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    FIRST LINES FRIDAY 56: And Please, Say To Me, You’ll Let Me Hold Your Hand

    First Line Fridays” is by Hoarding Books and is all about the first line of a current/upcoming read. Friday 56 is a meme hosted by Freda’s Voice, where you turn to page 56 (or 56%) in what you’re reading a find a snippet that jumps out at you. The idea to combine the two came from Kat @ Here There Be Dragons

    I found this meme on The Writerly Way. And I’m doing this on a Thursday just to be difficult.

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    REVIEW: Freckles by Amy Lane

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    Freckles – Amy Lane

    Carter Embree has always hoped to be rescued from his productive, tragically boring, and (slightly) ethically compromised life. But when an urchin at a grocery store shoves a bundle of fluff into his hands, Carter goes from rescuee to rescuer—and he needs a little help.

    Sandy Corrigan, the vet tech who helps ease Carter into the world of dog ownership, first assumes that Carter is a crazy-pants client who just needs to relax. But as Sandy gets a glimpse into the funny, kind, sexy man under Carter’s mild-mannered exterior, he sees that with a little care and feeding, Carter might be Super-Pet Owner—and decent boyfriend material to boot.

    But Carter needs to see himself as a hero first. As he says good-bye to his pristine house and hello to carpet treatments and dog walkers, he finds that there really is more to himself than a researching drudge without a backbone. A Carter Embree can rate a Sandy Corrigan. He can be supportive, he can be a hero, he can be a man who stands up for his principles!

    He can be the owner of a small dog.

    Freckles was a tiny fluff of a pup when she was thrust into the hands of Carter Embree who fell in love at first sight and became her human. Carter was a nervous wreck of a dog owner. She was his first dog and he immediately sought the aid of professionals like Sandy Corrigan.

    Thus begins this adorkable tale written by a dog lover for dog lovers. Freckles is undoubtedly the star of the show and everybody loved her, poop bombs and all. The humans were not so far behind.

    Carter is an introverted, average-looking in a good way lawyer whose do-gooding, right-the-wrong ways were too good for his asshat boss. His superpowers were drawing airtight contracts and fighting for oppressed pet owners. It’s just, he hasn’t fully grown into them yet. He was unlucky in love but he lucked out on Freckles. She rescued him from the soul-sucking corporate life and gave him something to look forward to at the end of the day.

    Sandy was a vet tech who went back to college in his late 20s to earn his degree as a veterinarian. When he first met Carter, he thought he was well-dressed. And crazy. But he could tell right away that the man loved the little puppy and decided to help him through the process of dog ownership. Along the way, he discovered the brilliant, passionate person hiding behind the unassuming lawyer. Wisely, he grabbed on and didn’t let go.

    The blurb delivered everything it promised. The story is about how these two humans came together because of a tiny dog. It had a nice warm, laid-back feel with humor-laced writing that makes reading a breeze. It is a short book, around 170 pages, and I liked how everything was paced just right. A major part of the story happened in the span of a few days, most of it involving Carter’s struggles and triumphs as a dog owner while struggling with his job and his boss from hell.

    The romance was insta-attraction but its development didn’t feel rushed to me. The two men started with friendship. They discovered they liked hanging out with each other. I loved how Sandy smoothly turned a simple dog walk into a real date. Which turned into study dates, movies dates and cuddling. It was an easy, comfortable companionship that blossomed into something more deep and permanent.

    What I’m really trying to say in a such a roundabout way is that, they were so cute together!

    Freckles was beyond cute!

    The entire thing was fluff and cute!!!

    But in no way shallow or superficial because Amy Lane was able to give the story substance. There were some interesting points that I would love to see on more books. I totally loved the idea of a lawyer with a pure heart or one dedicated to animal advocacy.

    While not exactly exactly the blow-me-away away variety, Freckles the story won me over same way Freckles the dog won everyone else, including Carter’s very intelligent, very organized, no-nonsense mother. Even if this is a holiday read, it’s a good book to pick up anytime your soul needs a dose of cute.


    Amy Lane books here

    4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits

    Soundtrack: The World is Watching
    Artist: Two Door Cinema Club
    Album: Beacon

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    Candy Man: Tart and Sweet – Amy Lane

    In the Army, Robbie Chambers turned on his lover out of fear—and he hasn’t been able to live with himself since. Now he’s out of the Army but still trapped in the closet that brought on his most cowardly moment, and he starts to think he’ll never be able to fight his way free.

    Until he sees Cy McVeigh. Beautiful and uninhibited, Cy is dancing on the boardwalk at Old Sac for no other reason than the moment called for it. Robbie not only joins in the dance but is smitten from the very beginning.

    However, Robbie still has old business to clear up, and when he helps out a kid in need and comes face-to-face with the man he betrayed, he’s forced to come clean with himself. He can’t redeem his mistake if he’s still locked into his old patterns, and he won’t ever be worthy of Cy if he can’t earn Adam’s forgiveness. He’s going to need all the help he can get from the people at Candy Heaven in order to make things right with his past so he can have a future with Cy.

    Uh-oh, Robbie Chambers, Adam’s ex and the guy who betrayed him, is in town! What would Adam do? How would Finn react?

    Robbie is beating himself up at what he did and he is seeking redemption. Luckily, the psychic tag team of Darrin and Ezra is on the case. They made him take the candy test and he willingly went along with whatever advice they gave. That’s a good start, Robbie.

    Random male model as Robbie Chambers


    Walking around Sacramento with his girlfriend, Robbie met Cy McVeigh, a dance teacher busking in the streets who asked them to dance with him. As the trio danced, Robbie felt himself strongly drawn to Cy.

    Model with magnificent hair as Cy McVeigh


    Cy is a free-spirited bisexual who isn’t afraid to shop in the women’s department. He is the opposite of Robbie, who is still in the closet and has to tip-toe around his bigoted parents. Cy was what Robbie needed. He became Robbie’s support while Robbie learned to forgive himself. Amy Lane did a great job bringing the two together.

    One of the best things about this book is that Ezra really came into his own. He’s more confident and happy and his gift was strong. Even Darrin was impressed. Ezra was the designated peacekeeper who effectively kept shit from exploding because the meeting of Adam and Robbie was all sorts of awkward. And Finn, well, let’s just say he wasn’t taking things quietly.

    Tart and Sweet brings the Candy Man series full circle. There were a lot of Finn and Adam and Ezra and Miguel but Rico and Derek barely made an appearance which was kind of disappointing because they’re my second favorite couple. Adam and Finn is definitely number 1.

    That epilogue! I love it!

    The book ended on a satisfied note. Our dear candy fairy, Darrin knew his job is done and that he can leave Candy Heaven in good hands.  With the boys happy and dreaming big dreams, he does what needs to be done, he goes on a vacation.   


    To get the full Candy Man experience, I recommend reading the books in order. There are a lot of backstories, characters and references from the previous books.

    Reviews of Candy Man books here.


    4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits

    Soundtrack: Sorry 
    Artist: Nothing but Thieves
    Album: Broken Machine

    (source: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/31370835-tart-and-sweet)

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    Candy Man: Lollipop – Amy Lane

    Ezra Kellerman flew across country to see if he had another chance with the man he let slip through his fingers. He didn’t. Rico has moved on, but he doesn’t just leave his ex high and dry. Instead, Rico entrusts his family and friends with Ezra’s care. Ezra, confused, hurt, and lost, clings to Rico’s cousin and his boyfriend as the lifelines they are—but their friend Miguel is another story.

    Miguel Rodriguez had great plans and ambition—but a hearty dose of real life crushed those flat. When Miguel finds himself partially in charge of the befuddled, dreamy, healing Ezra, he’s pretty resentful at first. But Ezra’s placid nature and sincere wonder at the simple life Miguel has taken for granted begin to soften Miguel’s hardened shell. Miguel starts to notice that Ezra isn’t just amazingly sweet—he’s achingly beautiful as well. Suddenly Miguel is fending off every single man on the planet to give Ezra room to get over Rico—while fighting a burning suspicion that the best thing to help Ezra get over his broken heart is Miguel.

    Welcome back to sunny Sacramento, where shiny, happy people help sad, broken queers put the pieces back together.

    Last we know of Ezra, he was wilting in the summer sun and crying his eyes out at seeing Rico again. Now, Rico is with Derek and Ezra is still a weepy softy but tries to keep a brave face and start a new life. Lucky for him, Miguel is there to help him every step of the way. Unfortunately for me, it’s too similar to Derek and Rico’s story so it didn’t feel fresh. I ended up reading it for the people.

    The Candy Man characters are the kind of people I want to be surrounded with. There’s Adam who came in with all his walls up but is now confident and taking charge, Finn who fell out of a basket of chocolate bunnies, Rico and Derek, yuppies who want to make a difference; Darrin who might be bitchy but just had to help everyone with his clairvoyance because how could he not, and the amazing Stewart family who adopts and feeds everyone in sight.

    Ezra is the youngest Kellerman whose childhood was a sorry affair. He was in the closet for a long time until his father discovered his relationship with Rico. One day he broke down and decided enough was enough. I didn’t really warm up to Ezra immediately. He cries all the time and it took a long time for him to find what he was looking for even if it was already right in his face. Also, he kept putting off his visit to his shrink. You need professional help, Ezra. Please see your doctor.

    Kristof Pituk as Ezra Kellerman


    Miguel, I liked better. He comes from a big happy family and like in Rico and Derek’s case, he wants Ezra to experience the happy things he missed as a child. Their trip to Disneyland was the best. 

    Miles Frank as Miguel Rodriguez


    Lollipop is the longest book so far, clocking in at 9+ hours. I enjoyed most of it though there were parts that I found repetitive especially the moments where Miguel, his mom or somebody was comforting Ezra and then after a while, the same thing would be said again only in a different way. There were a lot of these phrasing and rephrasing scattered throughout the story. I guess Ezra needed a lot of reassurances.

    On a happier note, Darrin found his protege. And he was certainly not the one Darrin expected. Still, the candy fairy knew his new mentee will go a long way. I am excited to see what the new candy fairy will do for Robbie and Cy. Their book is next.


    3.5 Stars – that place between like and love

    Soundtrack: Finding Home
    Artist: Mindy Gledhill
    Album: Pocketful of Poetry

    (source: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/28322700-lollipop)

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    Candy Man: Bitter Taffy – Amy Lane

    Rico Gonzalves-Macias didn’t expect to fall in love during his internship in New York—and he didn’t expect the boss’s son to out them both and get him fired either. When he returns to Sacramento stunned and heartbroken, he finds his cousin, Adam, and Adam’s boyfriend, Finn, haven’t just been house-sitting—they’ve made his once sterile apartment into a home.

    When Adam gets him a job interview with the adorable, magnetic, practically perfect Derek Huston, Rico feels especially out of his depth. Derek makes it no secret that he wants Rico, but Rico is just starting to figure out that he’s a beginner at the really important stuff and doesn’t want to jump into anything with both feet.

    Derek is a both-feet kind of guy. But he’s also made mistakes of his own and doesn’t want to pressure Rico into anything. Together they work to find a compromise between instant attraction and long-lasting love, and while they’re working, Rico gets a primer in why family isn’t always a bad idea. He needs to believe Derek can be his family before Derek’s formidable patience runs out—because even a practically perfect boyfriend is capable of being hurt.

    It was a scene worthy of a Mexican telenovela. Up and coming young man caught sleeping with his boss’s in-the-closet son. Father confronts young man in front of co-workers and throws him out of the office. Young man begs the rich man’s son “come with me”. Rich man’s son is dragged away by bodyguard.

    Such was the end of Rico Gonzalves-Macias’ promising internship in Manhattan. Out of job and nursing a broken heart, he returns to Sacramento and found that Adam and Finn made his minimalist apartment cozier. Of course fab matchmaking candy fairy Darrin has foreseen his return and promptly sics Derek Huston on him because Darrin knows Derek is good for Rico

    I like Rico. He looks like Adam but more metro. He is as nice as Adam but more social. He has experienced homophobia from his family but was able to find the courage to come out

    “Mami, this is Derek. He’s my boyfriend. We were on our way out—and so were Finn and Adam. We’ll be out in five minutes, and if you don’t want to see any gay people holding hands or kissing, you three had better be the holy fuck away from my place.”

    Sufjan Stevens in a suit as Rico Gonzalves-Macias


    I like Derek. He is a blond, blue-eyed golden prince with a golden heart who lives in a cozy picture book cottage. He has great parents and a happy childhood and he want to share that happiness with Rico.

    “No, c’mon.” Rico studied him, unsure of what was wrong. “It’s been a great day.”
    Derek nodded and kissed him on the forehead. “Yeah. It has. I want a lot more like it. I want them with you.”
    Rico’s smile made a quick return and then retreated again. “Then what —”
    Derek bit his lip. “I just… I get the feeling you and Adam—you didn’t have much of that when you were kids. I just… I wanted to give it to you, that was all.”

    Alexander Skarsgard in a tux as Derek Huston


    I like Rico and Derek. Their banter was enjoyable and the chemistry was fantastic although there were bits of dialogue that were too flowery and melodramatic. However, for the the most part, they were fun together. And in the sweltering heat, in the sea of cazh, they stick to their designer suits. I approve.

    Metrosexual yuppies doin’ their thang:

    Derek shook his head and turned, taking in Rico’s best spring suit and his dazzling emerald green tie.
    “Nice,” he purred, and then he made the once-around gesture with his finger. Rico rolled his eyes, but the suit had been one of his last purchases before he’d left New York, and he was sort of proud of it. He held his briefcase out at his side and did a smart little pivot, his dress shoes sliding easily on the short pile of the carpeting.
    Derek laughed and clapped his hands. “Very nice,” he said, and then, to Rico’s amusement, he did the same.
    His trim form was very nicely accentuated in something Hugo Boss, gray linen, with a melon-colored tie.Rico obliged him by clapping.

    Adam and Rico’s relationship is one of the best parts of the story.

    Adam has always hero worshiped his cousin and because of that Rico was able to achieve a lot of things. Rico, on the other hand, has always treated Adam like a brother.

    A telenovela is only as good as its villano. These come in the form of the harpy mami, Adam’s and Rico’s moms and their abuela, bitter homophobic women who showed up one day at their apartment (because Rico was avoiding his mami’s calls after getting shitty reception for coming out) and started the haranguing and the name calling and oh no! You did not just spit on Adam! At which point Finn went berserk and Adam had to bodily haul him away. Thankfully, the wonderful Stewart women were there to save the day. They shed light on the way of the gay and thus Rico’s mom was enlightened. “Magic fuckin’ happy people” make miracles happened. Do not get in their way.

    Bitter Taffy is a story about moving on and fresh starts. The characters draw you in and you end up emotionally attached.

    I really love the Candy Man world and its people.  I’m glad that almost everybody from the first book made appearances (more Adam and Finn is always a big plus). It makes everything more real and I want to be friends with these people. This series also makes me want to live in Sacramento. The neighborhood is so nice!

    This installment ends with big drama. Luckily, Rico knows whats good for him and held on to it. Darrin, on the other hand, ends up with another project. I can’t wait to start on that!

    So, on to Ezra and Miguel’s story…

    4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits

    Soundtrack: Me & You
    Artist: Parekh & Singh
    Album: Ocean

    (source: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25821026-bitter-taffy)

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    Candy Man – Amy Lane

    Adam Macias has been thrown a few curve balls in his life, but losing his VA grant because his car broke down and he missed a class was the one that struck him out. One relative away from homelessness, he’s taking the bus to Sacramento, where his cousin has offered a house-sitting job and a new start. He has one goal, and that’s to get his life back on track. Friends, pets, lovers? Need not apply.

    Finn Stewart takes one look at Adam as he’s applying to Candy Heaven and decides he’s much too fascinating to leave alone. Finn is bright and shiny—and has never been hurt. Adam is wary of his attention from the very beginning—Finn is dangerous to every sort of peace Adam is forging, and Adam may just be too damaged to let him in at all.

    But Finn is tenacious, and Adam’s new boss, Darrin, doesn’t take bullshit for an answer. Adam is going to have to ask himself which is harder—letting Finn in or living without him? With the holidays approaching it seems like an easy question, but Adam knows from experience that life is seldom simple, and the world seldom cooperates with hope, faith, or the plans of cats and men.

    Lots to love about this sweet little treat!

    First, Candy Heaven is real!!!


    According to the author’s note, there is an actual Candy Heaven somewhere out there in Sacramento owned by a fabulous candy man named Darrin which I’d say would make a great pilgrimage site for book tours.

    Whether or not the real Darrin can read fortunes out of Pixy Stix is something I want to find out because fictional Darrin did a sugar reading and saw that Adam and Finn go together like peanut butter and jelly so he set things in motion to get them together.

    The tie-dye flags mentioned in the story:


    The loft Adam hides in to avoid Finn:


    Candy Man has some bits of magic realism, fairy tale-like elements, low-angst drama and maximum cuteness levels that make it a charming read. There’s also a homicidal cat who has seen better days, a friendly dog, a new kitten and Finn’s delightful family. 

    Despite all the bad things that happened to Finn and especially Adam, the book is chock-full of humor, happiness and hope, enough to make even hardcore pessimists like me see things in a brighter light even just for a little bit.

    Finn is a curly haired, blue-eyed ginger who wears that dog hat from Adventure Time. He is a walking ray of sunshine with the boundless energy and enthusiasm of a Labrador retriever. Also with the persistence of a hound on a scent so Adam stood no chance.

    “I was going to fall in love with you whether I liked it or not, and it’s just a good thing you were awesome, or I would have been fucking doomed.“

    Random redhead as Finn Stewart.


    Meanwhile, due to some terrible circumstances, Adam is pessimistic as fuck and has a tendency to sink into a pit of negativity had he not been forced out of his shell by do-gooders, Finn, Darrin and the other Candy Heaven employees. On the upside, he is a really great artist, has dreams of becoming an animator and leaves sandwiches on dumpsters for the homeless. And despite the pessimism, he is full of hope. He’s just low-key about it.

    Sufjan Stevens as Adam Macias.


    Try as he might to deny it, Adam knows he and Finn are on to something. Finn might be the talkative one, but Adam has some great lines.

    “Right now you and me are-we’re a sketch. And we could be a real great picture someday, with ink and oils or watercolor, and hell we may even be a movie.”  

    Yep, a match made in candy heaven! Sorry, couldn’t resist that one (^_^;)

    4.5 Stars – perfection is only half a step away 

    Soundtrack: Sugar, You
    Artist: Oh Honey
    Album: Wish You Were Here

    (source: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23525657-candy-man)

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    Going Up – Amy Lane

    Every dreary day, Zach Driscoll takes the elevator from the penthouse apartment of his father’s building to his coldly charmed life where being a union lawyer instead of a corporate lawyer is an act of rebellion. Every day, that is, until the day the elevator breaks and Sean Mallory practically runs into his arms.

    Substitute teacher Sean Mallory is everything Zach is not—poor, happy, and goofily charming. With a disarming smile and a penchant for drama, Sean laughs his way into Zach’s heart one elevator ride at a time. Zach would love to get to know Sean better, but first he needs the courage to leave his ivory tower and face a relationship that doesn’t end at the “Ding!”

    Once upon a time, there was a prince who lived in an ivory tower. The prince worked to defend the people but he was lonely, very lonely. One day, while riding the elevator, he met a peasant. The peasant was bright and charming and the prince wanted to see him again. Everyday he took the elevator and almost always, he met the peasant. They talked and soon they discovered their feelings were mutual. However, the king and the queen did not like the prince liking the peasant and they banished the prince’s people to a poorer place. The prince told his people about the king’s action. The people liked the prince, they understood and supported him. The prince decided he wanted to get out of his tower and tried to take the next step. The peasant who was also a knight, helped the prince. He taught the prince how to kiss, how to have a conversation, how to open himself. Soon the peasant moved in with the prince. The prince who was very lonely was now happy, very happy and he and the peasant lived happily ever after.

    3.5 Stars – that place between like and love

    Soundtrack: Hotel Yorba
    Artist: The White Stripes
    Album: White Blood Cells

    (source: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/19274364-going-up