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!

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Bang!

I’m gonna start July off with a bang! Or some other fireworks holiday kind of metaphor that’s terrible…

Rounding up some info: my books are 25% at Smashwords! So if you’ve been waiting for a great time to grab a copy of Hush or What it Takes, go for it!

If you want LOTS of great books, Interlude Press has some *amazing* books coming up that are on sale — all of their pre-order books — which includes Pene Henson’s upcoming novel, Into the Blue.

I have to write this book a proper review, but for now, just LOOK at the gorgeous cover.

This book is lush and beautiful and will just grab your heart. It got a starred review in Publishers Weekly and has gotten some great reviews ahead of it’s release — so I promise you, this book is really something very special.

You can preorder Into the Blue in print and e-book format, and I cannot recommend it more!

As for the rest, who knows? We are hard at work on Idlewild (yay!) and I am messing with an idea for a fourth book I am SO EXCITED FOR, which will be my Camp NaNo project. Wish me luck and motivation!

Finally, I am going to encourage everyone to get involved in the 1000 Book Challenge. Interlude Press and The Trevor Project have partnered to raise money for The Trevor Project and to get LGBT YA into libraries, head over here to find ways you can support this awesome project.

 

Book Review: Bitter Springs by Laura Stone

Okay. M’kay. Let me just…take a breath.

There are so many things to love about this book. The prose is just beautiful. Stone has a gift for creating a rich backdrop for her stories so that the whole experience feels well loved and well rounded. I always learn from her stories. The level of detail and obvious commitment to research make this story shine and are a testament to how very much Stone cares for her craft.

Now let’s talk about what she crafted. Renaldo’s family is EVERYTHING. They made me miss my family so much. The love and care they have for each other was so palpable. Even when both Renaldo and Hank were terrified of what would happen, as a reader, I trusted that Renaldo’s family would love him unconditionally.

Renaldo…oh lord. What a sensual and romantic man. I wish I had a man in my life who spoke to me like he does to Hank.

And HANK. Oh man do I have a sweet spot for complicated, lovely men. His reserve, initially, spoke so well to his vulnerabilities without Stone every having to state them. She showed us. And as the story unfolds, watching Hank unfold, demonstrating how sweet he is, how much he needs and wants love…UGH. MY HEART. His commitment to being an honest and upstanding man was really moving as well.

Bitter Springs is currently available for sale at the Interlude Press webstore, Amazon, All Romance and many other retailers.

Fall eBook Sale!

As the temperatures plummet with Fall sweeping in (digression to complain over the three hours we spent outside at a little league game in 45 degree weather, with WIND, holy shit), it’s time to curl up with something warm (I have a french vanilla hazlenut coffee) with the best kind of friend — a book!

Good news then: this weekend, you can run over to IP’s webstore and get 20% off any eBook using the coupon code FALL when you check out.

There are so many great books to chose from, but if you are struggling to decide, I won’t *stop* you from grabbing a copy of Hush. If you already own it or are looking for something with a different flavor, do not be afraid to send me an ask and I can give you a recommendation based on what you are looking for! Trust me, I know my stuff, I’ve read them all 😀

Book Review: Love Starved by Kate Fierro

Last week, I had the wonderful fortune to get an advanced copy of Fierro’s fantastic debut novel, Love Starved.

What I loved most about this book: it took me by surprise over and over. Is there anything more entertaining than a book that transports you, that takes turns you weren’t expecting and keeps you turning the pages because you just have to know? 

Love Starved is a story about Micah Geller, 27, a man who works in information security and lives an independent, successful, and slightly lonely life in Minneapolis. While he tells himself he isn’t lonely, and that he doesn’t need love, Fierro does an excellent job showing us that he is and does with restraint that makes us feel it. Early in the book, his friend Daphne challenges his assertions that he doesn’t need love or physical connection and gives him the name of a personal escort who specializes in creating custom fantasy scenarios for his clients.

The initial premise of the book — that Micah ends up asking Angel for one night to show him what it feels like to be loved — compelled me. This is the place where the book begins to step away from a common trope we’d be expecting in a romance about a lonely man calling an escort. How on earth was Angel going to pull this off?

I don’t want to give away the plot of the book, but I will say that this was the first of several turns the book took that elevated it from any expectations I had. I literally couldn’t put the book down — whenever I thought I could (mainly because my kids wanted to play or I had to make dinner) — I got sucked back in by a twist I didn’t see coming. It takes a great writer to pull this off effectively, while maintaining a believable chemistry and unfolding a relationship (or potential relationship).

There are many things I could praise Fierro for, but one in particular I wanted to single out: the way she handled Micah’s romantic history. It is incredibly hard to write about someone who has been burned by love without making it too cliched, too saccharine, or too expected. From the start I thought Micah’s heartbreak was going to be a story of a lost lover and longing for him. But it very much wasn’t. And what’s better, Fierro doesn’t just tell us what happened: she shows us slowly and organically. She doesn’t explicitly tell us that it Micah was emotionally manipulated or that he spent two years learning to believe that what he got — not much — was what love was, and what’s more painful, that that was the most love he could expect or deserved. Through this story, we get the privilege of watching Micah unpack this past in a natural progression that very much honors the real life work that is healing from an emotionally manipulative and painful relationship. Watching Micah learn just how much he’s worth and what love between two people can be — not just something he deserves, but something he has to give — felt like an honor.

This book is the perfect romantic read: well written, a plot that keeps you hooked, with a love story you can’t help but root for.

Also, high praise for her cover artist, who captured beautifully one of the highlights and themes of the book with her depiction of starlight behind the characters.

Love Starved is available for pre-order at the Interlude Press store, and will be released on April 21st. Order now and you’ll get the eBook bundle free with the purchase of the print book. For a chance to win a free copy of the book, enter giveaways here.

You can find Kate Fierro at Katefierro.com as well as @kate_fierro on twitter (which I recommend following, if only for her awesome daily plot bunny tweets!)

Exciting Stuff

Yay WordPress!

I’ve moved on over to wordpress, which is super yay for me right now. I’m still fiddling with my widgets and blog rolls and all the like, because I am super fucking picky about details that probably no one cares about but me. I might be building a reputation for this. Oops? I am generally not at all detail oriented but for some reason webpage layouts are my kryptonite. My tumblr pages have been tweaked in their massive html codes until I go blind, and then in a few months I start to hate what I have and start over again. Although my current fan tumblr has been the same for a while. After years of searching and tweaking, I finally found something I love over there!

There’s a lot of really exciting stuff happening with my publisher, Interlude Press — new books are coming out with the new year, and I’m way excited about those. You’ll be hearing more about that as I fangirl over books I’ll be reading at release with you all!

If you’re interested, I am reading a ton of random stuff anyway — you’ll find my Goodreads info at the bottom here. I share this because I’m an avid reader who loves recommendations, and if you do too — there ya go!

Two bloggers with books coming out I’m watching avidly are KateFierro, who is doing a weekly countdown playlist of songs that inspired her book. I am a sucker for this sort of thing, as songs are pretty much always responsible for my plot bunnies. I love reading about what inspires other authors. Check her posts out! Another blogger I know is crazy inspired by music is Mimsy Hale. And if anyone is a spotify fan, the authors behind Starling and Doves, my new obsession (check them out at Avian30) have Spotify playlists for both books — which about slayed me when I listened after reading.

Also, with the release of her first original novel, Right Here Waiting, I’m enjoying K.E. Belladonne‘s blog posts of squee.

Hopefully you’ll be seeing more of me in the coming weeks — I have a lot of exciting stuff coming up personally! For now, enjoy looking into other authors who have exciting things coming up.