Cover Image: Calumet

Calumet

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Member Reviews

Calmet was definitely different than any author seems to be writing these days which is intriguing and I could not put it down; A story of forgiveness I had to stay up all night reading it. It's revolves around two high school sweethearts Jaxon and Iris, this was a first for me reading about two main characters story separately and having them in a relationship with people other than each other without an end to those relationships in sight. I'd argue that the real romance was between Jax and Margot but I digress.

There also happens to be a teenager involved that is pretty much living the life of the main character Jax all over again only thing is the child happens to be a bit smarter and doesn't have the homophobic parents like the main characters did growing up. 

About seventy percent into the book I realized that this was your typical romance, read with an open mind and you will not be disappointed. I give it a 5/5 because someone out there needs to read this story and learn so that they do not make the same mistakes and the writing is just amazing and poetic and makes you root for these characters to make it and continue to be successful inspite of the hand they have been dealt.
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This novel was such a lovely surprise. Just when you thought you have it all figured out, like ''this will be second chances romance'', you get a twist. I loved the characters, the depth, the whole plot. I would gladly recommend this book to anyone who loves good, complex lesbian fiction.
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Jaxon Lavigne is an English literature professor in California.  She grew up in the conservative southern community of Chackbay, Louisiana.  After coming out as gay she left her disapproving parents and her girlfriend, Iris Long, who decided not to follow her to college at LSU in Baton Rouge.  After Jax left, Iris has been married to Daniel, a local police officer, for sixteen years and they have two children including a daughter, Sean, who looks and acts exactly like Jax.  

Jax has turned down past class reunion invitations, but her girlfriend who is successful actress, Margot Drake, encourages her to consider attending this sixteen year? reunion.  

There's a lot to like about this book and I'll by saying that there is so much more to the book than what the brief description reveals.  The blurb shares background on Jax and Iris, but Margot is also a major part of the events and provides Jax the push that she needs to address her past and get answers to things that she never even was aware of in Chackbay.  The story also describes issues that sometimes occur within families when certain events result in pulling apart family members.  The book focuses on trying to set some of those things aside to begin the healing process.  

The book has a good balance of serious topics with the major narrative; little lessons along the way like "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" by Ursula K. Le Guin, and the humor that Jax's conversations with Wilber brought to the table.  4.5 stars

I received an ARC from Bold Strokes Books and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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This story is a bit strange, not in a negative sense but in its content, although it is difficult to tell without spoiling it. I will do my best to do so.

It deals with different important issues, starting with teenage love, the first love of the main protagonist, Jax. Now in her thirties she does not want to remember that, because it was the cause for her to break up with her family and left her hometown. She has a healthy relationship with a rising movie star, she has professional success, who wants to go back to that nightmare, to a silly high school reunion? But her best friend, also high school mate, and her girlfriend convince her that it might be good for her to close that chapter once and for all.

And now the strangest part of all, the other co-star in the story is neither her current girlfriend nor her first high school love. When Jax arrives in town the book becomes a young adult story, when Sean enters the scene. 

And that’s where I can’t continue much in the explanations so as not to spoil it.

I'll just tell you that just because it’s weird and uncommon it’s worth reading this book. It comes out a little out of the ordinary.
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I love lesfic books that aren't typical lesfic - girl meets girl. I love them, too, but what I really love is reading a good story that has lesbian characters. This story appears to be a reunion romance, but it's more about the existing relationships, the past, and choices made. The characters are great, the relationships between the characters are wonderfully portrayed, and overall, I recommend this great book! Thanks to Netgalley and Bold Strokes Books for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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Really interesting and a different romance book. The 1st half of the book I kept asking myself how this will turn in a good romance that wouldn't break my heart. I loved Margot and her family., they made me laugh so hard, especially Wiber and Jaxon interactions.

Definitely not the usual romance but a lovely story. Difficult to comment without giving much away. Recommend it.
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Great book, read it  and couldn't stop reading until I got to the end. I loved the relationship between Jaxon, who's a professor of English and Margot who's a famous celebrity actress, these two have such a,  loving and giving relationship it just leapt right off the pages. The story starts with Jaxon getting an invite to her high school class reunion which sets her up for the biggest surprise of her life which knocks her  for a loop. The surprises just kept coming throughout the story and most are dealt to her by her ex girlfriend Iris from high school . I can't say much more about this story without giving spoilers. I really liked this book and would definitely recommend this book to my friends and family. Can't wait to see what this author writes next.
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I thought this was going to be a second-chance romance (for those paying attention, my favorite romance trope) but it was actually the exact opposite. An "I'm totally over my first love and have an awesome new love but have a lot of baggage to deal with from everything that happened when I graduated from high school" romance.

I was really digging the first half or so but then things moved in directions that were either too much, not enough, or just outright off. The too much happened with repetitious descriptions and narrative, the not enough was how I felt about pretty much everything Iris. She was given a POV early on but we really don't get to understand much about her or her world. Which leads to the just outright off parts which also were mostly focused on Iris. One of the biggest for me was her relationship with Daniel, her husband. I mean, initially he's cast as a bully and mean-spirited and all he and Iris seem to do is yell and fight with each other. It was awful. But then Iris says that she loves him and is her best friend. WTF? Very mixed info happening here...

Anyway, I loved Margot and her parents more than any other part of the book. Jaxon was fine but I never could connect with her. She was very much like many of the author's other strong, handsome, loyal, smart, and sexy butches. So, I mean, you know what you're getting when you read a Vali book.

If you're a fan of Ali Vali's novels, you'll very likely love this one. It wasn't my favorite but it wasn't my least favorite either. Wilbur and his den lessons made it all worthwhile.

Thanks to BSB and NetGalley for the ARC!
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High school days can be a quagmire of teenage angst, love and betrayal, friendships, cliques and bullying. Most of us survived our school days however for some it is a time so dark you never want to revisit. Jaxon Lavigne left her home town of Chackbay Louisiana with the intention of never looking back. Her life is good now with her career as a professor  and living with Margo, the love of her life. Except that her best friend from home wants Jaxon to go with him to the high school reunion to show everyone how they both bettered their lives.
Ali Vali is a proven storyteller with her Cain Casey series. This stand alone novel has the richness of Vali’s imagination combined with her subtle wit and laid back writing style. Her main characters are complex and interesting with a supporting cast of loveable odd balls. This is the South as you expect it be; full of charm and politeness which hides all the small town secrets, pettiness and idiosyncrasies. 

 I was given a free ARC from NetGalley and the publisher for my honest review.
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Yes, time taught valuable lessons, and one of them was that forgiveness had to be felt as well as given. Loc 3781

Hats off to Ali Vali for changing up what I thought was going to be just another second chance romance and turning this into a study in forgiveness. The blurb led me to assumptions which Vali challenges from the opening chapters. It’s very difficult to be spoiler free with this review so I will say I loved the secondary characters and the impact they had on the main characters and the story as a whole. They added so much value to the central romance and had me cheering on the mains to get their act together.

I was impressed with the character development throughout this story with Jaxon as a standout in the growth department. She has a successful career and life but you can feel her reticence to move past the anger she feels towards events in her past. Sometimes you can go home again to a dreaded high school reunion and reconcile the ghosts from your past with the help of family and friends.

Calumet left me feeling happy and uplifted and that makes it a five star read any day.

A copy of this book was received from the publisher via NetGalley for review.
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I am in conflict with this book, on the one hand I could not put it down from the moment I opened it to the end. It is super intriguing and the plot is gradually appearing in little clues
.
Although in the synopsis it's mentions Iris and Jaxon, but other voices also appear such as Jaxon's current partner, Margot and Sean, daughter of Iris. Through its moments the story is making its way, the four women live the story from different emotional points and although it is a love story there is no romance in it.
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The contrast of Jaxon's life with Margot, which is described in detail, to much details about how great and acomplish and  plenitude they have in contrast with Iris and Sean's family life, with they low and littles ups of teenagers trying to be who they are in a small town, is so strong that I felt that the book left out the great background of the plot in an explanation that portrays in a very simple and light, themes such as  coming out and parenthood and above all leaves very little to the resolution to the other part of the story.
I felt it loose and couldn't get caught up in Jaxon's story with Margot, I don't feel her in love with anyone other than her own new life
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Drama, angst and a plot that unfolds to leave the reader thinking about very important points about love, friendship, family and identity is waiting to the reader for an emotional reading
.
Thanks to Ali Vali and Bold Strokes Books for give me this book in exchange for my honest opinion
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My thoughts…

After about a chapter or so into this book, something kept nudging at my memory. I began to feel certain that I’d seen a short movie that was very similar to this plot. As I read on, the thought just kept poking at me. I was positive this was familiar. After a little digging on the internet, my suspicions were confirmed. Calumet and that same short film—one I’d seen nearly 15 years ago—were essentially one and the same. Someone named T. M. Scorzafava did the screenplay, but story credits were given to Ali Vali. She was no doubt the original creator of this lovely, intriguing narrative.

Upon learning all of this, I became super excited to continue reading Calumet. I remember just loving that short film. Annabeth Gish had filled the role of the lead character, bringing some major appeal for sure, but it was the story that had really stuck with me. I also remembered that the short had left viewers hanging, so I very much wanted to see it in its completion.

Calumet is not exactly the same as the movie; it differs in several ways. However, the key plot points remain the same, and that’s what carries this unique tale. The story arc is fresh and original; I’ve not read another story like it. This contemporary drama is creatively angled, giving readers something that’s completely enthralling to read. It’s tangled and complicated, and for the most part, it’s centered around past hurts and fractured relationships. Be forewarned, this is not your typical Ali Vali book; it does not resemble the standard romance readers have grown accustom. It’s visionary and contains more forward thinking than much of what’s out there in today’s lesfic. Calumet definitely leaves readers with something to think about.

Vali is known for her unique and charming writing style. She seems to make words smile right off the page. Fans love the Southern tone and tenor of her writing. It loops and meanders across the page, but it plays well against the backdrop of Calumet. Readers enjoy a reflective thoughtfulness that helps build the tension and accentuate the mystery in this dramatic tale. At its conclusion, it all comes together nicely, providing readers with a full Ali Vali experience.

Final remarks…

Calumet’s narrative has so much Southern charm, it nearly blushes. It will surprise its readers; it ventures into some creative territory, but it does not disappoint. If you are looking for something freshly told, make sure to pick this one up.

Strengths…

•Original storyline
•Intriguing plot
•Fresh and creative
•Filled with sweet Southern charm
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This is so far away from the formulaic lesfic romance and I absolutely loved it.

The blurb leads us to believe there are two main characters in this book, and while this may be true, there are so many other important characters as well. I find the blurb a little misleading actually, but I wouldn't know how to make it better either. The book is way more than the blurb gets across. This book is so layered and beautifully written I don't even know where to begin. 
The blurb gives me the impression this is a second chance romance, it isn't, it's so much better. Jax left her small town and her high school sweetheart to get away from her parents and make a life of her own where she is accepted. Iris broke Jax's heart when she left. Jax is a very popular English Lit professor at UCLA and in a relationship with television star Margot. They are a very cute couple. When Jax receives the invitation for her high school reunion it is time for her to tell Margot more about her past and face the demons she hasn't seen in over 15 years. Iris has been living in the small town forever, married to a man who used to bully Jax, raising two kids. One of the kids, her daughter Sean, is the spitting image of Jax. This is a little mystery that is in the story, what happened here? As mentioned, this story is so layered nothing I write will do it any justice.

This isn't your typical lesfic romance, but there is plenty of character development and romance in this book. I adore Jax. I'm hoping Vali will considering writing a sort of sequel that involves Sean. This book is about family, love, growing up, dealing with your past, I guess this book is about life and how beautifully messy it can be.

I love Vali's Cain Casey  series, but this might be my all time favourite Ali Vali book.
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I feel like I have a lot to say because of the way this book made me feel. I love it and the characters and the story would surely stick with me for a long time.

Jaxon Lavigne left town once she graduated and never looked back, set on making a life for herself and forgetting all the pain that came with living where she grew up. She's happy, she has a good life, and she has Margot, her girlfriend, whom she loves very much. However, the pain and the hurt from her past still hold her back, unconsciously so. Then there's also that 15 year class reunion she didn't want to attend--but maybe it could lead to closure, right? That, or it could open more questions surrounding her ex-girlfriend and first love Iris and Iris' daughter that looks exactly like her (Jaxon).

I dove into it not knowing what it would be despite the reviews I read about it, and because of the blurb I assumed it would be that typical second chance romance with angst before all the getting together again. So of course, I was scared because I loved all three of them (Jaxon, Margot, and Iris) and I thought: “There’s no way any of them isn’t going to be hurt by the time this story ends.” Maybe I was right or maybe I wasn’t.

But am I happy with how it all turned out in the end? Definitely. Am I still sad anyway? Yes. Because of life, because of the decisions made, and because I just really, really wanted all the characters to be happy. Which makes the book a whole lot deeper for me, personally, because it tackled both happiness and regret. Happiness is just always around--it’s warm and beautiful. But regrets burn and we never know when--and if--it would ever heal. Isn't that such a scary thought?

I requested an ARC from Netgalley and I am voluntarily leaving a review.
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I highly enjoyed this book! I have read several books from this author and had expectations based on those previous novels. With that being said, this story took a different turn from the usual. The blurb leads readers to believe that this is a second chance romance which is not the case. It was about redemption, forgiveness, acceptance, learning and growing. First love can be all consuming. It burns bright, fast and can leave a lasting impression especially if that love is lost. It can be the basis for many and all relationships going forward. I loved Jaxon's journey and the love of her partner Margot that helped her navigate her past so she was able to build upon their future together. I appreciated how Vali gave us multiple character points of view, particularly from Iris and Sean. It gave a deeper level of understanding and empathy of those characters. Besides Jaxon's mother, no one was outright vilified and we had a chance to experience growth from the characters (Daniel, Jaxon's father, etc.) that were less likeable in the beginning. They were made to be human despite negative choices they made and were given the chance to redeem themselves. I was sad when the novel ended but was happy with the overall outcome.

Thank you Vali! Very well done!

I received this ARC via NetGalley for an honest review.
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I would say this book is a love story, not a romance per se, but a book about life and its turns and how we deal with our past when we have to face it to move on. Also, I would not say, as I read in some reviews, that this is a second chance romance.
With Calumet, Ali Vali thinks out of the box and delivers something that is not the most common type of lesbian fiction that we usually see and this is my favorite part!
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Thank you to NetGalley and Bold Stroke Books for providing me an eARC that I could preview and review.

First, I need to echo what other reviewers have said that this book seems to be described as a a second-chance romance novel, where the long-lost high school sweethearts rekindle their love 16 years later, when it's not that ar all. It's more of a family drama, with Jaxon begrudgingly returning to her small home town and getting closure on her past. It's a more complicated story to advertise, but it seems more accurate.

I had complicated feelings about this title. I really enjoyed the story Ali put down, and most of the characters were interesting and I wanted to know more about them. Unfortunately, I found her writing style a bit of a slog to get through.

So, what I loved about this story were the characters and way she rolled out the mystery. There are essentially 4 main POV characters for this story, UCLA English professor Jaxon, her actress girlfriend Margot, the high school ex Iris, and eventually Iris' daughter Sean. I enjoyed all of them apart from Iris. 
Jax is a complex, layered character. She obviously had a difficult youth, and still carries the scars of her past even into her mid-30's, moreso that she is even seemingly aware of it. She's intelligent, and caring, and her love of literature (seemingly shared by the author) is wonderful. I really enjoyed the growth she goes through over the course of the book.
Margot is seemingly the saint of girlfriends! At the very least, she deserves a gold medal in the girlfriend Olympics. Loving, accepting, supportive, and always wanting the best for Jax. An army brat, she's tough, and yet caring, with a close relationship with her mother and retired army General father. I loved every time the POV switched to her.
Sean shows up as the POV only a couple short times, but I honestly enjoyed them more than all the sequences with her mother's POV. Sean is a gay 16-year-old girl who knows who she is, who she loves, and for the most part what she wants from the future, and I could have had way more sequences featuring her, and especially her and Adeline, they were adorable together. 
Iris, on the other hand, was very frustrating to read. She stayed in her town and married the washed-up high school QB (who people repeatedly say was in love with her but he comes off more like she was a prize to him) so she wouldn't be judged by those small town people. This isn't to say that I don't get a character being afraid of the future, but reading her she honestly sounds miserable in her life...except if anyone claims she does, then she loves her life. She keeps telling us that Daniel is a loving and supporting husband and father, but for the most part that's all you get, is her word, most of what you see of him is the high school bully fallen to middle age. And worst of all, she refuses to talk to her daughter! Flat out refuses, to the several people who tell her she should, she says no. All we get is a short paragraph about it happening in the epilogue...we needed that conversation!

Sorry, getting worked up there. Overall, I was very interested in the story we were presented. The present, as well as people talking about the past, was rolled out quite well, intriguing enough to keep you wanting to learn more and more. What exactly happened. What Jax and Iris' relationship was like back in the day. Why Sean looks and seemed to be exactly like Jax. We don't get answers to all the questions that are raised, and I wasn't 100% satisfied with all the ones we got, but for the most part I was happy how it all happened, and Ali certainly offers some surprises with the way she lays out the story.

My biggest problem, and it may be just me, was the writing style.  Maybe it's just me, but must of it felt very stilted, sort of like listening to a song you're familiar with, but the person singing it puts the emphasis on the wrong syllables, or taking a breath in the middle of a word, throwing off the rhythm. The dialogue varied a bit between great and naturalistic, and very clunky.

On top of this, Ali Vali seems to go out of her way to avoid physically describing people, places and things. As a writer, I am sure she has a crystal clear image in her head of all her characters, what they're wearing, their surroundings, all of it...except she barely puts any of that image on the page, like she just expects the reader to know exactly what was in her head. It's a cliche at this point to say that books are great because you get to picture the people and settings how you like, but the author needs to give you the clues of what she intended. The actual descriptions you get of Jax in this book? That she's butch, and starting to get some greys and laugh lines. The only reason you know her colouring at all (dark hair and blue eyes) is because the author describes Sean "and it's like Jax as a teenager". Others suffer similarly limited descriptions...Adeline is a red head...that's it. I cannot picture Margot's parents at all, besides the General being intimidating. Bert is a floating pocket protector. And it's not just limited to people, At one point, Margot makes a surprise appearance before Jax and says "I'm sorry it's not pink taffeta, but I hope this suffices." The other never describes her clothes. This may not matter to some, but I wouldn't recommend this to readers who really like to visual what the author intended.

The absolute best scene in the book is Jax's lesson to her mentor's class. Ali obviously has a lot of love for 'The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas', and it absolutely comes across in that chapter. Passionate, interesting, descriptive (for the most part). If the entire book was as engaging as that one chapter, I think I would have enjoyed it much more.

As it stands, I give this a 2.5 out of 5. An interesting story and engaging characters marred by the writing style and lack of descriptiveness.
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𝗪𝗵𝗶𝘀𝗽𝗲𝗿𝘀 𝗼𝗳 𝗮 𝘀𝗺𝗮𝗹𝗹 𝘁𝗼𝘄𝗻.

I had trouble putting my thoughts to words. I have so many things to say but can't because, spoilers. The blurb tells a lot but also too little and my mind went a million directions wondering how this story would go and how it would end. It was a problem for me not knowing because by the fourth chapter, I fell in love with one of the characters who was mature for her age, but also perfect and so precious, I was afraid she would get hurt.  

The blurb mentions two characters - Jaxon and Iris, who have a shared history in a small Louisiana hometown but now lead separate lives. Jax, who hasn't been back since high school, lives a good life as a English Literature Professor in California. Iris stayed behind and is now married with two kids. Their lives converge again when Jax returns for a 15-year high school reunion. Nothing extraordinary there, except there's Iris' teenage daughter who bears an uncanny resemblance to Jax.

I love how Calumet isn't a formulatic story about rekindling old flames. The multitude of layers of the story caught me by surprise and my mind went wild with imagination by the hows and the whys and the what happens next. And Vali teases by unravelling the mystery past bit by bit. There's so much character development for Jax in this short span too as she faces her past and I love how she gradually heals from it and opens her heart up. But it isn't just her, I realise. This story is about everybody else making peace as well and finding a way to move past history. 

Vali delivered a romance storyline and for some reason, it stuck with me. I love it. Maybe because the love is strong. There's a scene at the reunion that has been playing on loop ever since I put my kindle down and it feels oddly satisfying and so right. I'm not ready to let the characters go. There's potential for both a prequel and a sequel, and I'm particularly in favour of a prequel of Jax's time in California.
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Small town's always have their problems.... that being, everyone knows everyone else's business. Or they think they do! Full of gossip, whispers, and family secrets.

Calumet was an interesting read which kept me engaged. I just imagined my own small village where I live and wondered what the 'old biddies' and local trouble makers would stir up if this was a true story. 

I've given this story a 4stars. It's a good read, likable characters.... wasn't expecting the story to go this way after id read the blurb, but that's a good thing... I was expecting something completely different, which pecked my interest in reading 'just ''one more chapter''.

I would love a sequel... just to see how everyone was getting on! To see if relationships form or to see if they fail. To see if the gossip was still stirring.....


Jaxon left home to escape her disapproving parents and she never looked back. She is now a successful English lit professor and very happy with her life. But she's left with a dreading feeling when she receives an invite to her high school reunion.
Iris stayed in her family village, Chackbay, her days are predictable, but the rumors and whispers never change. She played it safe and married the high school quarterback. Her life isn't grand, she's happy,  and has a comfortable job at the local high school. 
Even before Jaxon comes back home, the gossip is stirring again, the same gossip that started 16 years back. She fell for Iris back in high school, seeing her is a welcome surprise. But Jaxon is more intrigued by Iris's daughter sean, whose dark hair and blue eyes, and brilliant mind are startlingly like Jaxon. 
Jaxon has been kept in the dark by everyone she loved the most, including Iris. But once the truth is spoken, it's up to Jaxon to figure out if she's leaving for good.
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NetGalley ARC Educator 550974

Quaint story that will have you skipping ahead because some of the paragraphs seem to repeat. You won't figure out the plot until about 70% and the rest of the read you'll wonder why. 

Some of the characters are amazing and others will drive you to drink. It's a cute story.
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