Ava Sinclair-Daddy’s Home

I am always down to read one of Ava’s Daddy books. I love how well she writes the couple and their stories. So, when I saw Daddy’s Home, I was all like sign me right the fuck up, yes, please and thank you. And, as always, I really enjoyed the story.¬† I do have to say that there were parts of it that were hard for me to read, for reasons. I’ll get to them.

Here’s our story. Gage has just returned from a tour in the Sandbox. He’s a member of the National Guard. He wants to serve, but he didn’t want to go the full military route. His best friend and neighbor joined up with him. However, things happen, and well, he didn’t come home. Gage was right there when he died, and ended up with a concussion and a discharge. All he wants to do is to get home to his wife and baby girl, Poppy. He’s going to put everything else behind him, and lock it in a teeny, tiny box and throw away the key. That’s what he has done with everything else bad that has ever happened.

Meanwhile, back on the farm, literally, Poppy has been holding down the fort, working for the local vet as his assistant, and doing all the adult kind of things that need to be done. She loves her job, she is proud of herself for all the things that she’s learned how to do, and she’s so happy that her Daddy is coming home. He’s ready to get back to the life they had before he got deployed, including having her stay home as a housewife.

But, life never stays the same, and what worked before his deployment doesn’t necessarily work now. Plus, Poppy and Gage aren’t the same people now as they were before his deployment too.

OK, here’s where we get to the part that made it hard for me to read sometimes. My dad served 2 tours in Vietnam and Things happened. He came home different. Not that I knew him before or anything, but people who knew him before say that. He spent the rest of his life fighting with PTSD. It wasn’t until later in his life, and by later I mean the early 2000s, that he finally got the right treatment, and the change was huge. So Gage’s struggles hit very close to home. PTSD isn’t something that just affects the person who has it, it affects their entire family. Anyway, there’s that.

So, I mostly like Gage. I like him a lot more in the last few pages of the book, I think. There were times that I wanted to walk into the book and smack the everloving shit out of him. I worked hard to remember that he was dealing with PTSD and trying to put his life back together, but still.

I really like Poppy. I think that she is really strong. I can relate to some of the stuff the vet said to her. I’m glad that she had someone who was outside the situation and who could advise her. I would not have wanted to be her. There was just too much for her to have to deal with.

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Dogs are good. Doggos are very good.

OK, that’s all I have to say about this one. Go check it out! Happy reading!

Jennifer Bene-Crazy Broken Love

So, sometime in the past year, several authors got together and wrote an amazing and gut-wrenching anthology called Just Breathe. All the stories in the anthology dealt with some kind of mental illness, and more than one of me has stuck with me since I originally read it. You can’t get it now, because the rights have reverted back to the authors. However, some of the stories are now available, like this one by Jennifer, Crazy Broken Love. Jennifer took her original story and expanded it out to give us what we have now.

Here’s our story. Amy is a woman who is dealing with a very severe form of OCD. She’s been hospitalized because of it. She has a series of rituals and routines that she must follow in order to fight the Noise and to keep herself sane. For example, her alarm goes off at 6 am. She lets it go for three beeps and then turns it off. Not 2, not 4, only 3. The number 3 rules her life and keeps everything under control. As long as she can have a multiple of 3, she’s going to be OK. She doesn’t leave her house, working online, getting everything delivered, and her therapist coming to her house instead. She belongs to an online forum for others with mental illness, where she’s known as Mittwochgirl, because Wednesday is the perfect day, it divides the week in two perfectly, 3 days on either side. (I like Wednesday for that reason too.)

Then there’s Equilibre, which is French for balance. For the past few months, they have been talking through the forum and emailing each other, and they have formed a deep relationship. Equilibre is probably the most important person in Amy’s life. She’s pretty sure she’ll never meet him because if she goes outside, the Noise and the chaos will get her.

Jennifer does an amazing job of showing what it’s like to live with OCD, which is an anxiety disorder. As you read the story, you see what it’s like to live in Amy’s head and in her world. It can be a really scary place. As a person who is mentally ill, I can tell you how terrifying it is when your own brain plays tricks on you and you have to fight it like Amy did. We all have ways that we pin our mental illness into place and keep it under control. With Amy, she developed her routines and adherence to 3s. I’m not going to judge her for how she lives because she has done what she can. I relate to her so much because of my own personal perspective. I think that she is infinitely stronger than she thinks that she is.

When I read this story as the short in the anthology, it blew me away. As the expanded story, it blew me even further away.

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Colton is a really fascinating character. He changed so many things, all for one purpose.

OK, that’s all for this one. Go check it out! Happy reading!

Brianna Hale-Control Freak

I don’t normally give content warnings on here, but I will on this one. Control Freak¬†talks about anorexia and disordered eating fairly extensively. I know that talking or reading about certain things can trigger people who are dealing with that problem. If you have problems with disordered eating, please take this under consideration before you read this book. Brianna handles it really well and isn’t glorifying it or wallowing in it, but I just need you to be aware. Please read responsibly and make sure you are OK.

Now, on to the book.

Stian is a museum curator who has just driven away his latest assistant. One who was nice enough to use his key to carve the words control freak into the side of his car. He’s been working really hard to set up a Greek exhibit in his museum, but now he has to go to a modern art show. He really hates modern art, but being the top dog at the museum means he gets all kinds of invites. Plus, the artist thinks they are friends, so, you know, he’s kind of got to do it. While he’s there, he sees a young woman nearly fall down the stairs and yells at her.

Lacey is there at her father’s showing because, well, he’s her father. She also helped him out by writing up all the catalog descriptions. She starts being upset because there are so many people there, more than she can handle, so she searches her purse for her affirmations that she uses to help deal with the anxiety from her anorexia, and nearly falls down the stairs. Her father suggests that she goes to see this museum dude that he knows needs an assistant so that she can get a job over the summer. And the rest, of course, is history.

Stian is a control freak. He’s also a perfectionist. He wants everyone to work hard and do their best possible work. But the thing is, he doesn’t expect anything from anyone that he doesn’t expect from himself, and he works really hard and he does expect the best from himself. But, not all his assistants can do that or even get that. Which is why Lacey is pretty perfect for him. She is a pleaser. And she has a great eye for detail. That makes her perfect on all kinds of levels for a bossy, Dom-ly type.

I really like Lacey. And I can really relate to her. I don’t have any eating disorders, but I do fight mental illness. It’s hard to fight that little voice or not so little voice inside your head. There are times when it really just too loud to get away from. But, I think that she’s really brave and a lot stronger than she thinks she is. Strong doesn’t mean never failing. Strong means failing and getting your ass up and trying again. And really, that’s what Lacey does. Like I said, I really like her.

Stian might be a perfectionist and a control freak, but he really is a good and caring man. He deeply cares for Lacey, and he shows that in so many little ways, as well as some big ones. But he takes the time to research anorexia and makes sure that he puts the things that he learned into effect so that he doesn’t cause Lacey any problems. I mean, doing things like policing his language may not seem like a huge thing to do, but it’s those little things that mean everything. He is also occasionally an idiot, but everyone is at some point, so I won’t complain about it too much.

There are times when this book is really intense, but it isn’t dark or anything. There are some times I cried, because, well, there are.

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I don’t have anything that I want to put down here, really.

That’s all I have to say about this one. Go check it out! Happy reading!

Stylo Fantome-Preach

Well fuck. This is an epic mindfuck. And not only did Stylo fuck my mind once with this, she fucked it over and over and over. Preach made me feel all kinds of ways, and honestly? It may take me a while to get over this one.

Before I start in on the review, I have some other things to say. One is that I absolutely love Stylo Fantome’s pen name. It’s all kinds of fun wordplay. It translates out from French as ghost pen. Taking it liberally, I’m going to say that it probably would be something like Ghostwriter. Funny af, right? Totally awesome.

Secondly, this is the second book of the series. I did not review Church, the first book, on here, I did review it on Amazon. The series is a serial, so talking about this book may very well spoil parts of Church, so I’m going to be very careful as to how I talk about this one. I don’t want to spoil it for any of my dark lovers, and trust me, this is one you want to read, if you like to play in the deep dark.

So, here’s the way that the books work. Emma is the 23 year old daughter of Margo. Margo is a gold-digger. She’s always on the move and on the make for her next meal ticket. She’s not very nice. Various husbands and boyfriends have abused Emma, and Margo knew all about it. In fact, Margo may have even dangled her beautiful little girl in front of men.

Margo’s latest husband is Jerry. Emma sees Jerry as a milquetoast, a blah and bland little man who is inoffensive and doesn’t hurt anyone or even do anything. His company is paying for Emma to go to college, and she’s having a hard time fitting in. Then Paul shows up.

Paul is Jerry’s son, who has been at school in NY. But now he’s back, and he goes by Church. Church and Emma meet and a match made in hell is born. And they start on the long road to a metaphorical car crash into a huge cliff.

The second book starts a few weeks after the first one, and the cleanup of the disaster of that was Church and Emma has started. Emma has actually spent the last few weeks in a mental institution and Margo has been granted a conservatorship. Part of Emma’s treatment is that she has to have no contact with Church. In the last 15 minutes that he got to see her, he told her to act normal and he would always be near her and they would be back together as soon, just do her best to act normal.

I love the way that Stylo has chosen to tell the story. Most of the story is in 2nd person, from Emma’s POV, although over the books, we get a couple of glimpses of 2nd person POV from Church. But, interspersed through the books, we get chapters of 1st person POV from both Emma and Church. It’s a really interesting way to tell the story, and we learn more things than we would otherwise be able to. There are a fuckton of things that I didn’t expect in this book. It was just fucking wow. Like I said, my brain was fucked every which way but up.

These books were my first Stylo Fantome books, but they sure as hell aren’t going to be my last. There isn’t going to be anything down past the pic, so don’t go looking. I’ve been really careful to try to avoid any spoilers, so I want to keep it that way. So, go check it out, and happy reading!

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Just Breathe

This anthology is more than a collection of excellent stories by excellent authors, it’s also a way to support To Write Love on Her Arms. I’ve talked about them before. They are an organization that helps support people who are dealing with self-harm and suicidal ideations, among other things. This is such a great organization. Even if you only want one or two of the stories in Just Breathe, you should definitely buy it to support TWLOHA.

Before I get further into my review, I want to warn people that the stories in this book all deal with mental illnesses of some shape or form. There are things in these stories which may trigger you. Please be aware of that and read responsibly.

All of the stories are pretty short, so if you only have a moment here or there to read, you should have no problem finding one that will fit. Because they are short, you are going to basically get my reaction to each story. For most of them, if I were to put anything about them in the review, it would totally spoil the story. So, here we go.

Missy Ann-Forbidden Sorrows-Grief

Missy Ann was a new author to me, and I’ll be looking up more of her work. Grief is hard to deal with at the best of times, and is highly individual. In most cases, you and your grief can be acknowledged, but what happens when it can’t be? It’s not anything I’ve ever thought of before, and wow, Missy brought it to life so vividly.

Anna Edwards-Grounded-Anxiety

I deal with an anxiety disorder and Anna’s story rang so true for me. It was very much like what can go through my head when I feel out of control. It was a great story. And, it looks like it’s the start of a new series, when Anna gets the rights back to it. I can’t wait to see it.

Michelle Brown-Little Lies-Self-Harm

Michelle is still a pretty new writer, but damn, the girl has some serious chops. Self-harm is a very, very touchy subject and has to be handled just right. If you go too far one way, you end up sensationalizing it, if you go too far the other way, you end up making it not believable. Michelle walked that line perfectly. Not so much that it’s glorified, but just at the point where you can understand why Lindsey does what she does. Self-harm was the very reason that TWLOHA was created, so I felt like this one was so important.

K.S. Marshall-Wreckage-Pre-Menstrual Dysphoric Disorder

PMDD is PMS with roid rage. As the hormones in a woman’s body ramp up for ovulation and menstruation, they can have an effect on the woman even at the best of times. But brain and body chemistry being what it is, sometimes the best of times isn’t what happens. K.S. Marshall explored that really, really well. You are inside her heroine’s head as these changes are happening to her and she can’t figure out what’s going on. It’s kind of chilling, but in a good way.

Livia Grant-Purged-Eating Disorder

If you’ve read any of the Black Light books, you’ve probably run across Khloe and Ryder before. It’s no secret in their book that Khloe, a big time movie star, has a history with an eating disorder. What Livia’s story shows so well is that dealing with something like an eating disorder is that it isn’t as easy as one day being cured. There are always going to be things that can trigger you and it’s something you are always going to have to be diligent at fighting, and sometimes that fight is really, really hard.

Yolanda Olson-Sickness in the Sunrise-Erotomania

Erotomania generally happens to women, and it’s when they believe that someone who is of a higher status than they are is in love with them. For example, Yolanda’s story. Yolanda is one of my favorite authors when I want dark, creepy, and chilling, as well as beautiful. Her characters are always so real to me. Just like you can reach out and touch them. That’s no different when it comes to this one. You can feel what’s going on in Dice’s head and why her thoughts make perfect sense.

Natalie Bennett-Ashes to Ashes-Depression

Honestly, I don’t even know what to say with this one. It got deep inside me and moved me. I had to take a break and read something completely different after reading this one. It was so… Yeah.

Dani Rene-Tattered Pieces-Abuse

The one thing we always ask when we talk about people who are in domestic violence situations is why did they stay? Why didn’t they leave the first time, the fifth time, the twentieth time? The thing is, the question isn’t that simple, and the answer is nowhere even near that simple. I could probably write a thousand words on that alone, and it wouldn’t even come near answering anything. And I wouldn’t have gotten it anywhere near as good as what Dani said. I hope that this is the start of a series, because it looks like it could be. I want more of Toni’s story. I’m rooting for her.

Jennifer Bene-Cocoon-Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Jennifer managed to write a story that is very true to her storytelling while still exploring OCD. People who have OCD have rituals that they have to follow or their world ends, and that’s not really an exaggeration. That’s the way it will feel, at the very least. Amy was an interesting character and Colton was tortured in so many ways. Such an excellent story and a viewpoint of OCD that most people won’t ever see.

Ally Vance-Ignite-Pyromania

Fire can be very pretty. But, for most of us, pretty is as far as it gets. For people who are pyromaniacs, it’s like their lifeblood. Ally showed that really well. I’ll never look at wooden matches the same way again. Nor, I think, will I ever look at a bonfire the same way.

Murphy Wallace-Hostile Takeover-Split Personality

Murphy Wallace is another new to me author. And another one I’ll be tracking down more of. This was really intriguing to me. I’m not sure how to describe it or even to talk about how it made me feel. I really enjoyed it though.

Jane Anthony-The Row-Addiction

Addiction is a serious illness. Too many people want to see it as some kind of moral failure or something, but that’s not the way it works. Jane’s Trinity fights with addiction, and when you see her backstory, you see why. I thought that Jane did so well. Trinity and King made me cry.

Ashleigh Giannoccaro-Awake-Insomnia

When I was reading Ashleigh’s story, it was both kind of creepy and engrossing. I mean, yeah. I’m hoping any of her insomniacs stay right away from me, please and thank you.

Skye Callahan-Unbearable-Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

When you go through a traumatic incident, there are changes that are made to your brain’s chemistry and your body. Those changes can trigger PTSD. And there’s no way of telling who is going to have it and who isn’t. Two people who went through the exact same event may not both have PTSD, and if they do, they might not be triggered in the same way. Skye handled the subject really well, and explained it in ways that many people don’t necessarily hear.

Toni Lemay-Loops-Mandela Effect

The Mandela Effect is something that was totally new to me. Basically, it has to do with alternate realities and the way that your brain makes memories. That’s probably a way too simplistic description, but it’s what I got from in when I looked it up. If I had more time to research it, I would probably be able to come up with something more, but I tend to fall down the rabbit hole when I start researching things. I will probably be looking into this more when I have a chance because Toni made it sound really interesting, and I want to see how it works.

I want to applaud all these authors for writing about these mental illnesses. I don’t know how many of these talented people deal with the subjects they wrote about, but they handled all of them really well. People who are mentally ill aren’t always handled well in fiction, let alone real life, and the stigma that surrounds mental illnesses makes it hard for those of us who are mentally ill to get the help that they need. We are made to feel bad because our brain don’t work the same way that other people’s brains do, and are shamed because we have to take medication to get through our days. I’m very open about the fact that I’m mentally ill and that I take medication to help me be stable. My thought is that if I’m open about it, maybe that fact can help one person get the help that they need. Also, the more we talk about it, the less the stigma is going to be there.

OK, that’s all I have to say today. You really need to get this.

And because I hate to post anything without a picture, here’s a fogbow.

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Carian Cole-No Tomorrow

Fuck. Just fuck. This book hit really close to home in a lot of ways for me. I spent a lot of time in the full-on ugly cry mode. I am kind of raw from it still. Before I get started, No Tomorrow does have triggers for mental health issues as well as drug abuse issues. But, it’s amazing af, just amazing as absolute fuck. Probably one of my Top Ten for this year. Definitely one of the best books dealing with mental illness I’ve read. The other one in that category is a K. Webster book. So let’s get into the book.

The book spans 14 years. We don’t see all 14 years, we do get bits and pieces of it here and there, but enough to get a real look at the life that Piper and Blue/Evan live and lead.

When Piper is 21, she’s working as a receptionist. Every day for lunch, she goes out to a nearby park and sits and reads while enjoying her lunch. One day, a beautiful musician moves into the park and plays across from her bench, along with his dog who raises his paw whenever anyone puts money in the cup. She enjoys listening to the music for a few days, before she buys the musician and his dog lunch one day. She finds out that his name is Evan but everyone calls him Blue and his dog is named Acorn. They eventually become good friends. When he’s not there one day, she goes down to the bridge that she knows that he sleeps under and finds out that he’s not feeling well and has a migraine. She ends up going home and getting stuff to take care of him and bringing it to him. And they have sex. It was her first time. And that’s the start of this odyssey that these two go on.

Blue is homeless, which doesn’t bother him as much as it bothers Piper at times. He has chosen this life because he likes to just walk around and move from place to place to place. Right now, he’s in this small New Hampshire town, but no one knows where he’ll be next. He doesn’t make any plans, he doesn’t necessarily know what day it is. He’s pretty happy that way. However, Piper is much more traditional, and she wants everything with Blue because they have fallen in love. Her friend Ditra wants her to leave Blue alone because he’s some homeless drifter musician, but Piper keeps telling her that Blue isn’t like that.

Piper and Blue get to have a few good months, but then one day, Blue disappears. He left Piper behind. He left Acorn behind. He left Piper with another little surprise.

At the very heart of No Tomorrow is love. It’s what it takes to love someone even when it’s hard, in fact, especially when it’s hard. It’s about what makes up a family. It’s about learning to take care of yourself when the person you love is hurting themselves and destroying themselves and is just a person that you can’t be around. And how hard it is to stay in love with a person when you aren’t anywhere near that person and when no one in your life supports your love. Piper and Blue really do walk through hell a lot of the time. It’s not easy on either of them. Most of the book is told from Piper’s POV, but we do have a few chapters of Blue’s POV which I found to be really helpful. I’m not going to lie to you. You are going to fucking cry. I mean, full on ugly, have a box of tissue next to you cry. I’ve gotten teary at books before, but this one left me with an emotional hangover.

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I kind of guessed many of Evan’s issues before the diagnoses popped up in the book, but that’s because I’ve loved a man for 25 years who has had hallucinations, hospitalizations, and suicide attempts. So some of the stuff that Blue did were really familiar to me, both through that experience as well as my own bipolar experience. Being the person who can’t trust their brain isn’t easy. Neither is loving the person who can’t trust their brain. That’s what makes this one so incredibly personal to me. And to make my story even closer to Blue and Piper’s, my husband and I spent 9 years apart for reasons.

This was truly amazing, and I recommend everyone read it. I’d say happy reading, but it isn’t always. Good reading instead.

Isabella Starling-Peep Show

I was in Isabella’s FB group when she first saw a guy changing clothes across the way. She asked if she should write a story about him, and we all said, yes, yes, yes! And so Peep Show was born. But Peep Show became so much more than a book about voyeurism. But, we’ll get to that in a little bit.

Bebe is a trust fund baby and It Girl. When bars and clubs want to make sure they pull in the people, they hire Bebe to come and hang out at their club. The fact that she’s there and is having her picture taken there will attract a lot of people. Meanwhile, Bebe gets to drink, drug, and fuck her way through her life. We find out that she’s trying to drink, drug, and fuck away her grief and the memories of her life before. When she’s partying, she doesn’t have to remember her loss. She knows she’s fucked up, but she doesn’t really know how to stop or if she even wants to stop. One night, she comes home from her latest party and looks out the window. The man across the street is fucking a woman up against the window, and it’s all that Bebe can do to sit and watch and join in in her own way.

Miles sees the party girl across the way while he is fucking the latest woman to come through his door. The women never come back, he’s a one and done kind of guy. Once he’s done with them, he takes their picture and turns them into his art. But on this night, the beautiful young woman across the way staring at him and the woman draws his attention, especially when she starts to join in. He wants to know her, but he knows that he won’t be able. The closest he can do is to dare her to go next.

I don’t always read the author’s notes and acknowledgments at the end, but this is one that you should definitely do it with. Isabella Starling talks about the problems that she shares with Miles. It took her a long time to write PS, but it was totally worth it. The story is amazing. There is so much depth and so many layers to it. Isa is really able to bring it to a level where everyone can relate and feel what both Bebe and Miles go through. I share some of the same issues myself and the way that Isabella wrote things was so good.

OK. Miles and Bebe are amazing, and the hotness level goes off the scale from their first encounter to their last. They connect so well even from across the street. The stories behind the both of them and what they have gone through have just made each of them stronger, but it’s also left each of them broken. Trust me, it’s possible to be both. This is one of the books that I was almost mad I finished because it meant that I never got to read it for the first time again. I love rereading books, but that first time is something magical.

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Now that I’m under the spoiler space, I can’t really think of anything that I want to put down here. Everything I wanted to say is ^^^^^^, so maybe nothin down here really. OK, maybe I do have one thing to say.

Miles and Bebe manage to fit together really well and make each other stronger and that’s awesome. Not everyone gets a partner in their lives who are so understanding of whatever mental health issues may be going on, and it’s hard enough to have those problems without having a partner who just wants to ignore it, belittle you, or just doesn’t get it. Any mental health issue isn’t going to just go away because you want it to, otherwise, there really wouldn’t be any people who have any mental illness. Trust me, we all want it to just go away. Not being able to trust your brain isn’t fun and is sometimes downright scary, so yeah, we really want it to go away.

Alright, now I have nothing more to say. I’m going to go read about dragon princes and their mate. Happy reading!