Audio Review: Carry the Ocean by Heidi Cullinan

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.

Carry the Ocean: by Heidi Cullinan
Series: The Roosevelt
Release Date: May 29th, 2017
Pages: • Format: Audio
Published By: Heidi Cullinan
Purchase Links:
Amazon Audible

Normal is just a setting on the dryer.

High school graduate Jeremey Samson is looking forward to burying his head under the covers and sleeping until it’s time to leave for college. Then a tornado named Emmet Washington enters his life. The young man with a double major in math and computer science is handsome, forward, wicked smart, interested in dating Jeremey—and he has autism.

But Jeremey doesn’t judge him for that. He’s too busy judging himself, as are his parents, who don’t believe in things like clinical depression. When Jeremey’s untreated illness reaches a critical breaking point, Emmet is the white knight who rescues him and brings him along as a roommate to The Roosevelt, a quirky new assisted living facility.

As Jeremey and Emmet find their feet at The Roosevelt, they begin to believe they can be loved for the men they are beyond their disabilities. But before they can trust enough to fall head over heels, they must trust their own convictions that friendship is a healing force and love can overcome any obstacle.

 

five-stars

I am in general a fan of this authors but I think this may be her best work. This was extremely well written. This is an unconventional love story about two young men who are a bit different and have a host of challenges to over come in their lives.

The story begins one summer when the two guys meet at a neighborhood block party. Jeremey is struggling with depression and anxiety and he gets no support from his parents. Due to his personal struggles he is oblivious to Emmet’s existence. Emmet on the other hand has been watching Jeremey across their yards for months. Emmet is on the Autism spectrum and he’s been practicing daily for what will happen when they finally meet. When Emmet approaches him, Jeremey is unsure of him at first. With gentle persistence from Emmet the two of them become friends and then they eventually fall in love.

Their story is not an easy one. The two of them have very different ways of perceiving things which makes them struggle to understand each other sometimes. They are also both different from what mainstream society says they should be and they have to deal with a bunch of outside pressure. Their lives are a roller coaster and things are very hard for them in a few places in the story.

I thought the author did a fantastic job writing this story and dealing with both boy’s conditions. It was obvious she did a lot of research and I think she really presented these characters as real people. She did not sugar coat anything or make it one of those “love heals all wounds” type of stories, but she also did not paint them as people who were less than or who were incapable of having a love story of their own. It may not have been traditional but I think that made it even more beautiful.

My favorite part of the story was Emmet and his parents. I loved all three of them. On the flip side I could barely contain my anger for Jeremey’s parents. Every mother instinct I had came out over his character and I swear I raged every time his parents were on page. My emotions were all over the page. One minute I was laughing and the next I was crying. That, too me, is a testament to a really well written story.

I did these on audio and they were narrated by Iggy Toma. I feel like he also did an excellent job. He does two very different voices for both Jeremey and Emmet. I think Emmet’s was probably a bit challenging as he is described as having a flatter affect and not being able to modify his tones like others do due to his inability to read emotions. The narrator really did a good job with this aspect. There were also multiple side characters and I think those were also all done really well.

I’m sure there a lot better written reviews out there that describe this beautiful story but I will end this is saying that I definitely recommend this audiobook. It is not only a great story but it is narrated extremely well and the narration adds another level of emotion to this story.

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About Heidi Cullinan

Heidi grew up in love with story. She fell asleep listening to Disney long-playing records and read her Little House On The Prairie books until they fell apart. She ran through the woods inventing stories of witches and fairies and enchanted trees and spent hours beneath the lilac bush imagining the lives of the settlers who had inhabited the homestead log cabin and two-story late 1800s home on her family farm. She created epic storylines for her Barbies until it wasn’t satisfying enough to do so any longer (age ten), and then she started writing them down. Her first novel, The Life and Times of Michelle Matthews, was published when she was twelve in the school anthology and took up nearly half of it.

Though Heidi continued to write novels through high school (and still has the Rubbermaid tub full in her bedroom), she stopped in college, deciding it was time to grow up and do something meaningful with her life. When the specifics of that didn’t pan out, Heidi ended up in grad school to become a teacher, and through one of the courses rediscovered her love of romance novels. She began to write again on the side, continued to do so while she taught seventh grade language arts and reading, and when she quit teaching to have her daughter, she took up writing with more seriousness, both as a stress relief and as a potential means of bringing in money.

Many million pages later, Heidi has learned a lot about writing, more than she ever wanted to know about publishing, and most importantly, finally figured out that writing IS the meaningful something she wants to do with her life. A passionate advocate for LGBT rights, Heidi volunteered for One Iowa during the fight for marriage equality and donates with her husband as a monthly partner to the Human Rights Campaign and Lambda Legal. She encourages you to support your own local and national LGBT rights groups, too

Heidi enjoys reading, watching movies and TV with her family, and listening all kinds of music. She has a husband, a daughter, and too many cats. Heidi is an active social networker, and of course has good old-fashioned email.

Wait for It by Mariana Zapata

Narrator: Callie Dalton
Source: Tantor Audio

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.

Title: Wait for It by Mariana Zapata
Narrator: Callie Dalton
Release Date: March 8, 20117
Format: Audiobook (15 hrs and 52 mins)
Genre: Romance
Published By: Tantor Audio

If anyone ever said being an adult was easy, they hadn’t been one long enough.

Diana Casillas can admit it: she doesn’t know what the hell she’s doing half the time. How she’s made it through the last two years of her life without killing anyone is nothing short of a miracle. Being a grown-up wasn’t supposed to be so hard.

With a new house, two little boys she inherited the most painful possible way, a giant dog, a job she usually loves, more than enough family, and friends, she has almost everything she could ever ask for.

Except for a boyfriend Or a husband. But who needs either one of those?

four-half-stars

This was another winner from Mariana Zapata. I was a little scared that my second audiobook by her will succumb to the sophomore jinx. No such worries because this book had my favorite trope, the single parent who finds love. This story focused more on the family aspect than the romance and I loved that. Callie Dalton definitely fits Zapata’s characters because her voice added to my enjoyment.

Diana Casillas (yes, related to Sal Casillas from Kulti) is raising her two nephews, Josh and Louie at the ripe ole age of 29 years old. Events led her to meeting her neighbor Dallas Walker. As a parent myself, I appreciated hearing Diana’s inner musings as I have similar thoughts going on in my head. I also loved how much she just loved those boys and did her best with what hand life dealt her. I knew Dallas was a good guy even though we didn’t know his situation with his ex. He was trying to look out for his brother as well as looking after his grandmother.

There was moments of sadness, angst, humor and romance. The author just took her time to outline the plot, form the characters and unfold the story. I loved what each character brought to the narrative. I also loved how the narrator’s voice brought this story to life. The ending was just so AAAHHHHHH! I just exhaled with pleasure. Bravo to the author. I can’t wait to get to the other books Mariana Zapata has written because these are the kinds of books I want to listen to.

Ezi

Misdemeanor by C.F. White

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.

Misdemeanor: by C.F. White
Series: Responsible Adult #1
Release Date: July 4th, 2017
Pages: 226 • Format: eARC
Published By: Pride Publishing
Purchase Links:
Pride PublishingAmazon

Life isn’t always responsible.

After his mother tragically dies and his deadbeat father goes off the rails, nineteen-year-old Micky is left to care for his disabled little brother, Flynn.

Juggling college, a dead-end job and Flynn’s special needs means Micky has to put his bad-boy past behind him and be the responsible adult to keep his brother out of care. He doesn’t have time for anything else in his life.

Until he meets Dan…

 

two-stars

I read this book over a month ago. Initially, I needed my thoughts and feelings to marinate before I attempted a review. Well, I’ve marinated and if anything I wish I could have DNF it instead. I know it seems harsh, but after thinking on some things in the story its like I would rather not know. This was my first attempt by this author. I don’t know if the language or writing is the usual style but it isn’t for me. The writing that is. It might my biggest problem with the story. It was super choppy. I honestly think no one at the editing team has ever heard of PAGE BREAKS. The pov changes in the middle of a character speaking was super annoying. I would constantly go back to see who is saying what.

It was not all bad. It was angsty on the cusp of me wanting to punch Dan for being a punching bag at times. I mean come on! I am not a fan of the angst, but I was able to push through with it. I liked the idea of Micky taking care of his younger brother. Love knowing that he decided to put Flynn first. What I didn’t like was Micky reacted to quick. I mean, here you are responsible for this minor and every little negative thing gets a reaction out of you. I know its called being human, but he lacked the maturity that the author seemed to paint him with in this. After all this its no wonder that the relationship was hopscotched around. It had its good moments with them, but then the melodrama would start and I would get disinterested.

I didn’t get why the author made Dogie a big component of the story for him to be this solemn character. Not to say that everyone’s response to him was okay. Nope! I won’t go on a tangent, but for the healthier community stay away because you might email blast the author!

Just my opinion folks! It ends with a cliffhanger and my interest with it. Like I stated earlier, in my earlier reading and frustration with the quality I would have liked to DNF it, but against better judgment I decided to keep going. I don’t see myself reading any more of the series. If this gives you the curiosity to do so, then go right ahead! Maybe send me a pm on book 2. A summary would be just fine!

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Standalone Sunday (7/2/17): Kulti by Mariana Zapata

Standalone Sunday is a fun feature created by Megan at Bookslayerreads where each Sunday you feature a standalone book (not part of a series) that you loved or would recommend. There’s so much focus on books that are part of a series… she thought it’d be nice to focus on some standalone novels, too!
Feel free to join in on this weekly feature by creating your own Standalone Sunday post! And be sure to check out Megan’s very creative blog and leave a link in her Standalone Sunday comments section so she can add your blog to the list

My Standalone Pick this week is: Kulti by Mariana Zapata

Blurb
“Trust me, I’ve wanted to punch you in the face a time or five.”

When the man you worshipped as a kid becomes your coach, it’s supposed to be the greatest thing in the world. Keywords: supposed to. 

It didn’t take a week for 27-year-old Sal Casillas to wonder what she’d seen in the international soccer icon – why she’d ever had his posters on her wall or ever envisioned marrying him and having super-playing soccer babies.

Sal had long ago gotten over the worst non-break-up in the history of imaginary relationships with a man who hadn’t known she’d existed. So she isn’t prepared for this version of Reiner Kulti who shows up to her team’s season: a quiet, reclusive shadow of the explosive, passionate man he’d once been.

ADD TO GOODREADS



Goodreads Monday (5/29/17): When It’s Real by Erin Watt 

Goodreads Monday is a weekly meme hosted by Lauren’s Page Turners . To participate, you simply choose a random book from your TBR and show it off. Don’t forget to check out her blog and link back to Lauren’s Page Turners and add your own links! 

My choice today is When It’s Real  by Erin Watt.


BLURB
:


From #1 New York Times bestselling author duo Erin Watt comes the addictive contemporary tale of a teen rock star in need of an image makeover and the teen girl hired to be his fake girlfriend.

Meet Oakley Ford-teen celebrity, renowned pop star, child of famous movie stars, hottie with millions of fangirls… and restless troublemaker. On the surface he has it all, but with his home life disintegrating, his music well suddenly running dry, and the tabloids having a field day over his outrageous exploits, Oakley’s team decides it’s time for an intervention. The result: an image overhaul, complete with a fake girlfriend meant to show the world he’s settled down.

Enter seventeen-year-old Vaughn Bennett-devoted sister, part-time waitress, the definition of “normal.” Under ordinary circumstances she’d never have taken this gig, but with her family strapped for cash, she doesn’t have much of a choice. And for the money Oakley’s team is paying her, she figures she can put up with outlandish Hollywood parties and a team of publicists watching her every move. So what if she thinks Oakley’s a shallow, self-centered jerk? It’s not like they’re going to fall for each other in real life…right?

ADD TO GOODREADS 

Isn’t that cover beautiful? Erin Watt is the brainchild of two bestselling authors: Jen Frederick and Elle Kennedy. I devoured their Royal series (See Review) on audio in a week. I hope to finish this book tonight and have a review for tomorrow. I’ve only read one book by Jen Frederick but I just bought my second audiobook to try. On the other hand, I’ve read 2 different series by Elle Kennedy which I will loved:  Killer Instincts  and Off Campus. I normally don’t enjoy rocker romances but I like this one so far.  Have you read anything by the two author? What did you think?

What are you reading today from your Goodreads TBR shelf? 

Shelter the Sea by Heidi Cullinan

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.

Shelter The Sea: by Heidi Cullinan
Series: The Roosevlet #2
Release Date: April 18th, 2017
Pages: 190 • Format: eARC
Published By: Heidi Cullinan
Purchase Links:
Amazon USAmazon UKBarnes & NobleSmashwords

Some heroes wear capes. Some prefer sensory sacks.

Emmet Washington has never let the world define him, even though he, his boyfriend, Jeremey, and his friends aren’t considered “real” adults because of their disabilities. When the State of Iowa restructures its mental health system and puts the independent living facility where they live in jeopardy, Emmet refuses to be forced into substandard, privatized corporate care. With the help of Jeremey and their friends, he starts a local grassroots organization and fights every step of the way.

In addition to navigating his boyfriend’s increased depression and anxiety, Emmet has to make his autistic tics acceptable to politicians and donors, and he wonders if they’re raising awareness or putting their disabilities on display. When their campaign attracts the attention of the opposition’s powerful corporate lobbyist, Emmet relies on his skill with calculations and predictions and trusts he can save the day—for himself, his friends, and everyone with disabilities.

four-stars

Shelter the Sea is such a good follow up to Carry the Ocean. Loved seeing Emmett and Jeremey’s love continue to grow.

This book was much lighter than book one.  Not saying that the guys didn’t have difficulties, but I am so ecstatic that Heidi didn’t torture our guys apart to give us a story. This was a lot more realistic then book one if you want to say that. This book dealt with the difficulties of living with a mental illness. This was such an eye opener for people who don’t seem to matter or get pushed to the wayside. This story was a lot bigger then Emmett & Jeremey to me. Of course every couple goes through little snits together and its healthy. This was them plus the people in their everyday life and everyone else they inspire around the world. It was very emotional at times.

Half of the book focuses on their relationship. Some of it is happy, sad, funny and its them. We see Jeremey struggle with his depression a lot more. We also see him open up and he’s a lot more vocal in his wants and needs. Emmett, oh such a sweetheart. I love Emmett’s resilience. He does not give up. This man is the ultimate fighter and champion of his beliefs and causes. Their relationship grows, and we see them grow individually on page to grown men  and better partners for one another.

This was political heavy. Not to preachy, but very detailed and informed on what goes down. I think Heidi did wonderful with his research for this subject. It’s an emotional journey to say the least. It shows how messed up the government is when it comes to Mental Health and its patients, families and allies. It shows the ugly truth about money being the root of everything in this country. It also shows people of different everything coming together for a cause. It shows them banning together to fight to get the same rights as everyone else.

Shelter the Sea is a good closure to their story. It wasn’t very romancy, but it had its moments where it mattered. I think fans of the book one will be very happy with the outcome to this story. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for the future of the series as well. Hats off to you, Heidi.

 

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About Heidi Cullinan

Heidi grew up in love with story. She fell asleep listening to Disney long-playing records and read her Little House On The Prairie books until they fell apart. She ran through the woods inventing stories of witches and fairies and enchanted trees and spent hours beneath the lilac bush imagining the lives of the settlers who had inhabited the homestead log cabin and two-story late 1800s home on her family farm. She created epic storylines for her Barbies until it wasn’t satisfying enough to do so any longer (age ten), and then she started writing them down. Her first novel, The Life and Times of Michelle Matthews, was published when she was twelve in the school anthology and took up nearly half of it.

Though Heidi continued to write novels through high school (and still has the Rubbermaid tub full in her bedroom), she stopped in college, deciding it was time to grow up and do something meaningful with her life. When the specifics of that didn’t pan out, Heidi ended up in grad school to become a teacher, and through one of the courses rediscovered her love of romance novels. She began to write again on the side, continued to do so while she taught seventh grade language arts and reading, and when she quit teaching to have her daughter, she took up writing with more seriousness, both as a stress relief and as a potential means of bringing in money.

Many million pages later, Heidi has learned a lot about writing, more than she ever wanted to know about publishing, and most importantly, finally figured out that writing IS the meaningful something she wants to do with her life. A passionate advocate for LGBT rights, Heidi volunteered for One Iowa during the fight for marriage equality and donates with her husband as a monthly partner to the Human Rights Campaign and Lambda Legal. She encourages you to support your own local and national LGBT rights groups, too

Heidi enjoys reading, watching movies and TV with her family, and listening all kinds of music. She has a husband, a daughter, and too many cats. Heidi is an active social networker, and of course has good old-fashioned email.

Blog Tour & Giveaway: Shelter The Sea by Heidi Cullinan

Oh My Shelves welcomes author Heidi Cullinan to the blog today. She brings her highly anticipated release Shelter The Sea out today. Along with her is a sneak preview of chapter one of Shelter the Sea  and a great giveaway. Please give Heidi a really big OMS welcome!!!!

 

Chapter One

Emmet

My boyfriend, Jeremey, thinks the moon looks like a watermelon.

He said this the night we visited my aunt for Christmas. My aunt who lives in Minneapolis, not the one who lives in Ames, though Althea was there that night too. Aunt Stacy has a telescope, and she let me use it to show Jeremey the moon up close. I was listing the names of the seas and craters when he told me what the moon reminded him of.

“It looks like a watermelon.”

I tried to work out how the moon could be similar to a watermelon, but I couldn’t do it. “Jeremey, it isn’t even green.”

“But it has the lines across it, the same as a watermelon, and they all come from a single point, the stub where the stem would have been, leading back to the rest of the plant. See? That spot there. The bright one at the bottom.”

He let me use the telescope again. I still didn’t see a watermelon. “That’s Tycho. It’s a crater.”

“Like the toy company?”

“No. The toy company is spelled T-y-c-o. This is T-y-c-h-o, for the Dutch astronomer. It was seventy percent likely formed by the asteroid 298 Baptistina, which they used to think was the same one that made the dinosaurs go extinct, but then they found out it wasn’t.”

“It will always be a watermelon to me now. But I’ll remember the stem’s name is Tycho.” Jeremey leaned on my shoulder, gazing at the moon without the telescope. “I didn’t realize there were so many seas on the moon. I didn’t think it had any water.”

“It doesn’t on the surface. Solar radiation burned all the water off, but they thought it might be in lunar rocks. Surface ice has been discovered recently, however.”

“Why do scientists always look for water on the moon and other planets?”

“Because it’s the essential element for any human habitation. Unfortunately, so far lunar habitation isn’t looking good.”

“But they have all those seas on the moon. Does that mean it used to have water?”

“No. Those are lunar maria, basaltic plains. The early astronomers thought they were ancient seas, but they were in fact formed by ancient volcanic eruptions.”

Jeremey settled his head more heavily on my shoulder, listening, and so I kept talking. I told him about the lunar dust, how it covers the surface and comes from comets hitting the surface, five tons of dust rising and falling every day. How the dust takes ten minutes to land.

Jeremey shook his head. “What do you mean, ten minutes to land? That’s how long until the dust hits?”

“No. It hits, then rises, but because there’s so little gravity, it takes five minutes for it to rise and then five minutes to fall back down. Which means the moon has on average one hundred and twenty kilograms of lunar dust rising one hundred kilometers above the surface at all times.”

“Wow. You know a lot about the moon.”

I knew a lot more than what I’d said so far, and when I told him this, he asked to hear the rest. We sat there for another hour, me telling him everything I knew, until my voice was scratchy and I needed water. He went inside and got some for me, and then he talked while I drank it.

“It’s so weird to think the moon has all those seas but no water. The names are so pretty. I almost prefer the Latin ones because they’re so mystical. Mare Nubium. Though Sea of Clouds is nice too.” He hugged his arms around his body. “Are there places on Earth called seas or oceans without any water?”

“They call the deserts sand seas, sometimes.”

“That sounds sad, though.”

He swayed back and forth, and I rocked and hummed with him because I was so content.

Then he spoke once more, his voice quiet. “I heard your mom talking inside. About The Roosevelt. Bob is worried about money.”

I stopped rocking, but my insides felt jumbly the way they always did when this subject came up. The Roosevelt was the place where Jeremey and I lived, and Bob was the man who owned it, the father of David, one of our best friends. “David would tell us if something serious was wrong. Bob’s having a fundraiser on New Year’s Eve.”

“Your mom is worried it won’t be enough. Not with the budget cuts the state is proposing and the way they’re restructuring the mental health system as a whole.” Jeremey hugged himself tighter. “I don’t want to lose The Roosevelt.”

I didn’t want to lose The Roosevelt either. I didn’t think it was a good idea to worry, though. “Why don’t we wait to talk to David. There’s not much we can do about anything up here on the roof. We should enjoy the moon and think about how slowly the dust is rising and falling.”

We did exactly that, and I noticed Jeremey relaxed. The next time he had something to say, it was about the moon, not about fears of losing our home. “Sometimes we say people have seas of emotion. What would sea of emotion be in Latin?”

“Mare Adfectus. And sand sea would be Mare Harenam.”

“I like sand sea in Latin better. But mostly I enjoy hearing you tell me all about things like the seas of the moon. Even if they are salt.”

“Basalt isn’t salt. It’s silica.”

“Can you tell me all about basalt and silica?”

I could, and I did.

Most people don’t want to hear me talk about the things I know, but most people aren’t Jeremey. He doesn’t mind that I’m autistic. He says it’s one of his favorite things about me. He says sometimes my autism is the best medicine for his depression and anxiety, which was why we’d gone up to the telescope in the first place. Jeremey was anxious in my aunt’s house, and he’d been depressed for a few days as well, he’d told me. He’d been depressed more often than not for several months now, in fact, and it didn’t matter how they adjusted his meds or how often he went to see his therapist, Dr. North. Depression, and sometimes anxiety too, kept getting the better of him. I wondered if it was because he was worried about the rumors we kept hearing about The Roosevelt being in trouble, though it was hard to say with depression. It could be for no reason except because depression eats happiness.

But Jeremey said when we sat together in the moonlight and I told him all the facts about the moon and basalt, he felt better.

Jeremey and I have been boyfriends for over two years now. We’ve lived together for most of that time in The Roosevelt. Neither of us is okay to function in the world alone, but together and with the help of our friends and family, and the staff at The Roosevelt, we’re independent and happy.

Except that night with Jeremey wrapped in a blanket and arranged carefully in my arms, I decided I didn’t want to be quite so independent anymore. I wanted to keep Jeremey with me, to take care of him and to let him take care of me. I wanted to be dependent on him. I wanted him to be there to tell me the moon looks like a watermelon and then ask me to talk for another hour about basalt. I wanted to do everything with Jeremey, forever. This is a special kind of thing between boyfriends, when you feel this way. This meant I wanted to marry Jeremey.

With people on the mean, coming to such a realization would be simple. I would have bought a ring, asked him, and we’d have gotten married. But I’m not a person on the mean, and neither is Jeremey. And when I made the decision to marry Jeremey, it was only December. There were so many changes about to happen, earthquakes coming because the world wasn’t content to let people such as Jeremey and me simply enjoy the next step in our happy ever after. Not without a lot of complications.

This story is about how we undid those complications and got ourselves the rest of our happy ever after anyway.

#

Asking Jeremey to marry me was a big question, and it deserved some serious consideration and preparation. I knew getting married was complicated no matter what, but I didn’t know what kind of accommodation my autism and his depression and anxiety would require from a practical standpoint. I was nervous, but not because I thought asking him was a mistake. Marrying Jeremey was a logical move, and I felt confident about our relationship. I didn’t worry about Jeremey’s answer, either. The probability of him saying no was low.

But I knew our families would be concerned, especially Jeremey’s. They didn’t like that I was autistic. They hated the autism part more than the gay part, Jeremey said. They would be upset if we got engaged, and this would upset Jeremey, which would only make his depression worse.

Jeremey’s depression was often challenging for me. I had a difficult time understanding how to live with it as his partner. His anxiety was okay. He had the AWARE anxiety management strategy to manage himself, and I knew all the steps and could help him remember to do them. But depression was tricky. Anxiety I could see on the outside, but depression happened on the inside. It scared me. He’d already attempted suicide once, and I never wanted it to happen again. I knew I couldn’t necessarily stop this from occurring, but I also knew the variables which influenced the odds.

My mother would call this splitting hairs. I will never understand either this metaphor or how anyone could split a hair with any knife or ax or sharp instrument of any kind.

There were other considerations to proposing to Jeremey, though. I didn’t get disability anymore because of my employer, but Jeremey did. He had a job as our friend David’s uncertified aide, but it was part-time. He attended community college for a short while to be a Certified Medical Aide, but it was too stressful for him. He took some classes online, but it was hard for him. Eventually he decided to stay on disability and maybe try classes another time. He made a small salary as David’s aide, but it was basically a discount on his fees for being at The Roosevelt.

Right now his insurance comes from Medicaid, which is complicated and messy since the State of Iowa decided to make it privatized. My mother, a medical doctor, has a great deal to say about this, and most of it is swearing. All I know is when Jeremey had to switch to the private plan, he had to pick one of three insurance companies, and now he has to drive to Des Moines for half his appointments since most of the providers he used stopped taking his insurance due to the Medicaid privatization. Some of the doctors he saw only took one kind but not another, so he had to choose which ones he wanted to see. He has regular panic attacks over dealing with his health care management now, and this is with me, my parents, and The Roosevelt staff helping him. My mother says people who don’t have support staff are up “shit crick.” Crick is a colloquial way of saying creek, which is a synonym for small stream. She assures me they do not actually need to walk up a river of poop, but they might as well because it would probably be less awful than navigating our new health system.

I’ve never been on Medicaid. Even if I had been, it wouldn’t have mattered as we also had my family’s insurance, which meant we could make other choices. Technically Jeremey could use his family’s insurance until he is twenty-six, but then he would have to negotiate with his parents, who are challenging, so he’s elected to deal with the messy state system alone. I don’t use my family insurance anymore either, since I work full-time now at Workiva. I worked for them part-time while I was still in college because they think I’m a genius. This is because I am a genius.

Workiva gives me a generous salary and benefits package, including insurance. I thought if I married Jeremey, he could be on my insurance, but I didn’t know if Jeremey’s disability payments would change if he was my husband. Jeremey’s job with David and his SSI payments cover his part of our bill for our apartment and fees at The Roosevelt with a tiny bit of spending money for Jeremey left over. The truth is if he didn’t live with me, he couldn’t afford to live at The Roosevelt. I don’t know, to be honest, how he would live at all.

I hoped marrying me would make things easier, but it was worth checking to make sure they didn’t get more complicated instead. The trouble was, I didn’t know who to talk with about my plan. I thought about talking to David, who was my friend as much as Jeremey’s, but he wasn’t my first choice. David was disabled, but he wasn’t on the spectrum. I felt these were spectrum issues, and so I decided I should go to a friend who was also on the spectrum, Darren.

I made the decision to contact Darren on my way home from work one day, so when I arrived at The Roosevelt, I was eager to go upstairs and begin the conversation. First, however, I had to stop in the lounge and say hello to Jeremey and my friends. I didn’t want to because I was so focused on the potential conversation with Darren, but it would have been rude to skip them. Since the whole point was to figure out how to marry Jeremey, it was logical to take the time to care for his feelings first.

I was already being a good husband before I’d even proposed.

When the Workiva car dropped me off at The Roosevelt, I hummed, feeling happy. I liked that we had snow. Everything felt quieter when we had snow. There had been a blizzard the day before, and we’d made snow residents on the lawn. They smiled at me as I passed, and I smiled back.

As I entered the lounge, I counted seven people in the room, eight now because I was also present. David and Jeremey were there, as well as Sally and Tammy, the support staff for the building. Paul had his back to them as he played Xbox, but he had no headphones and the TV sound was off, so I knew he was listening to the conversation. Cameron was with Sally at the table, running his Spirograph while he spoke. This meant he was concentrating.

Stuart sat beside him, watching the circles and patterns and occasionally making yelp noises to let Cameron know he enjoyed the drawings and was excited to be included in the conversation. Most people wouldn’t consider drawing a conversation, but it was to Cameron and Stuart.

Stuart is a strange guy. He’s on the spectrum too—a lot of us in the building are—but there’s something about him that makes me want to flap my hands. Technically the term for flapping is stimming, but I’ve always thought of it as flapping, so that’s what I call it. Stuart makes me feel flappy. He uses his camera eyes to watch me, the same as I watch him. Like a lot of autistic people, he doesn’t have to look directly at something to see it. Yet I always feel as if he’s watching me whenever I’m in the lounge. Tammy says this is because I did a viral video with David and Jeremey last year. We dressed up like the Blues Brothers and danced through Target to Stuart’s favorite song by his favorite artist, “Happy” by Pharrell Williams, and became YouTube stars for a few days. To this I say, why doesn’t he watch Jeremey or David?

Tammy says it’s because they don’t dance like Elwood Blues or have autism the same as he does. Except our autism isn’t the same, but Tammy doesn’t understand. She means well, but autism isn’t one size fits all. Stuart and I are living proof.

Beside Stuart was David in his wheelchair, and beside David was Jeremey. I signed my special hello to Jeremey, and then I flapped at the room so they knew I was happy to see them too.

Sally waved me over. “We’re making plans for a party, Emmet. A New Year’s Eve party. Come join us.”

I ignored her for a minute because every time I see Jeremey after work I give him a touch. Jeremey loves touches and hugs about as much as they make me feel as if someone put my skin on inside out. Sometimes I hug him after work and sometimes I don’t, but he always gets some physical contact from me.

I put a hand on his shoulder, and his body went soft as he leaned his cheek on my hand.

Though physical contact isn’t my favorite thing as a general rule, when I touch Jeremey it’s a different story. Today as it usually happened, when I rested my hand on his shoulder, I wanted to sign for him to go upstairs with me and have sex. But it would be rude to leave the party-planning meeting when I’d just arrived, plus I had the chat with Darren to do. So I found a straight-backed chair I could put near David and Jeremey.

David had waited to greet me because he knew Jeremey came first, but when I sat, he held out his fist for me to bump. Our fist bumps are awkward since I clunk too hard and he can’t close his fist all the way or aim well to meet mine, but it’s okay.

Tammy had a list in front of her with two columns, one labeled activities and another snack food. Karaoke and dancing were under the activities column. They were not my favorites. But Mexican train dominoes was on the list too, and I enjoyed this game a lot. I don’t know what is Mexican about it, and I’ve asked, but Sally says it’s only a name. I haven’t been able to find any research that explains why it’s called that either, but I enjoy the game a great deal.

I studied the snacks side of the list and flapped excitedly when I saw what she’d written. Parmesan popcorn was a treat Tammy made when she was extra happy or wanted to reward a resident. It was on the list twice, once with plain written beside it and the other saying there would be M&M’s in the popcorn. This is because some residents enjoy the sweet and salty mixed together in the same bowl and some of us would need to go to the corner and hum if food were jumbled like that.

I didn’t say much while the others planned. Too many people were talking at once, and work and thinking about how to propose to Jeremey had drained my energy, so when I had an idea, I sent texts to Jeremey, who read them to the group. But then I had a thought so big I wanted to say it myself. I tapped the table, and when Sally called on me, I said, “Can we invite Darren?”

“That sounds like a great idea. I’ll talk to his staff and see about arranging for him to come over.”

I was annoyed because I wanted to invite Darren myself, not have staff do it. I thought if I hurried to the apartment, I could maybe invite him first, but before I could excuse myself, Jeremey tapped my leg twice to get my attention. When I turned to him, he didn’t speak, he signed.

A teacher of mine a long time ago taught me and my family to use American Sign Language to communicate during a period when speaking out loud felt too intense for me. I speak out loud often now, but I still use ASL sometimes because it’s handy. My family, friends, and boyfriend use it too, especially when we wanted to have conversations without other people getting involved. When I saw what Jeremey had to say to me, I understood why he was signing instead of speaking.

I caught Sally and Tammy whispering about budgets in the staffroom when they didn’t think I was close enough to hear.

Jeremey was worried about The Roosevelt closing again. Though if Sally and Tammy were whispering about it, maybe he was right to worry. I signed back to him. We need to talk to David instead of eavesdropping.

Jeremey nodded. I thought I would go see him now before we went upstairs to make dinner. But it might mean we start making dinner and do our laundry late.

This worked out perfectly. I need to talk to Darren about something anyway. We can adjust our schedule by a half an hour or even forty-five minutes without a problem.

Jeremey smiled at me, and my chest felt warm and tight. I love you, Emmet.

I love you too, Jeremey.

I kissed the inside of my palm, then pressed that palm to Jeremey’s. His eyes were bright as he took the kiss tight in his fist and his open palm to his lips.

I couldn’t stop smiling. I loved him so much.

“I’ll see you at dinner,” I said, then stood to go get some advice on what would be the best way to marry him.

 

Book Info

 

Shelter The Sea: by Heidi Cullinan
Series: The Roosevlet #2
Release Date: April 18th, 2017
Pages: 190 • Format: eARC
Published By: Heidi Cullinan
Purchase Links:
Amazon USAmazon UKBarnes & NobleSmashwords

Some heroes wear capes. Some prefer sensory sacks.

Emmet Washington has never let the world define him, even though he, his boyfriend, Jeremey, and his friends aren’t considered “real” adults because of their disabilities. When the State of Iowa restructures its mental health system and puts the independent living facility where they live in jeopardy, Emmet refuses to be forced into substandard, privatized corporate care. With the help of Jeremey and their friends, he starts a local grassroots organization and fights every step of the way.

In addition to navigating his boyfriend’s increased depression and anxiety, Emmet has to make his autistic tics acceptable to politicians and donors, and he wonders if they’re raising awareness or putting their disabilities on display. When their campaign attracts the attention of the opposition’s powerful corporate lobbyist, Emmet relies on his skill with calculations and predictions and trusts he can save the day—for himself, his friends, and everyone with disabilities.

He only hopes there isn’t a variable in his formula he’s failed to foresee.

Giveaway

Carry the OceanShelter the Sea signed paperbacks and Roosevelt Blues Brother kit (black fedora and skinny tie)

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Author Bio

Heidi Cullinan has always enjoyed a good love story, provided it has a happy ending. Proud to be from the first Midwestern state with full marriage equality, Heidi is a vocal advocate for LGBT rights. She writes positive-outcome romances for LGBT characters struggling against insurmountable odds because she believes there’s no such thing as too much happy ever after. When Heidi isn’t writing, she enjoys cooking, reading, playing with her cats, and watching television with her family. Find out more about Heidi at heidicullinan.com.

Goodbye Paradise (Hello Goodbye #1) by Sarina Bowen

Series:
(Website, Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads)

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.

Title: Goodbye Paradise by Sarina Bowen (originally In Front of God & Everyone (Pay It Forward #1))
Series: Hello Goodbye #1 (Pay It Forward #1)
Release Date: March 21st, 2017 (first published February 18th, 2015)
Format: e-ARC                Pages: 331
Genre: Gay Romance, Contemporary Romance, New Adult, Cult romance
Published By:
Purchase Links: Amazon US Barnes & Noble Kobo Google

Most people called it a cult. But for twenty years, Josh & Caleb called it home.

In Paradise, there is no television. No fast food. Just long hours of farm work and prayer on a dusty Wyoming ranch, and nights in a crowded bunkhouse. The boys of the Compound are kept far from the sinners’ world.

But Joshua doesn’t need temptation to sin. His whole life, he’s wanted his best friend, Caleb. By day they work side by side. Only when Josh closes his eyes at night can they be together the way he craves.

It can never be. And his survival depends on keeping his terrible desires secret.

Caleb has always protected Josh against the worst of the bullying at the Compound. But he has secrets of his own, and a plan to get away — until it all backfires.

Josh finds himself homeless in a world that doesn’t want him. Can Caleb find him in time? And will they find a place of safety, where he can admit to Josh how he really feels?

Warning: Contains a hot male/male romance, copious instances of taking the Lord’s name in vain, and love against the kitchen counterThis book was previously released under the title: In Front of God & Everyone. For more about its previous publication, you can read this blog post.

four-stars

This is one of those books that makes you believe in the young people’s resilient spirit and the kindness of strangers. It was sweet, hopeful and just encouraging that people can recover after horrifying childhoods peppered with traumatic experiences.

This story was told from both Caleb and Joshua’s POV as young people trapped in a cult where the elders usually kept 4-6 wives, some as young as fourteen. Consequently, boys over the age of 14 were considered a threat to their family structure and were sent to live the bachelor quarters. The young guys considered “weak” usually disappear from the compound after they are reach age of majority. Joshua and Caleb grew up together as best friends and live together in the bachelor quarters but it was generally understood that Joshua was a weak link. So, when Joshua was thrown out close to a bus station with $50, Caleb ran away to join Joshua.

From the beginning, it was clear that the bond between Joshua and Caleb was stronger than just mere friendship. It was ardent, devoted and passionate. It was as though their hearts were always bound together from day one but it had to be hidden. Once outside the confines of the religious cult, Joshua and Caleb had to learn how to deal with the feelings that they had been taught were sinful and perverse. Joshua struggled a lot harder than Caleb. I struggled with Caleb’s seamless transition from accepting his feelings to use of cuss words. I was expecting the guys to have some difficulty adjusting to the “outside” life as well as some language barriers since cult language seems to be more biblical and less informal/conversational in secular society. In addition, this story lacked the angst that I expected from boys tormented by the cult leaders. It’s almost like their past was forgotten. There was no mention to save those left behind or even rescue other boys who were sure to be discarded like Joshua.

Regardless of those issues, I found the love that blossomed between Caleb and Joshua to be so sweet and endearing. In Maggie and Daniel’s home, Caleb and Joshua found freedom, acceptance and finally, their talents. There were wonderful secondary characters that made this story richer. From Washington, Daniel, Maggie & Chloe, the supporting cast helped make this story heartwarming. Caleb and Joshua would have had a much harder and rougher time but for the continual support of the secondary characters. Most of all, I love that they all helped Joshua find his voice and gave him the strength to use it. Joshua was the one I rooted for the most because I am always drawn to the underdogs of the world. His development made this book for me.

If you want a super dramatic, angst-filled story, this isn’t it. This romance was a steady and emotionally even love story, not just between two guys, but a makeshift family.
Ezi

About Sarina Bowen

Sarina Bowen is a USA Today bestselling author of contemporary romance. She lives in Vermont’s Green Mountains with her family, six chickens and too much ski gear and hockey equipment.

The Beginning of Us by Christina Emery

(Website, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads)

 

the beginning of us available now

 

MwB_2_TBoU_Amz_FinalThe people we love are often those who could cost us everything.

For Detective Chase Guilliot, coveting a gangster’s girlfriend might just cost him his life. After months of staring at surveillance photos, Chase feels like he knows Shelby Brignac, the breathtaking beauty who’s found herself in his target’s bed. From everything he’s seen, Shelby doesn’t look like a stupid woman, but when she walks into his precinct to sell out a career criminal, Chase has to wonder. She’s either going to be the key to his case or the end of his career. Not that it matters since he’s tasked with keeping her alive.

Whether she wants him to or not.

The Beginning of Us (originally titled The Switch) is the second book in the Men with Badges series about sweet and sexy alphas who know what they want and go after it.

ADD TO GOODREADS

CHASE

Shelby gives me the out I need to end this. I’m not delusional or stupid. It’s not like I think I’m in love with the girl or that I want to marry her. I’m infatuated, sure, but that was bound to happen after spending so much time watching her every move. She’s hot and she keeps throwing out the signals, and normally I’d be all over it. She’s got this smoking bod—I’m talking from her head down to the chipped nail polish on her toes, but she’s also a hot mess who might be facing serious time in a federal prison. Shelby Brignac is exactly the kind girl I’d meet in a bar, hook up with, and maybe even take out on a date. But we didn’t meet in a bar. No, we met when I was undercover and she was committing a fucking felony. And at one point, before I became a cop, that might have sounded exciting.
Now, though, I have bills to pay, and at some point I’d like to even be able to buy a house. Maybe even get a dog or two. Getting kicked off the force and blowing my chances at Quantico because I couldn’t keep it in my pants is going to land me working mall security. And no matter how hot she is, how naked, and how bad I want to yank that blanket off her smooth skin, it’s not bad enough to fuck up the future I just barely got a taste of.
“Why do you want this?” My voice sounds foreign to my own ears—rough and gravelly, with a slight pitch. I practically sound desperate. Maybe I am. Maybe I do want her enough to risk my future for her.
I trust this woman more than I should. I have to remind myself that I don’t know her the way I feel like I do. Watching her the past few months has been some of the best and worst times of my life. She’s beautiful and smart and loving. She gives people the benefit of the doubt and cares more about what people think than she should. How she convinced herself a guy like Victor Abraham was good enough for her, I’ll never know. Still, I don’t really know her. And she was dating a man who’s wanted by literally every federal agency in the US and is slick enough to have a clean record. I’ve been on the force long enough to know that people can be loving and thoughtful and still be ruthless criminals. No matter the face this woman is showing me now, I have to keep my guard up and not let myself confuse the fantasy I’ve built up in my head with the reality of who she might very well be.
I use my free hand to find a place to put my ass on the edge of the couch and I sit down. I keep my face close to Shelby’s, my hand ensuring she doesn’t create a distance between us, and I stroke my thumb just below the line of her jaw. She sucks in a breath, which excites me. I’ve been wanting to do this for months. Ever since she first turned up in the investigation. The thought that my simple touch sends shivers down her spine and sends her heart racing has me at half-mast. Seeing her reaction to my touch weakens my resolve, and for a split second, I let myself get sucked in.
“You’re good,” she whispers after a long pause. She speaks so quietly I can barely hear the words. “I’m not used to good, but I like it. I want more of it.”
I’ve given this woman more of myself than I had intended, and she’s given me practically nothing. Sure, I know things about her, but I don’t want to know them because I was watching her. I want to know them because she wants to share them with me. I need her to trust me enough to share things with me, especially because I suspect she’s in deeper with Abraham’s organization than she’s let on. The feds are looking to make an example out of her, despite the fact that her father’s the one who tipped them off to what she was doing. The only way I can save her and keep her out of jail is if she tells me how deep she’s really in this. Unfortunately, judging by the stubborn set of her jaw, I don’t think she’s just going to offer up what I want to know. All I want to do is save this stupid, beautiful girl and I already know that she’s not going to let me.

jcemeryBrave heroes. Bold heroines. Extraordinary loves.

Christina Emery is the real-life alter-ego of dark contemporary romance author, JC Emery. While JC geeks out researching blood splatter patterns and assault rifles, Christina is a die-heard romantic who gets choked up while watching commercials, but sshhh– that’s a secret. Still searching for her very own hero, Christina spends her time creating men she wishes were real and heroines she envies. A Northern California native, Christina has an impressive collection of flip flops, but shelves them in the winter so she can build as many snowmen as possible from her home in Southwestern Illinois. Christina is the author of the Men with Badges series– standalone contemporary romances about sexy lawmen who know what they want and go after it.

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About J.C. Emery/Christina Emery

Brave heroes. Bold heroines. Extraordinary loves.

Christina Emery is the real-life alter-ego of dark contemporary romance author, JC Emery. While JC geeks out researching blood splatter patterns and assault rifles, Christina is a die-heard romantic who gets choked up while watching commercials, but sshhh– that’s a secret. Still searching for her very own hero, Christina spends her time creating men she wishes were real and heroines she envies. A Northern California native, Christina has an impressive collection of flip flops, but shelves them in the winter so she can build as many snowmen as possible from her home in Southwestern Illinois. Christina is the author of the Men with Badges series– standalone contemporary romances about sexy lawmen who know what they want and go after it.

True Colors by Anyta Sunday

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.

True Colors: by Anyta Sunday
Series: True Love #2
Release Date: March 14th, 2017
Pages: 226 • Format: eARC
Published By: Self-Published
Purchase Links:
Amazon

Oskar used to be Marco’s best friend. His everything. His sunshine yellow.

But that was before. Before Marco stopped being a hot jock. Before he learned to live with scars and pain. And before Oskar tore their friendship apart.

Now the boy next door has returned home, determined to rekindle his friendship with Marco, and Marco’s more afraid than ever. Afraid of getting hurt. Afraid of being humiliated.

Afraid of falling in love.

Can Oskar find a way through Marco’s fear, back into his heart?
~~~~***~~~~
“True Colors” is an enemies to lovers, boy next door, first time, slow burn M/M romance with a generous helping of UST. This no-cliffhanger, HEA book can be read as a standalone.

three-half-stars

I am not a fan of the angst. She is not a fan of the angst. We are not a fan of the angst. I.HATE.THE.ANGST.

I got that out of my system. I don’t go looking for angst, because I always get so ragey made by midway through the book, but end up enjoying it. I don’t want to feel that way towards my books. I really liked Leo Loves Aries, and wanted to read more of this authors’ work. It’s a big difference of slow burn romance, and angst central. I can deal with slow burn romance, because the buildup of their love & devotion is so beautiful to watch. Angst is some hard core b.s. While I felt like the story was angsty enough, I also felt like March was over melodramatic. Put your pitchforks away and let me explain.

Marco went through a traumatic experience. I applaud him for having the strength to succeed in day to day things. During this traumatic time he was betrayed by someone he trusts. I get all of this. 16 is a hard age to adjust to and deal with. I think whatever happens during the time is life changing, but for Marco the one thing he didn’t expect with his fallout with his best friend Oskar. Someone he counts on, depends on, and loves deeply. Oskar has been his life force during this troubling time. But the betrayal came from Oskar. Marco hasn’t allowed himself to heal internally, and his hatred it seems for Oskar is damaging everything around him. His and Oskar’s family is friends/neighbors/family together. They’ve been in each others lives forever, and by the boys not being friends anymore its hard to adjust to. Fast forward to the present. Both guys are 20. Adults in every sense of the word. Oskar is moving back home after being away for 2 years. Marco is moving out of his home, and finding the independence that he needs. He doesn’t take into account Oskar moving back throws a wrench into his mental plan. Here’s my thing when they communicate or start to build up to where they were or could have been, I feel like Marco was stagnant in this sense. I get him being upset and mad. I get Oskar doing what he did. What I don’t get is an educated, smart person who plans to be a high school teacher, and was once a teacher holding a grudge for this long. At times I felt like every time Oskar was on page, and Marco didn’t like it was very melodramatic. Oskar practically begging for his forgiveness, and Marco defiantly holding his past against him. This is all my take on the situation. Its very easy for me to say these things, and not have it been about me.

I will say out of my melodrama comment, I did enjoy the story. I loved the author’s take on the chapter titles and meanings. It was super fun to see what each meant. This was an angsty friends to lovers romance, and outside of my quips on a certain situation I did enjoy it. I really am glad that I gave this a chance. I did fans of Sunday will love Marco & Oskar’s love for one another. It’s the best kind of romance when its a near friend of yours. I really loved Oskar as a character. He seemed so mature for his age, and even Marco who I felt could be lenient sometimes, but I understand it was a defense mechanism. It can be read as a standalone and a definite recommend.

 

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About Anyta Sunday

Anyta Sunday – New Zealand writer in Berlin, Germany.

A born and raised New Zealander from Wellington, I’ve been exploring the literary world since I started reading Roald Dahl as a kid. Stories have been piling up in my head ever since. Fast forward to my mid-twenties and jump a few countries (Germany, America, and back again), I started to put them to paper.

My genre of choice is romance, both adult and YA, gay and straight. You can take a closer look at my books, available as e-books for download in many formats!

When I’m not pushing my characters deeper into adventure, I chase my sons around the house and fight my two comical cats for the desk chair.