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review 2017-03-20 19:13
Review: "The Impossible Boy" by Anna Martin
The Impossible Boy - Anna Martin

"You make me feel--" Stan said, then cut off the thought before he could voice it.

"Tell me."

"So feminine."

 

Oh man, it was an ordeal to finish this book. AN ORDEAL, I'm telling you!

 

I really liked the premise of a gender-fluid character who suffered from anorexia. Just think of all the possibilities. How does a character like Stan become this confident person at the age of only 21 that he is at the beginning of the book? How does he live his everyday life? How much of a struggle is it for someone who identifies him- or herself as neither male nor female? How is your environment, your friends, your family treating you?

 

 

Alas, I didn't get any of that. What I got instead were endless descriptions of THE most superficial stuff, like putting on make-up and clothes, wearing designer bags, showering! (OMIGOD, all those numerous shower scenes!), washing and conditioning your hair, and body care in general.

 

NOTHING about the everyday struggles of someone who identifies as gender-fluid.

NOTHING even remotely deep about how Stan became the person that he is today.

NOTHING about anything that goes beyond hair styles and wardrobe.

 

I honestly was bored out of my mind during the first part of the story.

 

 

Unfortunately, the second part that dealt with Stan's anorexia wasn't any better. Since the first part was all about his appearances and clothes, his illness has been so neglected at that point that the real severeness of his condition came out of nowhere for me. So much so that I couldn't really relate to it anymore. I really wish the author would have concentrated on THAT part of Stan's personality in the beginning, instead of throwing brands, make-up, clothes, shoes, dresses and handbags at my face.

 

 

It also didn't help that there were A LOT of descriptions that didn't matter at all to the overall story and just made for a boring read. Like

"Remembering they were out of soy milk, he wrote it on the shopping list Ben had brought. It was magnetic and stuck to the fridge, so they shouldn't forget stuff like that anymore."

Um, ok. I know that amplifying a story is important and all, but ENDLESS descriptions of stuff like that that just doesn't matter is nothing but annoying AF.

 

 

But kudos to the author for writing a book with a diverse character. I seriously appreciate that. But if looks, clothes and hair care is all there is to gender-fluidity, then I'm pretty much done with that whole trope already.

 

Thanks again to Julie for accompanying me during another frustrating BR!

 

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review 2017-03-12 15:33
Review: "Shadow Bound" by Garrett Leigh
Shadow Bound - Garrett Leigh

"Luca leaned back into Dash's embrace, feeling the rays of the 

dawning sun bond with the heat of Dash's vibrant form. He tilted his neck to feel the warmth of Dash's lips on his crystalline skin. "Why?"

"Because you have found your soul. Now come with me and let me show you the world."

 

After being attacked by werewolves (off-page), a wounded vampire gets healed by a cat shifter's jizz (!), and they bond. That's it. That was the plot.

 

This felt more like a rough draft for a full novel rather than a short story that can hold its own. The world building was superficial and a lot of things were being left unexplained.

 

 

If this would be a freebie at least, then it would have made for a nice read for a rainy Sunday afternoon. But certainly not for $1.05 (Amazon price at the time of this review).

 

Cannot recommend.

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review 2017-03-11 03:09
Just Juliet
Just Juliet - Charlotte Reagan

This was just okay. It was all very...nice. And simple. And low angst. All problems were safely in the past. All new problems were easily surmounted and quickly put behind them.

 

The first third was promising. Lena finds out she's attracted to a girl, doesn't freak out, does some googling and instead of going GFY figures out she's bisexual. So that was good. The James's are a great, fun, close-knit family. Lena and Juliet's first date was pretty rad and adorable.

 

And then it just sort of meanders and keeps going way past the point it should have ended because there really wasn't much of a plot. It goes through all the tradition coming out tropes - telling the bestie, telling the family, telling the world - but there's no real emotion to anything. We're told what Lena's feeling, but I never felt it myself. Scott and Lakyn were...confusing. Scott is a well-rounded character and very mature and provides Lena with some good advice. Lakyn, who has been through some terrible times, is shy and a jerk and whenever he speaks, I kept seeing him as twelve instead of seventeen. But as a couple, other than being the cute gay couple, they didn't really add anything to the story.

 

The writing is technically pretty good, though dry, just a few stray typos and just one or two questionable word choices. There's a lot of telling in the later part of the book, versus showing. The characters are pretty one-note, and the way Lacey, the "token black kid," is introduced doesn't get improved upon as the story progresses. I know all these kids are, well, kids, but even my friends weren't throwing around this many sexist slurs when we were that age. Every single time any girl (usually Lacey) did anything questionable or assertive or not-nice, she's described as bitchy. Really? I don't know if the author is aware of the "black girls are more promiscuous" stereotype, but Lacey unfortunately inhabits that too. And the gay "jokes" were pretty terrible and also usually spoken by Lacey. Lacey just gets terrible treatment through most of the book. For a "gay friendly" book, there is a lot of low-key homophobia. 

 

This started promising but just became meh by the end and I had to force myself to finish.

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review 2017-03-03 14:04
Call in the Night ★★☆☆☆
Call in the Night - Susan Howatch

A sensible Manhattan schoolteacher is drawn overseas by a panicked call from her sister. On arrival, the sister seems to have vanished, and our heroine tries to unravel the mystery, although she takes plenty of time to sightsee around Paris and enjoy plenty of cocktails and dinners with the charming stranger that had last been in her sister’s company. The tension ratchets up when she discovers that everyone is lying to her, and she realizes that she has fallen so deeply in love with the charming stranger over the course of 3 days that she doesn’t even consider 

calling the police when she literally digs up the body of his ex-fiance out of his garden

(spoiler show)

.   It’s not badly written, and as stupid as the insta-love is and as puzzling as all the characters’ motivations are, I was sort of enjoying it until the last couple of chapters, in which the mystery is revealed much like a Scooby Doo cartoon, where everyone shows up and offers long monologues explaining everything. Then everybody lives happily ever after, except the murdered and the murderer.

 

Read for the 2017 Romance Bingo. I had intended to use this for the Gothic Romance square, because the author is a writer of gothics and the cover art (I own the version below) certainly looked gothic, but this story was missing most of the key elements of gothic literature. The applicable squares are:
Insta-love: The heroine and her mysterious stranger are madly in love within 3 days, despite the concern of missing sisters and dead bodies turning up
Love is Murder: crimes of passion galore

 

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review 2017-03-03 13:40
The Call of the Canyon ★★☆☆☆
The Call of the Canyon - Zane Grey

The best parts of this book are the beautifully detailed descriptions of the landscape and the characters’ interactions with it. The story itself is problematic. Contrary to the author’s intent, I really liked Carley through most of the story. Although she was a little self-absorbed, she was spunky and independent and determined. When she arrived out West, she stubbornly pushed herself to cope with the physical hardships she was unused to, to prove to herself and to the man she loved that she was no “tenderfoot”. Her dawning appreciation of the beauty of the landscape was enjoyable to witness. Then it all went to hell when she began embracing the author’s (and her fiancé’s) ridiculous ideas about the duties of  “American women”, which include giving birth to a “troop of healthy American kids” (I shit you not, that is a direct quote) and serving as her “American man’s” helper as he strove to build civilization in the West, while dressing modestly and unfashionably, so as to not distract the men from their own duties, and not pursuing any interests of their own. This whole modesty concept is reinforced through a running commentary by all Western characters on her fashionable city dresses being so revealing. This being set around 1920, this wanton display included rolled stocking and exposed calves. And a woman so dressed should be neither surprised nor upset when sexually assaulted. Instead, she should be upset with herself for inviting such a natural response from men.

 

I try to judge all books by the mores of the times in which they are written, but remember that this was published within a year of The Great Gatsby, which also had some things to say about 1920’s decadence, but none of it was about women staying in their place behind their menfolks and pushing out packs of kids and covering their legs so they don’t invite assault.

 

Audiobook, read by John Bolen. The audio quality was poor, with a lot of static and background noise, and Bolen’s performance was unimpressive. He sounded uninterested in the material, and the voice he used for Carley was a really strange sort of faux-British accent that I guess was supposed to represent an upperclass, East Coast, voice. Rating 2 stars only because I was able to finish and for the way the landscape was brought to life.

 

Read for the 2017 Romance Bingo. It fits the following bingo squares:

Key to My Heart:

Because the MC has a complete change of heart once she embraces her lover’s philosophy and way of life.

(spoiler show)

It unlocks her happiness and purpose in life.

Wedding Bells: Because the whole point was to get him to marry her, and apparently, marriage was the only acceptable quest.

Historical Romance: Post WWI. Although it was actually a contemporary romance at the time it was written, so maybe not.

Second Chances:

She rejects his way of life and breaks the engagement, then goes running back after her change of heart, hoping that he hasn’t already married another. Of course, HEA, with her barefoot and pregnant for as long as she’s fertile.

(spoiler show)
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