. The quote went something like this:

It takes an extraordinary intelligence to contemplate the obvious.

Al Fletcher may never be described as extraordinarily intelligent, but he is an extraordinary character who has a way of being, oh, perhaps a wee bit obtuse but is so utterly guileless that his observations of the obvious are just sweet and charming, and when I read his story, Muscling Through, several years ago, he quickly shot to the top of the list of some of my all-time favorite characters.

Larry came into Al’s life in a dark alley one night…while Al was taking a whizz. Yep. Big Al, with his tattoos and a nose that’s seen the business end of more than a few fists, was peeing in the great outdoors when Larry happened upon him…and then promptly assumed, based on Al’s looks, that he, Larry, was going to get robbed at best, or get a good beating, or heaven knows what else, at worst.

Now, Al’s been known to be drunk and disorderly on a few occasions, but purposefully mean and/or violent? That’s not Al at all. Al does things like hide the kitchen knives when he makes sure you get home safely, assuming you’re drunk and a danger to yourself because you’re acting crazy—which is really not you being drunk or crazy. It’s just you being scared shitless of Al.

Al does things like eat finger sandwiches in a posh restaurant and then hopes that when the staff cut the crusts off those sandwiches that they at least had the common decency to feed those perfectly good crusts to the birds.

Al is an artist, and though the world may not see beauty in him, Al sees beauty in the world. And that makes him beautiful where it counts.

Muscling Through isn’t a long book—less than ninety pages—but it’s one of the best novellas I’ve ever read. If not the best. It’s funny and full of warmth—just like Al—and is one of the most endearing opposites attract stories I’ve ever run across, thanks to JL Merrow’s deft hand and lovely sense of humor.

In a genre where we’ve learned not to jump to conclusions or make assumptions, JL Merrow crafted a character who’s spent his life having others define him by his looks, when, in fact, it’s his heart and soul and downright goodness that make Al who he is, and make it easy to see why a man like Larry would fall madly in love with the big, tattooed, beautifully simple man.

muscling throughThe bigger they come, the harder they fall… in love.

Cambridge art professor Larry Morton takes one, alcohol-glazed look at the huge, tattooed man looming in a dark alley, and assumes he’s done for. Moments later he finds himself disarmed—literally and figuratively. And, the next morning, he can’t rest until he offers an apology to the man who turned out to be more gentle than giant.

Larry’s intrigued to find there’s more to Al Fletcher than meets the eye; he possesses a natural artistic talent that shines through untutored technique. Unfortunately, no one else seems to see the sensitive soul beneath Al’s imposing, scarred, undeniably sexy exterior. Least of all Larry’s class-conscious family, who would like nothing better than to split up this mismatched pair.

Is it physical? Oh, yes, it’s deliciously physical, and so much more—which makes Larry’s next task so daunting. Not just convincing his colleagues, friends and family that their relationship is more than skin deep. It’s convincing Al.

Warning: Contains comic misunderstandings, misuse of art materials, and unexpected poignancy.

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THE GIVEAWAY

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The Fine Print:

*Must be 18 years old or older to qualify
*No residency restrictions apply
*The Novel Approach will be responsible for prize delivery in e-book format of winner’s choice
*All comments must be relevant to qualify

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3.5 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Isabelle Rowan, Reviewed by Sadonna

Review: Snowman by Isabelle Rowan

Title: Snowman

Author: Isabelle Rowan

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 276 Pages

At a Glance: An enjoyable if rather slow paced and unexpected romance between two very different men who each need to break out of the ruts they find themselves in.

Reviewed By: Sadonna

Blurb: We all find ways to run away. Some do it in seclusion, others in the arms of lovers.

Since the death of his long-time partner, Caleb Maguire lives a quiet life in Australia’s Victorian high country with only his dog and horses for company. Each day is the same. There are no surprises—good or bad—until a major snowstorm hits his mountain and Caleb is called out to rescue a stranded tourist. The late night snow brings with it a lost soul who forces Caleb to reassess his solitary life.

Paul Turner is a barista in the trendy Melbourne suburb of Carlton. He lives life totally in the moment, but a life of no commitments is about to change for this city boy. Three days is all it takes for Paul to fall hard for Caleb, and Paul returns to the city with a promise he’ll be back after turning his life around… but only when all the roads are clear.

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Review: I requested Snowman for review based on my love for Isabelle Rowan’s story A Note in the Margin, which to this day is one of my very favorite first M/M reads. I see a lot of the same quality of writing in this story, which is also not an easy one for her characters.

In this novel, two vastly different personalities are thrown together for a few days when Paul leaves his friends in a snit and drives off the road in a snowstorm, and Caleb literally rescues him from probable, if not certain, death by hypothermia. Caleb can tell that Paul is much younger than he is, and that he lives a very different lifestyle. He tries not to be too judgmental, but frankly, Paul is a bit of a sullen and spoiled prick who needs to figure out a few things in life. But they are stuck with each other until the weather clears and Paul can get down off the mountain and away from Caleb’s remote spread.

For his part, Paul is not too thrilled to be away from the party lifestyle and most certainly, his roommate and other mates for his weekend away. Caleb expects that Paul will make himself useful, although to be honest, Paul is not sure he is very useful at first. He is a barista and doesn’t really have much experience in life doing much except his job and partying and picking up guys. He does, however, have a dream; although he’s not very confident that he’ll ever achieve it. He really loves to cook and would like to be a chef someday. He determines that he’ll pay Caleb back for his hospitality by cooking for him. Caleb is pretty impressed and encourages Paul to follow his dream.

Paul figures out that Caleb is gay as well, but he sees no evidence of anyone else in Caleb’s life. He also observes a pervading sadness around Caleb. Besides his dog and his horses, Caleb keeps daily interactions with any other people to a minimum. When Paul steps over a line, he must find a way to make amends with Caleb and get him to understand that he meant no harm and really is interested in Caleb.

Eventually the weather clears, and Paul must return to his life down the mountain and back in the city. He vows to be back, though, when he’s gotten his life together. Caleb doesn’t want to dare to hope. He is still reeling from the loss of his partner, and he’s not sure he has the will to go on and get close to anyone else.

The second part of the book is told largely in parallel, with Caleb still on his mountaintop and Paul back at sea level. We learn a great deal about both during these chapters, including Caleb’s epic love story that ended tragically, and Paul’s devotion to his friend and roommate Stewart. Caleb’s family tries to help him move on, but he’s not convinced that Paul is the one. Stewart wants an epic love, and he’s willing to endure almost anything to get it. Paul really wants to try with Caleb, but he’s not sure he’s up to the task.

Several tragedies and missed communications occur that serve to drive a wedge between Paul and Caleb just when it looks like their fledgling relationship might be getting off the ground. It takes the intervention of family and friends to help them both recognize what is going on, and they are each going to have to take a huge leap of faith if they want to try to be together.

All in all, I enjoyed this story. These two guys really had to work for their HEA. I wish the section of the book where Caleb and Paul were separated was a little shorter because it felt like it took forever for them to be back in the same place and the same time. But, I really liked the portrayal of the fear and insecurity of both men. After the loss of an epic love, it’s fitting that Caleb is afraid to try again. Never having experienced a real adult love, it’s also understandable that Paul is a bit lost and nervous about how to proceed.

I loved Caleb’s sister-in-law and family! Sarah totally hits it out of the park. It was really rewarding to see these guys evolve and get past their issues. Recommended for anyone who enjoys a thoughtful and slower paced love story between two very different men.







 

You can buy Snowman here:

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Dreamspinner Press, Isabelle Rowan

The Road to Byron by Isabelle Rowan

“There are two mistakes one can make along the road to truth; not going all the way and not starting.” – Buddha

Matthew Kellett is at the crossroads, at that all important summer in his life when every choice he now makes will matter, not as a child but as an adult. It’s the time when a road trip with his best friend Craig, and Craig’s girlfriend Kelly, will mean Matthew will leave behind the boy that has hidden from who he is, and become the man who must face his feelings and desires, even through the near crippling fear of Craig’s reaction to the truth.

The Road to Byron is a story that delicately addresses the issues of coming out, physical and sexual abuse, and Matthew’s sexual awakening with Damien Reeves, a college boy he meets and falls for on his journey. The sweet simplicity and urgency of their attraction is a contrast to the complications that lay within Matthew’s relationship with Craig, one that’s tangled in the painful truths of Craig’s life which have left scars that create a rift between them, and very nearly tear Matthew and Damien apart before they’d even had a chance to begin. But it’s also the beginning of Matthew taking control of the direction his life will go rather than standing back and allowing life to happen to him, and ultimately becomes a story of growth and courage in the face of fear.

If you like realistic literary fiction, stories that don’t erroneously manufacture a happily-ever-after but remain true to the idea that the present and the promise you find there can be every bit as satisfying, The Road to Byron is both of those things, as well as a first-love story that had me rooting for Matthew and Damien to find their road to each other after losing their way.

Isabelle Rowan is a GayRomLit participating author. You can find her blog HERE.

Buy The Road to Byron HERE.

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