Review: WAVE GOODBYE TO CHARLIE by Eric Arvin

51qhmyM0aTLWAVE GOODBYE TO CHARLIE By Eric Arvin

Fantasy / Second edition released April 3, 2017 by Dreamspinner Press / (First edition published by Wilde City Press October 2014)

My name’s Charlie. I’m many things, though none of them having to do with any real talent. I’m a runaway, a hustler when I need to be, a ghost when I have to scare hoodlums away from my home, and a loner who maybe reads too much. But most of all, I’m the keeper of the carnival. That’s how I see myself. I look after the place ’cause even dying things need to be cared for. Maybe it’s illegal. Maybe that rusty metal fence around the carnival is supposed to keep me out too. Or maybe me and this place were meant to find each other. Truth is, I never felt at home anywhere but here, not even in all the foster families and orphanages I was placed in as a young shit. They don’t look for me no more, those places. I suspect I ran away so much they finally just said, “Fuck! Let him go.” I am a hangnail on society’s manicured middle finger. I’m older. One year past the age anyone gives a shit. 

And this is my adventure…

I am an eclectic reader. I look for interesting stories of all genres. As a reviewer, I get a lot of emails from publishers on new releases. When I received an email from Dreamspinner Press about rereleasing WAVE GOODBYE TO CHARLIE I was fascinated by the amazing cover by artist John Coulthart. I just had to read the book.

WOW.

Seriously, I mean WOW.

The fact that this is a M/M story is inconsequential. This is an adventure in this world and the next. A story of friendship, and loyalty and the power of love versus evil. A page-turner of epic standards full of twists and turns, none of which I saw coming.

Eric Arvin, I am a fan and this will not be the last book of yours that I read.

New Release: SURFACING by Daniel Stephens

51wA9BNutWL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_SURFACING by Daniel Stephens / Released April 27 by The Wild Rose Press / GLBT Romance

Used to luxurious, high-profile city life, Chris’s world is shattered when tragedy takes his husband and young son.  Seeking a life free from pain, Chris returns to his grandfather’s cabin on the shore of Wolf Thorn Lake, Maine.

When Chris meets Jake, the earthy young man who resides across the lake, Chris faces his most challenging decision yet.  Does he continue his life alone, or does he risk his heart and the potential of love he sees illuminated in Jake’s warm eyes?

A young man running from pain, a rural free spirit with the ability to heal, and a wolf who haunts the shore-line of Wolf Thorn Lake illustrate the endurance of the human heart, the capacity of learn how to love again, and the heart’s ability to restore even the most wounded of men.

Review: SUTPHIN BOULEVARD by Santino Hassell

Sutphin BoulevardSutphin Boulevard by Santino Hassell

Dreamspinner Press GLBT

Very much an adult story – not just due to the sex, but because of the situations and themes. This is no sweet romance – Michael and Nunzio have been best buddies for most of their lives, , but an unexpected sexual encounter changes the dynamic of their friendship just as Michael’s family is falling apart under the burden of his alcoholic father who has come home after abandoning the family years before. The pressure creates problems for Michael at work – he teaches in an inner-city high school — and exacerbates his own issues. When his father dies of the illness created by the alcoholism, Michael goes into a death spiral that lands him in a rehab center, where he finally confronts his own alcoholism, and his own emotions.

I am not a big-city person, but this novel would have to be set in a big city and Hassell wears New York like it was tailored for him. Even the minor characters are unique individuals, and besides heaving a sigh of relief when Michael finally gets his act together, I found myself with a strong admiration for anybody teaching in the NYC school system.

Not a light read, but one I couldn’t put down.

Got to give this one an A … that is, 5 paws up.

Review provided by Ace Katzenbooks for the October 2015 issue of The Book Breeze.

Review: THE LANGUAGE OF HOOFBEATS by Catherine R Hyde

The Language of HoofbeatsThe Language of Hoofbeats by Catherine R Hyde

Lake Union Publishing GLBT

This month brought me a couple of books I would probably not have chosen to read for recreation. Both deal with some difficult situations in problematic environments that are polar opposites.

“Hoofbeats” is set in rural California. The main POV narrator, Jackie Archer-Cummings, is moving with her wife Paula and their adopted son Quinn to a small town of Easly. Also with them are two foster teens, a troubled teenage girl named Star and a young man of Guatemalan descent, Mando, whose mother is in prison on a falsified charge. The reason for the move is Paula’s career – she’s a veterinarian who had been unable to set up her own practice in Napa Valley due to an overabundance of vets. In Easly, she will be the one-and-only vet around. Though this was a plan Jackie agreed to, she finds herself isolated and lonely as a stay-at-home mom to the kids.

The prospect of making new friends seems dim when her first contact with the neighbor across the road is a shrill complaint from an angry middle-aged woman who objects to Star trespassing to visit her horse. Clementine D’Antonio is nobody’s friendly neighbor; she seems to exist to attack anyone and everyone who comes near her, and upon finding the new arrivals to be a same-sex couple, she immediately runs back home and starts complaining to her husband. And for her husband Vernon, that is the last straw; after many years of enduring her displeasure with the world, he packs up and walks out.

This could so easily have been a dance of cardboard characters, but over the course of the story the reader gradually comes to know and understand even the least likeable of them. This is a terrific story because it allows the characters – even the youngest, Quinn – to grow and change. I hadn’t expected to like this novel very much, but it drew me in and even though I really could not identify much with any of the characters (for instance, I would not want to take responsibility for a teenage girl with the habit of running away), I’m glad to have met these folks and wish them well.

Five hoofprints!

Review: COMING BACK by John Inman

51HRGdMz39L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_COMING BACK (The Belladonna Arms #3) by John Inman

GLBT Romance Dreamspinner Press

Barney Teegarden knows what it’s like to be alone. He knows what it’s like to have a romantic heart, yet no love in his life to unleash the romance on. With the help of a friend, he acquires a lease in a seedy apartment building perched high on a hill in downtown San Diego. The Belladonna Arms is not only filled with the quirkiest cast of characters imaginable, it is also famous for sprinkling love dust on even the loneliest of the lovelorn.

At the Arms, Barney finds friendship, acceptance, and an adopted family that lightens his lonely life. Hell, he even finds a cat. But still true love eludes him.

When his drag queen landlord, Arthur, takes it into his head to rescue a homeless former tenant, he enlists Barney’s help. It is Barney who shows this lost soul how to trust again—and in return Barney discovers love for the first time in his life.

I requested a review copy of this book because Barney Teegarden just seemed like the kind of guy whose company I would enjoy. I was right. I loved this book and the residents of The Belladonna Arms. Inman tells this tale of people who look out for each other with tenderness and humor. I look forward to grabbing the first two books in this series.

Review: BEWARE OF GEEKS BEARING GIFTS by Charlie Cochet

51wjGbEd-VL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_BEWARE OF GEEKS BEARING GIFTS

by Charlie Cochet

GLBT Romance Dreamspinner Press

Miami SWAT officer, Julian “Quinn” Quintero is trying to recover from an on-the-job injury but he finds it challenging with his large Cuban family and his smitten brownie baking neighbor Spencer.

Opposites find attraction in this sweet and funny novella.

Review: KINDRED SPIRITS by Alicia Dyal

Kindred SpiritsKindred Spirits by Alicia Dyal

Dreamspinner Press (April 2015) 49 pages / GLBT Romance

This novella has two appealing main characters, one of them a chunky, hardworking bear of a small-town bar owner, the other (the narrator), a sophisticated city bartender with a controlling mother and a load of guilt. These two meet in spring when Mike, the bar owner, is in Chicago on a business trip and happens to drop into the bar where Casey works. There’s instant chemistry, but on his way to Mike’s hotel room after work, Casey gets the devastating news of his brother Brandon’s sudden death and rushes off without calling Mike to let him know.

Fast forward to autumn: Casey is living in the wreck of a house Brandon wanted to rehab, trying to work off his guilt at not spending enough time with his brother when he had the chance. Ms. Dyal captures the painful emotions of loss very well, and Casey’s obsessive guilt is very convincing. His desperation at running out of money and the need for a job are completely believable, and – since this is a romance – I can accept that the bar Mike owns happens to be in the small town where Brandon lived. (They had to get back together somehow, after all.) I can see that Mike has a similar situation with guilt and obligation because he’s lost his dad and has had to take over the family business. Clearly, the story is about two men helping each other break free of old baggage. And the sex, when it finally happens – the building anticipation is very well-done – is steamy and affectionate.

But … The story feels rushed from the point that they reunite. There are improbabilities all along, starting with the idea that a man of 23 would answer a call from his mother on his way to a romantic encounter with the first guy who’s had such a strong effect on him. Since he was already in the lobby of Mike’s hotel, it made no sense that he would not even leave a message at the desk before taking off to deal with his brother’s death. (He tells Mike later that he had no way to reach him, which was a bald-faced lie and I was surprised Mike didn’t call him on it.) We never do find out what happened to Brandon, except that it involved a hardware store and an accident. A critical episode like that needed just a little more explanation.

The situation with Brandon’s house doesn’t make sense, either. The author states the Brandon put in enormous amounts of time on the place, but when Casey gets there it has only a microwave and intermittent plumbing, and even though he has poured his life savings into the place, when the story picks up again it doesn’t sound as though his time and money have fixed anything at all, His mother, who is a doctor, doesn’t seem to recognize that Casey is suffering from depression and probably needs an intervention. Instead, she cuts off support.

Then Casey goes to look for a job, and reunites with Mike … and the storyline goes south. Casey apologizes for standing Mike up, they click perfectly, all difficulties fall aside, tough problems resolve themselves instantly, a big stubborn bear who has been resisting good advice from people he trusts suddenly turns compliant when someone he barely knows says the same thing—and a rep from the notoriously difficult music industry hands over the keys to the magic pumpkin because Mike doesn’t want to do the touring that music promotion requires. It’s too much, too fast, too easy, and I felt shortchanged because the characterization was really good and I wanted a story with more substance.

I’d like to give this more paws, and if the author had taken the time to flesh out the potential of this scenario, I think it would have been a much better read. Five stars for sensuality, and for portraying a plus-size gentleman as sexy and attractive, but the pacing just does not work for me. For a reader who only wants to get to the clinch, okay, but I do wish Alicia Dyal had given this storyline time to develop more fully. Just as I was getting to know the characters and really wanted to see them tackle Brandon’s wreck of a house and the difficulties of juggling a music career and a bar and really getting to know each other, they have some lovely hot sex, pack up Billy Bass—and that’s all, folks.

Good characters, excellent scene-setting, but I think this author could have done better.

This review was provided by Ace Katzenbooks for the May 2015 issue of The Book Breeze.