Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Flight by Ed Berger

Flight by Ed Berger
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A good book that I bought and read quickly.
First of all I should say this book was never going to get five stars from me as I hate books where gay men try going straight. It seems to let the side down and I was cringing several times while reading this book. I broke a tooth last night and I think it was caused by reading this book and grinding my teeth.
The book was written by an author local to me and I bought it as I like to read gay works of local authors. Also the story of how this book came to be late in life through a writer's workshop was inspiring. I'd like to write a book too and it's not easy! I also liked that on the author's website for the book there's a comment from his mom, which is totally something my mom would do too.
I have spoken with a few authors and they all mention re-writing their books at different times. Very few authors have the ability to write it out and have the first draft be the good one. I have no way of knowing if this was a first draft or not but it did seem certain sections could be re-written, particularly around the 20% mark. I tried the 20% sample from Smashwords and after I bought it and picked up where I left off at Chapter 8 things seemed to be a little disjointed. Maybe that was from the jarring of changing books, but I think some of this section could use a little more polish regardless.
The story was well written, the character well developed. I really wanted him to move to London and take that new job, I really wanted him to ditch Becky, I had a lot of strong emotions and the book carried me quickly to the end. I was worried it would drift into romance territory but it never did. I want to buy one of Alexander's chickadees at the maple syrup festival and I think its the mark of a good author when you can place yourself in their situations.

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Friday, September 19, 2014

The Home For Wayward Ladies by Jeremy Scott Blaustein

The Home For Wayward Ladies by Jeremy Scott Blaustein
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

It was okay, the start was better than the end for me.
There was something wrong with the formatting where there were 2 lines after every paragraph which kept confusing me and making me think I was at the end of the chapter or the end of a thought and wasn't.
The first half of the book was an amusing story of three young gay men working in the theatre in Manhattan and I enjoyed that very much. At about 40% though they decide to pack it all up into an unreliable car and re-enact the movie To Wong Foo in the middle of nowhere. This part was less good for me. I enjoyed the aging queen but the mobster's wife part was underdone and overall I felt like the book lost touch with reality at this point and anxiously skipped my way to the end.

There were occasional bon mots throughout:
"I remain as still as a racoon that's been caught rifling through the trashcans."

And several humorous parts:
"As chief caveman, it is his responsibility to hunt and gather and mine to call Betty Rubble over to the prehistoric fence so we can pass the time while the octopus does the dishes."

I don't think I'd call it a comedy though. It's just gay camp turns of phrase, which I love, but the book needed more to tie them together.

Page 30, location 447: "It's a shame the producers hadn't though up that angle;" should be thought
Page 38, location 582, there's an extra space after the word "sings" before the period.
Page 54, location 826: "I hope y'all call make a go of it." should be can
Page 78, location 1185: "I am too weak to avoid being hoisting by my own petard." should be hoisted
Page 78, location 1186, no period at the end of the sentence "I need your help"
Starting at page 152 there are several paragraph breaks missing, where one person talking leads into the next which continues until 215.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Afterlife: A Novel by Paul Monette

Afterlife: A Novel by Paul Monette
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was so enraptured by Becoming a Man and Borrowed Time, that I moved right into Monette's fiction, starting with his first book, and then ground to a halt. This is his first fiction work I've picked up since then, I'm saving Last Watch of the Night for some unknown time in the future where I can savour it.
Monette's writing got better with AIDS, the books had a focus and that trend continues here, though for much of the first half of the book he struggles to overcome his old writing style, that of a privileged man writing from a pedestal and casting only half an eye at his subjects. Its especially difficult to write a book with all men, all white gay men, and be able to keep the characters separate. One supposes they're all friends due to their similarities but for the first half of the book I had no idea who was who, and I suppose I didn't really care. The second half of the book the action picks up and at the same time the story becomes more focused on just two people, rather than the confusing eight at the beginning, and the book became good. I was surprised, I was all set to give it a negative review but I'm glad I stuck with it.
The book details a life lived in between the falling bombs of the AIDS epidemic. There is desperation, such as when a character "called the Federal Building, demanding release of a drug that people were smuggling in from China." I understand the frustration, but actions like this led to the over-prescribing of AZT and the death of early patients.
As the novel continues Monette loses most of his detachment from the characters and once they become real this novel becomes the heart-felt AIDS crisis snap-shot it should be. It just takes a little too long to get there.

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Monday, September 8, 2014

The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie

The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An enjoyable book, the first Agatha Christie I’d read.
I had been re-watching Murder She Wrote lately and came upon an idea to read this book. Miss Marple does really take a back seat in this story so it’s difficult to really get to know her. The murder however is well thought out, with every line seemingly leading to a dead end and no idea where to begin to solve it.
One of the couple of clues given relates to a cockney kind of slang term I hadn’t heard before so I didn’t really understand it when I read it and just skipped over it, so I couldn’t really have guessed who did it.
Christie writes in a very straight-forward way, I noted the quote:
“We’ve got it, I think. That was the Glenshire Police” (Glenshire was the adjoining county).
I don’t think I’ve ever seen explanation written just in a bracket like that with no attempt to work it into a story. It seemed kind of slapdash. But I guess it all relates to the straight, no-nonsense approach Christie took. With the reverence of her cannon and the time it was written I expected a more literary style, but it was very relatable even today, eighty years later.

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Autopornography: A Memoir of Life in the Lust Lane by Scott O'Hara

Autopornography: A Memoir of Life in the Lust Lane by John P. De Cecco
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A book that starts off well, then is padded to a finale.
Scott was a complex character is seems, not really sure of himself and what he wanted. Some lines seem to contradict each other:
“As usual, since I don’t believe in guilt, I felt guilty for feeling guilty.”
“I give relationships a grade of D+. They aren’t actually all bad; they’re just used in unhealthy ways most of the time. They’re used to stunt people’s growth, instead of encouraging it.”
“And my journals, I blush to admit, were 99 percent concerned with agonized discussions of whether I was truly in love with X, and if so, whether X might possibly be in love with me.”
He seems in love with the idea of being in love, but the reality is always something less than that. Another porn star bio from someone who writes well enough but whom I wouldn’t necessarily want to have met.
The book as a memoir is okay but doesn’t get really into the porn scene as much as I would have liked. For example David Ashfield, who Scott worked with, gets a note that he was professional. That’s about it. There’s no behind the scenes revelations in this book. I was hoping for more.
What does make the first half of the book a decent read is Scott’s life, his unorthodox childhood without a TV and sleeping outside on the lawn with his family. These memories really came to life for me, but again Scott seemed as odds with them, alternatively complementing his parents and then saying he would never speak to them again and doing things just to shock them well into his twenties.
The latter half of the book is a lot of filler with sex scenes intertwined with Scott’s opinion on AIDS, which is out there. Scott mentions using alternative therapies and not trusting doctors, which may have actually saved his life when doctors were initially over-prescribing AZT. But people tend to handle their diseases in different ways, and Scott’s attitude of “I must be doing something right, I’ve had it for 15 years and I’m still here” rings false knowing he died shortly after this book was published.
Still Scott lived through the worst of the AIDS epidemic and came out with a few good insights, and I wasn’t there so I can’t really judge:
“There’s something spooky about reading a seven-year-old obituary, and realizing you’ve been remembering a dead person as if he were alive, fantasizing about him. It’s hard to mourn, after so much time.”
Again the last half of the book is filler with re-printed magazine columns and miscellaneous sex fantasies.
At a price of $42 to buy and $13.50 to rent for 30 days, this eBook was ridiculously overpriced.

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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Stranger on the Shore by Josh Lanyon

Stranger on the Shore by Josh Lanyon
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The book is a M/M retelling of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. The similarities are probably too many to mention. A writer of questionable standing gets called by a wealthy man to a remote island to solve a mystery disappearance that happened over 20 years ago and write a book. The family that lives on the island don't want him there and they make this very well known to the author, culminating in threats and physical altercations. This is essentially the first half of both books.
While a re-tread I enjoyed the story enough. The hero Griff was likeable enough. I had been familiar with Mr Lanyon's work previously as an author who writes gay fiction for women. There's a big market out there for this M/M romance and I wasn't that interested in it. recommended this book to me by email, it looked good enough and had good reviews so I bought it. I was curious to know what happened and it kept me going but I wouldn't say I was up all night reading it as others have stated.
Toward the end of the book the romance kind of took over the mystery which I found disappointing. The end was satisfying enough, I was very surprised after I turned the last page to see that the book was published by Harlequin Romance!
While the story and the main romantic leads were well fleshed out, I felt all the supporting characters blended into their rich snob personality traits and I couldn't keep any of them separate. In addition the occasionally clunky writing style could have used an editor: "He wasn't sure now if that maybe wasn't for the best." I still don't know what that sentence means.
Overall the book was good enough but I'm not really looking for romance, so while I won't actively skip Lanyon's books in future, I won't be seeking them out either.

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