Review: Boys Don’t Cry by Tim Grayburn

348929994 starsSynopsis:

Suicide is the single biggest killer of men aged 20-45 in the UK. Depression and undiagnosed mental illness are huge contributors to these deaths as they’re often more difficult to diagnose in men. And those men don’t tend to talk about the typical symptoms or visit their doctor.

Meet Tim.

For nearly a decade he kept his depression secret, it made him feel so weak and shameful he thought it would destroy his whole life if anyone found out.

And Tim is not alone.

After finally opening up he realised that mental illness was affecting many men around the globe – and he knew that wasn’t ok.

A brutally honest, wickedly warming and heart-breaking tale about what it really takes to be a ‘real man’, written by one who decided that he wanted to change the world by no longer being silent.

This is Tim’s story, but it could be yours too.


First off: I love the title. It pretty much sums up the entire book and my thoughts on why men struggle so much more with the stigma of mental illness. Boys don’t cry. Boys don’t don’t say they’re struggling. Boys kill themselves.

This is a tough book to review, as memoirs always are but especially so because this is about such a tricky subject matter. If you don’t 100%  enjoy/approve of a memoir, you feel like you’re casting judgement on the author’s life which is something that I just can’t do.

So let’s put this as delicately as possible…

The purpose of this book means so much to me, it’s about reaching out to younger men and telling them that it’s time to speak out about depression. Rather than keeping it to themselves and hating themselves for the feelings they’re having, talk to someone: a doctor, a stranger, a loved one, your dog…. Anyone! Say it out loud and you’re getting somewhere.
Depression is only made worse by not understanding it and by being ashamed of it. You wouldn’t be ashamed of a broken leg so don’t be ashamed of this.

The first three quarters of this book is Grayburn explaining how depression affected him – from before his diagnosis, to his problems with medication and finally being ‘outed’ when his girlfriend found his pills in his bag. This part is so necessary – a regular bloke talking about his regular life and how he felt knowing that depression was controlling his life, but not knowing that he could discuss it with people.
The last part of the book got a bit more philosophical and had ideas that I didn’t totally agree with, or rather, had elements missing. I personally believe that the author puts too much emphasis on communication and therapy as the cure for depression, I’m in the camp that sometimes depression really is just an imbalance of chemicals in the brain which leads to the mood problems and unwanted thoughts, which would explain the hereditary element (I’m biased on this point, I come from a family that struggles with depression – we all have different life experiences but most of us end up in the same dark place).

On that train of thought, I also think that current anti-depressant medications need some serious upgrading – with all the side-effects, they’re pretty much a blunt instrument for the most important organ we have.

Baaaaack to the book though, the writing style has a debut novel feel to it which I think is perfect in this case. The rawness of the writing is what makes you feel like you’re sat in the pub with a mate who’s telling you the story of his life and how he finally reached a happy point in his life. ‘Brutally honest’ is something I think we’ll be hearing a lot of when it comes to this book, Grayburn bears his soul – warts an’ all. He fesses up to things like being a bit put out that his wife wasn’t as enthused about their first tour once she found out she was pregnant- society demands that we immediately bring our hands to our faces and say ‘surely not!’ then you realise that you’d absolutely feel the same way if it was you. Nobody is that bloody selfless and the way you feel about things doesn’t change the second you find out you’re going to become a parent.

This book is probably the most important one I’ll read this year, I can’t recommend it enough for those lads out there who are pretending that they’re not struggling with depression or any kind of mental illness. You might be able to connect with this book in a way that you can’t with people you know, so please give it a go.

If you’re like me and you’re terrified that the doctor is going to tell you to man up, not believe you or just throw drugs at you and kick you out of the door: it’s not like that at all. It took me [an undisclosed and appalling number of] years to grab my lady balls in both hands and go to see my GP about my own depression, her response took my breath away. She was sympathetic, kind and listened to me when I said I wanted to try alternative therapies before anti-depressants. She didn’t push me to do anything or get all touchy feely, she was just… brilliant. The best thing she did was make sure that I didn’t just disappear after our appointment, she kept checking up on me so I couldn’t hide under my bed for the rest of my life. If your doctor does anything less: they’re crap and you should find a new one! The problem is with them, not you.

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https://www.mind.org.uk

If you’re ready to talk to someone but don’t know exactly how to have the conversation: call these guys. They’ll talk you through what to expect with your doctor, work etc and make sure you don’t get shafted – I can’t recommend them enough.

Review: Sin’s Daughter by Eve Silver (Sins series #0.5)

343945684 stars

Synopsis:

A Sins Series Novella!

Cursed with immortality, driven into a nomadic life on the fringes of society to escape those who hunt her, Amber Hale has learned the bitter lesson that she can never grow close to anyone. Never love.

Only once did she break her own rules. And her lover, Kai Warin, paid for her mistake with his life. For decades, she’s been numb with grief. Now, confronted by a soul reaper—an agent of one of the most powerful of the Underworld deities—with Kai’s face, she must acknowledge the likelihood that he betrayed her…to the Lord of Evil himself.

Forced into an uneasy alliance and plagued by the unwanted yearning between them, they must work together to elude the dark forces hunting them both…

For fans of J R Ward, Kim Harrison and Kelley Armstrong!

The books in the Sins Series are mature, gritty, dark, violent, sexy and straddle the line between Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance.


This novella was exactly what I needed after dragging myself to the end of a long and dry political high fantasy novel.

Obviously, this book is shorter than the others in the series.  It doesn’t follow the main story arc, though it does follow the same format as the other books so far – brooding soul reaper meets hot superwoman and gets his alpha on, while soft porn music plays in your head. Bliss.

The soul reaper in question, Kai, is one of the supporting characters in book 3, Sins of the Flesh and it’s sweet to see that the single hunks of the Underworld are finally being paired off to their soulmates (oh the irony!),

The plot of this book is very fast moving and satisfying, the only thing that I would have wanted more of is the heroine’s relationship with her father. We’ve seen romantic and fraternal relationships so far in this series, it’s time to see the women relating with men who aren’t their lovers!

The perfect palette cleanser after reading something dry, with uninspired characters. Eve Silver wins the day again with her likable characters that you can instantly latch on to and share their feelings, this is the reason I can’t stop going back to her books time and time again! I’m less anxious than I would otherwise be, knowing that I’m almost at the end of the Sins series… for the sole reason that I know there are other series by Silver for me to sink my teeth into.

This is going to be a short review for a short book – I don’t think that you need to have read the rest of the series to fully enjoy this book. In fact, I think this installment might even be the perfect taster for readers new to the urban fantasy genre. If anything is going to sell you on the concept – this will be it!

Review: Evening’s Land by Pauline West

338311724 stars

Synopsis:

The dark elegance of Anne Rice’s THE WITCHING HOUR meets the lush parallel worlds of Neil Gaiman’s SANDMAN series.

Reeling after her best friend’s suicide, Ada Walker falls under the spell of the collective subconscious, the EVENING’S LAND, searching for Faye’s soul with a rakishly hypnotic ghost named Christopher.

Richly preternatural and spine-tinglingly erotic, EVENING’S LAND is an exploration of love, loss and loyalty that will haunt you long after the last page is turned.


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I instantly fell in love with the cover of this book, as you undoubtedly have too.

I personally don’t think the synopsis for this book gives you an accurate idea of what to expect, above all else: this book is weird.

It explores themes like death, friendship, lovers and parental relationships but also… ghosts.

The author masterfully tells this story from the perspectives of several different characters, across different timelines, and still manages to pull it all together that it makes sense and enhances the story rather than over complicating things.

That said, the style of writing in this book is a lot more poetic and surreal than I’d usually read – by which I mean that I normally can’t finish a book that doesn’t get to the point pretty quickly, but this book was an exception! This book is all about the writing for me, it just swept me up from the start.

I’ll admit it now, a lot of the point of this book went right over my head – I can attribute at least part of this to the raging fever I had last weekend while I was reading in bed (this book is so trippy, I can’t think of a better time to have read it).

Ada, the main character, is trying to get her life back together following some pretty traumatic events (all of the trigger warnings). It’s not really going so well as her parents edge closer to divorce and she finds out that her neighbours have connections to a Satanist cult.
She’s not the perfect protagonist by any means, with plenty of her own weaknesses, but she has a unique view of the world that was wonderful to read.
My favourite character was Mary, Ada’s mother – she’s a woman who knows her own power and wants to be happy, but she also understands the meaning of honouring her marriage vows. Obviously, she’s in a far-fetched situation but her predicament is a very human one and I found that her chapters grounded the story a lot when Ada was dealing with more otherworldly matters.

I don’t really want to give much away, given how mysterious the synopsis is and how enjoyable the ride was, so I’ll just tell you to keep an open mind when reading this book and roll with it- you’ll be glad you did!

Review: Sins of the Soul by Eve Silver (Sins Series #2)

34394515

Published by Eve Silver

4 stars

Synopsis:

Alastor Krayl’s world shattered when he learned that his father was the Underworld god of chaos and evil. All that saved him from self-destruction were his newfound brothers and the bond they shared as soul reapers. So when one of his brothers is murdered, vengeance becomes Alastor’s obsession. And the enigmatic Naphré Kurata, a witness—or is she the killer?—has the answers he seeks.

A reluctant Underworld enforcer, Naphré trusts no one, especially not a seductive soul reaper who makes her burn with lust. Torn between duty and desire, she fights to keep her secrets safe from Alastor, even as she longs to surrender.

For fans of J R Ward, Kim Harrison and Kelley Armstrong!

The books in the Sins Series are mature, gritty, dark, violent, sexy and straddle the line between Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance.


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Firstly – the 4 stars to this book are entirely subjective. I had to find some way of expressing that I didn’t like it quite as much as Sins of the Heart, but I feel like it doesn’t do justice to quite how much I enjoyed it.

This book follows on from the cliffhanger ending of the first book, we’re hot on the trail of the people responsible for the death of Lokan Krayl. His brothers are devastated by his loss and will do anything to find his soul and body, in the hope to reunite them and bring him back.

Alastor is following up some leads when he meets Naphre Kurata. Given that the formula is similar to the first installment of the series, Krayl brother meets hot warrior woman, I was delighted to see some pretty significant differences in the protagonists this time round.

One difference that I particularly appreciated was that both characters have some neurotic quirks, like germ phobia and control issues, caused by their pretty messed up histories. This contrasts nicely with the ‘we’re badass and can take on anything’ couple of Dae and Roxy. Naphre and Alastor are both scared of what they feel for each other but come together anyway, which is a winning formula for me.

The sexy bits were steamy and exceptionally well written, but the emotional connection between the characters was the best bit. It seems to be a relationship built on respect, which is something you don’t read often enough about – presumably even fiction writers don’t think such a thing is possible!

As Alastor spent the beginning of his life being raised by a noble family in England, his character is British in his mannerisms  – this was great up to a point but I feel that the ‘bloody hells’ and ‘wankers’ was a bit overdone given that we don’t really go around saying those things all that much.

Though the main thread of this story didn’t cover as much ground in the main conspiracy as the first book, there was action aplenty and some bold new characters were introduced. My favourite of which had to be the Japanese death goddess (whose name I have forgotten and I’m too lazy to go back an check.  I’m sat under a blanket right now and my kindle is several feet away), she was the embodiment of all that is creepy but her calm rationality was really interesting to read.

I’m dying to read the next book in this series, presumably the third surviving brother will be finding the woman of his dreams and I am so very, very down for that.

Review: The Beast of Bath by Chasity Bowlin

256230994 stars

Synopsis:

Lord Victor Mayhew, Viscount Norcross, lives in the shadows, hiding his scarred face from those who would fear him… or worse, pity him. He’s become accustomed to the dark, and to the aching loneliness that is his only and constant companion. But while traversing the city in the dark of night, he encounters a beautiful woman who is running for her life.

Lady Thessaly Shade has discovered that the prettiest of faces can hide the ugliest of hearts. While Lord Norcross keeps his face carefully concealed from her, he cannot hide the fact that he is a man of honor, a man for whom the word gentleman is a way of life and not merely an honorary title.

With no way to repay him for his kindness, for his courage in aiding her at great risk to himself, Thessaly bargains with the only thing she possesses of value… herself. Can she convince him to trust her, to believe that she can see beyond the scars he bears to the man he is? Or will he push her away out of fear and retreat into the loneliness that he knows so well?

The Beast of Bath is a 30,000 word novella previously published in the Wicked Fairytales Anthology.


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**Thank you to the narrator for a complimentary copy of this audiobook in exchange for an honest review**

This is a pretty typical Beauty and the Beast trope novel – man with facial scars rescues a beautiful young woman who can see his inner beauty.

My god, this trope is like crack and it doesn’t matter how many variations of the story that I read or listen to, I don’t think I’ll ever get enough.

Lord Victor Norcross rescues a young woman he finds fleeing for her life in the dark of night, it all follows a slightly absurd path from that point on while he’s checking out her ass during their daring escape, marries her the next day and practices martial arts in his spare time. Absurd, but hey – crack.

Bowlin’s writing style is easy to read and gives you that comfy regency feel, that allows makes Lord Wandering-Eyes Norcross seem classy rather than unnecessarily lecherous. I think it’s safe to say that I’ll be scoping out some more of her novellas in future as a more complete introduction to the regency romance genre!

If you do chose to read this book, let me heartily recommend the audiobook version as the best way to enjoy the story! Lillian Yves is one of my favourite narrators and has a particular knack for romance and bringing characters to life, which complements this story perfectly.

As this story was set in Bath, UK, the characters were all British and Yves does a great job flipping between character voices and accents, as well as her own voice for the narration. It does get a little ‘fun’ near the end of the book when the accents briefly start sliding a little between different regions but they do stay close enough that it isn’t distracting. It’s also infinitely better than the cardinal sin I discovered last year…. a character driven story set in Leeds, done entirely in an American accent.
Her voice draws you into the story and keeps the suspense and intensity building throughout.

If you too are a sucker for fairytale retellings, I insist you drop what you’re doing for the next two hours and give the audiobook a listen! It’s the perfect length to listen to during a commute or while doing chores, but I heartily recommend having headphones about for the sexy bits if you don’t want other people to know what smut you listen to in your spare time…

Review: How the Wolf Lost Her Heart by Sarah Brownlee

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4 stars

Synopsis:

Set against the backdrop of a dystopian London where thugs and criminals run rife, Skye Archer possesses a rare gift, the ability to transform into her spirit animal at will. Widely regarding her morphing ability as a curse, Skye’s aim is to keep it a secret at all costs. But one day she meets the intriguing and affluent, Raphael Renzo, who soon proves to have a secret of his own, one that could heal the downtrodden city and affect Skye in ways she never thought possible…

This debut Young Adult Paranormal Romance novel from Sarah Brownlee is a compelling and gripping read, taking the reader into a world where both the heart of a city and the heart of a girl are simultaneously pierced by one man.


 

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**Thank you to the author for a complimentary copy of this title in exchange for an honest review**

I’m not generally a YA reader, but look at that cover! It would take someone with stronger principles than I to refuse that cover!

Skye, the main character, lives in a version of London 200 years in our future. Society has changed and though some things have changed for the better (the technology and emergency services are really cool), there is a sense of lawlessness in the city. The only thing standing between London and full scale riots is the uneasy truce between the Renzo and Pearson families.

Skye herself is a moody, emotionally constipated whingebag of a wolf morpher, but I can hardly hold it against her – we’ve all had our off days and we don’t have the ability to turn into animals.
One day, she’s attacked by a group of thugs on the street – led by the son of the Pearson family. Thankfully, Raphael Renzo steps in to save the day. From this point on, Skye has a close up view of how tenuous the peace is in the city.

Obviously the two are desperately attracted to each other, this is a YA novel after all! I did find myself getting a bit irate with how much time and energy they wasted denying their feelings for each other when they have no apparent obstacle keeping them apart.

I love the original concept of the novel, I wouldn’t even call it entirely dystopian at this stage because shit hasn’t gone down yet. The world is well developed and the society is amazing, Morphers are people with the genetic ability to change into their inner beast as a result of an experiment performed 200 years ago. It’s a recessive trait and very rare in the world, however most Morphers suffer persecution and will be immediately executed for attacking a regular human. It’s just another form of racism and seems particularly relevant this year, I can’t wait to see what the rest of this series is going to be like!

While reading this book, I did get a strong sense of ‘debut novel’ as some parts were repeated and a lot of the text could be whittled down so that what was left made more of an impact but the ideas and characters more than make up for this.

If you like YA paranormal romance (like regular paranormal romance but without the boobies) or even standard paranormal fiction but you’re looking for something a little bit different from the usual, I can’t recommend this book enough!

 

 

Review: George Bailey Gets Saved in the End by Ken O’Neill

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Published by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

4 stars

Synopsis:

Same Holiday. Different George.

George Bailey, who has made a fortune selling Christmas ornaments, is having a rough few days. He’s thrown his back out lifting the Thanksgiving turkey; his father has died and his wife has left him. He’d turn to his best friend for support, but said BFF is having an affair with his wife. 

Let the holiday season begin!

On the heels of all this misery George meets a new woman, and he also meets Jesus (or perhaps just an awfully nice guy named Jesus). As he scrambles to hold together his floundering family, he must figure out if these strange and wondrous events  are miracles or symptoms of a nervous breakdown.


 

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 **Thank you to the author for a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review**

This book was a really tricky one for me to read without knowing for sure at the end that it wasn’t going to culminate in a really big religious message. I’m personally not a Christian, and I’m not a reader of Christian (or any other religious) fiction, so only once I was sure I wasn’t about to be tricked into a moral lesson did I really get into the book.

Christian faith does play a role in this book and the characters have varying degrees of faith which they do discuss – but it enhances the story and the characters. So, if you’re like me and are instantly turned off by religious stories – it’s ok. This is not what this book is about, you can read as much or as little as you like into the religious message so it works for those of faith too!

The appeal of this book for me is that it’s about people. It isn’t specifically a romance though it does play a part, I love that there are so many different characters and each one is complex and gloriously written. George (third of his name) is the main character, as the title may suggest, and he’s the perfect mix of neurotic, brave, cynical and hopeful. After his life goes down the shitter over a 24-hour period, he finds out that he really is capable of so much more than he’d resigned himself to and goes from simply going through the motions to taking control of his life and putting the needs of his family before his own. He meets Carolyn by chance on his first day as a bachelor and she helps him figure out what he’s been missing all these years, their relationship isn’t the centre of the plot and he doesn’t just lose himself to this new love affair, which makes him a better person in my opinion!

After that, I’d have to say that I love poor misunderstood Denis. We never get to learn that much about him but George changes his opinion of him grudgingly during the course of the book, which is sweet to read.

The author has wonderfully incorporated a range of LGBT issues, which are so skilfully written into the story that I only realised their full importance once I’d finished the book and was pondering the full scope of it. It includes a closeted relationship, a relationship between father and gay son and, at a distance, a woman rejected by her parents at the merest suggestion at her being gay.

O’Neill really does have a way with words; I giggled a fair amount throughout this book, where it’s very funny in places it’s also heart wrenching in others. I think it was the characters that had me hooked more than the story itself, which was a teeny bit too twee for my tastes (I’m not a Christmas or a family person by nature, and that’s essentially what this book was).

Every relationship in this book is so very real and relatable which is what makes the book so good. The author understands people and can demonstrate how interesting they are while keeping it subtle.

So fear not, if you’re looking for a Christmas time feel-good romance this year, I think you may have found it!