The Cranberry Hush by Ben Monopoli

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“Is there, in the Year 2000, a name for this? What would you call this? Are you some new breed of life partners? Are you lifebuddies? Nonsexual husbands?”

Title: The Cranberry Hush
Author: Ben Monopoli
Why you should read this book: Because it’s a lovely story about love, friendship and moving on.

Summary from Goodreads:

Vince Dandro might be going through the quietest quarter-life crisis of all time. He lives alone, works in a comic book shop, and has a crush on his coworker he can’t seem to act on. Like an old comic book, his life’s colors have started to fade. Everything brightens when Vince’s long-lost friend Griff appears on his doorstep in the middle of a blizzard. They were roommates in college, so close back then that Griff’s girlfriend called them “lifebuddies” — but Vince’s love for Griff had ended the friendship, he thought, forever. They haven’t spoken in years. Why has Griff shown up again? And, more importantly, can Vince handle his return?

Vince and Griff are two twentysomethings struggling to find their places in the world and in each other’s lives. This is a story of friendship and love, both unrequited and requited, and of learning how to fly through the post-college void, which just might hold more than a cranberry hush.

Everyone else was always the third wheel when Griff was around. How could I reduce him to what he was supposed to be? Just a buddy, just a roommate, just an open-mouth chewer of pizza.
What if I couldn’t?

I don’t know what to write about this book without spoiling everything. I don’t want to spoil it because, step by step, it takes you through so many range of emotions that if I reveal something I might ruin the whole experience. It is a simple book, a book about a guy living his live, working in a comic book store, having crushes, and living a very quiet life.

It is a book about the past, the feeling of a void that needs to be filled. A book about love, so much love it breaks your heart slowly. It is above all a book about friendship, the real deal, the one that survives fights, years of being apart and everything life throws at you. I don’t have that kind of friendship and I was really jealous of Vince and Griffin.

“I think it’s weirder to only be able to fall in love with half of the people you meet.”

Vince is bisexual and this has given him quite a few headaches from others through the years. He is sweet but he is a bit of a coward: he prefers to stop doing one thing if he has even the slightest feeling something might ruin it. You can’t do that or you will live your life being scared of everything. There was a time I was like him and that’s what annoyed me the most about Vince, because I knew how ruinous that behavior can be.

Maybe we would hang out in each other’s rooms, sixty-nine for hours while our roommates were away, become life partners, adopt foreign orphans.

He fell in love with Griff at first sight in college and through some weird methods he found out more about him and asked him to be his roommate. Vince was positive Griff was going to fall in love with him even if the entire world (and Griff) told him he was 100% straight. Vince is delusional and that took a lot from him. I felt his pain, I, too, have this bad habit of daydreaming about a lot of things but then real life slaps me in the face.

“I don’t think of Superman as being angsty, though.”
“That’s the problem. Most people don’t. But really he’s pure angst. He has a Fortress of Solitude, you know? What do you think he does there, throw parties? No. He broods.”

Vince is quietly living his life when one day Griff, freshly out of a break up, shows on his doorstep and asks him to stay at his place for a week until he figures out what to do. There’s more to Griff that what he shows Vince and that puts more delusion in our poor guy’s mind. I wanted to scream “Wake up, son, or at least ask so that everybody can go home in peace!”. It’s so easy to lose ourselves in dreams: in dreams things can’t go wrong if we decide they can’t. In dreams every piece fits perfectly into our life’s puzzle.

I had a hard time figuring out Griffin at first. He is a nice guy having no clue about what he wants to do with his life. We’ve all been there (oh hell, I’m still there myself!) but seeking refuge in memories of a perfect past can do so much damage. I love that Griff thought of Vince when he didn’t know where else to go. I think that is what was supposed to happen and I’m happy he did what he did throughout the week he stayed in Vince’s house. This experience allowed them to grow up.

No, I wasn’t stuck in my glory days. I was homesick.

I didn’t start this book hoping for a happy ending in which the main characters change who they are and miraculously they find a way to work things out and live happily ever after. I started this book with my heart open to possibilities. Things could go very wrong or too right. I wanted it to be somewhere in the middle.

I love how the book ended, I smiled so much my face hurt a little. I was surprised by the outcome, it wasn’t exactly how I picture it, but it was so much better. Ben Monopoli writes exquisitely and I love him every day a little bit more. This book isn’t too much like so many books can be. It’s not overwhelming but you will find yourself in turmoil of feeling, even if you don’t relate to the characters. The Cranberry Hush is sweet and real, painful and hopeful, and I loved it.

Do I recommend it? Yes, it is really sweet and I think everybody will love it.
Rate: 4/5

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Homo Action Love Story! A tall tale by Ben Monopoli

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For me this is just beginning, and the journey and destination are both him.

Title: Homo Action Love Story! A tall tale
Author: Ben Monopoli
Why you should read this book: Because there is action, love, pro paintball players and pirates!

Summary from Goodreads:

Boots McHenry and his boyfriend Ryan are young superstars in the North American Paintball League, a high-stakes sport where losers face exile — five full years of it, on an island so secret no one can be sure it even exists. After Ryan has a tragic collision with an opposing team’s paintball, the rules of the game force the boyfriends apart.

Boots is shattered without Ryan, so when his best friend Clemente Santiago suggests a daring, high-seas mission to find the island and reunite the pair, Boots jumps at the chance. They assemble a crack team to join them, including fashion model and mixed-martial-arts champ Colby Kroft, hunky-but-shy sea-captain Marcus Tumble, and Piper Pernfors, the ex who’s aching to make Boots forget Ryan ever existed.

“Young people think they are invincible, that nothing bad will ever happen to them, and then something changes: they fall in love. And the world begins to seem a lot more fragile.”

The title of this book is kind of weird. I really didn’t know what to expect. I thought it was going to be a strange but light read. It was indeed a light read, I couldn’t stop reading; the story was intriguing, different, action fuelled and funny. Also hot, can’t forget that.

This is going to be a little spoilery review because there are a few elements I want to talk about and it will spoil the read if you want to get into the book.

This book is set in the future, it doesn’t say when, it’s just “the future”. Boots is our main character. He is 24 years old, is really rich and in love with his boyfriend of 2 years, Ryan. They both play professional paintball that seems to be the football of the future. They are famous, rich and people love them. Unfortunately, in this weird future where people can love whoever they like and you can’t catch sickness in no way whatsoever, when you get hit during a paintball match, you are exiled to an island nobody knows where is located.

Guess what?? Ryan gets hit; he is simu-killed and gets sent to Exile Island leaving our poor Boots sad and horny. He is young, I get why one of his first thoughts are: where do I stand on this relationship? Do I have to wait for him for 5 years? Can I move on and maybe fall in love again? It may seem shallow because he seems so in love with Ryan so why is he thinking about having sex with other guys? They didn’t have a plan if one of them was going to get exiled so Boots doesn’t know what to do. He has needs but he loves Ryan. They haven’t been together long and 5 years apart is more than double the time they’ve been a couple. Is their love that strong or is it a little superficial?

I didn’t have problems with him wanting to move on. It was maybe a little soon and that must have given him questions. Is his love for Ryan deep enough? Is he okay even if they are not together? Are they really meant for each other?

Some guys are cute and you want to pinch their cheeks and make sure they get home OK. Some guys are hot and you want them to bend you over a barrel and pound heaven into you.

Boots is horny; he isn’t looking for love since he still loves Ryan but what to do with his little problem? There is Piper, his ex, and he seems eager to win him back. Boots doesn’t want to get back with Piper; he cheated on him and broke his heart. That’s not going to happen but it’s hard: Piper is hot and Boots can’t hide his attraction. Like, really, he can’t hide it. His “attraction” is pretty evident. Oh boy, he really can’t look at him without the obvious reaction. But Piper CAN’T HAPPEN!

Boot’s teammate and good friend, Clemente Santiago, helps him find a solution to his horny problem. They had an intense and really hot night together. It’s supposed to be a una tantum thing and it stays that way. Clemente then suggested to go find exiled island so Boots can ask Ryan what he is supposed to do. That’s a great idea. Boots needs to know what to do with their 5 years apart. An adventure it is!

“Why, where we going, anyway? Where’s Colby work?” “The most fantastic of all places, Clemente. He works at the mall.”

They get a boat with a very cute captain, Marcus, and are joined by Ryan’s little brother, Colby, and unfortunately, Piper comes along, too. Piper is really pushy, a little too much. Boots keeps telling him he doesn’t want him back, that their love story is completely over, that they don’t have a chance to be happy together even if the body reacts a certain way. His attraction to Piper’s body doesn’t mean he wants also the rest of the package. Boots was hurt, heartbroken, that’s not easy to neither forget nor forgive.

The journey is an incredible adventure. Let me tell you there is a shark attack, there are also pirates who wear plastic stuff, and there is certainly romance. After their incredible night together, Boots starts thinking more and more about Clemente. He knows he doesn’t have a chance since Clemente is straight, but there is something about him that he finds intriguing. Boots thinks a lot about Clemente, a lot.

Boots is starting to like him more than just as a friend and it’s painful because it can’t happen. The feelings are overwhelming. Boots wants him, he really does. What does it mean? Can it be love? When did that happen? Was it because of their night together or that night made him realize more things about Clemente than he wasn’t paying attention to before because he was all hung up on Ryan? More importantly, is he seeing right, is Clemente showing something more towards him, something more than friendship?

WTF, as the old-timers say.

The journey to exiled island, the journey to love, the journey to freedom, is full of feelings, action, and a little bit of drama.
I had a hunch of what was going to happen. I didn’t want to believe it at first, but then I kind of wanted it to be true because that means what I really wanted to happen could happen and maybe things were going to be ok in the end.
I liked this book a lot; it’s difficult to put it down after you start it. It’s interesting and it’s not complicated. It’s the right book for me and I am so happy I chose it.

Do I recommend it? Yes, it’s a fun book and an interesting story.
Rate: 4/5

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