Book Review: And it Came to Pass by Laura Stone

LGBT Mormons,November Policy,gay mormons,gay LDSThis book…wow I cannot say enough. I’ve read everything Stone has written, and loved it. Stone is an incredibly talented author — the kind you drop everything for when a new book comes along — but this story is a level above.

It’s clear that this particular topic is very, very close to her heart. Her passion and fight here rings throughout. Adam’s torment, his confusion, his disconnect from faith and the longing he won’t allow himself to feel is so rich, I ached for him. The development of his and Brandon’s love unfolds gorgeously, painfully, so very honestly.

The moment when Brandon shares the questions he has with his faith and how this unlocks Adam’s anxieties but also wonder is powerful as hell. All of the things Adam has locked down, all of his beautiful self that’s been crushed out of him — watching them rise to the surface is like watching someone come awake. It really felt like an honor to be a part of that story.

I must say, there’s such a lovely reverence in Brandon’s practice of faith here. In the idea of living a devotion and faith that involves questioning and wanting to learn and wanting to be open to possibilities. I’m agnostic personally, and I am not familiar with Mormon faith other than surface things, but I really love books and stories that handle faith beautifully, even if it means questioning, changing direction, or struggle.

This book is very sensual and the build of tension between Brandon and Adam felt visceral. I DEVOURED this book in one sitting because I was so captured by their story.

Purchase at: Interlude Press || Amazon || Barnes & Noble || iBooks || Kobo

Contact the author: Website || Twitter || Facebook

Book Review: Storm Season by Pene Henson

storm-season

Blurb: The great outdoors isn’t so great for Sydney It-Girl Lien Hong. It’s too dark, too quiet, and there are spiders in the toilet of the cabin she is sharing with friends on the way to a New South Wales music festival. To make matters worse, she’s been separated from her companions and taken a bad fall.

With a storm approaching, her rescue comes in the form of a striking wilderness ranger named Claudia Sokolov, whose isolated cabin, soulful voice and collection of guitars bely a complicated history. While they wait out the weather, the women find an undeniable connection—one that puts them both on new trajectories that last long after the storm has cleared.

 

*I was provided with a copy by Interlude Press in return for an honest review*

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Purchase at: Interlude Press / Amazon / Smashwords / Barnes and Noble / iTunes / Book Depository / Kobo / IndieBound

5 Stars

I have been so eagerly waiting for this novel for months. Henson’s previous novel, Into the Blue is a deep favorite of mine – both because she made me fall for the characters so easily, but because I am absolutely in love with her craft.

Storm Season is a gorgeous work of art. Here we have a plot that could easily devolve into a series of cliché tropes. Rather, Henson takes these themes and tropes: women who seem to be opposites at first glance; stranded in a cabin during a storm; the transformative power of particular human interactions, and makes them unique and believable and fresh.

Henson’s writing style is deceptively simple. She often employs short sentences, descriptions in what could easily be staccato or disjointed moment. Rather, she uses this skillfully to draw the reader in. It has the effect of stripping a layer of separation between the story and the reader. We are drawn into an intimacy with the story, whether it’s a description of the Australian bush or of two women falling for each other.

When we meet them, Claudie and Lien appear to be complete opposites. Henson takes us through discovering them, and them discovering themselves and each other, skillfully enough that we slide into the realization that these women are similar in so many ways; that circumstance (and Henson’s craft) foiled them in particular ways when we met them, but that at their hearts, they are beautifully compatible.

I don’t want to spoil the turn the story takes in it’s second half, but know that it is executed perfectly. By this point in the story, Henson has taken us beyond simply longing for Claudie and Lien to be together. We’re rooting for them as individuals who are growing just as much.

As with Henson’s previous novel, this book has a lovely diverse cast that is obviously thoughtfully included for the sake of story. These clearly would be Lien and Claudie’s people. This is a representation of a slice of life, and it easily, without fanfare, reflects diversity in life.  Love it.

Also, someone please donate money to my “I must go to Australia right now”, fund. Because a lifelong wish because an intense, burning need while reading this book. I fell in love with the landscape and people in this book. One day, hopefully, I’ll get to do it in real life. For now, I’ll revisit this book over and over, savoring every word.

Beautiful Staples, Building Roots.

summer-breaks-2

“Asher, tell me what you used to do,” Tyler says one night.Work is done; they’re sitting in the breakroom and eating, finally. Tyler is starving. While it’s encouraging, from a business standpoint, that he had no chance to take a break and eat because they were busy, he does need food. Asher took one look at his face and made him dinner. Claudia wandered out as soon as she’d finished her work, which is not unusual. Tyler usually thinks he’ll go too as soon as work is done, but often he finds himself lingering. Lately, even with his friends, Tyler feels lonely. He’s not able to put his finger on a reason, other than that he feels changed. He’s still the driven boy who worked his way through college, but he’s now driven in a different direction. He gets the impression that his work in a restaurant seems transient and directionless to those who’ve known him all along.

“Um…” Asher puts his fork down and thinks. “We used to go to the cider mill.”

“Seriously?” Tyler struggles not to laugh. Sometimes it’s crazy, the reminders of how different their worlds are. They’ve lived in the same area for their whole lives, and yet Tyler is amazed at how different their experiences are. The culture gap between the city and the suburbs is absurd sometimes.

“Yeah.” Asher lifts a shoulder. He rolls his eyes playfully. “It was fun. We’d pick apples. John loved making apple spice muffins.” Asher looks down.

“What?” Tyler prompts.

Asher shakes his head. “I don’t know. I haven’t eaten those muffins in years. They were my favorite. He’d…” Tyler stays still. “He used to wake me up with them. He’d bring a plate into the room to me.”

Tyler bites his lip. He’s never experienced the loss Asher has. By the time Tyler’s father left them it was a relief. He’d felt heartbroken over the pain he’d put Tyler’s family through, yes, but not the loss. Tyler is by no means unfeeling, but he’d never realized how long the sharp ache of grief might last.

“You don’t have to talk to me about this if you aren’t comfortable,” Tyler says when the silence carries, “but I hope you know I want to be here to hear you.”

“Thank you.” Asher’s eyes are everywhere but on Tyler. He takes a deep breath. “It’s not… I don’t know. Missing John isn’t like it used to be. I don’t want to say I’m used to it, but I do feel as though I’ve moved past it. Or I did think so.”

“Did?”

“I’ve been remembering him more lately.” Asher picks up his fork and pushes his food around, then puts it down. “I guess I was so busy or lost in work I didn’t let myself think about things.”

“I’m sorry. I’m always asking questions.”

“No.” Asher looks at him. “I should… I should want to let myself remember the good things, right?”

“Yeah. I think so,” Tyler says. In Asher’s eyes is an honest sadness; so much was laid open. “Thank you.”

“For what?”

Asher is one of the most closed off people Tyler’s ever known; the way he’s slowly unfolding is revelatory. “For trusting me enough to talk to me about this.”

“I wonder if I have that recipe.”

“Why? You gonna make them?” Tyler asks.

“I don’t know. Maybe.” This time Asher does take a bite of his food.

“Maybe I’ll go pick some apples. Get some real cider and bring it back. We can all have some spiced cider.”

“Real cider?” Tyler asks.

“You know, the unpasteurized kind that doesn’t taste like cloudy apple juice.”

“I’ve never had cider,” Tyler admits. Asher looks at him. “Never done any of that shit.”

“Want to?” Asher asks, then looks as if he wishes he hadn’t. Tyler wants to touch his hand but doesn’t.

“Yeah.” Tyler wants to get Asher out of Idlewild. Wants to coax those smiles and enjoy the sense of waking he sees come over Asher from time to time. “I’m down.”


Yesterday, my family got the news that the apple orchard my family has been getting our fall apples and Halloween pumpkins at for years has been sold to a home developer. This orchard holds countless memories for my family — my boys cried when they found out. I love this place: the pictures in this aesthetic are ones I and others have taken while there. It’s not fancy, but it’s fun.

It was also the inspiration for Asher and Tyler’s first trip to pick apples together. Which, of course, led to the apple muffin scene (blog post titled, ahem, Idlewild Food Porn Sneak Peek).  In my mind, I’d envisioned this being a place they would go to every year much as we do. They would take their kids and build memories and this, like so many beautiful staples of Michigan life, would be one of their roots. Luckily, I suppose, these men live in a make believe world where they can exist in perpetuity. Maybe I’ll write them, one day, taking one of their children there for the first time, and I’ll get to hold on to that little bit.

Although, yes, above isn’t the actual scene in the book where they go to the orchard, the importance of those moments and that story building is here. Tyler learning how to understand Asher’s grief. Asher beginning to let himself reconnect to his former life and self — beginning his journey to healing. Tyler and Asher beginning to build something they don’t have a name for just yet.


My novels, Hush, What it Takes and Idlewild are all available for purchase through multiple retailers (links on my book page).

Kirkus Review

This week I received just a lovely review from Kirkus (ahhh!!).

“Sierra has created a very natural and psychologically astute portrayal of a romantic relationship, by turns funny, delightful, & painful…A lovely, finely wrought romance that reminds us that to truly love another, we must know our own hearts.” 

For the full review, head on over here.

This book was hella hard to write, so this is just lovely validation, and I hope enticing for you all 😀

Idlewild is now available to pre-order from the IP Web Store and other online book retailers. Pre-order the print edition direct from IP and get the multi-format eBook free using the discount code IDLEWILD. Both print and eBook must be in your shopping cart for the code to be valid.

Furthermore, I am running a contest: email me proof of purchase (judemsierra@gmail.com) and you’ll get a personalized postcard from me, and will be entered to win a signed copy of Idlewild when it comes out (December 1st).

Now Available for Pre-Order: Idlewild

IDLEWILD COVER

When Idlewild was a nascent but tangible dream, finally Asher understood what he could do with that fire: create change in a city so many people had given up on.

Summary

Asher Schenck and his husband John opened their downtown gastropub at the start of Detroit’s revival. Now, five years after John’s sudden death, Asher is determined to pull off a revival of his own. In a last ditch attempt to bring Idlewild back to life, he fires everyone and hires a new staff. Among them is Tyler Heyward, a recent college graduate in need of funds to pay for med school. Tyler is a cheery balm for Asher’s soul, and their relationship quickly shifts from business to friendship. When they fall for each other, it is not the differences of race or class that challenge their love, but the ghosts and expectations of their respective pasts. Will they remain stuck or move toward a life neither of them has allowed himself to dream about?

Price: $16.99 print / $6.99 multi-format ebook
Release Date: December 1, 2016
Details: Trade paperback, 6″x9″
Pages/Words: 250 // 72,500
ISBN: 978-1-945053-07-8 print // 978-1-945053-08-5 ebook
US/Canada:  If you place both the print and ebook versions in your cart and order before December 1, 2016, you will receive the multi-format eBook for free with the discount code IDLEWILD.
International: Order the print edition by February 1, 2016 from your favorite book retailer and receive free multi-format eBook by submitting a copy of your receipt to contact@interludepress.com.

Giveaway! If you show me proof of purchase, you’ll receive a personalized postcard from me and be entered to win a signed copy of Idlewild!

Five Stars: Into the Blue by Pene Henson

Into the Blue (eBook package)

A while I promised a review of Pene Henson’s Into the Blue, which has received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly as well as excellent reviews from Romantic Times and USA Today — so well deserved!

Into the Blue is the moving story of long time best friends Tai and Ollie, who grew up surfing the North Shore of Oahu together. This book is Henson’s debut novel; it’s beautifully written and aches with the complexities of the protagonists’ stories. Their history and friendship is handled with great skill. There is never a moment when the forward progress of the story is bogged down by exposition that fills us in on the past. Instead we are treated into an inside view of their found family (their roommates Hannah and Sunny, and Ollie’s little brother Jamie) through the story, within it. It is immediately clear that Ollie and Tai have a very special friendship. Our perception of how special becomes more clear as we get to know Ollie, who is by turns prickly and unsure, who has a hard time with other people but who is quietly magnetic and lovable, even when it’s hidden from everyone but those who know him best. He’s foiled beautifully against Tai, who is magnetic as well but also magnanimous and outgoing. Together they make sense; when their relationship takes a turn from friendship to lovers, there is something between them that intrinsically works, even when we can clearly see them testing and blundering through situations of their own making.

I mentioned the beautiful writing; the landscape that Henson places her characters in is so vibrant. There’s such attention to detail. I felt transported – this book is a wonderful getaway. The sense of pause, that in between, that moment in their relationship where they can be something other than the friends they always have feels like a treasure and privilege to witness.

While Tai was a joy to read, Ollie was, for me, a revelation. I love his complexity and reticence. I love how he’s portrayed, like the world doesn’t always fit him, or like he’s not sure how his edges fit into the world. This is the second book this year I’ve read with a demisexual character and Henson handles his truth and story very carefully and thoughtfully. She also handles Tai’s progression through their relationship deftly – we get a good sense of how Tai packed the potential for feelings away when he and Ollie were younger after Ollie’s mother passed away, how and why he chooses to go along with the change in their relationship, but also how his fear of falling for Ollie and harming their found family complicates everything once they are brought back to their regular lives. None of these are over explained or overwrought. Instead they feel natural, and like the mistakes young men make when they’re figuring out what they want in life and how to get it.  Henson’s trust in the reader and in her characters makes falling in love with them as they fall for each other feel utterly natural and earned.

Five stars—if I could, twenty stars – for this stunning debut. Five as well for the beautiful cover, which makes me want to run away to the nearest beach to re-read this book yet again.

For a chance to win a 25$ gift card from Interlude Press, check this postthis post out on the author’s blog about her virtual book tour!

Banner Time

Let’s talk visual inspiration for What it Takes; in pictures and an excerpt.

(Say it like you’d say Hammer Time and then sing that song to yourself for a moment. Go on, it’ll feel great!)

~*~

        “The wind is up, but the beach is deserted. This has always been a quieter one, thanks to a longer walk through the dunes. There are sandbars far into the water at high tide and the sand is mostly exposed at low tide. A line of pebbles sweeps in an arc above the waterline, and below it is a second arc of seaweed. The tide is mostly out. The dunes wear their usual blend of pretty purple and white flowers and sharp grasses. 

       Milo sits a few feet above the rock line and pulls on his sweater. The sun is blinding off the water, but he wants to be blinded, wants to be forced out of his headspace. It’s so quiet, save for the agitated water. 

       Legs crossed, Milo pulls himself up straight. He closes his eyes and ignores the swirling colors behind his eyelids. He counts a slow breath in, three beats, then exhales for three. Takes a three-beat pause before breathing in. He imagines his breath as a triangle and projects that shape from his body. He lets his senses take in the beach, the quiet, the water, the grit of the sand whipped up by the waves. Tension seeps out of him when he exhales. He lets it go. Nothing is taken from him, nothing is forced. He can count these breaths as he wants. He suspends himself in the pauses: pictures a white canvas, bleeding jumbled.images of worry and anxiety, reds and blacks and angry oranges slowly dripping off, as if washed away by rain. 

       When he opens his eyes again, he’s calmer. That buzzing, anxious feeling is gone. The seaweed has been swallowed by the sea. Tide’s coming in. Milo watches it. The water begins to run in a slow progressing rivulet in a channel between the rocks. As the water creeps ever closer, it rises over uneven sandbars until it meets in the middle of that small channel, eventually overflowing and overrunning the strip of sand in the middle. Before it’s gone, Milo walks into the cold water. The rocks are rough under the soles of his feet. They’re thin-skinned against the sand; when he was a kid they’d been callused and used to beach and forest.
        He searches out bigger, colorful rocks and tosses them up the beach. He finds a perfect half shell with pinks blending into white in the center. In the middle is a bright blue fleck of sand. He picks that up too.
        By the path into the dunes and back toward his car is a wrecked piece of driftwood, hollow and pale from sun-bleaching. He arranges the rocks on top, makes a pattern of colors with the
shell on the end, a frangible beautiful thing, and then takes a picture. His mom will like that. The memory of making art of beach flotsam with Andrew haunts him.” p 145, What it Takes

~*~

Last night I had awesome fun taking over the Interlude Press twitter and website, answering great questions about Hush, What it Takes and my secret third book.

I’ll be rounding some of that up for y’all later, but I wanted to share this banner I made for social media (other than this website, which was made by actual professionals, so it looks more professional).

An anonymous reader asked: I want to visit the setting of your book – it sounds so serene and beautiful. Is it a place you’ve always just imagined or is there an actual place that inspired it?

My quick twitter answer was that the scenery and natural settings were inspired my visit to Wellfleet for a poetry retreat a few years ago. I’ve wanted to use the inspiration I got from that visit for a while. Wellfleet didn’t work, logistically, for this novel, but I wanted to use what I saw and experienced — so I invented the town of Santuit.

While this is an invented town, the pictures in this banner are my own, taken from my trip. I have to admit that the log with stones was something I stumbled upon, I didn’t actually make that art the way that Milo did. That shell with the beautiful blue piece of sand is something I found as well. Unfortunately I didn’t take pictures of the forest they play in, but I assure you I did treck in there and see a lovely isolated pond; I did get to feel the hush of the trees and birds and the stillness of places people weren’t in.

So for those of you who were curious about visuals, inspiration and place, here is some of the magic I experienced and built Milo’s healing around.

 

 

4.5 Stars for Hush

I was lucky enough to get a fabulous review from Prism Book Alliance this week. I wanted to share before our Twitter Takeover Tuesday (hint, today at 6PM EST, I’m @judesierra), if y’all had any questions about this novel either!

“Cameron Vargas meets Wren early on in his first year of college and is immediately attracted. What ensues is a game of compulsion, obsession, and sexual discovery that eventually and inevitably begins to lose its rules and boundaries. As Cam and Wren’s interactions become increasingly intense, the question of whether or not they can each provide what the other needs in a true relationship becomes paramount.

Jude Sierra is a gifted wordsmith, her early love for writing poetry clearly evident in the lush, vivid imagery and detail she weaves within her prose. The opening paragraphs ofHush mark her as a new favorite of mine, setting the stage for the finely-crafted story that is to follow:

Cameron Vargas’s introduction to college, from its first days into weeks, turns out to be a blur. Later he’ll think back to that time and wonder how he managed to create the canvas of such a pivotal time in his life into a sort of watercolor, pastels that blurred into one another with few distinct shapes or forms.

There was a canvas: complete, yes and from a distance a scene portrayed. But the finer points were lost, a fact he wouldn’t realize until later. Until after. 

Cam would like, in part, to say the difference is simple, that there was a distinct before and after. That his life before was simply before Wren. In chaos, in the months of searching to find the ground, he’d say this: that Wren had come into his life like a freak storm, unexpected and swamping, leaving him capsized and floundering.

I was immediately entranced.

Cam and Wren have an undeniable chemistry, their intimate scenes erotic and fiery with a powerful emotional element that simmers and burns just under the surface. Ms. Sierra allows the reader into her characters’ heads and hearts, and the results are visceral. Cam is completely enveloped in his profound desire for Wren, while Cam’s need for control, connected to a past that is revealed in agonizingly slow bits and pieces, is fierce and clearly defined. Cam is sweet and captivating; Wren is alluring and mysterious. Together they are magic.

Peripheral characters are also well developed and bring added dimension not only to the story, but also to the main characters’ personalities. Interesting roommate and sibling relationships are given ample page time and shed valuable light on the various aspects of Cam and Wren’s natures. Fully fleshed and authentic, these characters help round out the book and work together to create a strong sense of community, their concern for Cam and Wren’s well-being evident and heartfelt.

As tender as it is intense, this new adult m/m romance blends the intoxication of sexual discovery, a captivating touch of the paranormal, and the acute pain and euphoria of newly blossoming relationships into a unique, fascinating gem of a story. It is one that I will definitely be re-visiting and highly recommend…”

So many thanks to PBA for this. I am so happy to hear that people enjoyed Cam, Wren & Co. And who knows, maybe one day we’ll get to go back to their little world…

~*~

Hush on Goodreads
Interlude Press
Amazon US
Amazon UK
Amazon CA
All Romance eBooks

 

I wrote a book and then….

Crickets chirped into the internet ether on this blog.

Pretty sure I’ve done this twice now, but I’d have to go back to the days after Hush was released to be sure.

The thing about it isn’t that I don’t love blogging (I do), but that I am just incredibly BAD at figuring out how to time things. I wrote Hush and somehow managed to align stars so that I was in serious edit phases at the same time as I was writing What it Takes. The day Hush when up for presale? Was the day I had to turn in What it Takes as a manuscript. I was very tired and emotional that day. The next day I pitched a couple of ideas to my publisher because apparently I can’t help myself? Thankfully, I’ve had a lot of time to write this third book I am working on. Not thankfully, I didn’t really think through what it would be like to try to write a book while IN grad school.

Not easy. At least not for me. I juggled grad school and writing the third book for NaNo (or well, the biggest chunk), but have been struggling to get it all together since. And in the time between those, What it Takes came out. A book coming out is a huge emotional investment and event, and the days after are so weird. Like…is anyone reading? Did they like it? What’s happening in the great old world?? The only thing one can do is check Amazon rankings to see if they change at all and obsessively check Goodreads for reviews (people don’t review as much on Amazon? Not sure why, but I’ll tell you guys, it’s pretty helpful to the author, because once you hit a certain number — 50 maybe? — your book starts to pop up as a suggested book which = more exposure).

I was very lucky after What it Takes came out to get such lovely reviews, it has made me so happy to know that you guys loved it! Keep on reviewing, it makes our days and helps our books 😀

That said, I am so close to a finish line with book #3 I can taste it. But I’ve been trying to do well in school (or well, keep up on readings, I do well in school as a rule), juggle new job responsibilities, and right now, deal with some really heavy life news.

Hence, a tiny bit of silence.

That said, Hush and What it Takes just had some great pre-Valentines sales a bit ago, so if you read and want to chat or ask question or anything, I LOVE that. I love interracting with people!

If I’ve read YOUR book recently, and haven’t reviewed (or perhaps not even recently, I owe Melissa Graves a review for her AMAZING book, Tainted Heart, that came out in OCTOBER how awful am I?) it’ll come! I’m just very behind and overwhelmed. You’ll fine out the most about what’s going on in my insane life at the moment if you follow me on twitter. Apparently I can only handle a commitment to 140 characters at a time 😉 I’m @JudeSierra.

In the meantime, if you have NO CLUE what I’m talking about, both Hush and What it Takes are available for purchase now at:  Interlude Press Web Store
AmazonAll RomanceBarnes & NobleBook Depository, Apple iBookstore, Smashwords, and Independent Bookstores

 

 

Roundup? Wind down? Shake it?

Who knows what’s happening with me right now? I don’t. I’m in that weird vortex of being behind all of the important things, gearing up for a short family vacay AND my back injury is flaring up ::FABULOUS::

Right now though, the point is that I wanted to thank EACH AND EVERY wonderful blog that hosted my What it Takes Virtual Blog Tour.

I gotta tell you guys: book bloggers are amazing. In the romance genre it can be so easy to become overwhelmed by picking out books to read. There are so many! The thing about book blogs, particularly when you find ones whose reading tastes seem to align with yours, is that you get book recommendations and the chance to discover new writers. I highly encourage y’all to stop in and explore book blogs when we do VBTs because these people do an awesome job keeping up to date on what’s out there and helping authors get more visibility.

Second order of business: THANKYOUTHANKYOUTHANKYOU to every reviewer who left a review for my book or promoted it. I can’t thank y’all enough. As of right now, What it Takes is hanging out on two lists on Goodreads: Gay Romance featuring Second Chances and 2016 LGBT/queer New Adult. If you guys feel like boosting me, please head over and vote for my book. These kinds of things get authors more visibility which is great for us. Also, if you’ve read it, I love reviews! We all do. Feedback is super helpful and lovely on multiple fronts. Again, visibility. Second, when a writer is feeling in the dumps about their writing because they’re roadblocked on a project (Ahem), it helps to know you’re doing something right. Very motivating!

To check out the great blogs that hosted me and to find out all kinds of gems about me in interviews you might not have known, head over to the following:

14-Jan: Book Lovers 4Ever, Lee Brazil, Inked Rainbow Reads

15-Jan: Havan Fellows, Love Bytes, Hearts on Fire

18-Jan: Elisa – My Reviews and Ramblings, A.M. Leibowitz

19-Jan: Velvet Panic, Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words

20-Jan: Wicked Faerie’s Tales and Reviews, The Novel Approach, Kirsty Loves Books

21-Jan: Molly Lolly, MM Good Book Reviews

22-Jan: BFD Book Blog, Happily Ever Chapter

25-Jan: Nautical Star Books, My Fiction Nook

26-Jan: Emotion In Motion, Bayou Book Junkie

27-Jan: Full Moon Dreaming, Alpha Book Club, QUEERcentric Books

What it Takes is currently available at: