Brush Strokes

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: Not set

Member Reviews

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.
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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!
Was this review helpful?
🌟🌟🌟🌟 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. 

Thanks for reading! For great stories, reviews and more please visit https://bookstattoosandtea.wordpress.com 📚
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
A cute story about a whole bunch of miscommunication. Not an unreasonable level of miscommunication, in fact it's a pretty realistic level, but it still frustrated me at times. That being said, I did generally like the characters. They were normal people doing normal things. Definitely recommended for fans of slice of life type genres.
Was this review helpful?
Sweet ~ Endearing ~ Romantic

tl;dr: Even guards need love

This books is a great short, romance novel for someone wanting a solid, character-driven book. Karlquist does a wonderful job of depicting friendship, in the platonic relationship. Also, the love story (m-m) is also so well done. This author is particularly good at character-driven story. One character is hard of hearing, and the dialogue is well-done (intentionally awkward). I wondered if this story has a visual arts element b/c of the hearing element, i.e. when one sense is diminished another grows. I don't know, but the museum part is probably the weakest element. It's really a book about people set around a museum. For most people, that will be plenty of museum. If you happen to be a museum worker, it's done just fine with no glaring errors. 

Really well-done debut. 


Seema Rao Write : Instagram| Blog| Twitter|
Was this review helpful?
Super cute read! Daniel is an angel and I’d do anything for him. I liked Todd, but he had a tendency to get on my nerves. He worked out his issues for the most part which made him less annoying. 

Some parts seems really stretched out and other felt a little rushed. Some things maybe should have been clarified a little earlier. For example, I had no idea what kind of pet Sandwich was for a little bit. I eventually figured it out before it was confirmed. It wasn’t critical to the story, but I don’t like feeling confused every time I run across a “character”. Also, I was unsure of Evan’s relationship to Todd for a bit. I figured it was a brother, but I wasn’t 100% sure until it was clarified later in the noon. But it is good for a debut novel. 

The thing I really loved about this book was all the time we got to spend with Daniel and Todd building their relationship. It was nice to see the little slice of life parts that tend to get overlooked in most books. 

I’m not deaf or HoH, but from what I could tell the rep was good.
Was this review helpful?
I didn't know to much about the book when I requested it from Netgalley. But it featured Art and a M/M romance. What more could you want?

Todd Navarro is halfway through college, trying to juggle his art studies with work and avoid the ongoing feud between the gallery where he works and the one next door. When his best friend Mela invites him to a frat party, he meets athlete Daniel Berger, who doesn't fit Todd's preconceived notions about jocks. After an unexpected night together, a romance seems possible, until Todd discovers that what they have in common could also drive them apart.

'Why would you look at it that way? Because it's easier than being helpless and sad.'

This book has one of the best M/M romances I've read in a while. After Todd and Daniel meet at a party, they end up spending all night with each other. Reading about their night is sweet, charming yet it's not cliched. I think the best thing about it is their chemistry, you can feel in the pages. I mean, that's some great writing. You instantly want them to be together, and when things go wrong you spend the rest of the book willing them to get together. The romance is subtle yet epic. It keeps you intrigued right till the very end.

I also love, the storyline of Todd trying to save the art gallery that he works for. I'm a sucker for this in books, to see our characters work hard for their end goal. It really makes me root for them. This storyline adds another layer to the plot, it makes it so the romance isn't alway centre stage and it's refreshing.

Now, I think a real highlight in this book is its representation. It has a character who's hard of hearing. I've never read about this in a book before and I have to say, it made me quite emotional. You can feel the characters struggle and the sadness, yet it doesn't stop his life or his dreams. I think that's so inspiring, and I hope it inspires others who are hard of hearing. It has certainly made think twice. I love it when a book does this.

'It wasn't until I started spending time with other people with hearing loss that I stopped feeling like I was the odd piece in the puzzle somehow.... Sometimes, especially in large groups, it's easy for people to forget to not have several conversations at the same time or interrupt each other. It's tiring for me to read lips... I'm proud of who I am, but it blows when other people forget who I am.'

This is E.S's first novel and to be honest that surprises me. It's self assured and the writing is confident. The book is complex, funny, sweet. It left me feeling so hopeful. In my opinion that's the mark of a great book and a great writer. I'm looking forward to see what she does in the future. Whatever it is, I'll be reading it.
I can't recommend this book. I read this book in two days and that never happens.

I have to Thank Netgalley and InterludePress for giving me a copy of this book in return for an honest review. It comes out on the 12th of March and you can preorder now. Don't miss this one.
Was this review helpful?