MyFictionNook

Sandra @ My Fiction Nook

I like romance and boys loving boys in my books. 

You can also find me on my main blog

 

 




1416 Devotees
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Secrets and Charms
Lou Harper
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The Luckiest (Lucky Moon Book 2)
M.J. O'Shea, M.J. O'Shea
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My Favorite Uncle
Marshall Thornton
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The River Leith
Leta Blake
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ARC Review: Signs Of Life by Melanie Hansen

Signs of Life - Melanie Backe-Hansen

Re-read in May 2016, long after I received this book for review, because I didn't review the first time around.

But - I think this needed re-reading anyway, to capture some of the more poignant moments that I missed upon first reading.

 

Some small possible spoilers ahead...

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You see, this book packs a lot of whammies. It's chockful of angst, pain, hurt, and grief. But also hope. Learning to live again. Finding your way out of the darkness.

Jeremy Speer is happily married to his long-time lover, Brent, and they're expecting their first baby, a boy, via surrogate. Brent has been fighting depression off and on, and he's recently come out of another severe bout. Things are looking up.

Amidst this happy scene, a tragic accident happens. Jeremy nearly drowns in a sea of grief, but tries to keep it together for the baby whose birth is nearly imminent.

And then the other shoe drops.

I was immediately in tears, but the blurb hinting at a positive outcome helped me through the box of tissues I needed at that point. Jeremy's pain just pours off the pages. This is one of the few books I've read that opened with such heaviness and sorrow.

So much pain. You can see the character simply shutting down because this burden is more than anyone should have to carry. Jeremy says some really nasty things to his best friend Jase (he from book 1), something that was hurtful and uncalled for - but the man is so lost in his grief that his words can be understood, and excused.

Two years pass, two years that take Jeremy to the brink of despair and back. When we see him again, he's known as "the runner" because that's what he does when he's not hiding himself away from the world in his cabin in the woods. He's certain he will never love again because love equals pain, and he will not open himself to that again. He thinks of himself as "dead inside". No joy, no happiness, only pain and grief. He's erected walls too high for anyone to climb or tear down.

Kai Daniels is a former gang member turned high school teacher in an alternative school, one where his students are the rejects, often involved in criminal activities, with their last chance being attending the school. It's that or jail/juvenile detention. He reaches some, he can't reach others. Kai is a unique position with these kids - he's been where they are now. He was lucky and got out, but there are things that happened to him he doesn't often talk about, and he wishes that he could save all his students, knowing that he likely can't. He also teaches a self-defense technique called Krav Maga, something I hadn't heard of before. He's seen "the runner" around town, and finds the man attractive, but doesn't know him, and has no idea that their paths will soon cross.

There's a scene fairly early on, at the point where the story really kicks off, between Jeremy and Kai, who initially meet in a club, and have an encounter that is both super hot and super sad. Sad because of how it ends. The author does a fantastic job of showing her readers why it ends the way it does, and I couldn't help but feel sorry for Jeremy and Kai both.

When they meet again, it's under very different circumstances, but that is the catalyst to their slowly blooming relationship. Jeremy is very upfront with Kai about the damage his past has done, and sets clear expectations from the start. But they talk. They share with each other that what not many other people know, and they slowly form a tentative friendship. Also, they have a lot of sex. The sexual attraction between the two men runs super hot, and my Nook grew warm in my hands and my face flushed, while I was reading those scenes. They get along fantastically in the bedroom (or against the kitchen counter, or wherever else they get it on), and slowly, this translates into more. Slowly. Very, very slowly.

I really liked both characters. They were complex, with a multitude of characteristics, and fully fleshed out. The slow dance between them, from holy hot boysecks, Batman, to slowly starting to become friends and then lovers in the full sense of the word was quite beautiful to behold. Still, it's not all smooth sailing, for reasons that have to do with their pasts. Jeremy is fearful that as he starts to have feelings for Kai, and begins to admit to himself that he's having those feelings, that history will repeat itself. He still holds much of his pain inside, but there's a scene that could almost be called a breakthrough for Jeremy, and it gets a little easier for him after that.

Kai relies rather heavily on his best friend Loren, and, without meaning to, uses him almost as a crutch. His explanation for doing so, at least the one he gives Jeremy, is terrible, and in the process he hurts Jeremy badly. It's unintentional of course, and actually a result of Kai wanting to NOT hurt Jeremy, but it sadly backfires on him. And I think this is the moment when Kai finally figures out that he's been holding back, when Jeremy stopped doing so a while ago.

Considering that Kai thought Jeremy wasn't strong enough, it is actually Kai who's lacking strength. There are thankfully no prolonged misunderstandings, and I really appreciated that in a book that was full of angst already. Jeremy fucks up, Kai fucks up, but it doesn't take them long (once they are actually together) to figure out how to talk to each other. Even if it takes Kai longer to get it.

The author touches on social issues within the book, which is something I expected, and they are well woven into the story line. She made her characters come alive, and while the supporting cast wasn't quite as fully fleshed out, she did give each of them a specific purpose. Additionally, I appreciated the lines about how not everyone is a good fit for college, and that some kids do much better learning a trade that will give them a decent income and a life worth living. I liked that the more prominent kids in this book got a chance to learn that lesson.

I loved the epilogue, and how the author seemingly interweaves the other two books in this series. It was a grandiose HEA, which was much appreciated after a book that was so full of angst, grief, and pain.

 

While this is part of a series, and book 2 as such, I would say it can be read as a standalone. The book focuses on Jeremy and Kai, and while characters from the other two books are mentioned (based on their blurbs), I didn't feel like I was missing information not having read those books. 


** I received a free copy of this book from its publisher. A positive review was not promised in return. **