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Charmingly Euphemistic

I am currently reading mostly gay romance, mysteries, science fiction, etc.

Currently reading

One Giant Leap
Kay Simone
Tournament of Losers
Megan Derr
Strength of the Pack
Kendall McKenna

For everyone who reads gay romance

Excellent post:

 

And for the last ten years, as MM romance has grown, we’ve been able to believe in MM HEA because more and more, every day, it’s been possible to believe that two gay men can build a life together without being beaten, without their homes being vandalized, without the government making an about face and undoing every bit of progress in gay civil liberties.

Guess what? Not so much now. 

 

Astounding! by Kim Fielding

Astounding! - Kim Fielding

The title Astounding! refers to a (slightly subversive) pulp science fiction magazine run by one of the main characters. I enjoyed how the author evoked a pulp scifi mood and tropes in the story (also subverted!)

 

Fun and romantic.  Includes a road trip, sexually transmitted 

alien abilities

(show spoiler)

an homage to George R.R. Martin - and to Portland.

The Missing Butterfly by Megan Derr

The Missing Butterfly - Megan Derr

I picked up this audiobook on sale.  I was a bit leery of a contemporary Megan Derr novel, but I thought I'd give it a try.  My verdict is nope - only fantasy from this author from now on. I am starting to think I should just not read contemporary at all unless I have a very good reason.

 

I think The Missing Butterfly is supposed to be a modern day fairy tale of the Cinderfella sort, without any magic.  Everyone is gorgeous and talented, and several are very rich (I could see more books in this series being set up the entire time I was listening). Lots of wish fulfillment for the deserving young MC. But for me it was all frosting and no cake - no suspense or real plot or antagonist to be found.

 

One thing that bothered me:  the women characters came in exactly two flavors - the giggly gossipers who are way too involved in the male characters' love lives, and the horrible bitches.  I know Megan Derr can write good female characters, but not this time.

 

The characters were all pretty two-dimensional.  I don't mind that so much in fantasy, because they have interesting talents that come out in scary situations, and that keeps my attention. (Of course three-dimensional characters and an interesting plot is ideal, but you usually can't have everything).

 

 

Lots of people love this, so I might be casting some residual book slump shade on this book.  I suspect people who like fluffy rock star stories would have fun (though there isn't much actually rock star activity in the book). 

 

 

Winter Kill by Josh Lanyon

Winter Kill - Josh Lanyon

***beware of spoilers until I get the spoiler tags cleaned up***

 

My reading slump continues.  Even Josh Lanyon has let me down!  I don't always love Josh's books, but usually it is because one of the main characters is too much of a dick.  I can, usually, count on the mysteries to make sense and the LEO characters to be reasonably intelligent and good at their jobs.  Not here.

 

Adam is both TSTL and psychic all at the same time. There are two points at which he figures something out with no rational basis I could see.  First, he see a picture of a young women when she was a girl, standing with two older boys.  At a glance Adam determines that the picture wasn't given to her, that she stole it, and that she has a crush on one of the boys.  Second, he meets the bad guy for the first time and 

 

immediately knows he is the Roadside Ripper, because he doesn't tell them his former trucking route and he is annoyed by Adam

(show spoiler)

 

But even though Adam is apparently psychic, he is also appallingly incompetent.  Before the case starts,

 

his team manages to short out a kidnapping victim's father's car, and Adam fails to stop one of the kidnappers from shooting the father, even though he is in the back seat of the car at the time

(show spoiler)

 

He also

 

gets kidnapped by the Roadside Ripper, even though he knows (psychically!) who it is.  He just opens the door and gets coshed

(show spoiler)

 

Rob isn't psychic - just incompetent and touchy.  For example, he gets mad at Adam for 

asking someone about his son's love life.  This is apparently so insensitive that Rob is going to leave Adam behind for further interviews - even though he didn't bother to tell Adam the son has been institutionalized.

(show spoiler)

 

Josh also sets up a romance that can't work, at least not yet, and then makes it work with some really improbable behavior. 

 

So, yeah, my reading slump continues.  Rats.

 

 

In The Middle of Somewhere by Roan Parrish

In the Middle of Somewhere - Roan Parrish

This was a bright spot in the reading slump I have going. Although it was contemporary with a certain amount of angst, it didn't get under my skin like Bear, Otter, and the Kid did. I think it was because I enjoyed spending time in Daniel's head.  Other reviewers got annoyed by him, but his voice worked for me.

 

I actually rather like messed up characters who make mistakes and struggle to figure things out - but only if (a) they have a good reason to be messed up; and (b) they are getting better over the course of the story, even if only in fits and starts.  Daniel is like that. He has trouble knowing how to behave in a relationship, and he makes mistakes, but he doesn't tell a bunch of lies or make the same mistake over and over.  He makes the effort and figures things out.

 

I very much appreciate that both Rex and Daniel are already out, because that particular internal struggle has gotten very stale for me.

 

I will definitely not read the follow-on story with Daniel's brother Colin.  I know I wouldn't like spending time in his brain!

 

 

Bear, Otter, and the Kid by T.J. Klune

Bear, Otter, and the Kid - T.J. Klune

Sigh.  I guess everyone loves this but me.I waited a long time to read it, because I am not that crazy about contemporary romance, and New Adult books tend to be too emo for me. But everyone loves it and it supposed to be funny, so.

 

Everyone who loves this book (which is practically everyone) should just skip this review, because I am just going to rant with no attempt at fairness.

 

Kinds of characters I don't like:

 

Characters who continually inflict angst on themselves by being stupid

Characters who continually inflict angst on everyone they know by being stupid

Characters who tell stupid, pointless lies

Characters who tell stupid, pointless lies to EVERYONE

Characters who stay just as messed up as they started and never figure anything out or get better or smarter

Characters who are furious at friends or lovers for things they do themselves

Characters who don't come clean when it is the obvious right and smart thing to do

 

Yeah, this one has all of that.

 

Plot and story elements I don't like:

 

Repetition 

Continuous flashbacks and flash forwards

When boring stuff is told in excruciating detail

When interesting stuff isn't told at all

Slapstick humor that doesn't even make me smile.

 

And yes, it has all this too.

 

I think part of the problem with this book for me was that I listened to the audiobook.  Every flaw was magnified because I couldn't ever skim or skip.  Every time Bear was just about to come clean with someone, something would interrupt.  This happened at least a half a dozen times and I had to be there for every word every time. A character would say "hey" and another character would say "hey yourself" - this must have happened at least ten times, and after a while it was like a screeching clang in my ear - someone would say "hey" and I would just brace myself for "hey yourself."

 

I probably would have DNFed this, except there was the promise of a dramatic courtroom scene where we would find out what the hell Bear's mom was doing and whether Otter's ex had anything to do with it - but no, no courtroom scene or any other form of resolution.

 

I am having a reading slump where everything I read is annoying me, so I am going to label this "reading slump" in case I want to come back and reconsider.  I will never like this book, but maybe it won't make me mad that I even read it.

 

I laughed so hard my stomach hurts

Play along - Summer Book Bingo

Just for fun, I made myself a bingo card to go with the 20 books of summer goal. A blackout would be 25 books, but feel free to play along and use as many (or as few) of the spaces as you want to create as many bingos as you want.

 

 

Obsidian, you've already filled in "A book bust or bummer"!

Reblogged from Moonlight Reader

A Seditious Affair by K.J. Charles

A Seditious Affair - K.J. Charles

This is my first five star review in a long time.  Such good writing, characters, plot, everything.  It was a tough read, largely because the suspense was so intense and I was so scared for the main characters. I tend to avoid historicals for the same reason I avoid dystopians - even if the main characters get a happy ending, they are never really safe and people all around them have sucky lives. And I can't say it isn't the case here.  It was just worth it. Now that I am finished I only like it better for what it put me through.

 

 

I tend to avoid Regencies (even when I read historicals) because as a longterm Jane Austen fan, the inevitable anachronisms annoy the hell out of me. That didn't happen once here.  This is set just a bit later than JA's novels, and it is in the city instead of JA's usual country (or Bath) so I admit I might not notice errors as much.  

 

I loved the political background to this story.  I actually would have liked a bit more of it, but I am probably the only person on earth who thinks that, so I am just happy with what I got.  I liked how the views of every character made sense from their position.  From my vantage, of course I like Silas's democratic views.  But in the shadow of the French revolution, Dominic has a point about the bad roads revolutions tend to lead down.

 

The characters' actions made sense too. Silas, for example, was incredibly foolhardy, but he was exhausted and scared and cold and hungry - even a sober, careful person isn't the most rational under those circumstances (and Silas isn't sober or careful at the best of times).  He held to what he knew to be true - it was wrong that society was set up to benefit only the upper crust and everyone else had to starve and do without justice.  

 

The audio was really excellent.  The voices and accents really added to the pleasure.

I can't stop laughing at this

Trump Temptation: The Billionaire & The Bellboy - Elijah Daniel, Nick Sanchez

The cover alone!

 

Trump Temptations

 

The subtitle:  The Billionaire And The Bellboy!

 

I can't believe this will last long on Amazon, so I thought I'd better memorialize it quick.

 

Rated five stars for making me laugh a lot.

The Garçonnière by Ali MacLagan

The Garçonnière - Ali MacLagan

“The past is not dead. It's not even the past.” William Faulkner.

This video was taken a few days ago. A teenaged girl of color took out her phone in class and refused to leave. The police were called, and, when the girl refused to leave her desk, the officer choked-slammed her to the floor and dragged her across the floor. He could easily have broken her neck

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3UQY8...

This is one of a million examples of recent racism, but it resonates particularly with this book, because at one point Joseph, the slave, is beaten for refusing to do something fairly minor. Today, a black person can be brutalized - even killed - for a small bit of stubbornness, with no repercussions. In fact it happens all the time.

I feel for the author of this story, because I can tell that she did a lot of research and tried hard to depict the horrors of black slavery in the U.S. Sadly, she was blind to how she was trivializing those same horrors, and the story is unintentionally painfully racist. Others have discussed why in detail, so I will just bring up one aspect that hit me especially hard. Joseph is in a completely powerless and dependent position with respect to Henry, from beginning to end. Every bit of safety, comfort, life necessities, and health depended on Henry. It felt more like lifelong Stockholm syndrome than a romance – and this is never addressed. 

This story was written for the Love is an Open Road event sponsored by the M/M romance group on Goodreads, and unfortunately, none of the beta readers or the LOR editors who looked over the story saw it either. It was only when the story was published that the racism in the story was spotted and made public, the outcry began. 

Here I think the MMR group did the author a severe disservice. Instead of saying, “it was obviously quite unintentional, and we failed to spot it too, but this story is racist and we need to acknowledged that and remove it,” they closed forces and told those offended to get out of the group and stop disturbing their beautiful minds. Now the author will forever be known for this offensive story, rather than it being a footnote in her career. Most people would have forgiven her – and the MMR group – for making a mistake and correcting it is soon as they realized. What is much harder to forgive is the choice they made to ignore how much they were hurting people and “get past it” by shutting down all conversations relating to the problem on the MMR group.

Edited to add: in case anyone missed it, there is an excellent discussion of this book here:
https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/...

Love For The Cold-Blooded by Alex Gabriel

Love for the Cold-Blooded: Or: The Part-Time Evil Minion's Guide to Accidentally Dating a Superhero. - Alex Gabriel

I thoroughly enjoyed this super-hero tale.  It was funny and engaging.  Loved how the "villains" called themselves "challengers" and called the heroes "hoagies."  Heh.

 

The MCs are Pat West, son of challenger Serpentissima, night manager of hoagie Nick aka Silver Paladin's mansion, and urban planning student, is hilarious in his impulsiveness and motormouth-ness. Nick is equally funny in his cluelessness and surprising flexibility. 

 

The superhero elements were reminiscent of fun stuff in Marvel and DC without feeling too derivative.  Nick has a great suit and lots of money and an amazing lab without feeling at all like Tony Stark. There is hoagie who destroys buildings and property and is super-strong, but he isn't Superman at all.

 

If the book has a down side, it would be the lack of real conflict and danger.  As a result, Nick and Pat's adventures are fun, but not scary.  The story meanders a bit in the middle.  There is a Big Misunderstanding, but it doesn't drag on too long.

 

Definitely looking forward to the next one by this author. 

Subject 19 by Todd Young

Subject 19 - Todd Young

This was a very strange book, but compelling in its way.  It is more horror (specifically body horror) than romance, but there were romantic elements too.  The premise was never satisfactorily explained and the ending didn't entirely make sense. But the writer is talented at creating an atmosphere of helplessness and fear interspersed with moments of bravery and affection.  Some found it to be quite erotic as well (I was way more "idk" than "yum" about the sex myself). There is a lot of sex, but most of it is under drugged, dub con conditions. Again, weird but compelling in its way.

 

So, I guess recommended for people who want something with body horror and sex, offbeat with scary and suspenseful moments, but a reasonably happy ending?

A Forbidden Rumspringa by Keira Andrews

A Forbidden Rumspringa (Gay Amish Romance Book 1) - Keira Andrews

Well written and gripping, but kind of a tough read for me.  Zebulon was so repressive and unforgiving that it was unpleasant to spend time there, and I kept waiting for the horrible event of Isaac and David getting caught. 

 

There never is the kind of "getting caught" I was waiting for, but Isaac losing his closest friend was bad enough.

 

David and Isaac do get out at the end, but only because they each know someone who is out in the world and willing to help them.  Everyone else is trapped - no money, no skills, no way to even get anywhere.  It is like a dystopia set in the middle of contemporary America.  

(show spoiler)

I am not sure I want to read the rest of this series, because it sounds really angsty as well.  Still deciding.

Art Criticism by Celeste Spettro

Art Criticism - Celeste Spettro Art Criticism - Blue GhostGhost

I read this as an online original story several years back, and remembered it as funny and endearing.  So when I saw that it had been made into an audiobook, I decided to get it. Result? Still funny and endearing.  I don't remember the online story well enough to know exactly what changed, but I think it has been polished up a bit, to its benefit.

 

I don't read a lot of contemporary romance these days, mostly because there are way too many books to read, and I am trying to reduce the potentials by cutting out categories, authors, series that aren't finished yet, books that sound too angsty or dark, etc.  But once in a while a funny contemporary hits the spot.

 

James is an assistant helping to run an art gallery.  He is good at his job and has an excellent eye for art, but he isn't so good at people.  He is introverted and easily unnerved, and it becomes apparent that the people who are close to him are willing to do the work to maintain the relationship.  James would generally rather hide alone in his room than deal with anyone.  

 

Turkish is a photographer who has made a splash with his work, and sells photographs at the gallery.  He is confident and friendly, willing to put himself out there, with a lot of friends. 

 

At the beginning of the story, James can't figure out why Turkish is being so mean to him.  Turkish is smitten, and trying to get James' attention by, essentially, pulling his pigtails. Turkish is willing to break down James' barriers and chase him until James is a little too rejecting, and hurts Turkish enough to give up.  Then James has to decide what he wants and whether he is brave enough to do what it takes to fix things.

 

Most of the story is told from James' point of view, but there is an epilogue from Turkish's point of view that allows us to see James from his eyes, and it is hilarious.

run, run, fast as you -- by branwyn

run, run, fast as you -- - branwyn

** Some Spoilers **

 

 

A really excellent story in which Carlos arrives in Night Vale traumatized, fleeing from his violent stalker sort-of-ex, Robert. Cecil falls in love with him at first sight, but it takes Carlos a year to start to warm up to the idea, because of his past - and not just with Robert. Carlos is asexual, and it has been a source of pain and loneliness to him since teenager-hood. He has given up on any kind of romantic relationship. He does want acceptance and love and even affection, but sex is abhorrent to him and he knows (from trying many times) that he can't be true to himself and be in a relationship where there is any sexual activity.

 

Carlos comes to Night Vale both to escape Robert and because he has always been intrigued by it, in spite of its reputation for strangeness and its high mortality rate. He muses to himself that:

 

Hamlet might have preferred to bear familiar burdens rather than fly to risks he didn't understand, but Hamlet was a prince, not a scientist. His actions in the play made that very clear; he hadn't even attempted to take an ectoplasmic reading after the first appearance of his father's ghost.

 

The first half of the book is about Carlos learning to live in Night Vale, and getting to know Cecil and beginning to trust him. At first, Carlos feels responsible (as the town Scientist) for trying to save the town from every crisis and danger, but gradually he figures out that this is how Night Vale always is, and it isn’t his responsibility to ward off destruction. Then he is free to pursue what interests him and piques his curiosity.

 

There is essentially a time skip of nearly a year from shortly after Carlos arrives to the main events of the story. Those who follow Welcome to Night Vale podcasts will know what happened during that year - this story goes AU after that. I actually don't listen to WTNV much - I like my stories more linear and plot driven - but I really appreciate the world. It is surreal and strange things happen all the time, but it doesn't feel like there are no rules and anything goes. The author, branwyn, does a beautiful job evoking what is like there, both for outsiders like Carlos and natives like Cecil.

 

Carlos has the most trouble with the temporal fluidity of Night Vale. Time doesn't run consistently there, and it doesn't pass at the same rate as the outside world. He is also very disturbed by the Whispering Forest, which speaks to him in the voices of people he cares about and tries to convince him to become part of it. He has three lab assistants, the most important of whom is Nijeia, a mostly-invisible twelve year old (keeping in mind the temporal fluidity factor – she says she has been twelve for a long time).

 

At the end of the time skip, the romance begins, and it is really lovely. I don’t know a lot about asexuality, but I found Carlos’ expression of it to be entirely relatable. He has lost hope of finding someone who wants him for who and how he is, because it has caused only anger and resentment – and meanness – in the past. Cecil is a near perfect match for Carlos. He does love him exactly how he is and is able to meet his needs without asking for anything Carlos isn’t comfortable giving. Interestingly it is Carlos who is a bit mean and unfair during this period, because he is such a PTSD mess. Cecil gets him, though. At one point he says, “I can't tell you how much I regret the idea that I might, for one instant, have made you feel unsafe. Just the thought of it makes me feel like I've come down with a case of throat-spiders.”

 

In one lovely bit, Cecil suggests marking off areas on Carlos’s body where he doesn’t want to be touched. Carlos both likes the idea and is freaked out by it. He retreats, and Cecil says:

 

"What was I thinking? You only just woke up, and I ambushed you with advanced relationship negotiation tactics. Ugh, Cecil." He rolled his eyes and shook his head. "You go on. I'll make breakfast, and we'll finish later." 

 

Just as the romance is developing nicely, the action part of the plot kicks in, and the second half of the story is nonstop action, suspense, and violence. It is just as well done as the romance, with themes coming to fruition and clues and hints paying off. The ending is satisfying and well-earned on everyone’s part.

 

Highly recommended.