The Title Page (Date unknown) by Claude Raguet Hirst (1855-1942) [x]
Ok so here we go again because if you recognize the song that this line is from you are once dating yourself...it was released in 1978...more than a few years ago.
Sorry for some reason this song always pops into my brain when Russia enters into a conversation or as is the case here becomes the setting for a book. I'm pretty sure there's more than one song about Russia out there. Anyways, about the book...
Like a lot of my friends I'm pretty much a sucker for a good cowboy story but this one's a cowboy story with at twist...you see our cowboys are in Texas or Wyoming or even Alberta...that's right folks we have cowboys up here in Canada...Calgary Stampede it's a thing and if you want to see cowboys well Calgary has them in abundance during...well never mind I'm digressing again.
The cowboy's in question aren't in any of those places they're in Russia...we're talking freakin' cold Russia. Seems they've decided to raise beef there problem is no one really knows how so they've done the obvious and that's to contract cowboys from the States to go over and train them and that's how Levi...wait, wasn't there a Levi in the last book that I read...yes, there was but he was an event planner and not a cowboy...so back to our cowboy Levi who's teaching a bunch of Russian men how to heard cattle because it's a dream of his that he's always had...NOT!!! More like because he needs to get away from his jerkwad, homophobic brother and a father who doesn't seems to care about him other than as someone to work the ranch and go earn enough money to build that new barn that they need...but that's another discussion for later.
So Levi heads off to Russia it's a cakewalk right? Six months there some breathing space between Levi and his family, go home resume life as normal and everything's find or at least it will be if Levi can survive the latest recruit who seems to want to be on the ranch even less than Levi and who's got Levi feeling more than a little hot and bothered but Pasha's not Levi's type after all, so it's not a problem and Levi doesn't do relationships so everything's good, right? Well than why does Levi want to hit something...or more like someone when he realizes that Pasha's being harassed and bullied?
That's right...bullied, it's not just a school thing it's out there in the world and Pasha's spent most of his life trying to avoid the bullies and now his father has landed him smack dab in the middle of a hornets nest of them. But Pasha's strong and he's a survivor. He's already lived through so much, he can make it through this. He just needs to keep his head down and avoid them.
I don't even know where to begin to explain how much and why I loved this book. First off let's start with the plot because Wow!!! Simply WOW! There's a hella' good story here. It simply blew me away. The more I read, the more I wanted. Neither Levi nor Pasha have had an easy life and both men are still struggling to make their way in the world and find their place. I loved them both...a lot. Sure I didn't always like that Levi was keeping his sexuality a secret and so sometimes his actions frustrated me but I could see why and he needed to be able to deal with things on his own terms and come to grips with it all. Still in spite of this he tried to be there for Pasha as much as he comfortably could and in the end he was all in, but I'm getting ahead of myself here.
Back to Pasha...I don't think I have the words to explain what an incredible character Barbara Elsborg has created with Pasha...truthfully the only thing I can say that even comes close to doing Pasha service is 'read the book' and get to know him and love him for his strength, courage and his sense of humor...Pasha kept me smiling and laughing even during some of the bad times...I love Pasha...plain and simple. I would be his mom in a heartbeat...hey, I could do it, he's 7 years younger than my own son.
I had a tiny little niggle with the ending hence the 4.5 stars instead of 5 and yet in spite of that I also loved the ending. it was a bit on the fairy-tale side...and they all lived happily ever after...so to speak but when I thought about it I also felt like if ever any book couple deserved this it's Levi and Pasha. They've faced down the big bad wolf...no literally there were wolves...see you need to read the book, they've survived more than one villain...bigoted homophobes and an obsessive stalker only to find out at the end of it all there's more and so much of what's happened isn't how it seems.
I'm pretty sure this one's going to be on my favorites list for this year...if not top 10 it's definitely going to be in my top 20, I guess we'll just have to see what the rest of the year brings.
A copy of 'Edge of Forever' was graciously provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Love me tomorrow like today...
Ok if you recognize the song that these words are from...stop it your age is showing...lol!!! I'm so glad I'm not alone on that by the way.
I loved this one from start to finish this story worked for me. I loved the humor. I loved that Jake was a fan of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons...*waves hand* me too. Sorry I've been known to geek out over the silliest things and this just made me smile.
I loved most of the secondary characters Levi's mom was awesome, as were Antonio (I think that was his name) he was one of Levi's employee's who had a thing for Levi and while he was a bit of a serial flirter he didn't cross lines...much, Jake's sister, Julia, his parents were idiots mind you. but that's ok they were suppose to be, Jake's friends sorry I can't remember their names and there were a few others that graced the pages of this story and I enjoyed them but Levi's friend/business associate Valerie was one piece of work that I just couldn't get my mind around...seriously if she'd been my friend I would have dropped her like a hot potato. The woman was missing filters...you know like the one that says 'shut your mouth because you've gone from funny to just plain rude and borderline vulgar' 'class she had none', sorry but she really grated on my nerves.
Levi and Jake first meet by accident when paramedics are summoned to his mother's place to care for her. The attraction is definitely instant but the relationship is definitely more complicated and takes some time and more than a few rough patches to get going. Levi's busy building his career as an event planner and trying to take care of his mother. Jake's a paramedic but more importantly he's in a relationship and he doesn't cheat...but he's drawn to Levi and he can't deny it.
Jake finally settles on the idea that he and Levi can be friends because that's a far more palatable idea than not having Levi in his life at all. They try seriously hard. Neither of these men are into the idea of cheating. Jake wants to be there for Levi to make his life easier and tries to help Levi out whenever he can but the more time these two men spend together the stronger their feelings get and the harder they get to deny. I was really torn with this because I wanted Levi and Jake to be together. i liked them together and surprisingly I didn't dislike Jake's boyfriend...I wasn't over the moon about him but he really wasn't a bad person either...just not the right person for Jake.
I really enjoyed the banter between Jake and Levi and between Levi's mom and pretty well anyone else as well Jake's sister was also an interesting character.
Jason Frazier was the narrator for this audio book and while he's not new to me...more like nearly new to me. I've listened to one other book by this narrator and coincidentally it was also an Ethan Day novel and I enjoyed that first listening experience but I have to say for me this one was just that little bit better...whether it was actually the narrator's skill improved or that I liked the story a bit more than the other story...I neither know nor care but I do know that I enjoyed this one enough to want to listen to it again one day.
One good story and one good narrator made for several hours of pure listening pleasure. This one was truly delightful.
An audio book of 'Love Me Tomorrow' was graciously provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Ok so here's the elephant in the room this book is full of stereotyping and cliches are running rampant here, but let's also recognize that this book is set in the south at a 'christian' college with definite homophobic leanings. Nowhere are we given that impression that this is a progressive college with an accepting or even tolerant administration...so, I'm pretty much thinking stereotyping and cliches are a part of the norm and honestly an 'Oh your gay, that's nice' isn't really going to provide the setting needed to make a story with this background believable so as much as I like many others didn't like the stereotypes and cliches in this case...like them or not...they actually facilitated the story.
Ironically one of the things that I liked about this is the fact that if you look at the reviews on GR, you'll see that a considerable number of them are less than happy with this part of the story and when I to see things like this I view it as a reminder that, while it's often not as fast as many of us would like...the world is changing and people are starting to ask questions and voice dissent when the answers don't feel right. Acceptance is becoming a part of the norm and not the exception and sometimes we need stories like this to make us step back and take a look at how things are now. Ok, I'm going to step down off of my pulpit now.
On to the rest of the things. Overall I enjoyed this story I like both of the MCs...Matt's a deep in the closet gay quarterback and between the fact that he attends a Christian college and his homophobic, douchebag of a father. This man is such a piece of work. I mean I can't even begin to explain how much I disliked this a**hat. He's a con-artist, grifter use whatever word you want and as a father he's both abusive and manipulative using Matt's twin sisters to keep him in line...to keep him locked securely in the closet.
Matt's drawn to Trevor with his Korean/American heritage that give him an exotic look that Matt can't quite seem to resist so when their paths cross Matt may have been torn at first it doesn't take him long to decide that he wants whatever he can get from Matt and if it means being his dirty little secret he can live with that or at least he's willing to try.
I enjoyed the interaction between these two as the for to know each other during their 'study dates' code talk for 'Trevor teaches Matt about sex'. Trevor's family may have rejected him but he's not a weak man by any means. He's working 3 jobs to put himself through college and while he's initially willing to keep their relationship a secret that doesn't mean that he just roles over if he's unhappy with Matt's behavior. So there's more than just sexual tension between these two men and trust me they're college boys so there's always sexual tension and sexy time.
I have to admit I found a lot of the secondary characters to be more than a little entertaining...in a very tongue-in-cheek manner. In a nutshell...inappropriate comments were the order of the day with this group. From Matt's twin sister's to Danielle his friend's girlfriend to a coach looking for fashion advice. I can't lie more than once I found myself laughing out loud partially because they were saying things at times that were beyond inappropriate and while the story without the addition of the secondary characters really wasn't over the top. For me it made this all seem so much more tongue-in-cheek adding a touch of OTT humor to the story.
Lastly what made this a story that I was able to get behind and enjoy was the fact that I listened to it on audio and the narrator was Greg Boudreaux (or Greg Tremblay). I'm not sure what words I can use to express my appreciation for the narrative talents of Mr. Boudreaux but the man is good...I mean seriously GOOD!!! He's not only in my top 5 he's at the top of that list. Without fail he delivers a story that is start to finish a listening pleasure.
An audio book of 'The Quarterback' was graciously provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
While 'Banded Together' isn't part of K.C. Burns 'Toronto Tales' happily it's set in and around this city...Oakville!!! With a lot of events actually taking place in the city of Oakville which is one of several cities that share boundaries with the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) and admittedly one of the most desirable ones to live in.Ok, so much for geography class...sorry about this but Toronto is just under 2 hours from where I grew up and just 2 hours from where I live now. While I love reading books that are set in places I've never been sometimes it's nice to read stories set in places that I know. So there's reason 1 why I liked this story and yes, it's very subjective.
Now as for the story...if the location was something I like and part of what got me interested in this story...the story itself was what kept me reading. I liked the pacing in this one. It's a bit of slow burn but for so many reasons...slow burn was the perfect pace for this one.
After a 20 year run as the lead singer for a rock band that ended with the unexpected death of Devlin's bandmate and best friend, it's time for Devlin to find a way to move on and returning to school and beginning again as a student studying archaeology now that he's lost the music in his life is the path that Devlin plants his feet on. Needless to say Devlin finds himself surrounded by a group of students who for the most part are young enough to be his kids but what truly surprises him is the hotter than hell Dr. Jack Johnson who catches his eye gives him more than an interest in archaeology that brings him to class.
When Jack realizes who Devlin is, he's determined to keep his distance but being in constant contact with the man who has fueled Jack's fantasies as well as inspiring him to be the lead singer in a cover band does nothing for his ability to resist the temptation that is Devlin Waters.
There's a definite age gap between the MCs but because of where they each were in their lives, I didn't feel the power imbalance that can occur with age gap stories and I really liked the interaction between these two.
While Devlin was at times a bit self absorbed it wasn't unrealistic to me as he was dealing with his grief over the loss of his friend and let's face it we all deal with grief in our own way and our own time so that Devlin struggled with it to the point of it being debilitating emotionally for him for me this only added a touch of realism to the story.
I've been finding lately that I have a bit of a newfound appreciation for a 'slow burn' story, not that I want them all to be slow burns but once in a while it's nice to feel like there's a little more or at least as much development given to the emotional development of a story as the physical aspect.
'Banded Together' was a really enjoyable chance to revisit the writings of K. C. Burn and on audio it was also an opportunity to once again listen to the narration of Darcy Stark. This is only my second time listening to this narrator and like the first time I was not disappointed. I thoroughly enjoyed the quality of the audio...my 'basic list' for audio books was easily ticked of and I'm going to try and explain this but one of my peeves about audio books is when voices don't sound appropriate to who the person is. Thinks like younger children don't really sound like small children or they have a perpetually annoying, obnoxious or whiny sound to their voice or women's voices sound more like a man trying to do a woman's voice than simply a woman talking or sometimes when the voice doesn't match the physical image of a man...don't get me wrong I know these things can happen in real life but when it's an audio book the character representation is based strictly on the image created by the words in the story and the voice.
Truthfully in real life I don't care how a person's voice sounds because in general I also get the physical representation of the person to create the image but in an audio book those voices need to work overtime to create a physical image as well as the vocal one so yeah, sorry to say but when it comes to an audio books sometimes a little stereo typing needs to occur unless a story tells me that the character looks one way and sounds another than I need my macho men to have macho voices, my children to have children's voices and my women to sound like women and while I'm not sure about the children (because there weren't any in either book that I've listened to)...Darcy Stark definitely nailed it for me with the voices in this one and I thoroughly enjoyed his narrations. I'm actually hoping to listen to a book narrated by him that has at least one child in it just to see how he does because so far I have not been disappointed by this narrator.
I'm not a big fan of 'rock star' MCs but the author's definitely created a character that I enjoyed in the form of Devlin Waters and while archaeology isn't really my thing I think I could enjoy watching Dr. Jack Johnson teach a class or two.
An audio book of 'Banded Together' was graciously provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.