Book Review: Lock & West

Writing this is interesting. I LOVE Lock & West by Alexander C. Eberhart. It’s beautiful and powerful, a really great book. Except when reading it, I had very little thoughts. I always have comments whether I love a book or not but it’s especially weird not to have a bunch of opinions about a book I really enjoyed. So we’ll see how this goes.

(Whenever I type Lock’s name, I want to write ‘Locke’ instead. We could say I’m intellectual and thinking of English philosopher John Locke… nah, I’m actually thinking about John Locke the character from Lost.)

Also, I have Kindle Unlimited so I typically borrow books, but I’m going to buy Lock & West. Because it’s fantastic!

Quick Summary: Two guys with different personalities from different backgrounds meet each other and form a connection while facing difficult years at home. Though as they grow closer, they learn home might not be a place. It’s a person. (which is the tagline and used very well in the novel!)

The Story

Lock is put into an awkward position. Lots of things are awkward for him. He’s the nervous type and prone to anxiety. Social interaction isn’t his strong suit, and he lives more in his head than the real word. Very relatable. But life is even more awkward as a new student at high school. He moved from Seattle to Atlanta.

-Quote about Lock

One of the new people he meets is West, who he agrees to tutor in math. They initially get along well enough, and West really likes Lock’s younger brother. They might even be crushing on each other. Though Lock isn’t out or even at the point where he admits his sexuality to himself.

West is an outgoing, funny theater kid who even convinces Lock to attend a party with him. Which is when things get interesting because those crazy kids get drunk and hook up. And that’s only the beginning of the drama.

-Quote about West

Between sorting out their feelings for each other, and Lock figuring out his sexuality, each guy also has their share of personal struggles. Lock’s mom is an alcoholic, his father is dead, and there are many secrets in his family history he doesn’t yet know. West has issues with his weight and his sister’s douchey fiancé.

I’m trying not to be too specific about all this, but there’s a lot of twists and obstacles that crop up. Right when you get used to the story, something changes and new complications and layers are added, which is done in the best ways and is a joy to read.

The Relationship

-Romance

There are moments when the personal issues blend with what’s happening between the guys and other parts where their stories verge off. Sometimes their feelings make things complicated while other times being together provides the only moment of peace in their otherwise hectic lives. They aren’t immediately a couple, and the relationship builds as the novel continues. Like everything else, it’s very emotional and well done and I enjoyed the hell out of these two separately and as a couple.

Only small issue is there are a few parts where their journeys were too separate. And while each storyline is captivating, I still wanted them to come back together for a few scenes. However, this is less something that actually bugged me and more a critique because I always try to find at least one downside to a novel so that I don’t sound like a paid infomercial or something.

Writing Style

Lock writes notes to himself with advice for being a human being while West makes lists. Each are in different handwriting and show up at the start of every chapter, so we see them a lot. This fun little detail makes the book more personalized.

A note from Lock
A list from West

Many chapters are bite-size, though never too brief. From my rambling nature to the way I try to fit as many words into a sentence as possible, these short and sweet chapters are a radical concept for me. However, I really enjoy them. It keeps the novel moving and each section stops at just the right point so you wanna keep reading.

From the Novel

Okay, the way the author describes anything? Amazing. Love how ordinary sentences are packed with so much meaning. You’re just reading the page, chugging along, and then boom, feelings. Several lines sneak up on your with their loveliness. Beautiful writing, just gorgeous from start to finish.

Tags & Warnings (Spoilers!) :

developing relationships, friends to lovers, theater, family, mental health issues, biracial character, mixed raced relationship, eating disorder, abuse, illness, rape, suicide.

I’m going to end with a funny quote from Lock & West:

-(obvi) a funny quote I’m ending with

Best Friend’s Brother

Sorry in advance, but when talking about this book, My Best Friend’s Brother by KC Wells, I am legally obligated (by myself) to post this video too.

Unpopular opinion: much as I adore that song, I didn’t love My Best Friend’s Brother, the book.

The plot is straightforward, a slow build ‘forbidden’ relationship between a younger brother and his older brother’s best friend. The two friends are young guys who like hooking up and haven’t been in many serious relationships, and the friend is worried his brother would get hurt.

Since it’s developing romance and there isn’t really another plot, there’s not much to do in the beginning. The growing sexual tension is good, though there’s just a lot of conversations about food, what their plans for the day are, or sightseeing. The sightseeing stuff was kinda interesting since the characters live in California, but I was underwhelmed with the rest.

Don’t think there’s anything wrong with the simple plot or storytelling, Just wasn’t my favorite. I didn’t even mind the pace since it was a slow build, it’s just not much else was happening during the ‘build’ part, and when the relationship does take off, then it flies by, and boom, it’s over. I could have used a little more payoff.

However, apparently everybody disagrees with me because the reviews for this book all seem excellent. So what do I know? If you want a low angst love story with some steam, check it out.

Review: Realigned by Becca Seymour

While the title of this blog is Hella Gay YA, I’ve never been good at staying on topic. And as an author of gay romances, I figure the important part is ‘gay’ anyway. So I’m going to share my thoughts on the novella Realigned by Becca Seymour.

The cover needs a special shout-out. GORGEOUS, GORGEOUS, GORGEOUS COVER. Yes, I needed to say it three times because it can’t be said enough. BEAUTIFUL, GORGEOUS COVER. Especially in the gay romance genre, this is one of my favorite covers ever.

Quick Summary: When Shaun returns home to the Australian outback, he must decide what to do when his vacation ends, either go back to his life in the United States or stay and start a relationship with police officer Mitch.

Tropes and Book Details: best friends, friends to lovers, small town romance, second chance, short story, contemporary, sweet, steamy

My thoughts: Realigned is fun, fast novella if you want a cute read with a little steam. This is one of the books I picked up in a giveaway and I’m glad I got the opportunity as I hadn’t ready any Becca Seymour before, but it won’t be the last book I read from her.

Plot: Some old author guy once said ‘you can’t go home again,’ but eight years is a pretty long time to stay away. So Shaun returns to the small-town he left behind, his loving family, and the best friend he’s always wanted more from. And if their relationship evolves, can he be convinced to turn his vacation into a permanent change of address?

This is the question the plot revolves around, but it’s more there in the background while the focus is on the relationship between the guys. And their relationship is the best part, so this works out just fine. There is some drama about how Shaun left and revelations from the past, but most of the angst is in the past.

Characters: When people say it’s not rocket science, they aren’t talking to Shaun because he is a rocket scientist. Yet it’s the heart he has trouble with. Isn’t that the way it goes? And also, I am not a rocket scientist, so I’m not totally sure about his job. He works for NASA and does something with the earth, but I’m rounding to ‘rocket scientist’ anyway.

Shaun’s childhood best friend Mitch is a sexy sweetheart who put Shaun’s own happiness first in the past, but now thinks they can be happy together. What else could you want from a fictional boyfriend?

Quote about Mitch

Both grew up in a small Australian community that feels authentic to me and will to you too, unless you are actually from a small Australian community, and then I can’t say whether the experience will ring true for you, but it’s probably close enough for a short story.

Final thoughts: For me, this story is super interesting, very cute, and even a bit steamy. It’s an entertaining read from start to finish. If you enjoy reading standalone novellas about sexy dudes with Australian accents, best friends becoming more, or gay romance in general, you’re good to go and will love every second.

I’m the person who finds something good and wants more of it, so I wish the book was longer, but I also think that’s the mark of a quality story when you’re left wanting more. And as someone who takes forever to read, I do see the value of shorter fiction, though this one felt more like a snippet than totally complete to me. So the perfect time to read this is when you’re in the mood for a quick, feel-good read.

Quote from the book

That Feeling When Review

For my review of That Feeling When, my immediate instinct is to fill in the rest. What comes after that feeling when… the feeling when you’re what? There’s a specific thing S.M. James has in mind, and while I don’t think telling you what that is would be especially spoiler-y, it feels like a jerky thing to do.

Until I saw that it’s literally in the blurb describing the book. As it says, ‘how do you go back to your average life once you’ve experienced That Feeling When … you’re finally happy?’ That feeling when you’re finally happy. There, it’s complete, I feel so much better.

Okay, without further ado, reviewing!

Quick Summary: Archie doesn’t want to be at a fancy summer camp for rich people, but he agreed to go if he didn’t get into the dance school he applied to. Famous actor Landon happens to be shooting a movie at the same place. Neither of them are looking for love, yet are drawn to each other.

Tropes and main elements: famous actor, blackmail, ballet, sexuality crisis, sweet romance, friends to lovers, developing relationship

Overall impression: This sweet novel is perfect for when you wanna escape into a love story. The book really captures all the feelings of falling head over heels and makes every moment Landon and Archie spend together feel special and intense, whether they’re rock-climbing, breaking an entering, or scuba diving.

from novel

2021-03-26 (2)

 

meetings

 Archie is the son of a media mogul who dishes dirt on celebrities. He’s trying to make it through the summer and doesn’t know what to do with his life if he’s not a dancer. His initial opinion on his sexuality seems to be, ‘god, not all male dancers are gay.’ Which, you know, is true, though this also doesn’t mean he’s straight. Growing up with money and the finer things in life, he’s not easily impressed with social status or people who throw around their social status. So when he stumbles upon a film shoot in progress, and Hollywood heartthrob Landon immediately bitches at him, he hates Landon on sight.

While Landon had an off day, he’s not who Archie assumes. By which I mean he’s a total sweetheart. I adore Landon, he’s everything good and perfect in the world. Seriously. Landon’s a sincere bi softie who loves his mother and is very cute when crushing on someone.

Despite his fame, Landon grew up with nothing, and to me is overall more relatable than Archie. Australian Landon is homesick, not used to being a star, and not totally on board with some of the changes he’s made to be a successful actor, like downplaying his aboriginal heritage and keeping his bisexuality secret. He doesn’t love acting so much as his hefty salary that helps provide for his large family back home.

Despite getting off on the wrong foot, this doesn’t feel like a story where the main characters start as enemies. Archie’s first impression, while understandable, is just so different than the reality. Landon’s subsequent apology and wholehearted efforts to make friends quickly make this clear, so Archie spends their initial encounters more confused about how to feel than anything else.

romance

Can a relationship fit as a slow burn and insta-love at the same time? If possible, this book completely qualifies. Despite a tense start, their interest in each other is immediate and feels inevitable, though it takes a while for them to get to know each other and for everything to come together. I enjoyed the pace of their developing relationship. And since they’re already low key crushing, every new morsel of info learned becomes thrilling and every interaction causes them to fall a little deeper. It’s easy to get swept away in the romance with them.

While other stuff is going on, this book primarily focuses on the romance. So if you’re digging the romance, you’re good to go. If you’re more interested in the blackmail elements, or their personal character development, or anything else other than the romance, maybe skip this one or you probably won’t feel satisfied when you’re done with the book.

plot

Both guys are facing some tough decisions, such as figuring out where their lives are headed. Plus, Archie has an impending sexuality crisis and there’s a blackmailer watching them and making demands. These issues come up now and then, though all feel secondary and take a backseat to the romance.

For example, Archie’s dad airs celebrity dirty laundry, and Landon’s a closeted celebrity. Hello, inherent drama! Yet there’s not as much as you might expect. By the time families arrive for the end of camp, it’s kinda hard to stop the relationship train or even slow it down. 

While I don’t think there’s a problem telling a love story this way, the characters and their personal stories interested me enough that I’d have been happy with fleshing out the other plots more and diving deeper into character development.

On the blackmail front, I will give credit where due. I made a guess about the blackmailer fairly early and stuck to my guns about it. I ended up being wrong, so congrats, book! You surprised me.

 

more

This paragraph has some general spoilers for the end.  The only thing that bugged me a bit was Archie’s attitude to his family. Despite his poor opinion of them, they seemed very loving and supportive. They took his coming out extremely well, though he seemed sorta underwhelmed about this. If he’d used the opportunity to get closer to them or there was more acknowledgement he’d gotten them wrong, it’d be fine. His dad was set up as a villain so much that it would have been a fun subversion of expectations, except Archie’s attitude read to me as, ‘well, that’s nice. Anyway, what’s Landon up to?’

Maybe I’m unfair for wishing he were a little more grateful. Should everyone accept LGBTQ+ sexualities without batting an eye or getting any credit for it? Yeah. Are we there yet? I don’t think so.

If I gave star ratings, I’d say four stars for this one. While not in love with the novel, I thoroughly enjoyed it all the way through.

 

Promising Start to Gay Supernatural Series: Review of ‘Witch Eyes’ by Scott Tracey

Okay, so you know those epic book and movies series that are all intense and exciting? To set the scene, there’s a world vastly different than ours, yet still relatable. Then add in young heroes, unimaginable danger, and impossible love stories. This is almost Witch Eyes.

Imagine something like Harry Potter or Hunger Games or Divergent. Take the awesome fantasy series of your choice and insert it here. Then go to that moment where you’re like, man, this is awesome, but hey, here’s a wild idea. What if there were also gay people?

That’s Witch Eyes.

Who knew I could explain a whole story without actually giving away one plot detail? Should I go into more specifics? I guess. ‘Magical YA series’ with gays is all I need to hear, but reviews typically include… reviewing. Okay, here’s some more information about
Witch Eyes by Scott Tracey.

Spoilers!

I will try to be more general about the twistiest parts, but there’s probably going to be some:

spoilers

 

I’m not sure how popular of an opinion this is, I also don’t care, but I adore River Song. So unpopular or popular opinion, River is my favorite doctor. Followed by Martha Jones, because I’m physically incapable of not being difficult. And they are both doctors even though they aren’t “The Doctor.” Anyway, there’s spoilers, sweetie.

The book has suspense and dark secrets, like any good fantasy series, so there are some big mysteries, but there’s also a lot of little ones. The plot kind of unfolds piece by piece, so you don’t really know anything until you do. Does that make sense? Basically, every single part is a mystery, until you read it, and then it’s just part of the plot.

The slowly unraveling mystery of everything is done really well. Like damn. Very nice pacing, and just when things even out or my interest started to wane, bam! There’s a twist I didn’t see coming, and it all changes.

Plot!

Braden is this kid with crazy strong magic that makes his eyes painful and powerful.  In the real word, his eyes are sensitive and he can’t see very well. In the supernatural realm, he Sees more than he should. When danger looms, he flees to get answers by going to the place where he was born. He slowly learns about his hometown and the mysteries surrounding it and his life. The story has familiar elements but feels fresh and original, and overall is incredibly intriguing.

From the book:

There was more to the world than what most people saw…. Everything that had ever happened in a place, to a person, or because of something left an imprint…

Witch eyes, my uncle called them. A “gift.” I was “special.”

Sometimes being special wasn’t a good thing.

It was every horror movie nightmare come to life… Every time I unleashed the power of my visions, it was only a matter of time before I was overwhelmed. Hundreds, sometimes thousands, of memories in a place, and all of them funneled into me all at once. For as long as they ravaged through me, I was at their mercy.

Supernatural! (I started with the exclamation points, so I’m going to keep going)

There’s a magical world hiding in a regular town, so many people are unaware of the very messed up place they live. The mystical elements and battles of good and evil are interspersed through daily life. If you get bored easily, I think there’s enough action to hold your interest.

I am going to be vague and boring with a list to avoid giving away too much. The supernatural elements that star heavily allegedly involve: psychic powers, curses, werewolves, witches, demons, and wards.

Braden’s powers are especially fun because it’s a cool opportunity to change the writing up and see things in a different perspective. His eyes give him insight into the location he’s physically at and can show him the hidden depths of people. I freaking love his powers.

Bright light smacked me in the face, drawing out colors and images that weren’t there a moment ago.

Rings of purple bruising from the tears I never should have trusted him angry red stains copper on the carpet must get that fixed fire bowing down in his wake all angry oranges and gas blues money green in my purse the best job I’ve ever had. Why doesn’t he respect me as much as the resting gold dulled into unremarkable grays I am nothing he was right I should disappear.

Not Supernatural!

Right along with the magical elements are the messy human complications that pollute the town. There’s a giant feud between two families, the Lansings and Thorpes. The conflict has supernatural origins but spills over into regular life so everyone knows the town is divided between two sides.

If you have ever read a book or watched a movie, you will not be surprised that Braden’s father is the head of one side. His love interest’s mother is the head of the other side. Cue the inherent drama! And if you’re thinking this sounds like Romeo and Juliet but with magic and gay, that’s exactly what the author was going for, and it’s fantastic.

Between the magical and regular elements, and how everything blends together, there’s a lot going on. If you don’t have the memory of a goldfish, unlike me, you might be able to set the book down and come back to it. But I recommend not leaving this world too long before finishing the story or you might forget the details.

Love Story!

To sum up the romance, I think this quote works well:

You barely know him, I reminded myself. He was nice to look at, but he was kind of a dick. I definitely didn’t trust him.

Isn’t that the way it always starts? Braden and Trey don’t trust each other at first. But they are drawn to each other anyway. They have the setup for a really, really, really good love story. Like one from a movie where it’s all epic and star-crossed.

Okay, here’s part of a conversation between the two where they discuss names and nicknames.

“Cyke? Like Cyclops? From the X-Men? What’s wrong with Braden? It’s been working for me all my life.”

“Everyone gets to call you Braden,” he said, flashing me a wicked smile that was like a punch in the gut. “I’m the only one calling you Cyke, right?”

“You realize you’re annoying, right?”

Trey‘s smile was brightly comfortable. “I’ve heard that once or twice.

My note for this part was ‘dfldadgjlgfenvd.’ So I like their flirty, charged banter.

The only slight downside is that their relationship, and the whole novel, isn’t exactly incomplete, but it’s more like a set up for future events. So if you want a standalone read, this probably isn’t it. There’s a lot of promise overall, but it’s clear there’s more story to tell.

More!

There’s a lot of subtle humor in the narration by Braden that I really appreciate. And I like how the intense gravity of the supernatural crises and challenges are balanced with some comedy. So I’ll end with a few lines I enjoyed.

I forced myself to finish my homework before considering plans to raise the dead.

Something howled in the distance. It sounded like a wolf, but that was impossible. There weren’t wolves for hundreds of miles. Just some dog with delusions of grandeur.

“I’m an open book,” I said flatly. “Really.”

“Maybe in Latin. Or Arabic.”

Review: Out of the Pocket

Sports are not my thing. What is my thing? Everything but sports. I did watch the World Cup, because my friend had a party and provided free donuts. I watched one Superbowl for the actual game and not the commercials, and it wasn’t too bad, but I still never did that again.

When I say I was able to read all of Out of the Pocket, that’s not an insult or me having nothing else to say. Good job, Bill Konigsberg, I finished a sports book! The book is very sports and I am very not sports. If you’re into gay, coming of age sports stories, this is probably the best one you’ll find. The writing is super good and it’s easy to read even if you don’t know anything about football.

Summary and definition, all in one:  The pocket is a safe place for quarterbacks while they find someone to throw the ball to. Being out of the pocket means the QB isn’t in the safe zone and a bunch of scary dudes are running toward him and trying to tackle him into the ground.

Before coming out of the closet, Bobby Framingham has to go out of the pocket as he’s out of his comfort zone when things start changing during his senior year of high school. He tells some people he’s gay, other people find out, and things keep happening a little quicker than he’s ready for. He doesn’t want anything to change but that never works out in fiction.

Being out of the pocket isn’t his strong suit on the field but now it’s happening during life too. Get it? There’s a double meaning!

Sports! Ahem. Sports: There’s a lot of action with the football games and while some of it went over my head, it’s pretty fast paced and not terribly difficult to follow. There’s also a good amount of moments with the team that are fun and lively. My notes were, “Very sports. Very bros.”

If you like football or other sports and are interested in things people who know things about football and other sports have to say, there’s a forward and afterward by people who are much more well informed than me.

The end of the world as we know it: When you have a secret, sometimes you can ignore it and pretend like it doesn’t exist. Until you can’t anymore and suddenly everything is about the secret. Because all the parts of life you like will be ruined if people find out and all the parts you don’t like will be even worse.

Bobby wants to win games with his team and play football in college, and he’s not sure that’s possible if people find out he’s gay. There’s a lot of that, I like my life the way it is, I don’t want it to change stuff. Even though it has already changed. College is approaching, he’s growing apart from some friends, and his dad doesn’t seem to be himself.

Naturally, YA is really good at teen angst, and this book fits in. I love the impending sense of doom and the end of the world because that’s really how problems seem sometimes, especially with something as big as coming to terms with sexuality. There’s a lot of worrying about how things will go wrong, how the main character won’t get the future they wanted.

I also like how the novel highlights that coming out isn’t typically a one and done thing. Bobby comes out multiple times to different people with varying reactions. But as each coming out happens, it’s okay, even when it goes bad. The world doesn’t actually end. Sorry, spoilers.

football

Writing Style: Great writing that is so effortless it makes me want to cry out of appreciation and jealous, impotent rage. The more you read, the more satisfying it gets. It’s all fairly straight forward at first glance, which works well for a sports book. No flowery prose, just the action. However, there are plenty of parallels and metaphors and all that good literature stuff.

My favorite part: Bobby tries to discuss coming out with a guidance counselor who is very focused on getting the right answer to his crossword puzzle. It’s a cute scene. What I loved about it is that Bobby can’t fathom going to college or beyond as an openly gay athlete, it just doesn’t happen very often. The counselor tells him that someone has to change the world and he could be the one to do it.

If you’re wondering why I love that part, here are my thoughts: UGH. IT’S JUST SO GOOD. WOW. GAH. I LOVE IT. SO GOOD!

Plot Twist: Just kidding, it’s right there in the offical summary that Bobby gets outed. Coming out to the larger world wasn’t his choice and there was some angst and distress, naturally, but I enjoyed that he eventually went with it all instead of dwelling on what he couldn’t change.

Moving on and focusing on the positives and whatnot is such a weird, foreign concept for me, the perpetual worrier who is incapable of letting things go. I liked how Bobby decided to take control of what was happening even though it didn’t happen how he planned.

The Supporting Cast: Actually, there’s a lot of supporting characters. The novel is a glimpse into Bobby’s world, so several faces come and go. For me, Austin and Carrie were the other characters that stood out.

Carrie is the BFF and quasi love interest, she’s very manic pixie dream girl. She’s a little much for me sometimes, but she also had some good lines. Her character is very strong. She takes over a lot of the scenes she’s in, not in a bad way, she’s just larger than life. Everyone thinks Bobby and Carrie are dating, and even Carrie thinks they should be at the beginning. I’m not totally sure there needed to be a one-sided attraction. She gets over it pretty quick and everyone assuming they’re dating would work just as well on its own.

Austin is one of Bobby’s best friends. Austin is a ladies’ man and a football bro. He’s a bit of a dick as he tells some friends Bobby is gay, but it seemed like he just didn’t know how to react. He tries to support Bobby and ultimately it was one of those things where he wasn’t as big a jerk as he could have been.

fb

TL;DR? This is as brief as I was able to make it: Bobby makes a couple comments to himself about how Austin selectively acts Mexican when it works for him. Austin is mixed, white and Mexican (me too, samesies), and many people probably didn’t give the parts about his ethnicity a second thought because they’re very small. Just let it go, I told my brain. My brain did not let it go.

With being biracial or bisexual, it’s sometimes hard for people to get things that aren’t always visible. For example, if you’re a guy dating a guy, you’re gay. If you’re a guy dating a girl, you’re straight. In my experience, some things aren’t one or the other. Some things are always both.

Some parts of YA are intense, so let’s be clear this isn’t a call out or anything. Fiction is rad because it can be anything. And all the things Bobby thinks about Austin’s race are a very accurate outsider POV as I’ve heard them said to me a million times. I just wanted a little more. Why did Bobby think these comments about his friend’s race and not say them out loud? Had he said them out loud before and they weren’t appreciated?

I don’t need an after school special where a Very Important Lesson about racial sensitivity is learned. Things could have gotten worse, and Bobby could have doubled down on his comments to Austin. Either way, I just wanted more, for the throwaway comments to be given a little substance.

The Romance: There is some, hooray, but it isn’t the main focus. The love interest this time is named Bryan and he’s great. He’s in college and he’s sweet, confident and supportive, a very good first boyfriend. There’s a lot of uncertainty and figuring stuff out in the plot, so it’s nice to have this relatively uncomplicated romance.

There’s a moment where Bobby is freaking out and Bryan is just steady. Bobby thinks the world is ending and Bryan’s just like, nah. And of course, they’re by the water for maximum mood. That’s another of my favorite moments.

Book Review: Never Do a Wrong Thing

When it comes to blog posts, I often have trouble knowing how to start. I’m a stare at the blank page kinda person. I love the opening of Never Do a Wrong Thing. So, let’s start at the start (that’s a song right?) it’s a very good place to start (that’s totally a song).

When things start going awry is when the story starts, no sooner, no later. That’s what Mrs. Bartkowski told us in her Creative Writing workshop, but frankly, that doesn’t help me all that much if I can’t say for sure when things started going awry. If I were to ask you, Tom, you’d probably say things started going awry the day I was born, and you’d think your blunt force humor was very clever.

Great opening and it gave me a chance to use the quote thing.

Summary: Tim is in love with best friend, who will never, ever like him back.

I didn’t say stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but there you are, rolling your eyes and telling me yeah, yeah. I’ve heard this one before. But you haven’t! It’s not a besties to more thing. The story goes the perhaps more realistic route of what happens when that person you’ve had a crush on forever doesn’t like you back. Worse than that, when that person you love not only doesn’t love you in the right way but doesn’t love you at all, just because of who you are.

Very serious reviewer comment: Tim being interested in Tom is weird. Pretty much only because there was a Tim and Tom a few grades older than me in school and they were twin brothers. So that’s what I think of when I hear the names Tim and Tom together and then it’s like, Tim, no, that’s your brother!

But this isn’t Flowers in the Attic.

The Plot: Liking someone you can’t have. Yeah, it’s as simple as that. The story still covers a lot of ground though. At the beginning of the book, Tim can’t imagine ever telling his best friend certain truths about himself and doesn’t want to risk jeopardizing their friendship.

The full quote in the title is “never do a wrong thing to make a friend or keep one.” And as the story goes on, having to keep part of himself private, never getting to be himself to protect someone else becomes more and more difficult.  He starts realizing who he is and becoming okay with that, even if means he might have to give up the thing that once mattered the most to him.

What Makes it Unique: The story is told as if the main character is explaining everything to his best friend. So some of it is first person and other parts are him addressing his best friend. The different style really makes it interesting and fun to read and because it’s all about the friendship between Tim and Tom, this way of telling the story really works and feels natural. It’s Tim saying all the things he can’t to Tom.

There’s also a lot of stories out there where the central conflict is parental strife because they can’t accept their children and while realistic, it isn’t the only way parents react. So, I like stories where the parents are pretty supportive and this fits that bill.

What I liked: This isn’t just telling the story of a young adult discovering who he is, it really captures the mindset of someone innocent. There’s a vibe of everything being new and strange and scary but good too. The pace is just right, it’s an exploration of what someone coming to terms with their sexuality might go through, fully exploring the topic without being too much or not enough, it’s just right.

What you may not like: I was tempted to put a what I didn’t like part but then it would feel like a cop out because the answer is ‘nothing!’ I enjoyed the whole thing. Though, the focus of the book is pretty narrow. I don’t feel like that’s a bad thing but if you’re looking for a larger world and more conflict, this isn’t the right book for you. It’s coming of age and all the angst is centered around one part.

The Romance: This book isn’t centered around romance, so there’s a little bit of a love story but it’s not the main focus. The relationship in this one is sweet and cute, basically what you’d want for your first boyfriend.

Other: I just wanted to say that I didn’t make it all the way through Cupid Painted Blind, so its kinda weird that I loved this one so much and didn’t care for that one but anyway, I might have to give it another shot because I really enjoyed Jack in this one.

I actually would have liked Jack and Tim together, but I think there was an age difference, and I thought they had good chemistry and they challenged each other and both made the other think. And I just like Jack, okay. Love me a tortured bad boy and Jack and Tim had good dialogue.

Final Thoughts: A great easy read with a lot of heart. There’s simple, engaging writing that flows well and has moments of beauty and deepness and humor.

Also, I googled it, the song I was thinking of at the beginning was Do Re Mi.

Book Review: Just A Dumb Surfer Dude

Quick summary: Cooper’s life is fine but uneventful. He’s smart, his classes are easy, he has people who care about him, but he mostly feels like he’s waiting for his life to start. Then a new kid comes to school and everything changes.

(I tried not to spoil things but there are probably mild spoilers and hints about what happens in my review.)

What I thought: Just a Dumb Surfer Dude: A Gay Coming-of-Age Tale is a quick, fun read that would work well for reading during the summer or at the beach but can be read anytime. The “surfer dude” is less important than one might think by the title, but those who like humor, sweet romances, and romantic comedies will enjoy this story.

I really liked the narrator’s voice and liked that there were multiple love interests, that’s not always something you see in LGBTQ teen fiction. It started out a little slow for me, but I got more interested as I kept going.

Depending on how perceptive you are, there may be a fun twist or two. I am usually much better at picking out this kind of thing, but I didn’t see it coming, so I really liked the surprising direction the story went in.

The Romance: Cooper is presented as an intelligent guy, but he has no experience with relationships or dating, so there’s a coming-of-age aspect where he explores getting close to guys romantically. It’s all new and intense and scary. While this story is on the shorter side, it still tells a complete story about finding love. It’s not heavy on the angst but has a few ups and downs and isn’t completely predictable.

If you’ve been reading a lot of stories about boy meets boy and then one or both boys freak out about liking another boy, this book offers variety. Cooper already knows he’s gay, so the story explores finding that special person more fully and what makes someone “the one” without any sexuality crises.

There’s also a sequel.

Plotty Details: Cooper’s life at his all-boys school is okay, but there isn’t much going on. He has one best friend he’s close with and his relationship with his father is important to him. Both he and his father don’t enjoy being single. He’s one of the only gay kids he knows and hasn’t had any romance yet and is sort of getting impatient waiting for it. While there’s no love interest in his life, his best friend is also gay. They aren’t out to everyone, but Cooper’s dad knows.

Cooper finally gets some excitement in his life when a new student comes to school. He’s even paired up with the hot guy in one of his classes. The problem? This new boy seems to like him even though his best friend really wants to go out with the new guy.

Best Part: Cooper has great relationships with his father and his best friend Alex. If you like your romances to have a little more depth, there is also plenty of father-son moments. Cooper and his dad don’t relate to each other perfectly but love each other and that comes through. The father is an English teacher and there’s a lot of little quips I enjoyed about different books. The dialogue was at its most witty when Cooper was with Alex or his father. Cooper’s a big smart alec who loves tormenting the people he loves.

Riding With Brighton Review


It’s hard to imagine anyone could find fault with Riding with Brighton. It’s a great character piece and a lovely romance too.

Summary: Jay Hall sees his life from a fresh perspective and finds himself wanting. He wants to change everything and knows just the person to help him: Brighton Bello-Adler, who is just about the coolest person in the world. They spend a few days together and go on an adventure of self-discovery and romance.

About Jay: Jay is unhappy with his life because he’s unhappy with himself. He’s good looking, popular, and an athlete, but he’s not impressed by his friends or any of his accomplishments. Because he’s been living with a part of himself he was too scared to acknowledge. But things are changing.

Jay’s been getting to know someone in one of his classes, Brighton. He likes talking to Brighton but feels really inadequate compared to him. Brighton is a shameless flirt with everyone, charming, an artist, and openly gay. He’s seems very confident and sure of who he is. And Jay wants to be like that. So he thinks.

It becomes pretty clear that it’s not hero worship Jay feels but a crush. It’s really sweet watching Jay gushing about Brighton in the safe context of a role model. He thinks he wants to be like Brighton, but he really wants to be worthy of catching Brighton’s attention.

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It was a sharp right turn, backward a good mile and a half, around corners, down hills, through a forest, and across the universe from where I really wanted to go.

About Brighton: In addition to Jay, there’s Brighton. Brighton is kind of a perfect angel who does no wrong but he’s still a strong character with his own voice. Jay’s the star of the show while Brighton is a supporting player, but again remember that this happens over the course of a few days and Jay has enough drama going on that it would have been too much to add more conflicts for Brighton.

What’s really great about Brighton is that he’s just a normal guy. He’s not boring but his life is going pretty well. And while that might not be great from a story perspective, it’s refreshing and a much needed portrayal of a gay teen in today’s culture. There’s no angst or depression. He has loving friends and a supportive family and being gay is just one part of him. He’s a good counterpoint to Jay and a realistic ,sometimes seldom seen, type of gay teenager.

The romance department is the only area lacking in Brighton’s life. He wants to be a normal kids who goes and dates and takes someone to prom. But there’s not a lot of dating options in his town. And he’s very attracted to Jay. He’s torn between the strong pull he feels for him and keeping his distance while Jay figures stuff out. He doesn’t want to get his heart broken but he can’t help the more attracted he becomes the more Jay shows of himself of Brighton.

What makes it unique: This is an interesting story because all the action takes place in the space of a weekend. It’s like a crash course in Jay’s psyche and emotional development as he dives head first into issues he’s never been able to confront before. The book provides a really in-depth character analysis and there’s lots of upheaval and revelations as Jay fits the coming out process into the span of a few days.

The Romance: The action is both the story of Jay finally being honest with himself and those around him and getting to know Brighton better. They can’t really help falling for each other the more time they spend together. They develop a real connection and a very supportive partnership.

There’s a lot of fun and flirty banter and swoon worthy moments. The book has the feel of a whirlwind romance, something intense and all consuming. But it’s not an artificial, insta-love kinda thing because the main characters get to know each other very deeply in a short amount of time and there’s both big romantic moments and more tender elements where the characters discovering each other and falling hard.

Favorite Part: The prose. The prose is just, really, really good.

My thoughts: Haven Francis wrote a beautiful book that should probably be read more than once in order to fully take in and appreciate everything. It’s life affirming and lovely but also doesn’t solve everything.

Loving Lakyn Review

Loving Lakyn

Plot: Lakyn doesn’t want to live anymore, but he grudgingly attempts to make things better after a suicide attempt. His life might be improving: he’s with family who loves him, he finds a therapist he can tolerate and then there’s a boy. Scott’s a lot more enthusiastic and optimistic, but he also has his share of problems. They might be able to get through life together if their combined demons don’t drag them down first.

My Thoughts: I’ve been around for… an amount of years I don’t entirely admit to, but it’s been at least 20. And somewhere in those years, I’ve had my fill of dramatic gay tragedies. I tend to like things happy and lighter when I want entertainment. Some angst is okay, as long as there’s also some comedy.

Loving Lakyn has a lot of heavy elements, but there was enough sweetness and jokes that the darker elements weren’t too much for me. It’s a little bleak but also hopeful, which is a vibe I actually really dig.

It was an interesting read that doesn’t sugar coat things but isn’t completely a downer either. I liked the mix of romance with personal growth story lines and there was plenty of both.

Best Part: The chapter titles were great, though Scott and Lakyn’s relationship was also a highlight. Scott seems happy and well adjusted and Lakyn seems dark and sarcastic, but they’re both drawn to each other anyway and make a compelling pair.