Cover Image: Brush Strokes

Brush Strokes

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Member Reviews

*~~*ARC kindly provided from the publisher/author to me for an honest review *~~*

Full review to come

5 stars
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It’s super depressing that I didn’t get the chance to download this book in time to read it 😭😭 but for some reason it wanted me to write a review. 

Thank you Netgalley for this opportunity, sadly because of me I didn’t get to read this!
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I enjoyed this book a lot. The main character suffers from anxiety which affects his daily life and it is very relatable, especially to someone who has felt the strain of daily life before. I thought this was going to be more of a romance story but I enjoyed the platonic relationships explored as well. 
I received an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
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Enjoyed this book. Kept me interested all the way through. Would recommend to a fellow reader.  Love the cover.
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I thoroughly enjoyed this book! Although I was expecting more of a romance, I loved the exploration of art, friendships, platonic relationships and sibling relationships.

The love interest Daniel in this book is  hard of hearing and I cannot say personally how this has been represented.

I would definitely categorize this book as a new adult and it is quickly becoming an age range I would like to read, especially if they are as good as Brush Strokes.
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Thank you to NetGalley and Interlude Press for the free e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Brush Strokes by E.S. Karlquist follows Todd Navarro, a college student dealing with anxiety, family drama, the potential closing the of art gallery where he works, and meeting a boy he's interested in, Daniel. Daniel is hard of hearing and considering applying to Harvard Law School for the coming year, as well as dealing with family issues of his own.

I can't speak to the accuracy of the representation in this book, specifically Daniel being hard of hearing. It wasn't something I've encountered many times in books before and felt fresh and respectful.

I found this book to be really sweet. Todd is an interesting main character with a life outside of the love interest, and I like this book as more of a coming of age story than a romance. This wasn't an issue for me, as books that are solely "romance novels" can fall flat in the character development side of things. 

Some readers might be turned off by how slowly the relationship develops, but it didn't bother me. I will say that this book feels almost more like a bridge between YA and New Adult, rather than a full-on New Adult. There's a very popular M/M New Adult out right now that felt way more grown up, but I don't think it's really a bad thing to have different vibes in the New Adult category.

I liked the plot and characters, Karlquist's writing style was clear easy to, follow, and not repetitive, even with Daniel's frequent requests for characters to repeat themselves (this didn't bother me at all and was never a stumbling block to my understanding), and I liked this book a lot. 

4/5 stars
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Loved this book. As I got further and further in it was harder and harder to put down. It was an adorable romance and overall great book to read.
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Real Rating: 3.75

I really enjoyed this book! It was a really cute romance with some angst thrown in. I really enjoyed the hard of hearing representation in this book as well. I have a cousin who is HOH and it was really cool seeing a character live their life as my cousin does. 

I really enjoyed the characters. Todd struggled and he was flawed but that's why I liked him. He seemed real. The only thing that bothered me was that yes, we know he's in art school but which school and what is he studying exactly? At the end he randomly takes an accounting class but I'm not sure that art schools have those types of classes.

Daniel is really interesting as well. He has famous parents but he himself is really down to earth. We clearly see him struggling with his hearing disability and getting frustrated because he can't hear what people are saying to him. I would've loved for his ambition to go into law to be explored a bit more. The author made hints that law wasn't exactly his idea but he ends up going to law school and seems happy about it. There are just some open ended things that I would've loved to see dealt with.
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Todd Navarro struggled with academic life, he could never compete with his overachieving brother but found something he loved he could excel at his love of art and his job working at a local gallery which includes teaching a class to young students. His best friend persuades him to go to a party where contrary to expectations he meets and hits it off with Daniel Berger, a sporty high achiever. A gentle story of exploration. I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
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I really enjoyed this book! It was a fun, light-hearted contemporary that was easy to get through.

I loved the relations among the characters in the book and how each one had been expanded on.
Todd and Mela's relationship is one I really enjoyed reading about and also Todd's relationship with his family. It was a relief to see parents who were invested in their kid's life for once! 

Todd was a fun narrator to read about. I loved how humanistic and relatable he was. He was hard working and he did as much as he could to save the art gallery. I understood his emotions, even though he frustrated me at some times.

Daniel was hard of hearing. He seemed untouchable and perfect at first but as we got to know him, I fell in love with him and wanted to know as much about him as possible!

I especially loved the scenes where either of the two stayed over at the others' houses.

It was a coming-of-age novel where Todds goes through many hardships and comes out of them stronger than ever. I loved how he kept working even when odds weren't looking too great! 

I love how Todd tries to fix things between Daniel and himself and also tried to learn sign language in order to make it easier for Daniel.

This book is one of a kind and one I truly enjoyed! I am so glad I read it!
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I enjoyed some aspects of this debut novel, but not all of it worked well for me. 

One thing I really appreciated about this book is how the author handled the fact that one of her main characters is hard of hearing. The narrator, Todd, meets Daniel at a party and is struck both by how handsome Daniel is and how attentive he seems to be to Todd. It’s only later that he learns that Daniel has been reading his lips because he’s losing his hearing. Since he’s not used to being around someone who reads lips, Todd often forgets to face Daniel and to enunciate clearly, so Daniel has to ask him what he said, and Todd has to repeat himself. It might have been tempting to avoid that repetition in order not to bore readers, but I’m glad the author chose to be realistic in the complications and frustrations that someone who is hard of hearing may encounter when communicating with hearing people. 

This novel is as much a coming of age story as a romance, and I actually quite liked that aspect of the book. Todd is a rather insecure person, in part because he has a learning disability and also because he tends to measure himself against his seemingly perfect older brother. As the story unfolds, Todd learns that he is more capable and his brother less perfect than he originally thought.

While I liked Daniel a lot as Todd’s love interest, and the two of them had some really nice moments together, I thought their romance was the weakest part of the story. Early in the book, Todd becomes upset with Daniel over something that isn’t really Daniel’s fault and then lies to him repeatedly in a way that is very immature. That I can forgive in someone who is supposed to be college aged. The problem is that after that point, Todd refuses to believe that he and Daniel can be any more than friends, and that part of the plot gets dragged out much, much too long given how much time the two of them spend together. I wanted to shake Todd and/or Daniel after a while, I got so frustrated with the two of them and their inability to just be open with each other about their feelings. 

Even though I was somewhat frustrated with how the romance was handled, I liked the novel well enough overall that I’m going to be keeping an eye out for more of her books in the future.

A copy of this book was provided through NetGalley for review; all opinions expressed are my own.
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Todd is making his way through college and is looking to get an art degree. He has worked at the same gallery since high school and it’s so much a part of his life that when he learns the gallery isn’t bringing in the same bookings and is in financial trouble, Todd is more than a little unsettled. Todd keeps mostly to himself, but when his best friend invites him to a party, Todd reluctantly goes to support her.

A frat party filled with jocks is certainly not Todd’s idea of a good time and, when his eyes stray to Daniel and Daniel catches him looking, he thinks no good will come of it. But Daniel is interested, the group stays out all night, and Todd leaves with Daniel’s promise that he will call him. Daniel is on the swim team and in the process of applying to law school and Todd would have said that Daniel was completely not his type. Only Daniel may be more involved with the gallery than Todd knows and the future of the gallery, as well as Todd’s future, may both be linked to Daniel.

I liked the style of this book as it opened with Todd as he is in college and working at an art gallery that is his second home. Todd is a little bit of a loner and a little too self-aware, but he reluctantly goes to a party with his best friend and there he meets David. Todd feels completely out of his element, but when David seeks him out, things are looking up. Then, a misunderstanding derails a friendship and their first date and even when Todd realizes that he may have been wrong, he doesn’t seek Davis out to apologize. They see each other occasionally through friends, and it’s awkward for a while until it’s not and they forge ahead with some semblance of a friendship.

This book stalled out for me early on as nothing happens in this story. The majority of the book is Todd trying to get it together. He has a strained relationship with his brother that was not gone into in enough detail, he refuses to ask for help from anyone until he’s clearly in panic mode, and he doesn’t want to deal with anything really and hopes most of his issues will simply go away.

Todd and Daniel are in college and Daniel is applying to Harvard Law, but this book felt like YA as both Todd and Daniel sounded much younger than they are. We are also told about most things, rather than shown. Daniel is on the swim team and is stressed about practice and studying and law school. He also has a strained relationship with his father and we are just told about it but few details are ever given. Daniel also has difficulty hearing and uses sign language. Todd does not know sign language and while Daniel can read lips, he can’t always make out what Todd is saying and he spends many scenes saying, “Come again,” only for Todd to repeat again what he has just said. While it did illustrate Daniel’s issues, for a novel, the style in which it was done did not work out as well for me.

The book takes place in NY, with Daniel from the city and Todd from Brooklyn, and they could have been anywhere as there was nothing seen to connect them to the area. They are also said to both grown up there, yet neither one particularly sounded like it.

This book is more of a coming of age story for Todd and I would not consider this a romance as there is no romantic relationship between the guys until a quick glimpse at the very end of the book. Then, there are loose threads left open with the art gallery next door, as well as Daniel’s interest in a club he wanted to put together for the deaf community and those storylines were simply dropped.

For a portion of the book, I thought that this story just needed to find the right audience, but with too many issues left not addressed by the end and an incredibly slow pace from beginning to end, it’s a difficult one to recommend.
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This was a sweet book.  The story of Todd, a college art student, who meets Daniel at a party that he didn't really want to go to because it was a college jock party....and then he is pleasantly surprised.  They have a misunderstanding that upsets Todd although he really likes Daniel.  Their friends decide to get them together so they can talk, and eventually they do and they agree to be friends.  Daniel is hearing impaired and Todd learns sign language to communicate better with Daniel.  He really tries and they become good friends for most of the book.  They are both just really sweet guys but Todd is really unsure of himself and his relationship with Daniel and keeps holding back.  Daniel is SO sweet and the nicest guy ever.  Todd has trouble expressing his feelings but he finally gets it together at the end of the book which made me really happy.  Quick read, and a very sweet nice love story.
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I’ll be honest, this book disappointed me. As much as I loved the premise and really wanted to love the characters and story, the writing caused it all to fall rather flat. I am always very reluctant to criticize writing style because a) style is subjective and b) as a writer myself, I am loathe to be harsh on other writers.
Still, in this case, criticism is necessary. The writing felt amateurish, like something I might read on Wattpad, with quite a lot of telling rather than showing. I grew frustrated with Todd, our main character, very quickly, as a literal third of the book was squandered on his inability to admit his own mistakes. While Daniel seemed lovely, I felt no chemistry between him and Todd, and as much as I love a slow burn, the lack of any tension between them made the ending feel like a complete departure from the rest of the book. There were no significant moments to indicate to the reader that Daniel was feeling anything romantic for Todd, and even Todd very rarely expressed his feelings for Daniel in romantic terms. In sum, I feel like I just read a book about two guys becoming very good friends. Which wouldn’t be terrible by any means, but clearly that’s not what the story is intended to be.
In general, this book lacks focus and movement. The word count could have been cut in half and there would still be excess to trim off. Without that clarity, the story quickly began to sag, and I found myself skimming just to get through some parts. This story might have been better suited to a novella and a much more strenuous editing process. Without clean and engaging writing, the characters and plot had no room to really flourish or evolve, meaning that ultimately, Brush Strokes lacked the heart and spark I was hoping for.
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Brush Strokes by E.S. Karlquist is a New Adult contemporary fiction book centered around Todd Navarro. Todd is halfway through college and is unsure of what he wants to do in the future, other than knowing he wants it to be somehow art related. But his dad doesn’t think art can be a real job, and the fact that the gallery Todd works at is struggling financially isn’t helping matters.

When his best friend Mela drags him out to a party to take his mind off things, he meets Daniel and develops a crush – until he learns Daniel might be involved in deciding the art gallery’s future.

In broad strokes, I liked this story a lot. The themes of finding your place in the world, figuring out “how to adult”, fighting for what you believe in, etc. are very resonant. On a smaller scale, the characterization was done very well. Todd is extremely anxious, and his anxiety is portrayed realistically and understandably. Even when he’s working against his own best interests (such as with the persistent miscommunication/failure to communicate with Daniel), it’s clear that he knows he’s self-sabotaging, but his anxiety is preventing him from making another choice.

Daniel is hard-of-hearing and as far as I could tell, that was represented accurately and with nuance. Todd’s friend Mela and Daniel’s friend Jesse were also well-written characters.

However, there were also parts of the story that were distracting or didn’t seem to work well. As a small example, when we’re introduced to Todd’s pet, Sandwich, it’s not mentioned anywhere what kind of animal Sandwich is. That was a small, but very distracting, thing, as I re-read the pages several times trying to see if I’d skipped anything. All I knew is that Sandwich has a cage in Todd’s room and thus was a small animal, but she could’ve been a hamster, gerbil, rat, chinchilla, rabbit… (She’s eventually revealed to be a rabbit, but that was a mystery that really wasn’t needed).

There are also a number of cryptic references to “Evan”, who Todd is actively avoiding, but again, who Evan is isn’t revealed until quite late on. I also thought the reason for the falling out between Todd and Evan, which led to Todd refusing to speak to Evan for a year and a half was not really worth that extreme a reaction.

Finally, I thought there was a very obvious solution to Todd and Daniel’s conflicting plans/desires regarding the gallery space, but it doesn’t occur to any of the characters at any point.

Having said all that, I did like the story and the way Todd and Daniel worked to reconnect as friends after their initial attempt at dating backfired so spectacularly. It was also nice to see how important their friends Mela and Jesse were to them; although there is definitely a romantic subplot between Todd and Daniel, platonic friendships are equally important in Brush Strokes, and that’s always nice to see.

Overall, 3.5 stars.
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I enjoyed this slowest burn semi-romance (you’ll see) with strong friendships and exquisite cover art by C.B. Messer. The dialogue was amusing at times, and though the protagonist Todd could be frustrating at times, he balanced well overall with Daniel, an absolute sweetheart of a character. I wouldn’t be opposed to a follow-up book about these two and/or their lovely besties, Mela and Jesse.
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This is a decent debut book for the author, especially considering English is not her first language. It’s classified as a romance, but I would consider it almost a ‘coming of age/growing pains’ story for Todd. While Todd does have a romantic interest in the story – Daniel, they fizzle almost as soon as they get started. Todd and Daniel dance around each other throughout the story, eventually becoming good friends. There are hints from several characters that they could be more than friends, but neither of them takes the step and almost at the end of the book (98% into the story) we discover a HUGE miscommunication/lack of communication led to them not having a romantic relationship. I am NOT a fan of the lack of communication causing the angst in a story…especially when it lasts almost until the end of the book so this was a bit frustrating for me. 

Todd spends most of the book attempting to save the gallery, making it through the college year and eventually building his friendship with Daniel. Their friendship is sweet, and I’d like to see more of them together as a couple.

Secondary to Todd’s story, Daniel is battling his decisions for the direction of his future. There are hints dropped he’s not certain he’s following the right path…that he’s meant to do more, but that story line is never fully developed. By the end of the book we learn the direction he’s chosen but we don’t know what became of his project and his desire to do more in that world he feels he belongs. I’d like to know what happened with that project and whether or not he does more with those plans once he graduates.

There are several great side characters – Jesse, Mela, Daniel’s sister, Todd’s parents, Mrs. Floral, the kids in the art class and eventually Todd’s brother and Daniel’s parents. 

The end felt more like HFN than an HEA so I’m left wondering if there will be a follow up story for these two, but I couldn’t find much information about that on the author’s site, so I guess we’ll just have to wait and see!
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🌟🌟🌟🌟 4.5 stars
🔥 Heat Level: 1/NA

Such a touching story about finding your passion and your place!!

This story is a young adult story about finding yourself. Following Todd and his passion for art and the art gallery where he works. It’s his safe place and a place he loves and realizes he needs to try and save it. There are many dynamic characters and great families and friends. The story for me reflected a bit of a coming-of-age and self-discovery for Todd. His love of art never wavered but his belief in himself and his worth and ability to ask for help showed his growth.

I liked that the author is true to the age group of college studies in the final years of study and the anxiety that goes with what comes next. Throughout the story anxiety in mentioned and reflected true to form and with such heart, I could relate. Something as simple as picking up the phone can cause anxiety and E.S. has incorporated these real-life changes into her writing to make it that much more real and heartfelt.

Daniel was a wonderful character and so strong given his hard of hearing. I enjoyed the ever-present connection between Daniel and Todd and while miscommunication and the classic ‘not talking about our thought or feelings’ usually annoys me, the way E.S. approached this was endearing and worked so perfectly with these characters. It’s a slow-burn crush that neither seems to act on but Todd is finally brave and they get their happy ending.

I loved the Kids & Canvas, art class Todd runs and those kids are just so loveable!

My only notes are that it took a while to figure out what Sandwich was. Sandwich is a rabbit! Also, I wasn’t sure who Evan was at first. From the story, he could have been either an ex or the brother, but obviously, as the story progressed, the brother part became clear.

This story was well written and with so much love and understanding for Todd and Daniel. I don't think the blurb does the book justice as there is so much more to the book! I enjoy this and look forward to seeing more from E.S. Karlquist. 

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Oh, this book! I read a lot of LGBTQ fiction and this has settled itself next to my heart. I may have to build it a little house there so it can stay. This is  Karlquist’s first book and I have to say, I will definitely pick up anything else she writes!

This story is about Todd Navarro. He’s in the middle of College, works at a struggling Art Gallery and suffers from Anxiety. I’m laying it all out like a list, but the author does a lovely job of painting a picture of Todd that is detailed and gentle. I found myself growing quite fond of him quickly, and even though he can get very caught up in himself… he’s likable.

When Todd heads out to a party with his Best friend Mela, he meets Daniel Berger. Todd pegs Daniel as a jock almost immediately – sure, he’s a hot one, but he’s a jock. Todd can’t imagine Daniel being interested in him, only it turns out… he is. They have a great night together, Daniel is attentive and sweet, he’s caring, he’s interesting. In short, he’s all the things that Todd wouldn’t have expected a Swim-Team-Jock to be. And Daniel wants to see Todd again.

One of the things that I found endearing about this story is that Daniel Berger is hard of hearing. He was born hearing so he speaks without a problem but he reads lips and/or uses ASL. What I like about Karlquist’s writing style is that the reader learns about Daniel’s hearing at the same time as Todd. I picked up on it quite quickly as I used to work with Deaf and hard of hearing people, so the intensity of his gaze and the way he repeatedly asked for clarification made sense to me. But, it is subtle and well-written and there is a gentle learning curve for anyone who may be unfamiliar with people with a disability. Daniel isn’t written as though he is “less” because of his disability… he’s just different. Todd has challenges. Daniel has challenges. We all do.

While this book is a love story, it’s also very much centered on Todd and the way his thought patterns get him in trouble. He’s obviously living with anxiety and struggles with the decisions he has to make every day.  It’s well-written, and I love how Todd has so much support in his life. It was refreshing and made my heart feel good. Support aside, Todd gets caught up in his emotions, and in the way he sees things. He struggles with having to change direction, rethink things, and seems to second-guess himself all the time. There are times when he’s his own worst enemy.

And there’s conflict! Did you think you might escape that? Nope. It turns out that Daniel may have something to do with the fact that the Art Gallery Todd works at is in danger of closing. I won’t ruin the ending…but I loved it.

If all of that doesn’t convince you to read this book, the author also posted a playlist of songs that go with the story.

This is a beautiful story about misunderstandings, hurt, family challenges and friendship. It’s staying on my shelf of favorites.
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I want to thank Netgalley for providing me an Arc of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Okay I’m gonna Start off by saying I’m now obsessed with this book.
I literally couldn’t put it down so I read it in one sitting.
I instantly fell in love with these characters and found myself wanting to know all about them.
The plot was amazing and super unique.
If I could give this book more than 5 stars I would.
One of my favourite reads so far this year.
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