Review: First Impressions

See my review in the middle of this post.

About this book:  M/M Romance

Michael:
Two years ago I made a mistake, a big one, and then I threw in another couple just for good measure. I screwed up my life big time but I made it through. I was lucky.
Then I was given the opportunity for a fresh start. Two years in Auckland, NZ, ‘The City of Sails’. Away from the LA gossip, a chance to breathe, to get my life back together.
I grabbed it and packed my new set of golden rules with me.
I don’t do relationships.
I don’t do commitment.
I don’t do white picket fences.
And I especially don’t do arrogant, holier-than-thou, smoking hot K9 officers who walk into my ER and rock my world.

Josh:
The only thing I know for certain about Dr. Michael Oliver is the guy is an arrogant, untrustworthy player, and I’d barely survived the last one of those in my life.  Once was more than enough.
The man might be gorgeous but my eleven-year-old daughter takes number one priority and I won’t risk her being hurt, again. I’m a solo dad, a K9 cop and a son to pain in the ass, bigoted parents.
I don’t have time for games.
I don’t have time for taking chances.
I don’t have time for more complications in my life.
And I sure as hell don’t have time for the infuriating Dr. Michael Oliver, however damn sexy he is.

About the author:

Jay Hogan is a New Zealand author writing in the LGBTQIA genre in MM Romance and Fantasy. She has traveled extensively and lived in many places including the US, Canada, France, Australia and South Korea, and loves to add experiences from these adventures into her writing.

She is a cat aficionado especially of Maine Coons, and an avid dog lover (but don’t tell the cat). She loves to cook- pretty damn good, loves to sing – pretty damn average, and as for parenting a gorgeous daughter-well that depends on the day.

She has lovely complex boys telling sweet sexy stories in her head that demand attention and a considerable number of words to go with them. Their journeys are never straightforward and can even surprise Jay, but the end is always satisfying.

You can find her on Facebook as JayHoganAuthor and on Twitter as @taranakidreams. Visit her on Goodreads  and buy this book, First Impressions, on Amazon.

Giveaway: Jay Hogan will be awarding a $20 Amazon or B/N gift card to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Learn more, and register to win,

My review:

Things I liked 

  1. The two main characters are complex, intelligent and sexy people with back stories that ring true and make them both easy to like.
  2. The secondary cast of characters is also well drawn, from Josh’s sassy daughter and his loyal police dog to Michael’s best friend, the glitter-eye-shadow wearing male head nurse.  Some of these characters could so easily read as caricatures but they don’t; they come across as genuine individuals. 
  3. The banter in the book is great fun and almost everyone engages in it. 
  4. I found the switching of point of view between the two main characters to be particularly well done, especially when the same scene was told from each man’s perspective. 

What I didn’t like

  1. Everyone has a point at which steamy romance turns into porn and individual tastes do vary. I like to think mine are kind of in the middle of the spectrum, but, hey, who knows. I do know this novel crossed my line about a third of the way through the book due to the frequency of the sexual content, the really specific details given in the sex scenes and the pages-long duration of some of the scenes.  Perhaps a reader should be forewarned the novel contains a large amount graphic sexual material. I would have passed on reviewing this book if I had known.

Because the sex scenes make up so much of the book, I feel I cannot give it a rating. Rather, I will commend the author for the things she did well, mentioned above, and recommend the book to those whose tastes in this regard are different from mine. 

This review is part of a book review tour sponsored by Goddess Fish Promotions.

My Favorite Excerpt:

Josh was fuming. Fast pitch was one of the few activities he got to enjoy on his own and now he had to put up with Michael freaking Oliver. Arriving at Kendrick’s he’d immediately collared Mark at the bar as the guy was buying a round.“What the hell, man? Whose idea was it to invite him?”

His friend plastered a huge grin on his face and held up his hands in surrender. “Nothing to do with me, mate. Boss man just asked me to deliver him.”

“And you couldn’t think of any reason that wouldn’t be a good idea?”

“What was I going to say?” Mark studied his friend. “And honestly, he seems a good guy and he plays a solid game.”

“I don’t give a flying fuck if he plays like Nathan Nukunuku, he’s an asshole.”

“Funny, that’s what he called you.”

“Wait. He called me an asshole?”

Mark snorted. “Lighten up, Josh. Anyone would think you actually liked the guy.”

“Fuck off.”

Mark whacked him on the back of his head.

“Ow,” Josh protested.

“Suck it up. You deserved it. So, the guy was cruising, so what? Oh. My. God. What a scandal. And he even got lucky with a gorgeous young man, well good for him. It’s not a crime. And besides, he’s hot. And he hit on you. I would think that was reassuring, that you haven’t lost it. You’re both obviously hot for each other.”

“I’m a father of an eleven-year-old girl.”

“And that came with getting your dick cut off, did it?”

“You wouldn’t understand,” Josh dismissed the comment.

If you are interested in a review from me:

One of my resolutions is to review more books here. I am interested reading speculative fiction of all sorts, including science fiction and fantasy. My protagonist in y1 is shape-shifting gay male, so I am predisposed to review stories featuring LGBT heroes (or others who find joy in life by being true to who they are in spite of obstacles) or stories featuring interesting shape shifters.

I am not interested in reviewing non-fiction, pure romance novels, stories which promote any particular religion, children’s books, or horror of any type. Please do not ask me to review BDSM erotica or books about vampires or zombies.

If you would like to be considered for a review contact me at Zane (dot) Zeitman (at) gmail (dot) com.

Final Note:  I received a free pdf of this book from the author, which would never be enough to entice me to write a better review for anyone.

Four Reasons I Love It When “Love Wins”

Reason number one: Love makes us happy, and happiness is wonderful.

Several times now I’ve posted about a report on which countries have the happiest people. I’m intrigued that six attributes account for most of this variation, and I summed them up as health, wealth, freedom, love, fairness and kindness. I’ve already written about the first three and today I’m thinking about love.

life lessons6Now, the people doing this survey were not asking questions about romantic love, wonderful as is it. They used a broader definition, by asking something more like “do you have people in your life that you care about and can depend on?” This careful wording included family members and close friends along with intimate partners, and as far as I’m concerned it covered every type of love inclined to bring one happiness. (Unrequited love for someone who does not know you exist doesn’t exactly bring a lot of smiles. A spirited discussion could be had as to whether it is love at all, but that is outside the scope of this post.) Suffice to say, if you have people, or a person, you care about and who care enough about you back that you feel you can count on them, then you have love. Lucky you.

love wins2. “Love Wins” has become associated with the LGBTQ community’s struggles for marriage equality and other rights. I’m a heterosexual woman with a 34-year traditional marriage, and an avid supporter of equality in every sense for my LGBTQ brothers and sisters. Zane, the main character in y1, is gay, and I did my best to present his love affair with Afi as a beautiful thing to be cheered on by anyone with a heart. In the real world, friends, relatives and co-workers of mine are LGBTQ, and every time “Love Wins” it makes me smile too. Love is funny that way. It likes to see more love.

SPLC3. Love wins every time that hate does not. I’m also an avid supported of the fine work that is done by the SPCL (Southern Poverty Law Center) even though donating to them means that I get a lot of letters from them asking me for more money. It’s okay. I glance through them all and give when I can. Recently I got one such letter that moved me more than usual. It discussed the nine people killed a year ago in the white supremacist attack at Mother Emanuel church in Charleston, and noted that “Hate won’t win” were the brave words Alana Simmons spoke to her grandfather’s killer in Charleston.

Yes,“Hate won’t win” are brave words coming from someone who has been grievously wronged, and the words brought a tear to my eye. I know that love wins every time that hate does not.

cosmic conduit 24. The last reason has to do with music. I’m fixing up the music pages on each of my blogs, and today I was expanding my post about David Guetta and Estelle’s One Love.  As the lyrics to One Love say …. “if we stand together than we’ll be okay.” You know, more love wins kind of stuff… and it’s what got me started on this post.

Think of how many great songs there are about love. Luckily, far more than those about fear, hate and hopelessness, although I will concede that there are a few great songs about those emotions too. Yet in the grand overview of musical topics, love wins and I’m glad.

I’d forgotten about exactly how I’d referred to the song in the book, and when I found the excerpt it made me smile.

Joy felt like she was living two lives at once. In one life, she taught Samoan third graders by day, dressed demurely in lightweight long-sleeved tops and loose colorful skirts to her ankles, and pretended to be Afi’s wife by night. Given the vast number of options open to humanity in 2010, it wasn’t a bad life. She wasn’t hungry, she wasn’t hurting, she had a friend nearby, and she was doing useful work. Life came a lot worse.

In her other life, she sailed the ocean, barefoot in a tank top and gym trunks. Her hair blew free while her body moved softly with the thunk of the boat hitting the waves and with the rhythm of her latest favorite song. For the past few weeks David Guetta and Estelle’s One Love had been about every third selection on her MP3 player, and when she wasn’t listening to it she was generally singing the song in her head while she imagined Toby’s hand on her thigh as he sat at the helm of Miss Demeanor. She would see his hint of a smile as his fingers started to rise higher up her leg and then each time he would turn to her, with his soft brown eyes asking her a question. As the song picked up tempo she felt herself smiling her answer back to him and then he always set the sails and they went below deck where the song was playing loudly and life was very, very good.

Of course, that other life existed only in her mind. But anyone who had ever been in love would know that it was the more important of her two lives.

Ah, yes, that romantic love stuff does bring us joy, even when it is just in our imagination.

I confess to having a weakness for amateur videos that make me feel like I am standing right  at a concert and this simple and seldom viewed video of One Love being performed at Electric Zoo in 2011 took me in with its tag line of “right place right time last song.” I’ve had that feeling and it’s a fine one. Go ahead and sing along with the audience, and enjoy letting love win in one more way.

 

(For more posts on the subject of what makes us happy see If you want to be happy move to a cold country?, Happiness fascinates me, None of us are normal if we’re lucky, Some Kind of Kindness, The fairest of them all?, and When is it time for “More”?)

A highly sanctimonious marriage

wedding2Next week I will have been married to the same man for 34 years.  That’s a pretty significant chunk of time. Much of it has gone well, some of it has not. Am I glad I married him? Absolutely. But today, I am thinking about what has made the worst times happen.

Things that have made my marriage occasionally suck:

  1. Getting in stupid fights over things that don’t matter. (We spent a whole evening arguing over a math theorem once)
  2. Losing my temper. (I’m a curser and door slammer. He’s a sulker.)
  3. Somebody not saying “I’m sorry” soon enough (him and me both) and meaning it
  4. Somebody not responding with “it’s okay” soon enough (him and me both) and meaning it

That’s pretty much it. If we could have gotten those down a little better, it would have been an easier 34 years.

Things that have NOT made my marriage worse:

  1. The amount of money we did or did not have
  2. Who else in the world got married, didn’t get married, or wanted to get married
  3. Any government policy regarding marriage, or in fact any government policy at all
  4. How other married people behaved or didn’t behave
  5. Actually …. what anyone else in the whole world did or did not do

That’s it.

Why is that so hard for those trying to protect the sanctity of my marriage to understand?

Back to reality?

The last time I paid ongoing attention to the news was in the spring, before a cross country move and the subsequent chaos in my personal life. I was vaguely aware of various GOP politicians announcing their candidacy for president, of several more horrific shootings and deaths, and of a supreme court ruling on gay marriage that pleasantly surprised me. It was sort of a blur of happy, sad and comic, to be honest.

trumpAbout a week ago, something in my brain re-engaged.  I’ve always been a news junkie. It began with high school speaking competitions, and was strengthened as I got a journalism degree in college. I usually care about what is happening in the world, and when you follow it every day you don’t realize that your own mind fails to question the logic of what is going on. The problem with stepping away from it all for awhile is that at least some of it is hard to believe when you come back.

Donald Trump is the leading GOP candidate in the polls? Really? Followed by a distant Ben Carson? Nobody is making this up? What happened to all those other guys who seemed kind of rational?

boyI read that thousands of refuges from Syria and Iraq are desperate to get asylum in Germany but for some reason they are are stuck in Hungary because of red tape. The sad image of the washed up body of a small boy has finally inspired outrage at the situation, and has also inspired this moving sand sculpture by Indian artist Sudarsan Pattnaik.

Meanwhile the hungry, thirsty and exhausted families have banded together in a massive march to the Austrian border. Hungarian police seem to be helpless to either aid them or stop them, and so are advising them to at least wear clothing easily visible at night. It sounds surreal. Surely this story isn’t true. What went so horribly wrong here? And why to do I have to turn to the BBC for more information on this subject?

BL CoreyOh yes. The USA is busy being transfixed  by a clerk in Kentucky who has decided that her personal religious convictions allow her to refuse to do her job.  Apparently resigning isn’t an option for her, and neither is the time honored method of delegating tasks she does not believe in to her sub-ordinates. (Her deputies in Rowan County will obey the law of the land and issue marriage licenses to any two humans who want them, but this particular clerk is having none of that either).

Twitter was LIAO thanks to the witty twits of a fictitious clerk in the same Kentucky office, and while the humor flared on one end with internet memes, George4it erupted with outrage on the other as the U.S. supreme court refused to get involved and a U.S. District Judge sent the sanctimonious clerk on to jail, where she may refuse to issue marriage licenses that offend her for as long as she likes.

What is wrong with us?

I don’t ask that question when I watch the news most nights. It all seems normal then. I think perhaps I should take a break like this more often.

Proud to be Irish

Dalai8My husband is 100% Irish-American, and in spite of the three generations that form a wall between him and the old country, he feels the tie. Maybe it is the 100% part — all of his family history and traditions come from the same place. Maybe it is the 16 years of catholic schooling he got along the way.  Today, he is proud of his heritage in a new way. The people he has to thank for his genes and much of his outlook surprised the world.

They didn’t hold a bitterly fought election on gay marriage in which one side managed to barely out talk the other. Instead, they voted in droves, as parties ranging from conservative to liberal stood up and said “it’s wrong to oppress people”. As a group, the Irish do know a thing or two about being oppressed. As a group, it looks like they’d as soon see less of that in this world.

The odd thing is that many in Ireland continue to hold very traditional religious views. I’ve gotten to visit the island four times, and wouldn’t particularly describe it as a hotbed of progressiveness. However, I would describe it as having a culture in which being openhearted is considered a virtue. My thoughts are that, as a group, the Irish just voted to put warmth and kindness ahead of politics or religion. You have got to love that. I plan to drink a Guinness or two tonight to celebrate. Go Ireland!

 

 

Celebrating my family values

weddingThirty-two years ago today I got married.  In retrospect, I wasn’t a particularly great candidate for a good marriage.  I liked being alone, liked making my own decisions and wasn’t terribly motivated to be a wife. However, the planets aligned.

The groom, who was no more likely than I to achieve happily ever after, grew into a better friend with each year. We gave each other space, we tried to fight fair when we had our many fights, and we tried to forgive each other when we forgot to fight fair.

Along came three beautiful children who turned to us for love and stability and who provided us with incentive to work harder at our relationship. The next thing we knew they were leaving home and this whole marriage thing had worked out considerably better than it could have and in fact much better than it usually does. Lo and behold, a couple who had started out as kids in tattered jeans had achieved the ideal of the family values crowd. So, does that mean that we have family values?

Good question. I am happy and healthy and I like my particular life. I also like red wine and raisins. Do I think everyone should have to like red wine and raisins? Even if both are good for  you? Don’t be ridiculous.

Just because I am a woman attracted sexually to men, this is no reason to decide that other women need to be like me. Just because I decided to create a monogamous relationship with one other human, why would I think that this means that everyone should? I wanted to raise children. That’s nice. It doesn’t mean that you should. My choices are mine and they worked out well for me.  Your choices should be yours and if they lead to your happiness and better yet they also lead to the happiness of others, then that’s great too.

pouring wineDon’t get me wrong, I don’t wish anyone well for being hurtful to themselves or others. I just think that living your life differently than mine is not, by definition, the wrong way to live it. Has anyone ever been made less, or their own personal joy diminished, by acknowledging that there are a lot of fine ways to go through life? There is a Buddhist saying that there are many paths to the top of the mountain, and that the view from the top is the same no matter which one you choose. Clear message: take your own path.

Do I have family values? You bet I do. Tolerance. Patience. Empathy. Respect for others. All others.  I don’t always live up to my ideals, I never have. But I keep trying.

Care for some red wine? I’d love to pour you a glass. Just as happy, of course, to share some lemonade with you. Happy also to make you a vodka martini, even if I don’t care for one myself. Don’t worry, I’ll leave out the raisins. Unless of course you insist that I don’t.

It just keeps getting weirder….

Who supports an individual’s right to pursue happiness? Everybody, if you ask them.  Recently a group in Minnesota called “Republicans United for Freedom” launched a movement and website dedicated to “defend individual liberty, promote strong families, and secure the freedom to marry for same-sex couples in Minnesota.” That’s right, you read it correctly. The site goes on to state that “The freedom to marry is not a partisan value, and we believe that excluding same-sex couples from marriage is contradictory to our values of personal responsibility, limited government, and individual freedom.” I, for one, am impressed and hope that this is the start of a movement in the GOP.

statesMeanwhile, Californians and New Yorkers suffer from the least amount of personal freedom in the nation, at least according to a survey called “Freedom in the 50 States”  published last week by the libertarian-leaning Mercatus Center. So reports Fox news here.  The culprit in New York is largely Mayor Bloomberg and his well know campaigns to limit salt intake and soft drink size. California limits on freedom have mostly to do with taxes and business regulation, things that may not occur to most of us when we think about personal freedom.  The state with the most freedom? According to this study it’s North Dakota. I’m originally from Kansas so I try not to make disparaging jokes about other states, but I want you to know that it was really hard to resist this one.