The Book of Harlan by Bernice L. McFadden

The Book of Harlan by Bernice L. McFaddenon 2016-04-11
Pages: 400
AmazonNarrator: Robin Miles
During World War II, two African American musicians are captured by the Nazis in Paris and imprisoned at the Buchenwald concentration camp.

The Book of Harlan opens with the courtship of Harlan’s parents and his 1917 birth in Macon, Georgia. After his prominent minister grandfather dies, Harlan and his parents move to Harlem, where he becomes a musician. Soon, Harlan and his best friend, trumpeter Lizard Robbins, are lured across the Atlantic Ocean to perform at a popular cabaret in the Parisian enclave of Montmartre—affectionately referred to as “The Harlem of Paris” by black American musicians.

When the City of Light falls under Nazi occupation, Harlan and Lizard are thrown into Buchenwald, the notorious concentration camp in Weimar, Germany. The experience irreparably changes the course of Harlan’s life.

Based on exhaustive research and told in McFadden’s mesmeric prose, The Book of Harlan skillfully blends the stories of McFadden’s familial ancestors with those of real and imagined characters.

Wow. I almost quit this book but I am glad I didn’t. This book is really touched my soul. I have never given much thought to black people in the context of World War II period as most of the narrative revolves around the Jewish Experience. This is the most detailed accounting I’ve personally read about a real black person captured and sent to a concentration camp.

Harlan Elliot grew up in that 1920’s period where music was going through a revolution. Harlan, his best friend Leo “Lizard” Rubenstein “and their bandmates got an opportunity to travel abroad to Paris and perform.

Harlan and Lizard were captured by the Nazi’s when Paris was invaded in 1940, and they were sent to the Buchenwald Concentration Camp. Five long years later Harlan made it out but Lizard didn’t survive and Harlan’s life was forever changed.
The latter half of Harlan’s story portrayed a wounded soul. This story was painful yet informative. Disturbing yet rousing. At times, I wanted to stop, but I couldn’t bring myself to halt. The author’s use of imagery and prose leaves the reader feeling raw at times, but also mesmerized with the portrayal of the period’s musicality.

There were other subplots in this story but Harlan’s experience was the centerpiece. It was written with care and I was left astonished by the time I was done. This is Historical Fiction done well. I appreciate the author sharing this story and giving voice to a marginalized segment of the 1920-40’s era. This book wasn’t a flowers and candy read, but it was engaging, informative and inspirational.

*Special Thanks to Perseus/PGW/Legato via by Edelweiss for the e-arc given in exchange for an honest review.

Listen to Me (Fusion #1) by Kristen Proby

Listen to Me (Fusion #1) by Kristen ProbySeries: Fusion #1
on 2016-04-12
Pages: 336
AmazonNarrator: Arielle DeLisle, Sebastian York
In New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Kristen Proby’s brand new series, five best friends open a hot new restaurant, but one of them gets much more than she bargained for when a sexy former rock star walks through the doors—and into her heart.Seduction is quickly becoming the hottest new restaurant in Portland, and Addison Wade is proud to claim 1/5 of the credit. She’s determined to make it a success and can’t think of a better way to bring in new customers than live music. But when former rock star Jake Keller swaggers through the doors to apply for the weekend gig, she knows she’s in trouble. Addie instantly recognizes him—his posters were plastered all over her bedroom walls in high school—he’s all bad boy...exactly her type and exactly what she doesn’t need.Jake Keller walked away from the limelight five years ago and yearns to return to what’s always driven him: the music. If he gets to work for a smart-mouthed, funny-as-hell bombshell, all the better. But talking Addie into giving him the job is far easier than persuading her that he wants more than a romp in her bed. Just when she begins to drop her walls, Jake’s past finally catches up with him.Will Addie be torn apart once again or will Jake be able to convince her to drown out her doubts and listen to her heart?
four-stars

This audiobook was well narrated and engaging. I listened to it fairly quickly as the story was smooth and flowed really well.

Addison Wade and four other friends owned a restaurant called Seduction together. In order to add more flavor to their establishment, they decided to hire a singer to perform there. During auditions, Jake Keller, former lead singer of a defunct boy band, performed a song and made an impression. He was eventually hired to play at Seduction. Jake made his interest in Addison known fairly quickly, but Addison who had a pennant for bad boy rockers tried her best to resist him. Eventually, Jake wore her down and they began dating.

The story was told using a Dual Point of View so we could spend equal time in Jake and Addy’s head. They were both working out past issues that were added weight to their new blossoming relationship. Addison used to be a model but was now considered too curvy. Jake had overcome addiction and now worked hard to remain sober and present in his new reality. They were both really likable characters and their respective friends added a nice supporting cast to this love story. I can’t say the story was dissimilar to books in this genre but it was entertaining nonetheless. I couldn’t put it down because I really connected with Addison and loved Jake as a hero too. They were flawed characters but they were so relatable and delightful. Addison felt like a person everyone knows and cares about. You can only hope they would find their Jake someday. It hit all the right chords within me. I had a great time reading this book. It was pretty low on angst but there was still an emotional pull towards the main characters. I had read this author once before and it was just an okay experience. But this story was more developed and the characters had more depth. I really enjoyed this story and look forward to book 2.

*Special Thanks to William Morrow Paperback via Edelweiss for the book given in exchange for an honest review*

The Taste of Ink by Francis Gideon

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review.
This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

TasteOfInk[The]LGThe Taste of Ink by Francis Gideon
Release Date: March 11, 2016
Pages: 200 • Format: eARC
Published By: Dreamspinner Press
PurchARease Links:
DreamspinnerAmazonARe

Trevor Dunn has never gone to the Calgary Stampede, in spite of living in the city all his life. He would much rather listen to music and draw comics in his basement than hang out with a bunch of cowboys. When his sister drags him to the Stampede’s opening parade anyway, Trevor is drawn to a cowboy sporting a green hat.

Charlie opens Trevor’s mind to the world of country music and country boys. But then an old flame appears in the middle of the festival and Trevor is torn. He adores Charlie, but Mathieu—a punk singer turned acoustic crooner—was Trevor’s first love, and Trevor lost him by being too afraid to chase the dreams they shared.

When the Stampede ends, Charlie will go back to Toronto, Mathieu will go back on tour, and Trevor will go back to his basement. Realizing that’s not what he wants, Trevor enters a mechanical bull-riding contest in hopes of winning the heart of his true love—or maybe both of them. This time, fear won’t stop him from going after what he wants.

four-stars

Me and this book, we bonded. Oh boy did we bond and bond and bond again. We bonded so much that I feel as if I could tell you about it, or keep it to myself because you know, bonding is personal.

I’ll try to find a midway point and try to make sense.

When the book came passing through my radar, the cover hooked me and then I read the blurb. There would be music, there would be a punk rock singer and there would be a character who has a second chance at either love, or the future he really desires or a blend of them both. That character, his name is Trevor Dunn and he could by my new BFF if only he were real.

Sigh.

Trevor, I liked and GOT him immediately and wanted to learn everything about him. From his instinctual denial to attend the Calgary Stampede with his sister to his giving in and being right there with him as he experiences the parade and all it has to offer, including clowns *shivers* I loved being in his head. When Trevor sees the man in the green cowboy hat – aka Charlie – I was ready for him to take that first step toward something new.

The first encounter with Charlie was totally memorable. I like how ALL of him was described and the cowboy is deliciously dirty. Charlie is into Trevor and in town for Stampede so why don’t they just hang out for 10 days and see what they can get up to?  But while we get Trevor finding some quick ground with Charlie, we learn about Trevor’s first love Mathieu and I was instantly torn.

and it’s all in how you mix the two
and it starts just where the light exists
it’s a feeling that you cannot miss
and it burns a hole through everyone that feels it 

~ The Used, Blue and Yellow

We are old from the blurb that Mathieu comes back into Trevor’s life and when he does, with songs about heartbreak, I was a goner. I read through my fingers wondering how it was going to go down, the first face to face meeting with these two after that fateful night Trevor couldn’t move forward with his life and their relationship. I felt awful that I wanted these two back together after knowing so little about their past and I felt guilty that Charlie was there waiting.

Charlie, he is such a patient man with wisdom and simply this essence that makes you fall for him. You want him to want what Trevor wants and yet you admire his live in the moment attitude. The time Trevor spent with Charlie was read with an underlined feeling of anxiety for me. I was counting the days until the Stampede and the end of this “let’s see where it goes” deal right along with Trevor. But while I loved the two together, I am a sucker for second chances with first loves and I selfishly needed the Mathieu deal to happen.

I enjoyed the way the story was told and how we get bits and pieces of each man’s past revealed. I couldn’t tell you who I wanted Trevor with more because at different parts of the book, I felt different ways and kudos to the author keeping me spinning. The presence of the mechanical bull was a fun treat with its reason, resolve and respect for the story.  Plus, I mean;  men riding a bull, gripping their spread thighs tight around an object while biceps strain and torso’s become taught with the fight to not be thrown,  is hella hot. I’m not afraid to admit that.

Songs become meaningful when they’re meaningful to other people.

The music in this was what connected me to the characters. I am a self-proclaimed music nerd and I loved that bands I saw live in my early 20’s were mentioned as well as country artists I knew though I don’t listen to much of the genre. I mean, I think everyone kinda goes through a country phase and I hit mine in the late 90’s. I love the bits of music we get and how they give added depth to the characters as well as let them bond over a shared love.

The Taste of Ink for me, is full of allegories and metaphors, which I found engaging. If you look between the lines, look behind the lyrics, beyond the bull riding and just LOOK, you see more than the words on the page. You get a fully loaded romance of complex characters who find out the blend of the right colors, is worth being temporarily stained.

About Francis Gideon

Francis Gideon is a writer of m/m romance, but he also dabbles in mystery, fantasy, historical, and paranormal fiction. He likes to stay up late, drink too much coffee, and read too many comic books. He credits music, especially the artists Patti Smith, Frank Iero, Gerard Way, Florence + the Machine, and The Pixies as his main sources of inspiration, but the list grows every day. Since age twelve, he’s been trying to figure out what genre is best suited for a strange, quiet kid like him and so far, he’s happy to be where he’s ended up.

When not writing fiction, Francis teaches college English classes while he studies for his PhD. He has published several nonfiction and critical articles on everything from the Canadian poet and artist P.K. Page, transgender identity in the YouTube community, using fanfiction as a teaching tool, and character deaths in the TV show Hannibal. Those are all under different his “real” name, though. He writes his novels using his middle name, Francis, so that his students don’t Google him and ask too many questions.

Both Francis and his partner live in Canada, where they often disagree about TV shows and make really bad puns. To talk more about books, bad horror movies, LGBT poetry, or anything else, please drop him a line!

Night and Day by Rowan Speedwell

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review.
This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

NightandDayLGNight and Day by Rowan Speedwell
Release Date: March 9, 2016
Pages: 52 • Format: eARC
Published By: Dreamspinner Press
Purchase Links:
DreamspinnerAmazon • ARe

2nd Edition

Nate Pederowski is about as far down as he can go when he’s tipped to a job as a singer in a speakeasy. Dishonorably discharged for being queer, broke and homeless during the Great Depression, Nate is embittered and lonely. The club’s handsome owner, Rick Bellevue, and his sister Corinna are wowed by Nate’s voice and offer him the job.

But the Starlight Lounge is much more than an ordinary supper club, and Rick and his sister much more than just the owners. It’s not ’til Nate gets caught up in a gangster’s plot that he discovers just what secrets they’re hiding. Nate’s life is going to change in ways he can scarcely imagine, let alone believe.

First Edition published by Dreamspinner Press, 2010, in the Myths and Magic: Legends of Love anthology.

four-stars

Wow. This was not what I was expecting and that is a good thing. Though I should have paid attention to the above note on it being a second edition and where it was first published, I am glad I glossed over that and just enjoyed the story as it presented itself.

From the dedication of the book I felt emotion and a connection but once I got into the story, I kinda got sucked in and transported back to the 1930’s and the world of speakeasies, prohibition and the mob.

Told from the POV of Nathan “Nate” Pederowski, we meet him as he is auditioning for a gig as a singer for the Starlight Lounge.  Nathan is down on his luck; dirty, hungry and in need of the basics to stay alive when a friend and manager tells him about the job. When Nate walks in and nails his audition with singing a bittersweet song, he is thrust in to the post-Depression world of the lounge life and into the strange relationship of the brother and sister duo who own the club.

From the beginning you know this story is different. There is a feeling, an uneasy and yet unrelenting feeling that though something is not as it seems, you need to know what it is.

 

“How the hell did I end up here?”

“Because you belong here…”

 

This story has a dream like quality. Maybe it’s the way it’s told, second person present tense, or maybe it’s the unique quality of the characters, either way it’s engaging and different than what I expect.

I thoroughly liked, Nate. His backstory is heartbreaking and I was not prepared for the feelings I got with such a short story and yet there were there punching me in the chest. I liked Nate and how he liked Rick and I liked that Rick was a man who could set the sheet on fire… *nods* Oh … Rick and Coco, our brother/sister team are magical, for lack of a better word and while you begin to realize just what they actually are, the story takes a twisted turn and I felt Nate’s reaction.

Once you’re in the music, you can open your eyes, but you don’t see anything; you’re blind with love and passion. It’s as pure as a homecoming, as hot as sex; it’s everything you need and have lost and found again. You let the passion burn through you until there’s nothing left, and the notes of the song drain from you whatever has been keeping you on your feet …

On a personal note, the music for me in this book was lovely, it reminded me of listening to jazz, big band and crooners with my father. His musical taste is something that stuck with me from the young age he first shared it opening my eyes, to today as a woman in her late 30’s. The music, it made me miss my dad who passed away 17 years ago this February but it made me cherish the all too inadequate time I had with him.

About Rowan Speedwell

An unrepentant biblioholic, Rowan Speedwell spends half her time pretending to be a law librarian, half her time pretending to be a database manager, half her time pretending to be a fifteenth-century Aragonese noblewoman, half her time… wait a minute… hmm. Well, one thing she doesn’t pretend to be is good at math. She is good at pretending, though.

In her copious spare time (hah) she does needlework, calligraphy and illumination, and makes jewelry. She has a master’s degree in history from the University of Chicago, is a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism, and lives in a Chicago suburb with the obligatory Writer’s Cat and way too many books.

Guest Post: Rowan Speedwell

Oh My Shelves welcomes Rowan Speedwell to the blog as she gives us a heartfelt insight into life, loss, music and her new book releasing from Dreamspinner Press tomorrow, Night and Day.

******

     Music is a pretty personal thing. Everyone has their favorites, of course, but sometimes it’s more than just something you like. Sometimes it’s a part of you. I believe that the kind of music that becomes part of you tends to be the stuff you grow up with, where when you hear it, you just don’t think “Oh, I love that song,” but instead something in you says “yes, of course,” and you feel warmed inside.

     I grew up in the sixties, and of course I loved the Beatles, and the Rolling Stones, and the Monkees (yes!), and the Association, and Paul Revere and the Raiders, and Stevie Wonder, and all the Top 40 one-hit wonders that rolled across the airwaves in those days. I love the oldies, and sing along embarrassingly with them whenever they’re played. But that wasn’t the music I grew up with. Nope. Even before I knew what music was, I was listening to Gershwin and Berlin, and learning to dance to Tommy Dorsey and Glenn Miller. Other kids my age were doing the Twist. I was jitterbugging. When they did the Frug (yes, that was the name of a dance in the sixties), I was learning the Charleston. My dad was a musician—he played piano and sang in choirs—and he loved to dance, so dance music was what we played at home.

     That, and soundtracks. We had the soundtracks from every Disney movie made up to about 1965, and we wore out the LP from Mary Martin’s Peter Pan. And Broadway shows—the King and I, South Pacific, Oklahoma, the Sound of Music…

    The Gershwins, Cole Porter, and Irving Berlin wrote for Broadway shows, like Lerner and Lowe and Kandler and Ebb and Rodgers and Hammerstein did. That was how a lot of music got made in the twenties, thirties, and forties. If a play became a hit, the music started being played on the radio. The pop music of the day—they called it jazz, and some of it was, especially Gershwin’s instrumental pieces, but it wasn’t the kind of jazz you think of nowadays—much of it came from shows. And being from shows, being part of the story line and the characters, the music was singable. Oh, so singable.

Dad grew up on that music. It was his comfort music, and it became mine.

So we sang and danced to the sound of the soundtracks my dad had grown up with.

     When I decided that Night and Day would be set in the tail end of Prohibition and the early days of the Depression, it was a no-brainer that music would be a big part of the story. It was so much fun listening to it again, hunting down the lyrics (which of course I couldn’t use, but I needed to know what the song said) and watching old movies to get the feel of the times. It brought me closer to Dad.

     He’s been gone now for almost 18 years, but listening to the music brought him back for one last dance.


 

NightandDayLGNight and Day by Rowan Speedwell
Release Date: March 9, 2016
Pages: 52
Published By: Dreamspinner Press
Purchase Links:
DreamspinnerAmazon • ARe


 

About Rowan Speedwell

An unrepentant biblioholic, Rowan Speedwell spends half her time pretending to be a law librarian, half her time pretending to be a database manager, half her time pretending to be a fifteenth-century Aragonese noblewoman, half her time… wait a minute… hmm. Well, one thing she doesn’t pretend to be is good at math. She is good at pretending, though.

In her copious spare time (hah) she does needlework, calligraphy and illumination, and makes jewelry. She has a master’s degree in history from the University of Chicago, is a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism, and lives in a Chicago suburb with the obligatory Writer’s Cat and way too many books.

Beneath the Stain by Amy Lane

Beneath the Stain by Amy Laneon 2014-10-17
Pages: 350
AmazonNarrator: Nick J. Russo
(Website, Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads)
In a town as small as Tyson, CA, everybody knew the four brothers with the four different fathers and their penchant for making good music when they weren't getting into trouble. For Mackey Sanders, playing in Outbreak Monkey with his brothers and their friends especially Grant Adams made Tyson bearable. But Grant has plans for getting Mackey and the Sanders boys out of Tyson, even if that means staying behind. Between the heartbreak of leaving Grant and the terrifying, glamorous life of rock stardom, Mackey is adrift and sinking fast. When he's hit rock bottom, Trav Ford shows up, courtesy of their record company and a producer who wants to see what Mackey can do if he doesn't flame out first. But cleaning up his act means coming clean about Grant, and that's not easy to do or say. Mackey might make it with Trav's help but Trav's not sure he's going to survive falling in love with Mackey. Mackey James Sanders comes with a whole lot of messy, painful baggage, and law-and-order Trav doesn't do messy or painful. And just when Trav thinks they may have mastered every demon in Mackey's past, the biggest, baddest demon of all comes knocking.
four-half-stars

Amy Lane is one of the best storytellers in the business and this was definitely one of her best work, if not the best. I felt engaged from the beginning to the end, but no runny mascara eyes this time. I love how Amy Lane (via Nick Russo the narrator) takes the reader on a journey with the characters from adolescent years to their time as grown men. It’s like the author is the driver, the character is the passenger, and I was in the back seat watching and listening. It was a quite a ride!

This story featured the Sanders brothers who formed a rock band with one of their childhood friends and named their band “Outbreak Monkey”. The youngest, 14 yr. old Mackey Sanders, was the band’s writer as well as their lead singer. Mackey had a crush on his oldest brother Kell’s best friend, 17 yr. old Grant Adams, the other member of the band but always thought Grant was straight. After one drunken night of mutual discovery, Mackey and Grant embarked on a secret affair. They told no one because Grant’s family was unaware of his orientation and they are very homophobic. Out of fear of incurring his father’s wrath, Grant drops out of the band and marries a girl, ending his relationship with Mackey.

Outbreak Monkey moves on to sign to a record label and achieve professional success. Meanwhile, Mackey personal life descends into depression and drug abuse. The record company brings in a new manager, clean up specialist Travis Ford, to get the Outbreak Monkey guys on point. Travis immediately set up on the task of helping Mackey reclaim his life starting with rehab. Under his care, Mackey and the Outbreak Monkey had to address their issues before they began to flourish again. The brothers and the band went from a fun time to living the rock-n-roll lifestyle to rediscovering their bond as a unit. This book took us through all those transitions whether they were happy or painful. After some healing, Travis and Mackey begin a relationship…and then the past comes knocking.

While I didn’t cry, this audiobook was angst –filled. Grant and Mackey had all that youthful passion and love that I couldn’t help but root for. Mackey and Travis had that adult relationship when you have seen a person at their lowest which I also found myself wishing would last. I thought, Amy Lane, what are you doing to me because I don’t know if Mackey can handle this?  The writing was poetic and smooth, and the characters were multi-layered. I found it hard for me to judge their mistakes because you could see why and how they could make those decisions. While Mackey was the central character, the supporting cast was equally essential to the story. Forgiveness and Support was big in the end. If you are looking for a book about love, second chances and character growth, then this one is for you.

Available at: Dreamspinner Publishing

*Special thanks to Dreamspinner Publishing for providing the audiobook.

About Amy Lane

Amy Lane has two kids in college, two gradeschoolers in soccer, two cats, and two Chi-who-whats at large. She lives in a crumbling crapmansion with most of the children and a bemused spouse. She also has too damned much yarn, a penchant for action adventure movies, and a need to know that somewhere in all the pain is a story of Wuv, Twu Wuv, which she continues to believe in to this day! She writes fantasy, urban fantasy, and m/m romance–and if you accidentally make eye contact, she’ll bore you to tears with why those three genres go together. She’ll also tell you that sacrifices, large and small, are worth the urge to write.