Where Nerves End (A Tucker Springs novel) by L.A. Witt

Where Nerves End (A Tucker Springs novel) by L.A. Witt
Stars: 3/5

Length: 61,000 words, 180 pages
Jason Davis can handle a breakup. And an overwhelming mortgage. And a struggling business. And the excruciating pain that keeps him up at night thanks to a shoulder injury. Handling all of it at once? Not so much. When his shoulder finally pushes him to a breaking point, he takes a friend’s advice and gives acupuncture a try.

Michael Whitman is a single dad struggling to make ends meet. When a mutual friend refers a patient, and that patient suggests a roommate arrangement to alleviate their respective financial strains, Michael jumps at the opportunity.

Living together would be easy if Jason wasn’t so damned attracted to Michael. Good thing Michael’s straight, or the temptation might just be too much.

Well, their mutual friend says Michael is straight…

Sweet, cute story that isn't incredibly fresh, but holds up on its own. Another lovely Tucker Springs tale.

Oddly enough, this was the first Tucker Springs story to come out, so of course it was the last one I read (not including any future releases)! Part of that was just circumstance, so when I had birthday money to burn on books, I remedied that problem.

I could very much associate with Jason and his pain, and his struggle to find something that would relieve the agony, along with the sleeplessness that can join that pain. (And I'll be honest, the story has caught my interest regarding acupuncture.)

While I liked Michael and Jason together, I struggled with the mid- to late-sections of the book. The conflict, while reasonable, didn't feel believable to me. I had trouble really relating to Michael's dilemma, although I realize it's a very real challenge. In real life, something minor--no matter imaginary or not--can stop us from going after what we want. So it wasn't that it wasn't something that needed to be overcome, I just felt he was making a bigger deal about the whole thing than was necessary.

But, along that same vein, the resolution and falling action all fit well with the story, the characters, and the conflict. So I guess I'm a little mixed on the whole thing. It's all perfectly reasonable and realistic, but it also made me want to smack Michael upside the head.

If anyone was scared off by the presence of child in the story, this one is fairly safe. He's 7 years old and only with Michael half the time, so he's barely on screen for those who prefer their romances child free. And toward the end, he has some rather cute scenes with his family.

In general, I found the story enjoyable, but it didn't wow me. Aside from some disagreements with Michael, I don't have anything bad to say about this tale. Definitely worth a read, especially for fans of Tucker Springs, who--if you're anything like me--want to collect them all! (And on that note: These probably work best read in order, but for the most part, it's not necessary. The only points given away is you know who ends up with whom, which is usually obvious anyway in this genre.)


Dance With Me by Heidi Cullinan

Dance With Me by Heidi Cullinan
Stars: 4.5/5

Length: 240 pages
Ed Maurer has bounced back, more or less, from the neck injury that permanently benched his semi-pro football career, but every time he turns around, dance instructor Laurie Parker is in his way. But when a bargain lands him as an assistant in Laurie’s ballroom dancing class, everything changes.

As Laurie and Ed lose themselves in dance, their lives continue to spin around them: Ed’s injury makes it clear he’s nowhere near recovery, Laurie feels the pressure by friends and family to perform once more, and the community center that has become such an important part of both their worlds threatens to close. Alone, they haven’t had the strength or spirit to face what life has hurled at them. But as the turns of their personal paths lead them time and again to one another, Ed and Laurie begin to think that if they dance this dance together, they might be able to succeed.

A slow-building story that took two men who had to overcome their past--and their present--and gave them the strength to have each other. It was a lovely, sweet story that hit home for me.

First off, I would recommend this book to anyone who is going or has gone through rehabilitation for a life-changing injury (as long as it's still not raw in your heart) and for anyone who knows one of these people. Ed's struggle and epiphany are hard to swallow, but read incredibly true.

Being that I'm still in some rehabilitation for an injury, sometimes it was difficult to read what Ed was going through, but there were lines that clawed especially deep. For those who need someone else to understand what it's like--even if it's just reading about that person--or those who need help understanding what it's like because of someone in their life: read this story.

Some of my noted quotes:

"It was like all the fear got buried in some weird subbasement inside him when things were good, because until the pain hit, he honestly thought he was okay."
"[His pain] wasn't a punishment. It wasn't a gift. It just was. His pain was his life. It wasn't all his life was, not always."
"But what I am done with is waiting for when things are better. I'm done waiting for the pain to be all gone. I'm done trying to keep it at bay."

That aside, this has an incredibly sweet couple who verbally spar in the beginning, but eventually come to understand each other. The turn from advasary into friends was nice, and the subtle blossoming of friendship into something more was even better. Yes, that tale has been told before, but this book doesn't focus on that change, but allows it to happen in the background.

We also get to see both men with weaknesses and opportunities to overcome those weaknesses, as well as the need to rely on their partner for strength. It was a perfect balance in the relationship, which lended to the believability of the relationship.

However, it also meant the story took time to develop each character's struggle, strength, and failure or victory. That, of course, means some parts seem to drag, just a little, as the reader waits for the next surprise. It also made for a longer telling, which wasn't bad, but it was a surprise.

The various cast of characters added good flavor to the two men, creating drama, but never being unrealistic, either. They were, in general, all good people, but they weren't cardboard cutouts. They could be mean (intentionally or not), they could be selfish, and they could be helpful in the way that kids just don't want their parent to be helpful. In other words, they were wonderfully human. I always appreciate when even the 'bad guy' gets the depth that most every human has.

So overall, a pretty perfect story that didn't get 5 stars because of the slow bits that were too noticeable to let slide.


Now for a dance number.

Strictly Ballroom - Dumped by his partner just before a major dance competition, gifted hoofer Scott Hastings (Paul Mercurio) is forced to take a graceless neophyte (Tara Morice) as his new partner. But much to everyone's surprise, Scott soon turns his unpromising protégé into a topnotch dancer. Bill Hunter, Pat Thomson, Gia Carides and Barry Otto also star in this quirky, engaging tale from Aussie director Baz Luhrmann.

(rent) This is an older flick, and it’s quirky, but I definitely think it’s worth checking out. I like that the romance is present, but it slowly builds and is more an underlying niceness rather than the focal point. The lead female isn’t upset when Scott is a douchebag because he doesn’t love her (although that comes up early on), she’s upset because he’s being a douchbag. He’s going back on what he promised and he’s betraying her--as a dancer. So much of the plot is ridiculous (in a good way, I think), but their relationship is so pure and honest. It’s a great contrast to the insanity of ballroom (along with the sanity of her family and her life, which is so grounded, while his family is crazy). Fun, cute, and worth a watch.

My Neighbor Totoro - Legendary Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki provides a stunningly realistic portrayal of life in the country. When their mother is hospitalized, two young sisters spend a summer in the Japanese countryside with their father. The strange new environment turns out to be a natural wonderland filled with exotic real-life creatures and a trio of furry woodland sprites who can only be seen by children.

(rent/buy) This was an enjoyable, light, children's movie that touches upon some serious subjects but never delves too deep into the dark waters. I found the beginning to be a little slow, but once the premise was established, things picked up. It's not action-packed by any stretch, but it is a fantastic children's story exploring elements of the fantastic while staying grounded in the real world. While I imagine many little kids will not be enchanted by the lovely animation or slow story, they will be pulled in by the adventures had with spirits. Worth a watch, especially if you have kids, but even without, it's worth the hour and a half of your time.

The Big Gay Musical - When not playing leads in a musical called "Adam and Steve Just the Way God Made 'Em," Paul and Eddie act out the story of their own star-crossed lives offstage. The recently dumped Paul just wants to stay in, while Eddie is still coming out.

(rent/buy) Surprisingly awesome. I went in expecting it to be ridiculous--and it is--but it’s also a touching story about Paul and Eddie and their lives. The ending wasn’t quite what I was expecting, but it was pretty perfect. It will hit you in all the squishy love places and make you laugh (and roll your eyes) at the crazy stereotype they are playing up. And while some Christians may take offense, I imagine most the Christians following my blog won’t (although it’s obviously not meant to be taken too seriously anyway). Check it out!

It’s in the Water - A new AIDS hospice sends a tiny Southern town into a hysterical homophobic frenzy, and the locals start heeding rumors that the facility has tainted the town's water supply with something that "turns" people gay. Caught in the middle is harried wife Alex Stratton (Keri Jo Chapman), whose fling with high school pal Grace sets off more chain reactions.

(rent) This was fairly good, but not great. It has a daytime drama feel to it with the ridiculous events and the ridiculous characters, but it also has some very tender moments and some downright laughable ones. While this didn’t amaze me or blow me out of the water, it was worth the watch and I appreciated the equal access makeout scenes. Also, I love Alex’s father. I think he and the housekeeper were my favorite parts. He plays a wonderful “that’s nice dear” to Alex’s hysterical mother.

Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day - Skillfully framed by an unknown enemy for the murder of a priest, wanted vigilantes the MacManus brothers -- Murphy and Connor -- must come out of hiding on a sheep farm in Ireland to fight for justice in Boston.

(rent) Compared to the first one, the second is pitiful. The beginning humps the fan adoration of The Boys being naked, then wanders around searching for a plot and trying to re-do everything that “worked” in the first. Mostly violence and humor which, especially in this movie, wasn’t that funny. Also, in reaction to the heavy homo-eroticism of the first movie, the director decided to add as many gay jokes and homophobic comments as possible. That’s the bad.

The good is everything after ¾ of the way through. The ending brings back much of the awesome from the first movie, and there is even plot (which the beginning was supposedly building toward, but could have been truncated). Even then, the movie was made by the last two scenes, where things get more interesting and almost seems like a setup for a third movie (although I don’t see that happening after the disappointment of the second and Duffy’s bad blood in Hollywood). I only bought it because I’d forgotten how bad the beginning was and because I do love The Boys.