BookRiot: Self-Published Books

The books reviewed here are far from the first self pubs that I have reviewed on this blog.  Some I was even asked for.

I was pleased to see BookRiot push people to read self published work.  It’s still hard work to self-publish, not by any means the easy way of getting your book out there, even though there are not the gatekeepers that there are for traditional publishing. It doesn’t appear faster, either, to get your book traction on your own, and I think some of the stigma is fading from it.

Also, in case anyone is wondering, I am so pleased that the beauty of summer is here. This weekend I am spending with friends as a Bon Voyage to a friend who is moving to the Netherlands to do a post doc. I usually see my long distance friends over the summer, but later on after the school year is done in New York.  I might have to visit him in the Netherlands whilst he is there.

But on to the self-published books.

A Self-Published Book:

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The Inevitable Fate of E & J, Johanna Randle

A teen boy and girl who used to be best friends but who fell apart through circumstance are brought back together by forces they cannot control:  namely, that their souls are linked via past life experiences and they are warned that being together to figure out the story can be detrimental to them both.  Clearly, this is only the first in a series of indeterminate length.

I actually found this via an indie author community on Twitter and asking one another to comment their books for consideration.  It was hard to determine what books are self-published and which are not, as evidenced by my reading two Ania Ahlborns before I realized that she was picked up by Amazon. (but also not wasted time.  She just came out with a new book that she published herself, Now You See Her, so of course that landed on the TBR).  But I follow Johanna Randle on Twitter and she makes no qualms about having put her own work out there, and I admire her that.

I liked this story, it was completely wholesome and the nice boy is the one who wins, which I always like in YA romance, and the girl is learning through the story to stand up for what she likes and wants, not what others want of her.  The world of what everyone thinks a teenager wants is the life she leaves behind in favor of what her heart says. However, as this is the first in a series, there is a lot of set-up in this one.  There is a lot of uncertainty of the hearts coming back together, a lot of self doubt and wondering over action.   It picked up right in time for setting up for the next book. I’d be interested to see if the second books speeds up with all the initial stuff out of the way.

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A Light Amongst Shadows:  Dark is the Night, Book 1, Kelley York and Rowan Altwood

Two boys meet and fall in love in a sinister, Gothic era/novel reform school.  Ghosts crawl the property and when James’ roommate goes missing, they discover the sinister reason why and free the school of it’s dark secrets.

This was an ambitious novel, Gothic and historical, for something self-published, as well as having a romance/sexual relationship between two males.  I know LGBT is becoming the thing lately in YA, and I can’t say the book I’m sending out doesn’t have that, but I still think a gay relationship is forward in mainstream YA books.   I swiped this one off the list of BookRiot recommends, seeing as I can barely handle finding out what is a self pub on my own.

This one moved along a little more, but it could have used some perking up.  Some more subplots to keep it going.  The curiosity is drawn out with the boys not knowing why the others have been disposed of in reform school, and the reveals do have their effect on the main romantic relationship, as they should.  I loved the ghosts, and the secrets, and there were some very scary parts to this one.  It was deliciously dark, which is why we pick up Gothic stories in the first place.  This one also is the start to a series that would be worth continuing.  I saw in getting the image for this post that there is already a 2 and 2.5 out?  Nice.  I love finding something where  I can keep reading.

Mayhaps I have a summer reading/blogging plan.  It could possibly be forming.  It still looks like weekly posts, but I am thinking about working through some of my short story collections, now that I seem to have a better idea of what makes a short story good or special or stand out.  It might help me form my own shorts better if I read a lot of them, armed with this knowledge.  And I could use a short story read down.

But my next post will be two popular novels by women that have gotten a lot of attention.  Ones that I don’t feel I can miss while still considering myself well-read.

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BookRiot: Books with under 100 reviews

I have begun the intimidating slog of manuscript submission.  It threatens to eat me alive.

But only threatens.  I need to use that balanced self talk that I try to instill into the inner voices of the kids I treat.  Acceptance of my book in a press in a traditionally published way will not make or break my life satisfaction.  I feel confident that someone out there might show some interest, and if they don’t, I can decide from there.  I can’t hand over my well-being by thinking that it is solely based on my success in this venture.

Additionally I have other projects on deck that doesn’t squash the fun out of writing and I am keeping those alive to stay energized and moving toward the prize.  I don’t know why everything I want in my life is always so much work.

Also I’m writing this post on the deck of my she shed and the same jumping spider has just turned up for the third time. I wonder what the attraction is.

I want to share my writing journey on this blog, but it also fits into the BookRiot category I have read into for the post, which is books that were published before Jan 1 2019 with fewer than 100 reviews on Goodreads.  I’m glad BookRiot was charitable here because it was harder to come across ones with fewer than 100 ratings. I was able to use books that I already had for this one, double bonus.

It fits in because it makes me think about how much all writers share the dream of being well-known after all the time and effort that it takes to hammer out a manuscript and then you never know how it will go in the world.  If it will mean anything to anyone nearly as much as it meant to you.  And books without ratings are not bad books.  They just haven’t found their people.  Or they only apply to a small group of people.

A Book Published Before Jan 1 2019 with Fewer than 100 Reviews on GoodReads:

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Triple Love Score, Brandi Megan Granett

Published 2016

Number of Reviews as of May 2019: 38

A quiet poetry professor has spent her life waiting for a childhood companion who disappeared from her life inexplicably years before, only to have him show back up and want to make amends and move forward as a couple with her.  There is the usual corrections of the misunderstandings, which is central to the second chance at love trope.  She is figuring out what to do with her life in all sorts of ways, with her hobby of posting poetry in a Scrabble format online and with her best friend having to get married all of a sudden to a boyfriend that she has had for ten years, and a romance along the way for her that proves not to be what it seemed at the outset.

This book definitely reminded me of the uncertainty and the seemingly endless possibilities and as thus, still unanswered questions that one can still have at that age.  I, too, pursued academics at that point in my life, everything else being pushed aside in the meantime.  I had my romances but nothing that was heading for permanence, and I still wondered if something important to me in my past could come back around and be my happily ever after (and I am certainly okay with the fact that that’s not how it happened for me).  I think it’s a sign of good writing when you can empathize to that degree with a character, and that the situations presented in the story are meaningful to readers.  I cared about the protagonist Miranda and understood her choices, even when her friends did not. This is a sweet, easy romance with tension but not so much that it’s hard to press on (see two previous posts if you want books on that).

My only issue with it is that I felt that the story spent way too much time on some parts, especially when she travels to be at her friend’s last minute wedding.  I know that is the chance that the lovers have to get reacquainted as their adult selves and feel if they are enough of the same people where it would still work, but I felt like that was a lot of the book.  There were parts that got slow, but I could just have been reading too much intense stuff lately and I have become a needy reader where I am not happy unless I am constantly jerked around emotionally by the story or the plights of the characters.  I forget that some books are just easier to read and meant to be more diverting.

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The Astronomer, Lawrence Goldstone

Published 2010

Number of Reviews as of May 2019: 56

It’s the world of sixteenth century Paris and a theology student is asked to uncover the secret that is threatening Catholocism to be granted legitimacy.  He is confronted with his own religious doubts and Copernicus’ scandalous discovery of the sun, not the Earth, being the center of the universe.

This is fictionalized history but nonetheless based on fact.  It takes your attention to get into and to follow.  I enjoyed it, as I enjoy historical fiction and the way it helps me better understand the events of different time periods, but I can see where others might find it a struggle.  I can see where it may have been slow to garner reviews. I have read most of Phillippa Gregory’s amazing Tudor novels so it was fascinating to see other parts of Europe in that period of time, how the Inquisition and mayhem played out in France.  Henry VIII was mentioned anecdotally, as he was making his own religious reforms at the time and making choices that affected the other rulers at that time. Also, this explained a little better why the heliocentric model was so threatening to Catholicism.

My readers know me by now and my love for the history of white people.

Both of these were good and likely a tremendous amount of work.  I’m hoping that both authors feel satisfied with their successes on getting a good book out there.  As I hope I will be in that sort of a space in my life.

Maybe by the next post, which should be on self published authors which coincidentally will also be my 200th!! post, I will have figured out my post frequency for the summer.  I already think I know I’m doing something different for July this year, other than my BookRiot smash up.  But you’ll have to wait with baited breath to see what it is.

Also I’m not sure I finished eating my jellybeans, all I know is that they have vanished.

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BookRiot: Cozies!

I almost kind of cheated with this category.

I rang in the New Year bingeing on Her Royal Spyness books and feeling at the time that I could just count those as my cozies, and I could, technically, but it wouldn’t be getting around to something new that I had been meaning to read.  Of course I meant to read all the Royal Spyness goodness, but maybe something new to me that also deserved a chance.

I have also read something like 37 Nero Wolfe novels.  Some of them are already due for a re-read.

So I did read two new cozies.  Two I already owned, because reading down the backlist is also important, especially since I want to do better with newer novels (and write all the things, and have a full time job and a son etc).  Stuff.  And both of them are set in mostly arid climates, hence this week’s picture not being some saccharine springtime one (but those are my favorite, sorry not sorry).

A Cozy Mystery:

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The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, Alexander McCall Smith

Precious Ramotswe, burned by marriage at a young age and finding herself free and with a bit of means from an inheritance, decides to start her own detective agency, the only one run by a woman in her home of Botswana.  This is not one mystery in this book but a series of small ones, one probably larger and more serious than the rest.  It’s a light-hearted book, even though the topics can be difficult:  adultery, pregnancy/child loss, and the disadvantaged status of women, crime, etc.  Of course you have to have those things if you are solving mysteries, and they are still cozy, not all of them involving death or murders.  It is one of those where the solutions are usually fairly simple and the detective herself goes out on a limb to test out her own theories.

I can see why people might pick up more in this lighthearted series with a smart woman at it’s helm.  Old world charm, likeable characters, diverting mysteries.  It was a fun read, and I blew right through it.

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The Bride Wore Dead, EM Kaplan

Josie Tucker, a struggling food writer, sets out to solve the mystery of what happened to a distant friend who died on her honeymoon at a health spa.

It says directly on the cover that this is an un-cozy, un-culinary mystery.  It’s cozy enough for my purposes, even though it is decidedly edgier than some of the cozies I have consumed and will continue to consume (let’s be honest with ourselves here). The protagonist, Josie Tucker, can be edgy, cynical and hard to read.  As cozies are usually centered around a hobby, she was a food writer but having gastrointestinal issues and needing to add other things to focus on.  She does get seriously hurt in this one, which makes it a little less cozy than some of them can be, although it’s common for the sleuth in these novels to come under attack themselves as they get closer to the truth.

I liked this book, but it was slow in places. At the beginning, when she is a stand in bridesmaid, we do get to know her major cast of friends, but there is a lot of talk at the wedding table and her learning that the wedding is largely attended by exes of the bride and talking about them.  I don’t know if these were intended to be red herrings, but she dies on the honeymoon, not at the actual wedding.  And when her friend comes over to take care of her when she is hungover, and a doctor visit about stomach issues that cannot be figured out, I feel these could have been pared down a little. I wanted to keep going, I was curious about all the plot threads, and I liked that the protagonist’s life gets a little more back on track at the end, instead of being the loose jumble that it is in the beginning.   Things change for the grumbly, sick and overheated woman we meet in the first few pages.

I’d recommend it, and maybe in her following books the movement is a little faster, as there isn’t as much setup involved.  I’d be willing to read further in.  I have book two, Dim Some, Dead Some.  I’m interested in how Josie will continue to move forward with her illness, and I like that she isn’t as sweet as other cozies can be. Also, this is a self pub but I am reading other self pubs rather than counting this one twice.

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Review: The Hollow Traveller by J.L.Oakman

This week is a short break from the riotous September and the scary reads October.

I am a member of Your Write Dream on Facebook, a group run by Kristen Kieffer of well-storied.com. Sometimes I post on Kristen’s Shameless Self-Promo thread. Quite a brilliant move, I’d say, for her to offer it.  And in return if you have thought about joining an online writing community, this is a great place to ask and have questions answered and get support with writing.

Through my shameless self promo I was solicited for an honest review in exchange for a copy of a book:

 

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The Hollow Traveler, J.L. Oakman

I remember learning about the solar system in elementary school and the briefly breath arresting reality that the sun, as with all stars, will inevitably die, and then so will all the life that depends on the life of the star.  I say only briefly arresting because then I’m told that it’s estimated that the sun will die long after I am long obsolete myself.  As long as I don’t think too long about the fact that I will be so long dead as to be totally inconsequential, instead of just mostly, I’m okay.

But then this book brings out that uncomfortable reality of the universe slowly winking out on itself, the narrator chronicling the last bit of time, the last vestiges of civilization.  It is a little reminiscent of the Jules Verne that I have read, written when the planet was still a new place and not nearly as connected as it is today.  Verne is a little more fantastical whereas the stories of the snuffed out civilizations in The Hollow Traveller are post apocalyptic and completely feasible. They are the stories, that have been true for past civilizations on this planet. They are snippets, dipping a toe into each short segment of a civilization’s ended story as discovered by the traveler.

This was a short read that unfolds surprises about the narrator and the nature of the world he is in in the stories of the places he has visited.  It is a diverting read, perfect if you are into science fiction and need something short.  I am assuming that if you are into science fiction you can handle being reminded of the ending of the too endless to conceptualize universe.  That’s the most anxiety producing part.

I recommend this book and I am grateful for the opportunity to review it.

October begins tomorrow and the scary reads are lined up for the season!

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Dear Teenage Self: Yup, you were right.

So I was hard on my 15-17 year old angsty self for a number of years for not having the courage to pursue a career in writing.  Not having the balls.

I was less hard in more recent years because the more I learn and think about themes and character arcs and plots, the more I realize that it was difficult for me to know what to write about as a kid with my extremely limited scope of experience.  Remember, kids, there was not really an interwebs until I was 14-15 and I used it to talk to randos in chat rooms and send emails to people whom I saw in school during the day.  There were none of the fun teen writing communities and resources and even chances to practice by writing fan fiction that there are now. And my childhood was uneventful.  I guess I could say sheltered but I had had plenty of time to run off and get into unsupervised trouble on my own.  I was still an 80’s kid, after all.

When I decided it was time to get serious about writing one of the best things I did was go through and like writing related Facebook pages and subscribe with some discretion to writing blogs.  Liking pages for literary journals and writers digest and getting into 12 short stories (I don’t even remember how I found that one but I’m so happy I did) and to have a Pinterest board for prompts and writing articles.

All of that was easier than what I am facing now. (Worry not/spoiler alert I do actually talk about a specific book in this post).

I have the chance to make all my dreaming and hoping of becoming a novelist real.  I have the tutelage and one on one help of a writing instructor whose course I won.  I have an idea that started off decent and she has already made it more exciting and cool than I had thought on my own and has springboarded me into another level already.

And I haven’t written a scene.

I am working through the accompanying workbook, I am almost done and out of excuses.  I have drafted out some scenes during pivotal plot points in order to find my way a little, but writing out something I am intending on having her look over to keep in my pile for further working?  Nope.  Got some sweet backstories, listed character traits, printed out pictures of everything I think is relevant.  My excited father is like, send me scenes!  Nope.

Just like when I felt like I had to come out with some good fiction as a kid, I am jamming up.  I am so excited I finished another book for BookRiot to have something different to write  today.  It’s still writing, right? I also may have finished a scene for a short I am dragging myself through.

I am not used to feeling this way.  In academia, I was reading the material and gathering sources for end of semester projects from the first week, ready to jump right in.  Excited about what I was going to learn and how I was going to put it all together.

And here I am, having written a few decent things, like I did as a teen, and then hitting a wall when I decide to chase that rabbit down the hole.

There is something different this time, though.  I know there is a way around the wall. I will probably sit and force myself to write terribly and tunnel my way through it.  I have too much legwork already done to gum up before I put down anything to submit to my instructor.  I am not a kid anymore.

But to my kid self: man, you were right, this sucks.  And I am still glad that you didn’t want to rely your life on reading and writing.  I am glad you decided to go in other directions, too.

Also, it is unrealistic to me to never read.  Downtime has been eaten up by activities that lead to my self loathing, like scrolling way too much social media and watching shows that I get nothing out of other than entertainment while knitting (which is something, I can’t say it’s nothing at all).  But I have been looking through the Read Harder challenge and finding shorter reads that fit the bill right now:

A Work of Genre Fiction in Translation:

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Black Tea and Other Tales, Samuel Marolla

I feel this also gets extra points because it is self published, although as I have said before on this blog, I have read a good number of self published works that were as good as things being produced by publishers (two of whom I am thinking about right now, Ania Ahlborn and Intisar Khanani were both picked up by big fivers and they totally deserve it).

I actually liked the title story, Black Tea, the least.  It was more confusing, more in your face horror with a grotesque monster than the other two.  I don’t know if that is because it is maybe the most classic idea of horror that it got the top bill on this collection? I saw another reviewer on Amazon feeling similarly about Black Tea, but the following two stories, of a man with nothing to lose given a wish granting wine and an eleven year old boy cursed with a visiting nighttime spectre were intriguing and different.  They were transporting and scary and I liked the settings.  I wonder if people who don’t get through Black Tea also don’t make it to the other two stories, which would be a shame.

I always expect to like reading the different things that Read Harder makes me look into, and this did not disappoint. There were longer and more expensive books that I might have read, like Hex, which has been on my wishlist forever, but I liked something shorter right now.  I am sure Hex will be diverting once I get into it.

So I am learning about how I will live my life around noveling.  I think I should note that it is also a challenge right now because I have written a manuscript but on my own time frame.  I want the bulk of this written/worked out by the summer, as I have to use my Skypes by six months from starting them. That is why I am turning down all my other hobbies.  I have not committed to training for something long or a cabled sweater or an 8oo page novel or crafting down my craft backlog.  Those things will wait.  For now.

And I’ll figure it out.  I don’t know what I am reading next but let’s be honest, I’ll have something chosen by the end of the day.

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Halloween Reads: Not so Cozy Houses

There are so many haunted houses stories out there that I could do this kind of post every Halloween for a hundred more years and not run out of books to read.  And despite all the ones I have read, I am always up to hear how someone else managed the haunted house trope into something different than the one I read before.

Both of the books I review today possess my least favorite facet of some horror fiction: they don’t really resolve.  The scary cycle is doomed to continue itself and people in the future next round are doomed to the same fate that the characters that you cared about were subject to this time. When I was newer to horror it bothered me more than it does now, but it still does, a little, that these stories don’t end with a resolution of the greater issue.

Needless to say I have wandered away from the cozier Halloween reads, but I have some unread ones on my kindle telling me that I really need to come back.

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Within These Walls, Ania Ahlborn

Okay, so I love Ania Ahlborn’s books.  This is the third one of hers I have read, and I did not realize that when I started to read her she was self pub.  She was that good.  A lot of the self pub I read earlier on did not have the polish and engagement I found in her stories.  She has since been picked up by Simon and Schuster, inevitably.

Within These Walls brilliantly combined the haunted house trope with the cult trope.  And being a Psychologist she does well with the both:  the mentality of getting pulled into the cult and the haunted house that makes you severely question your grip on reality.  She weaves them in a manner reminiscent of Stephen King’s The Shining, which is a compliment.  The struggling writer with a failing marriage taking a chance on moving to a new place to revive both, under the ruse of being granted an exclusive interview by a killer in prison.  The fun really begins when he brings his neglected and misunderstood 12 year old daughter with him and leaves his wife back in New Jersey. Two plot lines weaving and knotting and twisting into one another with surprises and brilliance and interest.

I have read Seed and The Bird Eater and I think this one showed more sophistication on her part. I want to read The Neighbors and The Shuddering and the rest of the books she has put out, whether before the big five pickup or not.  She’s great and I follow her on Facebook and Twitter and I wish I had the investment in writing to take her horror writing course.

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77 Shadow Street, Dean Koontz

Another personal reading challenge for myself is to read authors who I have stayed away from due to their huge popularity.  I picked this one out for last year’s round of Halloween reads that I never made it to, which also happened with a book I am reading right now for the next posts on Halloween books.

So, this one was harder for me to make it through than Within These Walls.  It is a house built on the one space time fault in the world and every 38 years the fault opens and punishes and terrorizes its residents, which are extremely wealthy condo owners. Also, there is someone involved in a bioterrorism of sorts aimed at eternal life and conquering of disease, I was not sure.  Then there was an assassin? I say assassin because he is hired to kill people as well as having killed people for his own purposes. I felt like a lot of elements were just thrown in to reach out to everyone’s conception of scary.  I think that is a huge undertaking to want to add enough variation in the scary elements to be scary to a wide audience.  And lots of people get killed.  And like in Ahlborn there is no sign that the cycle was really going to stop, that hell wasn’t going to bust loose again after 38 years passed.

The characters I cared most about were an autistic girl and a boy estranged from his father, bookish and not like typical boys but determined not to be a sissy.  I cared about his saving her and Koontz did a great job of describing her. There were a lot of characters living in the house, mainly adults that were difficult to care anything about.

But I felt like I was slogging through this book and some of it felt pointless.  It did not feel as tidy as Ahlborn’s weaving between times, characters and their overlapping vulnerabilities.  I just wasn’t impressed.  I am open to someone helping me see the point better.  I can’t tell you my attention did not wander from some of the times I was listening to it and pushing to finish so I could start on something else.  I am not going to pick up another Koontz anytime soon.

And I need to read some of the horror early masters, like listening to my Necronomicon and picking up that Lovecraft omnibus with the tiny thin pages off my shelf.

Next week…might have a less unified theme.  I am working on some scary books that I have to think about how I will pull them together but I might not pull them together at all.  And it will be the peak of Halloween festivities! And my beautiful son will have turned five years old on the 27th and I am loving this age best of all….

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LBGTQ+ Books

So, I really tried to get to posting on time last week. Really, I did.  But I wanted my son to meet my friend’s first squishy newborn son and there is only a window of opportunity for these things.  I am sure that my tsunami of readers will understand.

I have actually been considering posting every other week.  I did last summer, and I felt that it backlogged my posts which is not a bad thing, but that would not be the purpose this time.  I need to be reading things to hone my writing:  short stories, lit mags, poetry, my New Yorker magazines, types of books I might not want to post on here, nonfiction books about writing or to learn more about topics I might want to include in my writing.  I think for August I will trial space it to every other week and see what other things get worked on.  Blogging is fun and it has become emotionally safer than writing things to potentially submit and the weekly schedule gives me an excuse to continue taking the safe way of writing blog posts instead of taking on more challenges with my writing.

I am training  as well as trying to continue to challenge myself with writing.  I managed to get the motivation back to train for triathlon #3.  Does that make me a triathlete yet?

Also, grocery store malt beverage disguised as a delicious and festive champagne is a little butt kicking even when I fancy it up with rainbow sherbet.

So the inevitable Read Harder cave in resulted in posting on two LGBTQ+ books.  This is a serious hole in my reading.  My reading used to have a hole created by a dearth of celebrity memoirs and I don’t like admitting that that was filled before the lack of LGBTQ+ reading.   I didn’t even intend for this post to land at the time of Trump’s announcement about the transgender community serving in the military, but neither are these about transgender, but homosexual males.  Issues with gays are old hat compared to people who are transgender!  And in case anyone is wondering, discrimination hurts people more than the way they were born, so…. But I digress:

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Drawn Together, Z.A. Maxfield

BookRiot gave this as an example of a book that would fit their requirement of a gay romance novel.  I think it is a self pub, which I don’t think is unusual for a book with that specific of a niche.

I don’t have a lot of experience with any sort of romance novel, so I don’t know how it would be in comparison to the romance genre in general.  I follow some bloggers and writers of romance books on Facebook and this still has not encouraged me to check out the genre more thoroughly.  I picked up a Nicholas Sparks from a giveaway bin and it still is sitting in my bag.  So, romance has not ever been really one of my ‘things.’  I could use more exposure to the genre, though.

That said, the book wasn’t bad. The dialogue was a little stilted at times, unrealistic, and I could not tell if one character calling the other ‘cher’ was meant to be affectionate or derogatory.

I have actually heard of the trope in gay lit where one character is unaware at the beginning of the story that they are attracted to the same sex.  That is the case here, which the book blurb is clear about. The other element driving the plot is one of the men having a stalking, psycho killer that threatens his life, the stress that the characters experience that sharpens their feelings toward one another, especially for the guy who believes at the start of the story, that he is straight.

I might read other gay romance after reading this one.  There was another on the BookRiot list of acceptable books, one about a bed and breakfast, that looked interesting to be able to compare this one to.   Not anytime soon, though, as I am making my way through lists I never said I would.

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Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, Benjamin Alire Saenz

This one was for the requirement of a YA/middle grade book written by an author who identifies as LGBTQ+.

I have come to the conclusion that a good YA novel is one that captures what it is like to be a teenager, and this one has the added bonus of what it is like to be a gay teenager.  Most teenagers wonder where they fit into the world, but this particular teenager Aristotle has the added level of really never feeling like he fit in and his parents notice.   Like, he takes the ‘don’t fit in’ piece to a totally new level.  And Dante does not even know how truly Mexican he is.

Saenz has sparse and clean sentences and he does not ride heavily on description, but he says all the true and painful things in this simple language that makes the story shine.  It is even sparse and simple through some very dramatic events that show the boys in the end who they really are.  It clearly shows Aristotle’s frustration with his family story and how that ties in to who he is and his style of communicating and his family trying to evolve, too, through their own shadows.

This story was a work of art.  It is really something special with it’s multilayers and speaking to a set of underrepresented teens without being dramatic or maudlin.  I love it for that, too. I deal with many underrepresented teens in my life.  I am glad Saenz can write about something he knows so beautifully.

Due to it’s accolades it was on my TBR forever, so I am not completely ignoring my goal of reading it all down in favor of looking at a challenge to diversify my reading.  This also inspires me to read another of the same I have, I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson.

I am glad for both of these categories being on the Read Harder list this year.  There are also in my opinion too many comics, not as important as understanding diverse viewpoints, but as I possibly have a reluctant reader on my hands it might not be an entirely bad thing.

So I am going to see if posting bimonthly will help me focus on other writing projects where I will be challenging myself and pushing through the anxiety that nothing is any good.  Knitting less will also help with this but no promises.

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