books

Roan Parrish

Books

Riven: Riven (2018), Rend (2018), Raze (2019)

Small Change: Small Change (2017), Invitation to the Blues (2018)

Garnet Run: Better Than People (2020)


Riven


Riven (2018)

I’ve never been interested in reading a book about a rock star, which is why I had a really hard time starting this one. In fact, since I’d forgotten the premise when I started reading, I wondered why on earth I’d gotten it.

Theo Decker is a rock star and hates it. Not the music–he loves the music–but he hates being famous.

But then I got to the second character, and remembered why I’d snagged it when it was on sale.

Caleb Whitman had been a blues man of some renown, but in order to get clean he had to walk away from everything he loved: the music, the live shows, and the bars. Now he lives in the country, on the small farm he inherited from his grandfather, and works to stay clean and sober, only occasionally going down to the city to visit his sponsor and occasionally playing the guitar for himself.

I disclosed the thing that needed to be on the record before we could go any further. It would be painful if he left now; it would be unbearable if he stayed and left later. That, I could already tell. And it terrified me.

“Ah, no. That I learned in rehab. And NA meetings. And from my friend yapping in my ear over and over again.” Fucking Huey, all insistent on me being in touch with my feelings and shit.

I forced myself to glance up at Theo. His eyebrows were drawn together in concern, but he didn’t look disgusted by me, which was a welcome change.

“Yeah, I, uh, I kinda figured when I saw you were super successful and then disappeared. I mean, I might have looked you up. Online. On tour. A lot.”

Despite being a rock star, Theo is sweet and adorable.

Since Antony worked the night shift and I was often coming and going in the middle of the night, we ended up chatting a lot. Antony had to be about seventy-five years old, and when I asked him why he was working the night shift he got this look and said, “No reason to keep someone else out all night when I have nothing keeping me at home.” I found out from one of the other tenants that he used to work the day shift, but his wife had died a few years before and he’d switched to nights.

Once he’d found out I was a musician, he always asked me any clue in his ever-present puzzle that had to do with music, and somehow he never managed to make me feel stupid when I didn’t know the answers.

Caleb is a mess. He’s sober, but he’s terrified that doing anything that he once loved will pull him back into the addiction he’s worked so hard to overcome.

I just needed to make sure I was acting rather than reacting. That I was making a choice instead of allowing the tides of other people’s feelings to pull me under.

What this means for the two of them is that Caleb is terrified of anything that makes him feel happiness (and wanting), and terrified to start making music for real again.

Which makes Theo’s life (which he hates) very problematic.

What I really liked about the story was how real Caleb’s struggle was. He wanted sobriety, but was too terrified to trust himself.

“Some things you take medication for a week and they go away. Some conditions you take medication for your whole life because that’s how you manage it. Only you can say which you’ve got and which you need.”

There was also an amazing passage that was very much like a discussion I had with friends years ago, about eating disorders and weight maintenance in general.

“Okay, so Maxine. Coke and booze. Plus she had issues with food. She ditched the coke and the booze, right? Went to meetings, did the whole bit. Took her a while, but she did it. After she’d been clean for about five years, you know what she told me? She said that she didn’t talk about it much at meetings because people didn’t take it serious, but the hardest thing for her to get under control— harder than coke and booze? Her eating disorder.”

“What? Why?”

He nodded. “You can draw a clean line with coke and booze. Say never again, and stay away from them, period. Food? You gotta eat that shit three times a day every day for the rest of your life, and you gotta make choices about it every time.

The other thing about the story is that Caleb has a support network looking out for him. So although Theo is the one with the money and the fame, Caleb is in many ways far better off, since he has friends who love him and care about what happens to him.

I just stared at him, my mind a blank. Rhys face-palmed and glared at me. Then he grabbed back the bag of chips we’d been eating.

“You don’t even deserve these, I’m taking them with me.”

Even if they are a little snarky.

It’s a very sweet story, about being broken and fixing yourself, and about love and trust.

“If you’re looking for a prize, you ain’t lookin’ for love. Love isn’t a reward. It’s not something you deserve or don’t deserve.”

I can recommend this, and now that I see that none of the following books have anything to do with the band, I might think about reading them.

Publisher: Loveswept
Rating: 7.5/10

Rend (2018)

RendOh. My. God.

So much crying.

I hate crying. Yet, I kept stifling tears as I read this story.

Kids in the system slipped through the cracks in school because they didn’t have a support system. They didn’t have people helping them with their homework, or telling them they could live their dreams if they worked hard or joined extracurriculars so they could go to college. A lot of them skipped school because they needed more hours at work, or dropped out entirely, knowing that as soon as they turned eighteen they’d need to be self-sufficient so they may as well start early. And that was to say nothing of the kids who had it bad.

Matt Argento survived the foster system and found a man who loves him: Rhys Nyland, musician, singer, and songwriter. They’re married and love each other, but when Rhys goes on tour, all of Matt’s defenses are stripped and he suddenly has to deal with his past.

The more uncertain he seemed, the more I needed to be reminded of what we had. I wanted him to hold me down and show me who I was.

This is a really difficult book to read. Matt and Rhys are already married, and we do get flashbacks to when the met and their whirlwind relationship, but the heart of the story is Matt learning how to deal with his past without destroying what he and Rhys have.

Here’s the thing that was hardest–I totally understood why Matt didn’t want to tell Rhys about his past, about just how broken he was, and about the people that broke him and the systems that didn’t save him.

My chest was so tight I couldn’t breathe. He had told me that. He had. But then every time I’d told him just a piece, shown him just the corners, the look on his face… the fucking pain he felt for me. It was like he was asking me to touch a red-hot poker to his gut. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t stand to inflict such pain on him. He loved me so much. I couldn’t bear to tell him things that would hurt him.

This story is entirely from Matt’s point-of-view. The reason that’s so important to mention is that towards the end of the book, Matt overhears a conversation between Rhys and Caleb, and although Matt takes it as a prod to take steps he could have ages ago, it also clarifies to you, the reader, that Rhys is not actually as perfect as Matt sees him. It’s a very important bit of the book–not just for the reader, but because Matt finally takes the steps he needs to, to begin his own process of healing.

And that’s what made this story so damned good.

In some ways, Rhys has already rescued Matt at the beginning of the story. But being rescued isn’t as easy as either Matt or Rhys things it is, and we are reminded again and again how much work it takes to get through to the other side of the issues Matt has.

I’m warning you–this book will most likely make you cry. But it’s so damned good, you’ll keep reading through the sniffles and the blurry pages.

Publisher: Loveswept
Rating: 9/10

Raze (2019)

RazeHuey has spent a decade focusing on being sober, and helping others by being a sponsor. But in building his life, he hasn’t allowed anything unplanned or unexpected.

I liked the dishes to be done in a particular way, and the routine was important to me.

For as long as Felix Rainey can remember, he’s spent his life helping to hold his family together. The oldest of five, his single mother struggled to keep them together, so Felix–and then his sister Sasha–did everything they could to help.

Now he and Sasha live in New York, she working for the University where she went to school, and he still working at the job he got when the first moved to the city so she could go to school. He doesn’t really know how to want anything for himself. But when he meets Huey, he finally wants something for himself.

As with the previous two books in this series, this book made me want to cry. Huey has worked so hard to get where he is, but he is still broken, and doesn’t really even realize it.

(W)ith the pain in my knee managed, I realized they helped me with other kinds of pain too. They let me run away. Hide in the way it felt to not have to be me.

“I liked how it felt too much, not being me. Liked it too much to stop.

Oof.

Also:

There was an itch beneath my skin. A raw ache like when I overdid it at the gym— muscle and sinew pushed beyond their previous limit— but inside.

And Felix is adorable.

Felix turned to me, clearly enjoying the interplay.

“I will win you this monster if it’s the last thing I do!” he pledged, hand to heart. Then, shoving his hand into his pocket, he added, “And if I can do it in six dollars.”

Though there were hard things to read her, it wasn’t as angsty as the first two books, and I never actually full-on cried while reading.

Publisher : Loveswept
Rating: 8/10

 

Small Change


Small Change (2017)

Small ChangeGinger Holtzman may or may not have a crush on the guy who runs the bakery down the street from her tattoo studio. But his store does have coffee. And excellent bagels.

Christopher Lucen definitely has a crush on Ginger, but isn’t at all sure how the prickly artist feels about him.

Ginger has spent her whole life just trying to be herself. But as hard as it is for just anyone, it’s even harder for a woman in the male dominated world of tattooing. So she really doesn’t know how to deal with someone who seems to like her for herself.

And she is really terrible at relationships.

“Okay, point of clarification. It’s the nicest thing any random has done for me because I’m me as opposed to because I gave them a tattoo they liked.”

“Why does that make you a pathetic loser?” Marcus asked.

“No, I know,” I said.

“The question stands.”

“Ugh, because, whatever. He has a functional relationship with his mother. He eats balanced, healthy meals.”

“Well, obviously that’s stupid.

As much as I like Christopher, I sadly have to identify with Ginger.

(W)hen you see people you know from other moments in your life you, like, joyfully call out to them because you want to know how they’re doing.”

“Well, what do you do?”

“Me? I duck down behind the cereal aisle in the hopes that they won’t notice me because probably.”

This story is in two parts. It is primarily from Gonger’s POV, however, there are multiple emails between Christopher and his brother, which reveal that things are not as wonderful as they may seem in Christopher’s life.

There is a fair amount of darkness in this story, not just in how Ginger has to deal with being a woman in a man’s world, but also with Christopher’s brother. So although the story is good, just be prepared for some hard bits.

Publisher: Monster Press
Rating: 7.5/10

Invitation to the Blues (2018)

Invitation to the BluesThis story is not for everyone.

So there I was, working in my younger brother’s sandwich shop to make rent after moving out of my parents’ house, where I’d gone to temporarily lie low when I was released from the hospital I ended up in after trying to kill myself.

No, it’s not the start of a grim joke. Just my grim fucking life.

Jude Lucen is back home, trying to put his life back together, and trying not to miss the pieces of his life that were good, back in Boston.

He’s also trying very hard not to want Faron, the beautiful, graceful man who works at Small Change.

The thing about this story is it spoke a lot of truths, and they were hard.

Usually, I didn’t like being touched. It didn’t feel good and it made me aware of a body I’d rather forget.

every day when I was okay shimmered with a threat just out of view. I’d stop in the middle of doing something and check in: did I still feel okay? I did. I would reassure myself, See! You are still okay!

But once I began to look down and check that the ground was still flat, every step felt like the one that might suddenly slope downhill. And even when it didn’t, the edge felt like it was growing nearer and each day became more and more vertiginous.

Depression and anxiety were self-abnegating and self-centering at the same time. It was so easy to believe that because my feelings were huge, they exerted a force beyond me. It was so easy to forget that even though I was always being forced to think about myself, not everyone else did.

“You don’t want to choose,” he said. “Choosing feels hard because it could always be a mistake. And if it’s a mistake and you chose it, then it’s your fault. You don’t want it to be your fault. You already feel guilty enough. You don’t want to feel any more.”

I’d worried about taking (any other medications), convinced the slightest change to my chemical cocktail would send me spiraling.

So, yeah.

All those truths.

But it was a good story underneath those heavy truths. Faron wants to convince Jude he is worthy of love. Jude trying to get beyond his past and what he’d come to believe about himself.

And Faron himself has his own issues, most of which are in the background of Jude’s, butonce Jude puts himself back together, he tries his best to be there for Faron when he needs him.

This is a boinking book, but it’s a whole lot more than that.

Publisher : Monster Press
Rating: 8/10


Garnet Run


Better Than People (2020)

I’ll be honest–I’ve been wanting nothing but comfort and fluffy reading right now, and Roan Parrish is generally the last author I’d turn to for that. Her other books–while excellent–have been extremely angsty. But reviews said this was NOT full of angst, and one of the characters has a house full of rescue pets, so I decided to try.

This was all fluff, but it also wasn’t angsty.

Jack had a good career as a children’s illustrator, until his partner and best friend screwed him over. Several months of wallowing in self pity were then followed by breaking his leg, and no longer being able to walk his dogs.

Username? He hated usernames. JackOfAllDogs, he typed. Then, with a guilty glance at the cats, he changed it to JackOfAllPets. Then he decided that looked too much like Jack off and changed it to JMatheson.

Simon has severe anxiety. That part of the story–seeing Simon try and manage his anxiety and sometimes failing to do so–was at times hard to read. But Simon’s issues were longstanding and although he didn’t succeed at being in public, he had coping mechanisms and was obviously doing as best he could. Except for the whole having friends things.

This part was always the hardest. The moment when he could see the person he would have been— the connections he would have made— if only he weren’t like he goddamn was.

The story is how while walking Jack’s pets, Simon slowly comes to talk to, and eventually trust, Jack. And how the two fall in love.

“I worked at a c-company before.” He shuddered. “It was awful. Cubicles and p-people and no one would leave me alone.”

“What’d they do?” Jack asked, preemptively furious on Simon’s behalf.

Simon turned to him, eyes wide with horror. “Talked to me! Had b-birthday cakes and— and holiday parties.”

Oh, Simon has the best grandmother.

“Don’t make the mistake of letting fear convince you that you already know the end of the story.”

So a little bit of angst, and a lot of work as the two try to navigatewhat Simon could and could not manage. But it was sweet, and dealt with grief and anxiety and pain in a real and honest way, that faced these issues, and made it clear they weren’t just things you could “get over” if you tried hard enough.

Publisher: Carina Adores
Rating: 8/10