Review: We Still Live by Sara Dobie Bauer

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Cover Art by Natasha Snow Copyright © 2019

I would rate this 4.5 stars.

Isaac, a new professor at a college that just had a mass shooting, moved from South Carolina to Ohio for a fresh start. He is surrounded by people with PTSD, an outsider among those who have not only known each other for years, but who have bonded over a painful event that he doesn’t know a lot about. Running from his own demons, Isaac has to forgive his own secret past, before he came be truly present for his future. Meeting his colleague John is a complication, a fresh start, and a powerful emotional journey he wasn’t expecting.

Be warned: besides some wonderfully explicit sex scenes, this also contains violence, suicide, and copious amounts of alcohol. The nonfraternization policy at the university creates a taboo nature that is fun at first, with the flirting and kissing. Right away this becomes serious as both men are dealing with trauma and have a lot to lose moving forward with a relationship. Them working on the literary magazine in the English department was a great plot point–I wish I could read it. The side characters like John’s best friend Tommy, a student John works with named Janelle, and a departmental employee named Cleo all add so much to this story, I can’t imagine it without them. I even got attached to Sonya, who is not shown in the best light. I loved how the book shows that grief and trauma affect people in a myriad of ways. Sometimes people don’t realize the impact they have on those around them. Sometimes, doing the right thing can hurt. Sometimes, what you think is best is not what’s best for everyone involved.

The point of view is Isaac’s, but the reader is not privy to everything since there are things he just doesn’t want to think about. Information is layered in throughout the book. By the time I realized it was all sliding slowly down a dark road, I was completely hooked. They both have mental health issues from trauma: whereas John seems to be dealing with his (therapy and medication), Isaac is ignoring his. I wondered if Isaac had given himself the job of rescuing John so he could avoid fixing his own mess. When Isaac’s ex Simon shows up, I felt genuinely frightened by this seemingly obsessed angry man’s actions, but then this plot point just fizzles out as Simon realizes this is a battle he can’t really win. Simon brings everything to a head, but I do wish it was a bit more nuanced since everything else here is so wonderfully well written. There is a time period where Isaac and John are separated during which I would have loved to see John work through his own issues. I don’t understand why there isn’t more shown about his Catholic guilt, or any guilt about his treatment of his wife and Simon. I feel like it would have strengthened the book since several months go by. While John is working hard to get better, Isaac seems like all his issues go away when Simon does.

In some ways this has a happy ending, yet trauma changes people forever. Even though it was hopeful, I was left with such a lingering sadness since we all know this is an ongoing societal issue with no end in sight. The author handled the gut-wrenching topics of mass shootings and mental health issues brilliantly. All I can say is that I cared about everyone–I cared what happens to each character–and isn’t that what we all want from a good book?

Sara Dobie Bauer’s Website

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A Chaos Moondrawn Review: A Faerie Story by Barbara Elsborg — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5 The first part of the book shows little snippets in the life of three different boys. During a traumatic event, Kaegan discovers Christmas. Over time, Inverkillen, in the Scottish Highlands, becomes his magical place where it is eternal Christmas. As his life becomes more and more unpleasant due to […]

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A Chaos Moondrawn Release Day Review:Anhaga by Lisa Henry — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5 This is written in the third person point of view of Aramin, or Min, who I wasn’t sure had anything to recommend his character except his adopted nephew Harry. This is the first clue that he has a heart in his cynical, morally flexible shell and if he lashes […]

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A Chaos Moondrawn Release Day Review: Never a Hero (Tucker Springs #5) by Marie Sexton — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5 This is part of the Tucker Springs series. The books have different authors, so although some of the characters are featured in other books, this can be read as a standalone. This is a meet cute with depth. Having Owen’s first person POV lets the reader see and feel […]

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Review: Save The Date by RJ Scott and V.L. Locey, Harrisburg Railers Railers 9

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Cover design by Meredith Russell

I would rate this 4.5 stars.

I don’t think we need a whole lot of paraphrasing the plot–it’s a wedding! The wedding we have all been waiting for. This is the ninth story, so this not the place to jump in. It is a short novella and for what it is, accomplishes everything it sets out to do. Tennant’s mom, Lisa, and Lisa (his sisters-in-law), are trying to help plan the wedding…but the guys haven’t been helping a whole lot. They decide to hire a professional wedding planner three weeks before the wedding. Snort. Luckily, Trent comes to the rescue! What could possibly go wrong? Thankfully nothing too important because the relationship is the real thing, and the wedding is just a million details that are less important. The way all of their friends rally around them to plan the bachelor weekend and the venue lead to so many touching moments. Right when it might jump into schmaltzy territory, the authors rein it back in. This is all good fun with hot, sexy moments sprinkled throughout.

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When both authors write together: MM Hockey Romance

*The authors move their books in and out of KU to give everyone a chance to buy them. If you read this review at a later date and the links don’t work, check their website and subscribe to their newsletter. They are great at communicating when the books will be sold where and for how long, with link to all the sites and countries, not just US Amazon. I wish all authors did this.

Review: The Bucket List by RJ Scott

BucketList
Cover design by Meredith Russell

I would rate this 4.5 stars.

Jason contacts Mark about the death of his brother Andrew. Andrew and Mark had been best friends when they were young, but didn’t keep in touch after Mark left town at 15. Now at 33, all the memories Mark buried away are back. It was Andrew’s last wish that Jason complete his bucket list of things he wanted to do and Mark is made a part of it with his 15th high school reunion. Throughout this book they both face grief of a life lost, lost chances, and regret for bad decisions and might have beens. This is tapered with some of the best memories of their lives. Questions of all the missed years are painful. At first, both have things they are hiding; watching them earn those secrets is an emotional rollercoaster. The flashbacks they both have keep the emotional punches coming.

This was a bit unexpectedly triggering for me. Be advised much of this is about child abuse and bullying. The grief and shared history gives them something to bond over initially, but it is being together daily that makes it mean more, letting their relationship blossom. This book come across as very real to me with enough sweet and sexy parts to make it believable they can make it work and not just as a vacation romance. I liked the honest communication between them, both about the past and what they are feeling for each other as it happens. This is about righting old wrongs and really living because life is short, not revenge or comeuppance, although the reader gets a bit of that too.

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RJ Scott’s Website

 

A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Healing Glass (Gifted Guilds #1) by Jackie Keswick — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5 This is an intriguing fantasy novel about the political machinations amongst the Craft Guild. Most of the story revolves around a city made of glass that is suspended over the ocean. When the Craft Guild arrived and needed shelter they took it over, but the glass in the city is failing and no […]

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A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Rook by T. Strange — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5 Rook is sent to the alien prison planet B-226 for twenty three years for killing his husband. The average life span on the hostile planet is three weeks. His plan is to live as long as possible to honor his husband’s wishes, and then die and join him. Upon landing […]

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A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Best Behaviour by Matthew Metzger — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5 Jim does everything in his power to not have to ask his sister Sarah for help, but when it’s not enough, he ends up staying at her house until he can get back on his feet. Sarah’s husband is a reverend and his flavor of religion can’t coexist with […]

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Review: Arctic Sun by Annabeth Albert

Artic Sun Cover
Cover Art Copyright by Harlequin Enterprises Limited

I would rate this 4.5 stars

Griffin Barrett is ex-military and a recovering alcoholic mourning the loss of his best friend and a series of bad decisions. Griff’s dream is to have his own little cabin in the middle of nowhere. The only thing keeping him from being a lone mountain man is helping with his family’s wilderness adventures business. When his uncle’s surgery means he has to be the tour guide for a group booked for photography, he is way out of his comfort zone having to deal with the customers on a 10 day trip. His mother and uncle seem determined to use this as an excuse to meddle: make Griff be more social, more involved in the family business, and more involved in life in general. But Griff is using the isolation and routine to help manage his demons.

One of said customers is River Vale, a former supermodel and now travel writer. Known as a foodie and “professional nomad,” he doesn’t have or want a home. Or is that true? It seems he’s been on the run from one place to another since his mother died. It becomes clear right away he has an eating disorder but he’s not quite the pampered, spoiled model Griff was expecting. Griff’s antisocial behavor intrigues River, who is used to everyone liking him and doesn’t know what to make of Griff’s attitude. The author does a good job of setting up a dynamic where both of them are off balance during their interactions.

There is an instant opposites attract dynamic. It soon becomes apparent they both have enough baggage for an airport, and more in common than either would have thought. The seduction of a reluctant Griff is strangely fun to witness. River is enticing. What is supposed to be a casual fling gets complicated. The love scenes are meant to further the characters’ intimacy and it’s great to see that they match the personality of the characters–the scenes are about them, not just to tantalize the reader. Yes, they are still hot.

Unused to letting people know him, Griff gets attached to the one man he has finally let in. River starts to get attached to the one man who seems to actually take care of him. It’s easier to be the best you, when you are in an environment you can control. The best part of the book comes when Griff visits River in Vancouver and meets his friends; it really highlights all of the challenges they will face if they are going to be a couple. I still would have liked to see more interactions with both families and friends (even flashbacks), which would have added more depth.

One of things that often frustrates me in books is where a miscommunication about something not that important is the plot device that keeps the MCs apart just a little longer. This book is a perfect example of how to use the fear everyone has that if someone really gets to know you, warts and all, they won’t like you. The author gets into the psychology of the characters to show their vulnerabilities and coping mechanisms. But what helps these characters in survival mode, often doesn’t benefit them the rest of the time. There is no overnight fix, just the slow working out of things over time and actually talking about the difficult things. In the end, they are sweet building their life together and planning for new adventures.

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Annabeth Albert’s Website