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review 2016-04-18 19:05
Book, Line and Sinker by LJ Labarthe
Book, Line, and Sinker - L.J. LaBarthe

“Coming home seemed to have started the healing process. No longer vivid and garish, the memories seemed to be covered in gossamer, fading behind a curtain of time and forgiveness.” ~ Karen Fowler

Ash has had enough of war and goes home to rest and find some peace of mind. He's been away for many years, but he's kept in touch with his family during that time. Ash is surprised at all the changes that have taken place in Quorn, but is comforted by how some things never seem to change. He's ready to settle down; boring seems like it would feel really good after the chaos his life has been in the service. Another change Ash appreciates is the new librarian in town, named Jaxon, who is about the most perfect person Ash has ever met.

Jaxton and Ash are instantly attracted to each other and, since Ash's sister, Evie, has told him so much about her brother, Jaxton thinks he knows Ash already. One of the things that brings them together, besides both being gay, is their love of books. Jaxton's entire den has wall-to-wall built-in book cases and Jaxton tells Ash that he can borrow them any time he wants. Ash lights up like a candle at that offer and spends a long time picking out a whole stack of them. That amuses Jaxton to no end. They admit the attraction, but decide to take it slow. This becomes more difficult than they anticipated and doesn't last very long. When they do get together, the sex is electric, convincing them that they were meant to be together.

Talking about their love for reading leads to a discussion about the lack of access to books in the remote areas around them. It gives Ash an idea. He wants to find a way to remedy that problem and runs it past Jaxton. Ash tells him if he can get a surplus Army vehicle, refurbish the inside, and make a book mobile out of it he could start a business called Book, Line, and Sinker. Jaxton thinks it's a marvelous idea and is instantly on board. They tell Evie who is so enthusiastic about it that she insists going with them to second-hand stores to buy books, toys, DVDs, and other forms of entertainment. Their venture is very successful. All would be well except that Ash is having nightmares and flashbacks that harass him and frighten Jaxton.  Although he is there for support, Jaxton realizes Ash is the only one who can conquer them. Ash promises to get help, realizing his quality of life and relationship with Jaxton is in jeopardy if he can't get these terrors under control.

This is a pleasant story, highlighting the beauty for the countryside and admiration for the folks who live there. It's a snapshot of life in the town of Quorn. Ash is a good guy who has served his country but who is now ready to come home, where, to his surprise, he finds what he was looking for all along. Jaxton is almost perfect in looks, positive attitude, and personality. If you are in the mood to settle back with a “cuppa” for a day of relaxation, this book offers a great escape. Thanks, L.J., for introducing me to Jaxton and Ash along with helping me add a few more Aussie words to my vocabulary.




Source: www.rainbowbookreviews.com/book-reviews/book-line-and-sinker-by-lj-labarthe-at-dreamspinner-press
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review 2016-04-16 01:04
ARC Review: Book, Line, and Sinker by LJ LaBarthe
Book, Line, and Sinker - L.J. LaBarthe

This was... nice, for lack of a better word. I liked the characters, I liked the plot, I especially liked the idea of a mobile library in the Australian Outback, and I liked Ash's family. I liked the whole book.

It's light, it's sweet. The romance develops believably. The book just never delved deeply enough for me into the issues it tried to raise. The PTSD was handled almost superficially. While it affected Ash, and we got to see how quite nicely, his therapy was glossed over. The homophobia Ash and Jaxon encounter was also handled a bit too easily for my taste, especially considering the real life stories that seem to come from that country with an almost daily occurrence, people getting bashed and beaten up simply for whom they love. Just today I read a news story about a gay man in Sydney, who left a party to go home, and got beat up because he wore a dress.

I loved the vivid descriptions of the Outback though, telling me about the vast distances the two men travel, the gorgeous landscape - the author did a great job making me feel as if I were right there with Ash and Jaxon.

It's a nice book, one I'm sure others would enjoy as much as I did, if not more. It's a feel-good story to be enjoyed on a nice summer's day at the beach. Nice.

** I received a free copy of this book from its publisher. A positive review was not promised in return. **

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review 2015-10-23 16:26
Cate Ashwood and L.J. LaBarthe – Brick By Brick
Brick by Brick - Cate Ashwood,L.J. LaBarthe

Reviewer: Barb

Genre:M/M Contemporary


his was a sweet story about two young men, Parley and Zach, who decide they need to get away from their town and their families as soon as they finish high school. Zach, a jock who befriended Parley when Parley agreed to tutor Zach in their senior year, is the more adventurous of the two. He buys a car with his $300 life savings and asks Parley to go with him. Where are they going? Anywhere, but here. Zach wants to make his mark on the world, but not by going to college. He wants to work with his hands, and he wants his independence, but more than anything, and though he doesn’t tell him, he’s fallen in love with Parley and wants to make him a home.


The first half of the story is devoted to the few days the boys manage to have alone in an abandoned house they’ve found in a small town not far from where they live. Unfortunately, both sets of parents have reported them missing, and since Parley is only seventeen, when the cops find them, they haul Parley back to his family. The problem is that Parley’s family are religious zealots who believe they ca “pray the gay away” and send Parley to Sunbeam Farm, a place guaranteed to drive the sin out of him.


Sixteen years later, Zach is still in love with Parley. In the intervening years, Zach has built a workworking business and is a successful entrepreneur and owner of the house in which he and Parley stayed all those years ago—the house where he almost got to kiss the love of his life. Imagine his shock when he opens the door one day to find Parley standing on his porch—Parley—and his family!


It seems that both men have looked for the other over the years, though Zach has spent more time trying to find Parley than vice versa. Parley has been a world-traveler, working for a Christian organization and traveling with this partner and best friend Veronica and the two children she adopted overseas. Parley had no idea who now owned the house where his most treasured memories occurred, but he knows he has to get permission for his family to walk around and look it over while he tries to cope with the memories of his past.


When he sees Zach at the door, he’s just as shocked as Zach is, but of course, the story would be finished too quickly if there weren’t misunderstandings between the men, and the authors do a great job giving us a wonderful story, despite the misunderstandings. I forgave them quickly since they didn’t make me suffer needlessly through unnecessary extra “fluff” pages as some authors do.


I recommend this to those who enjoy an M/M romance with two sweet men, those who like stories about lovers reunited, and those who like to see their MCs prevail over religious persecution. Parley is a survivor, and Zach is there to help him rebuild his life “brick by brick.”

Source: heartsonfirereviews.com/review-cate-ashwood-and-l-j-labarthe-brick-by-brick
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review 2015-07-30 01:14
Brick by Brick by Cate Ashwood and L.J. LaBarthe
Brick by Brick - Cate Ashwood,L.J. LaBarthe



“This house was everything we knew. It’s where we kept our love and every single memory of me and you...everything that's left is telling us the worst of it is through. Home has never felt so right, there's nothing in the way. There's nothing in between us...If we hold on to each other, we'll be better than before. And brick by brick, we'll get back to yesterday.” ~ Train (Brick by Brick)

You never forget your first love, the one who caused the first flutterings of desire in your heart; there's no way of recapturing the experience with anyone else. For Zach and Parley, of 'Brick by Brick' by Cate Ashwood and L.J. LaBarthe, this is especially true. Zach and Parley are fortunate enough to find each other, become friends, and fall in love at a young age. They are impetuous enough to think that running away from home, to be on their own, would be an exciting adventure. Their road trip costs them dearly when they are cruelly ripped apart, not to see each other again for many years. The one thing no one can take away from them is their endearing love for each other and the hope that they will be reunited some day.

Zach has searched for Parley for years, feeling like half a person without him. He buys and restores their “little peace of heaven”, the house where they spent their last two days together. During this project, Zach discovers how much he enjoys working with wood and eventually starts his own business. Even when the house is finished, Zach just doesn't feel right living there without Parly; it is their house. Zach keeps hoping that he will find Parley and they can be together, as they should have in the first place. Like the quote from the movie 'Field of Dreams', when Ray hears a voice while he is walking through the cornfield: “If you build it, he will come.” By restoring the house, Zach creates the opportunity for them to be reunited and have their second chance. When his plan is successful and Parley is standing at his front door, Zach can hardly believe it, but welcomes him and his family back into his life with open arms.

Parley has been through a lot, particularly at the conversion camp where he's tortured in order to “get the gay out of him”. He finally lies to get out of that hell hole, but he's not converted. The effects of his torture follow Parley, haunting his dreams, causing flashbacks and other PTSD symptoms no one should ever have to suffer through. Fortunately Parley finds a friend, Veronica, who helps him heal. Even though Parley, his sister, Veronica, and her two adopted children are his family now, they all know that Parley and Zach belong together. Parley just can't find the words to tell Zach how he feels, so, as a family, they help Parley tell Zach how much Parley still loves and wants to be with him. Veronica trusts that Zach will give Parley the love and care he needs and her trust is not misplaced. Parley doesn't lose his kindred by being with him; Zach simply becomes part of their extended family unit.

At times this was a difficult book to read and I shed more than a few tears, simply from the needlessness of the trauma the guys, particularly Parley, endured. Sixteen years is an ungodly amount of time to be separated, but they do find each other again. I was surprised that Zach and Parley had sex so quickly, especially after what they had gone through. I'd think that Parley would need a lot more time to adjust; to heal, but perhaps the strength of their love and desire to be together overrode all of the negativity and left room for them to grow even closer together. If you're interested in conversion therapy, religious zealots, forgiveness, reunions, soul mates, and unconditional love, you may like this book. Thanks, Cate and L.J., for a story which made me think and for giving Zach and Parley their happy ending.


Source: www.rainbowbookreviews.com/book-reviews/brick-by-brick-by-cate-ashwood-and-lj-labarthe-at-dreamspinner-press
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review 2015-05-18 05:23
Swimming With Elephants (L.J. LaBarthe)
Swimming with Elephants (Piece Us Back Together) - L.J. LaBarthe
3.5 stars

This is my first story from L.J. LaBarthe, although the author has been publishing stories for the past 6 years. I think I have never really been intrigued with the blurb from her other stories. This one though, well, the blurb AND the cover called to me: interracial couple (Australian guy and Indian guy) and look at that elephant!!

It was pretty low angst and the romance low-key. There was no huge drama in terms of Garrett and Jai becoming lovers and involoved in relationship. For me, this story was more about Garrett and how he must adjust to new life choices after his injury. Interestingly, even if Garrett was described as being frustrated with the constant pain, the continuous therapy, and the lost of his job as an arborist (Garrett was quite proud and happy being an arborist!), he never came to me as whiny. Garrett was determined to be better, so he was willing to do what his doctors told him to, including coming to Havelock Island. So yes, there were times when he complained but I thought it was a natural thing to do. I would probably do the same if I was in his position.

The writing, however, was not as emotionally engaged as I would prefer it to be. There were a lot of descriptions that sometimes sounded like a travel book, especially when it was related to Havelock Island. Don't get me wrong, the scene where Garrett swam with the elephants was probably one of the most majestic moments I have ever read in this genre. I could see it in my mind's eye and I want to experience it myself. But in overall, I didn't feel like I was pulled into these characters' lives; it felt like there was a distance between them and I. I still really liked it but I couldn't say that I loved it, you know? Thus my 3.5 stars.

Now, I wish I can swim with elephants -- without having to experience pain/injury first. Maybe I should start googling for places that offer such thing.
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