Review from Alpha Book Club

I hate when I get to the end of a book and feel bad for having enjoyed it so much. AZ certainly doesn’t shy away from such tough topics as drug and sexual abuse, the sex trade and prostitution. These subjects aren’t dealt with in a gratuitous way with the gory details meant to shock the reader. They are so well written and sensitively handled with honesty in the writing makes your heart break for the people out there right now who are living the kind of lives that are described in the pages of this book. I know this is one of those storys that will play on my mind long after I’ve stopped reading.

Fifteen-year-old Jay and his mum Maggie live a simple life. They don’t have much but they do have each other and the last thing they need is a body unceremoniously dumped on their front lawn. Maggie’s nursing instincts kick in when she goes to see whether or not the body is alive. Half naked and badly beaten, Sasha is alive but only just. It quickly becomes evident that despite his young age, this boy has been through a hell of a lot and will need more help than Maggie can give and that a simple cleaning of the wounds doesn’t even scratch the surface. He refuses to talk, other than to refuse police involvement, however, when Maggie isn’t around, he slowly starts talking to Jay. Homeless and prostituting himself to fund his habit has taught Sacha to become guarded so the kindness of Jay and his mother feel very foreign to him. Regardless, he knows that developing feelings for Jay is pointless as his life on the street is beckoning and his need for drugs trumps everything else.

Jay, despite his naivety, understands that he can’t keep Sasha prisoner but he does know that the feelings he has for the other boy are more real than he has ever felt before. He can’t imagine life without Sasha around yet is aware that his friends would be less than understanding.

The story is told from the POV of both boys and because we particularly get Sasha’s perspective, the reader gets a front row seat to how the drugs have their claws into him and how low his self-esteem really is. Just when you think that it’s all going to be alright, bam! life throws another cruel blow that sends him into a complete tailspin.

I loved the relationship the boys shared and you can almost feel how strongly they are drawn to each other. I lost count of how many times my heart broke for them but their strength was inspiring. The epilogue, which lets us know where they’re at years down the line, couldn’t have been better. They do find a well deserved HEA but at the same time, no magic wand has been waved and no miracles have occurred to wipe away their past struggles. This isn’t a fluffy fairytale of angels and unicorns. It gets down and dirty and most importantly, it’s real. I feel like I want to get on my soap box but instead, I’ll suggest you read this book. You won’t regret it.

– Cheryl

https://alphabookclub.org/?s=zukowski

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5* review for The Boy Who Fell to Earth

man_grey tank topThanks to Alpha Book Club that has given The Boy Who Fell to Earth a 5* review.
“I know this is one of those stories that will play on my mind long after I’ve stopped reading…I suggest you read this book. You won’t regret it.”

I’m giving away free to review copies in the MM Romance group DBML program until 18 May:
https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/18579394-don-t-buy-my-love-open-the-boy-who-fell-to-earth-by-a-zukowski

Liam for hire

Liam Murphy has kicked his drug habit and now pays for the high living costs in London as an escort. His life is finally in balance. His only problem is that he obsesses about the minimum number of times he has to bend over to make ends meet. As long as he keeps his emotions under control, it’ll be fine. That’s what he keeps telling himself until he meets the young widower Ali whose emerald eyes remind him of Ireland.

“I… I want us to have sex like we’re making love.” Making love? Jaysis.

I scratched my head, “Okay. You mean more kisses and shit?”

Ali laughed. “And shit.” His face lit up and he looked about ten years younger. “Like cuddles.”

Featuring Liam from The Boy Who Fell to Earth http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/713795
Cover image @Sean McGrath, 2009
Design @A. Zukowski

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Chips, curry and mushy peas

Sample and discount till April 27. $0.99 for the sweetest YA story you’ll read this year: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/713795

At dinner, he was more cooperative. I put some pies and chips in the oven and mum cut some up for him. He tried to eat it but he clearly was still in some discomfort and didn’t have much appetite. And he glanced up with his blue eyes. Now that he was better, I could see that they were large and beautiful while one of them was still half shut and puffy with a yellow and black bruise around it.

“Thank you, Maggie.” It was the first normal thing he had said to my mum. She smiled.

“That’s more like it, ah, what’s your name?” She was not going to give up.

His eyes lowered again and he didn’t reply. Mum sighed and went back to her food. Afterwards, she made tea and offered one to him, which he took, his long pale fingers wrapping around the handle of the mug, well, except the broken one that should be setting straight about now.

“You know, I can’t force you, and you don’t need to go for as long as you’re still ill. But I don’t want you to go straight back to what you were doing before.” She made the little speech like a good sensible adult would. I wondered what she knew about what he was doing before all this started. Okay, he was on the street, he took drugs. He got beaten up. But that’s not all. That’s not who he was. I wanted to know everything about him. What happened to him to put him on the street in the first place? What did he really like and dislike? I somehow knew there was an essence of the boy that was hidden beneath the battered body.

She continued, “When you feel a bit better, in a few days, I want to see if a social worker can find you a place to live and a school, you know?”

She was not going to force him. It was only an offer of help. That’s all. His face was expressionless but I knew by instinct he would leave, he wouldn’t want any help from social workers. I wished my mum did not push him too much because he would only go sooner. He seemed passive enough for now and I was quiet. He still took the Codeine tablets that were offered and didn’t speak, watching my mum with his suspicious and guarded eyes.

On Monday I had to go to school but mum was around. I didn’t know how they got on but when I went home, he was sleeping, the blanket drew up high and Ma was on her way out to her late shift. Mum gave me some cash for fish and chips from the chip shop down the road. Then she rushed out. She was always rushing, from work to the flat, to the shops. She used to drive me to football practice and every kind of sport event as well. At least now I could go around by myself. After she left I asked the boy what he’d like me to get for him.

He blinked several times, “Mushy peas.”

I laughed, “Really? That’s all you want to have?”

He shrugged, “I used to like them. But if you’re getting chips, curry sauce would be nice.” So the man had little appetite. He liked Chinese food but only if it was good and authentic. He drank tea and ate toasts and liked mushy peas. I couldn’t help but chuckle as I took off to the chip shop.

He was cute the way he ate his plate of chips, his injured hand holding onto the plate and his right hand with the fork struggling to put one chip at a time into his still swollen mouth.

I smirked, “You want me to feed you?”

He looked up and grimaced, “Fuck off.” Ha. I knew I would see more of the real him come out every day. He’s no victim even if the circumstances were not good for him. I told him more about myself. How my Ma’s a single parent and she worked so bloody hard to raise me but I kept getting into trouble at school. My “brothers” at school kinda looked down on me because I was not quite as black as they’re and I couldn’t really stand the music they liked and the clothes they wore. I played sports with some of them though and they were all right. I smoked dope and didn’t do very well in many of the subjects. I wanted to get into sixth form so I could make Ma proud of me. There will be no job for you if you don’t go to college, she kept telling me.

He finished most of his chips and all his peas. I guess that’s a good start. I raised my left eyebrow and mocked him. “You’re fond of your greens.” He shrugged. I hated vegetables but mum went on at me, so I had to finish them if she was around. She worked nights a lot, so if it was down to me, we mostly had frozen meals and pizzas and more cup noodles.

I made tea and gave him a mug while I drank my glass of coke. He tilted his chin towards the photo on the mantelpiece. There weren’t so many photographs in the house. “Is that your dad?” He asked.

The photo was taken when I was only one- or two-year-old with my parents. One of the very few of him that Ma kept and displayed. “Yeah, the bastard.”

He raised his eyebrows as if to ask why but he understood anyway. I added. “That’s before he left.”

He was gentle, “When?”

“I was five. I just started school.” I replied. I didn’t have much memory of him as a result other than that he was gone one day. Ma rarely spoke of him and somehow I knew not to ask questions. He hurt her and me, and that was all I needed to know. I watched the boy and wondered whether he knew where his mum and dad were and why he was on the street without a parent to look after him. I also understood he wasn’t going to tell me, not now anyway because he was still guarded. I wanted to change that somehow.

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Kissing a boy that you find attractive

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All at a sudden he was naked in front of me as he shrugged off the sweat pants and boxers I gave him, and he turned to me, as if he could read what I was thinking. He didn’t comment on my obvious interest but merely asked quietly, “Help me get in the bath?” I did and was surprised again by the softness of his skin and the smallness of his waist. I also sensed my physical reaction to him. Please don’t let him feel it, I pleaded to myself. He was not self-conscious being stark naked and full of bruises, and I had to touch him to help him get into the tub, so how come I was such a complete freak for thinking of him sexually the entire time? I could never forget the electricity that I felt when our skins connected. Sure he smelled bad, a mixture of sweat and sourness, not surprising after days of not washing. Fuck knew when he last washed. To hide all these conflicting, confusing thoughts, I stupidly said, “Hmm, let me add some smelly in there for you.”

I found a bottle of mum’s bath foam with a purplish flower on the label that said something about invigorating. I certainly found him invigorating so I didn’t know if he needed any help himself. Finally, I shifted my feet and said, “Well, hmm. I’ll leave you. Will you be okay?”

He looked up and I swear it was the first time I saw anything remotely positive from him when he smirked and his face lit up for a second. I left to give him space to wash himself. Of course, I wanted to stay. Anything to be near him and to see his bare skin would be welcome. I had to run back to my room and jerk off. Don’t think I was some kind of pervert for nursing someone and getting turned on by him. I couldn’t help it but it wasn’t like I took advantage of him, was it?

It was even harder not to let myself get carried away when later I had to help the naked, dripping wet man out of the bath and get dressed. He didn’t like being helped but I still had to dry his legs and feet, which meant, I had his groin right in front of my face. Oh please. I tried to look down at the floor instead. I got his arms up to put the T-shirt on. Even the hair in his arm pits was golden. He had difficulty bending, so I put the boxers and loose cotton trousers on him, and suffered through more closeness to his bottom. My clothes kinda hanged off him. His hip bone literally protruded like some starved third world children. My face was practically pressed against his hip. Well, he didn’t look so good down there right now but I still felt the heat rise up in me with the excitement of being so near him and his musky masculinity. It was hard not to let it show. By the time we got back to the front room he was exhausted from the bath and fell asleep again with more Codeine.

When he refused lunch, I made another cup noodle and watched a comic film adaptation with my headphones on when he suddenly spoke, “Is that all you eat, Jay?”

I turned in surprise that he was up and talked. “Well, it’s not like you are into food, mate.”

He lay still on the couch but half turned to face me, “I eat.”

“So what do you like? Your reaction to the pizza was pretty extreme.” I chuckled.

“The restaurants in Chinatown put leftover food out for us. That’s pretty nice.” He shifted a little to be more comfortable.

I wondered about that, “Wow, like free Chinese takeout? Sounds cool.”

“Not if you have to sleep by the dumpster in the first place.” He said, quite nonchalant about it. I wondered about that, imagined how he slept in doorways and back alleys like other homeless people I had seen. I never paid too much attention to them, perhaps like everyone else. Those dark, shady figures were there to be ignored, right?

“So, you really are homeless?” I was a dumb fuck. I had to ask the question, but he just shrugged like he did so often.

We ended up sharing joints again that afternoon. I carried on my one-sided conversation while he patiently watched me, his newly cleaned hair shone in the sun. He had his back to the door frame, eyes closed to catch the rays like he was on holidays and enjoying himself, trying to get a tan. For the first time since we picked him off the front lawn, he was relaxed. I was absolutely mesmerised by the shape of his face, by the lines of his nose, by the vulnerability of that bruised body. I leaned forward and touched his lips with mine, then immediately realised that I shouldn’t have done that.

His eyes snapped open on impact but he didn’t seem too shocked or upset. Still. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to.” I muttered and moved off straightaway, a little awkwardly.

His facial expression didn’t change though when he gazed at me. “It’s okay.”

My eyes went wide, “Okay? Hmm.” I tried to busy myself with a little loose thread of my top. I hadn’t even kissed a boy before and now I had done this to the stranger who didn’t yet have a name. What the fuck was I doing?

He lit and sucked on the joint deeply and breathed out, “Does your mum know you’re gay?”

I stared at him. I guess I hadn’t considered coming out seriously. Hell, I hadn’t come out to myself so why would I have spoken to my Ma about it? “Ahh, no.” I answered. He took another toke and passed it back to me, and he didn’t comment further. All my doubts evaporated as he acted like it was nothing special and like he said, it was okay. It was fine just like that, kissing a boy that you found attractive. I couldn’t believe I just came out for the first time to a total stranger after kissing him. Well, he was an unknown to me even though I had seen more of him than anyone else, including my Ma. I wanted to touch his ass and every other parts of that nice body. Jay, stop being so pervy. I had to keep reminding myself.