Reviews

Against the Grain by Jay Hogan

bookscoffeepie's review against another edition

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5.0

All the stars. All of them.

I scheduled my Tuesday around this book’s release because I knew I probably wouldn’t be able to put it down. I was not wrong. There’s a lot going on in this book, plan accordingly.

Be prepared for angst, drama, humor, and murderball. Both Sandy and Miller have stuff they need to work through on a personal level. Miller, in particular - that man is on a precipice of changing his world, and thank goodness Sandy came along to give him the shove he needed to go in the right direction.

As for Sandy - he is one of my favorites. I loved how strong he is throughout this book, even as people disappoint him, even as he disappoints himself. He’s strong enough to face his demons that he thought he had put to rest, to apologize when needed, and to draw lines when he needs to protect his soul.

Together they are all the feels and quite a bit of the fire.

Others from the series make appearances here, but this is a complete stand-alone. If you stumble upon this one first, just realize you’ll probably go back and read the rest in the series. And maybe try to find murderball videos online...

mirocchi's review

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emotional medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

3.0

bfdbookblog's review against another edition

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4.0

Gah! I wish we could add .5 stars! 3.5 Stars so rounding up to 4

So, I can normally read a book in a couple of days. Even when I’m as busy as I am now…but this one took me 5 days to get through. And it’s not that I didn’t like the book, more that it was just long and a bit slow for me. There are some parts of it I loved and some parts I just skimmed because it felt so long. I do usually really like this author’s books and I like her writing, this just was weird for me…not sure if it’s this year or just me.

I think it might be best to just talk about what I like and didn’t care for instead of trying to get my feelings on paper. I’m going to list what I liked first.

I liked Sandy and Miller together. I liked their differences and how they complemented each other.
While I hated what happened with Geo I loved how Sandy and Miller reacted.

I loved seeing all the characters from previous books. Every one of them fit into this book organically and added to the depth of the story. (sidebar – if you haven’t read the other books in this series you might get confused by the characters because there are a few of them and keeping them straight could be a problem)

I appreciated that the relationship drama didn’t carry on for more than a day. If it had, I probably would have abandoned the book because it already felt really long.

The following sums up why I’m not 100% feeling this book even though I did really like a lot of it.

I honestly can’t even imagine watching chair rugby and enjoying it.

The plotline with Sandy’s father felt unfinished or abandoned.

As stated above, the story just felt too long.

I’m not sure where this series goes from here…there are a few things to wrap up I think, but there isn’t much left after that I don’t imagine.

so_many_books's review

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5.0

One man living with disability.
Another living with constant judging and prejudice.

One man struggling with people who all have an opinion on his condition.
Another strughling with the same just about his appearence.

One living in the closet.
Another living openly out.

And one crushing meeting that changes everything.

Sandy is a man who hates labels and mostly identifies as fluid. He wears pants, he wears skirts, he wears make-up... depending on his mood. But findig acceptence is hard. Especially in a partner.

Miller has lived with disability for 10 years now. He uses a chair or he uses canes, but surely, he's deifferent. He found his place in the wheelchair rugby but he hasn't found his place as a gay man.

Their crushing meeting sets out a lot of changes in both their lives. Sandy's guarded heart is in trouble as well as Miller's closet door.

Can they live up to the other's needs to be together?

The Characters:
I really loved Sandy's character with his unique style and confidence in himself. That confidence is damaged a lot in the book and the story amazingly shows how it can hang on threads, especially when someone close to you does the damage.
He was sassy and confident and stylish and brave. I was amazed by him.

Miller is in some way the complete opposite. He likes to be somewhat invisible, not sticking out of the croud. He's kind of an asshole because he has storng opinions, but also he has a kind heart that rarely anyone sees.

I absolutely loved the story. So much to think about after reading it. Gender expression and labels are one topic that was amazingly described and also the fact how much struggle it can be to be yourself in a world that's not ready to accept you. The other thing was living with disability and overcoming the endless challanges it poses. Also I was quite stunned how the disabled sports industry is much the same as the regular one. The same issues with toxic masculanity and the fear of coming out are there.

The issue of coming out as a teen was also raised in this story and mostly the impact the familiy's reaction can make on the individual is harshly described. I loved how the book was not afraid to talk about the really bad thing that can happen to a family when the parents are not ready for a LGBTQIA child.

The love story was funny, hot and sweet and I seriously enjoyed reading it.

teacupsandtropes's review against another edition

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4.0

4✨

Okay so I hate this cover so much. I truly think it’s awful and that’s probably why it took me so long to read this.

BUT!

I’m so glad I did! I love Auckland Med and Sandy is just guh. So unapologetically living his best life for him and no one else and I love that. Miller was an amazing character and I loved seeing the growth he went through with Sandy at his side. I felt for Geo and the way Miller took him in and protected him was EVERYTHING! Everyone came together and it was amazing getting glimpses of the other couples again.

Plus, Cam in lacy thongs? Totally had me laughing hard! I can’t wait for the next one and we get to see his wedding to Reuben come to fruition.

tikipoupower's review against another edition

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emotional hopeful inspiring medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.0

blue_noise's review against another edition

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challenging emotional inspiring reflective sad tense slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated

4.0

ccgwalt's review against another edition

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5.0

4.5 stars for the story (A-)
4.5 stars for the narration by Gary Furlong (A-)

All I'm going to say is, except for one scene that I hated (more on that) and a bit of (imo) needless drama towards the end, this is a fantastic story.

There are two subplots that I thought could have been more powerful with less drama, but I still loved the story and the characters.

Rant about hated scene: I wish parents in contemporary romances, moms in particular, wouldn't always get the role of being pushy, overbearing and oblivious to personal boundaries. Those moms aren't "cute" and their antics aren't funny and they don't do it "because they love you." People like that do it because they're control freaks. No mom of a grown child should ever: set them upon a date, ask when they are getting married, force an introduction to someone their child is dating, barge into homes and/or bedrooms without knocking, etc. Dear authors: please write supportive moms who have a life of their own that isn't centered on obsessing over their grown children's lives.
/end rant

larissa_s's review against another edition

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5.0

Against the Grain is the 4th book in the Auckland Med series but can be read as a standalone. To say I loved this book would be an understatement. Vibrant, unique characters wrapped up in sublime writing about an unusual take on the opposites attract romance with sensitive treatment of disabilities. Sandy Williams is my hero. He is completely unapologetic about who he is and refuses to compromise that for anyone, including Miller, or anything, including his job - even though he loves them both. Miller Harrison, player for the NZ Wheel Blacks, is a complete contradiction; he is prickly on the outside, but a loving, doting, selfless man on the inside. He’s also adorably, and frustratingly clueless at times, but due to his good intentions and willingness to take responsibility for his actions and apologize, it’s all forgivable. Miller has struggled with balancing a physically disability due to a car crash and also being gay while being in the public eye; he felt he couldn’t manage the attention from both so he focused on the former and buried the latter. So without necessarily meaning to, he essentially closeted himself. Sandy makes him realize he needs to be authentic. Jay Hogan’s treatment of Miller’s disability is stellar. It’s obviously well-researched, sensitive and not the focus of the story or the focus of who Miller is. It is just another characteristic about him, like his gorgeous red, wavy hair, but does not define him. That treatment is so unusual in a book and I applaud her for writing him that way.

Miller and Sandy are so different and yet together, they just fit. The chemistry between them is evident and smoking hot.

cadiva's review against another edition

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5.0

My new favourite from Jay! All the stars and then some.

Full review tomorrow.

***

Every time I read a book from Jay Hogan I'm reminded of two things:

1 She researches thoroughly and whenever there is a disability or cultural theme in her books, they are 100% given all the necessary attention to detail needed to come across as thoroughly real.

2 Her books transport me into a world where I feel I'm watching real people through a looking glass or as part of a TV show following them through their daily lives.

Here she looks at the world of Paralympic wheelchair sports, murderball aka quad rugby in particular and, as someone who is also an ambulatory wheelchair user, although not as much as when first discharged from hospital, let me say I absolutely believed 100% in Miller's experiences.

Writing about a disabled character when you aren't one yourself, is a gamble, over complicate it and it comes across like you're just reciting your research, don't give it the attention to detail it needs, and it sounds like lip-service.

But with Miller, he was utterly real. His frustrations, his fears that his disability was getting worse and threatening to derail his professional sporting career, and his dawning awareness that he'd met someone that was going to mean he had to come out publicly. They were visceral.

And Sandy, he might just be my favourite of all Jay's characters so far. He's unapologetically out and gender fluid in his outward expression through clothing. He's had to fight hard for his equilibrium and he's been disappointed time and time again by men who've asked him to tone it down at some point in their relationship.

When they meet, it's in a flurry of misunderstanding and bruised egos, but the sparks are flying from the off. Miller is fascinated by Sandy and the pathologist's assistant finds there's more to the Paralympian than his outward arrogance.

There're plenty of guest appearances from the other pairs in this excellent Auckland Med series and I loved seeing Josh and Michael, Reuben and Cam, and Mark and Ed, this friendship group is a strong one and both Miller and Sandy turn to it for help.

I'm not going into the plot, but it's one which will take you on a rollercoaster journey through all the highs and lows of a realistic relationship which has stumbles on the journey to happiness.

Read this book if you love people who've fought hard to be themselves, if you like vulnerable disabled sportsmen who are just finding their feet in the out and proud world, hurt teenagers, family and friends who will move the Earth to help protect the ones they love, and two men who work through a myriad of challenges to find the happiness they deserve.

Another absolutely brilliant entry in this fabulous series from Jay.

#ARC received from the author in return for an honest and unbiased review