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review 2017-04-27 01:56
Release Day ARC Review: Vodka And Handcuffs by Brandon Witt
Vodka & Handcuffs (Mary's Boys Book 2) - Brandon Witt

The title of this book, much like the first one in this series, plays on the occupations of the two MCs - one a bartender, the other a cop.

Vahin, the bartender, is Muslim, and from India, and gay, and out, which has caused him to be shunned by his family. Marlon, the cop, is black, also gay, but deep in the closet. His partner on the beat is basically a Jeff Sessions wannabe - a racist, homophobic, xenophobic asshole first class, who thinks he can do what he wants because his daddy is a Senator. He's also universally hated by all, including the Chief, and only assigned to Marlon because the Chief figured it'd be best to pair the asshole with his best cop.

Marlon meets Vahin at Hamburger Mary's, they have a night of drunken fun, mostly off-page, and then shit hits the fan, what with the racist cop partner trying to frame Vahin and arrest him, and Marlon being involuntarily outed, and ... yeah... none of it is pretty. This is not a fluffy book. The blurb is a bit misleading. Okay, maybe a lot misleading. Don't expect a fluffy, easy read.

The only real fun on page is when ManDonna struts her stuff - I flove her! She takes no shit, and she will hand you your balls, and you'll thank her for it.

I didn't quite believe the romance in the time line used, and while we get a HFN, I wasn't sure that things were going to last - perhaps we'll see how that goes in a future installment for this series. I do want them to last, I do. I just have doubts that their still fresh relationship can survive the roadblocks that will continue to be in their way, despite marriage equality, and despite the tide slowly turning in their favor. I want to believe that Denver is a bit more enlightened when it comes to racism, homophobia, and xenophobia.

I think this might have worked a little better for me if the book had been longer and had taken the time to really delve into the issues, and perhaps stretch out the time frame a little bit more. The issues raised here are definitely hot topics, and I was a little disappointed that Marlon's forced coming out, and that loathsome, filthy, evil, little cockroach partner's despicable actions weren't given adequate resolutions. Perhaps that is fitting after all - in today's political climate, what with the current administration in the White House, and the "values" for which they stand, it's certainly possible to look at this and realize that, yeah, there won't be any adequate resolutions to homophobia, xenophobia, and blatant racism, until we've gotten rid of the pestilence in orange that empowered this pond scum to strut around with their ignorant flags and "white power" bullshit.

Kudos to this author for making his main characters non-white. I wish there were more books that did that. There is a message within this book too - as a POC, you have to stand up for yourself every damn day, against hatred, against persecution, against blatant ignorance, and if you're POC and gay, your resilience will be tested time and again in triplicate. I commend the author for touching on these difficult subjects with honesty and sensitivity.

The author also sets up the next book toward the end, which will feature Zachary aka Ariel Merman. I had my heart in my throat while reading that bit, and I need the next book, like, now.

This series is quickly becoming a favorite of mine, and that's primarily due to what it isn't - lighthearted fluff. I want to read books that deal with current affairs, and this one definitely does.


** I received a free copy of this book from its publisher. A positive review was not promised in return. **

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review 2017-04-26 02:38
ARC Review: Anything For You by Ethan Day
Anything For You - Ethan Day

One major niggle up front - the way Trent drugged Jason, as unintentional as the consequences were - yeah, super not cool. I was mad!

But I got over it.

Jason is deep in the closet. So deep he's actually almost in Narnia. Not out to anyone except his closest friends, he has a basket by his front door so he can quickly "de-gay" his apartment whenever someone not his closest friends comes over. Such as his sister. Who's a lesbian herself, and who you'd think Jason might feel comfortable opening up to.

But no. Jason is in Narnia.

Then he meets Chad, while under the influence of alcohol and Valium. Chad is a coming-out guru who's recently moved back from D.C. and Jason wants to make like a monkey and climb him. And does. Repeatedly.

Except there's that thing about being in Narnia, and while Chad is patient for a while, eventually Jason needs to make up his mind about what's more important - staying in the closet and losing Chad, or joining the rainbow and keeping the love of his life.

With snappy dialogue, tons of humor, snark, and sarcasm, this is a fun and cute and really quick read. But it's not just a romantic comedy, there's some sadness and some angst too, but it's mixed in relatively sparsely and doesn't overpower the romance or the comedy. Well-developed characters, and a fine supporting cast, especially Jason's sister Annie, make this a great book to read during a long lunch break.

Recommended!


** I received a free copy of this book from the author upon its re-release. A positive review was not promised in return. **

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review 2017-04-26 02:34
Some Family
The Godfather - Peter Bart,Robert Thompson,Mario Puzo

Do I even need to explain what this one is about? Epic spanning a whole Mafia family sprawled across a decade. Onto review:

 

Like I said in the first comment, the thing that pulls you in immediately is the perfect setting up of the magnetism, the why clans work. The comfort of belonging, the empowerment of feeling backed up by your people. And of course, the unsubstantiated but very present sense of menace when you skirt it's edges.

I don't know that those are very clear to someone born to privilege. I think it's possible for many to read this book and get horrified "in a straight manner", by the violence and the getting away with it. Personally, much of my horror while reading was the realization that I was doubtful about how far was too far.

To explain: law, while a laudable thing that one ought to strive to follow, is not the same as justice. It's supposed to strive to be, but then, it is forged by people with the power to forge it. Humans, supposed to be working for the good of the many, but always with personal views of what that is. And that's with the best possible setting. Government, law enforcement, all the political and economical structure, also follow the same path. Made by people for the people. Which people?.

So when you are part of the demographic that is not the controlling one, or live in a country with a government you distrust, the rounding-of-the-carts  family first, then friends, then we'll see thing seems the safe way to go. I started to have all this thoughts about how far I'd be willing to go, how much I'd flaut the law for my borther, or my best fried, or my child... Let me tell you, it is scary to realize while reading a book that your moral center is not a fixed thing. That's where the mind-screw tag gets deserved.

As for particulars, I have to toast the verisimilitude. No Sicilian's in my tree, but enough Italian blood to recognize many traits that resonated. The appearance of self-deprecating nature that is really pride, the cheerfulness that barely conceals the deep-well of potential violence, the strange to me (since I'm a couple generations removed) highly passionate, forever contentious marital relations, where the man rules, sometimes violently, often unfaithfully, but the woman might stick a knife in his groin. And they'd remain happily married for a couple more decades... yeah, actually, that comedy was my grandparents life. We can laugh about it with mom now, some days.

As for the vengefulness, that's an epic I have nothing in my life to make a parallel, because damn.

By the way, I started to read a bit about Sicily and wiki-walked to the Sicilian Opening stub. I'm so sure the man that named it was being facetious. I mean, really, a very agresive response that does not directly menace an opponent's piece?

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review 2017-04-24 16:43
AT RISK by PATRICIA CORNWELL
At Risk - Patricia Cornwell

Am I the only one that found the plot way too convoluted? Taking an older murder from another state, sending the blood evidence to a lab in California and having this huge conspiracy about insider trading with a rape thrown in for no good reason that I could see. And I'm so jaded I thought the rape was [SPOILER actually a BDSM sexual encounter that was taken the wrong way (hide spoiler)].

I'm pretty sure this is my first time reading this author and I don't plan on picking up any of her other books anytime soon.

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review 2017-04-22 00:09
The Dog Who Was There by Ron Marasco
The Dog Who Was There - Ron Marasco

No one expected Barley to have an encounter with the Messiah. He was homeless, hungry, and struggling to survive in first century Jerusalem. Most surprisingly, he was a dog. But through Barley’s eyes, the story of a teacher from Galilee comes alive in a way we’ve never experienced before. Barley’s story begins in the home of a compassionate woodcarver and his wife who find Barley as an abandoned, nearly-drowned pup. Tales of a special teacher from Galilee are reaching their tiny village, but when life suddenly changes again for Barley, he carries the lessons of forgiveness and love out of the woodcarver’s home and through the dangerous roads of Roman-occupied Judea. On the outskirts of Jerusalem, Barley meets a homeless man and petty criminal named Samid. Together, Barley and his unlikely new master experience fresh struggles and new revelations. Soon Barley is swept up into the current of history, culminating in an unforgettable encounter with the truest master of all as he bears witness to the greatest story ever told.

Amazon.com

 

 

 

In 1st century Jerusalem, a pregnant stray dog gives birth to a litter of pups in a wooded area near the river. The runt of the litter is spotted by Micah, the young son of a wealthy landowner. Micah sneaks away from chores each day to play with the pup, until the day he is found out by his father. The father tries to have the whole litter killed but thanks to the efforts of Duv, a woodcarver, and his wife, Adah, the young pup is saved and named Barley. 

 

It is in the home of the woodcarver that Barley first starts to hear stories of an already near-mythic man from the land of Galilee. That's right, none other than than big man himself, Jesus! For seven years, Barley has a cozy home life full of love and treats. But one regular work day in town leads to tragedy for the woodcarver and his wife, a turn of events that once again puts Barley out on the streets. The scared canine is soon spotted by Samid, a homeless man / petty criminal, and his lady friend Prisca. Though the accomodations are significantly more humble than his previous pad, Barley takes what he can get and soon settles into a moderately comfortable routine with new pal Samid. Barley's life with Samid puts him in close proximity to Jesus, now in Jerusalem, so Barley is there to witness the final days leading up to the Passion of Christ

 

For dogs, no less than for people, firsts matter. They echo long past their point in time, especially in dreams. It's true of the good firsts, and very true of the bad ones. That's why when a dog cries in a dream -- even a full-grown dog, even an old dog -- the cry it cries is the cry of a pup, because that's what it is doing when it sleeps -- reliving a first. 

 

Well, right off, I will say that this is a unique way to breathe fresh new perspective into a tale that's been told a million times over! The writing sometimes struck me as somewhat simplistic but that could just be a natural by-product of the author choosing to tell the story from the inner thoughts of a dog. Perhaps the simplicity is intentional? Regardless, the benefit of a simple voice is that it makes this story perfect for sharing with readers within a wide age range.

 

Note that I was careful not to say "of all ages", because there is material within this novel that may be a little traumatic for the littlest ones in your life, whether they read independently or have you read to them. Barley witnesses (and describes) seeing the bodies of people executed by hanging, there are moments of extreme violence within Barley's own life, moments where he is injured, not to mention Barley relaying the sights of the Crucifixion itself near the end of the novel. The fate of Duv & Adah (the woodcarver and his wife) show just how rough and sometimes lawless this time period could be. So when it comes to the smallest of your story lovers, I'd recommend maybe first doing a read-through to see what you need to gloss over for them. 

 

Much of the story, as far as plot, while solidly enjoyable, lacked that little something extra for me. For the majority of the book, I kept waiting for that extra oomph to kick in. That said, I did enjoy the "voice" of our dog narrator and one of my favorite bits of the whole story was Samid and his friendship / something more? with Prisca. There was a good dose of humor and lively banter between them. I agree with Prisca, Samid outwardly appears rough around the edges, but you get the sense there's a good guy there deep down.

 

"Despair."

 

Samid said the word before she could. Which made them smile at each other, sweetly but sadly. 

 

"Why is our despair such a difficult thing for us to give up?" asked Samid.

 

Prisca replied, "I think despair is so difficult to let go of because it helps us to justify teh worst things inside of us. We think: I lack, so I can steal. I hurt, so I can injure. I failed at one thing, so now watch me destroy my whole life ... But when the despair is gone, we cannot help but change. We simply must."

 

The two were silent for a few moments. 

 

 

What ended up bumping this up to a four star read for me was simply Barley's observations during the Crucifixion. The way author Ron Marasco painted these scenes gave me a whole new visual of this event I've heard told in stories SO many times over. Yet something in the way Marasco illustrates it (in words) made it more real for me than nearly any other piece on the Crucifixion I've ever read. Ever. I physically flinched at what Barley describes himself seeing as the walk up to the cross is taking place. The attention to detail Marasco provides when describing the whippings Jesus is taking from soldiers, the way Barley winces and whimpers and thinks of him (Jesus) as Kind Man. It all just knocks you right in the heart! Beyond the Crucifixion scene, there is a further twist to the ending that I did not entirely see coming! 

 

 

FTC Disclaimer: TNZ Fiction Guild kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book & requested that I check it out and share my thoughts. The opinions above are entirely my own.

 

 

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EXTRAS

 

Author Ron Marasco has a PhD in theater history and is a professor at Loyola University. He also has some acting credits to his name on shows you've likely watched! 

 

 

 

 

A note on promo blurbs & cover design:

 

First off, thumbs up for getting a blurb from Kristin Chenoweth on there. Love her!

 

But regarding the cover, I was one of a select group of bloggers who were asked to give their opinion on the few different design options designed for this title. Still bummed that my pick was not chosen, as I voted strongly AGAINST having to have a cover featuring a dog anus front and center. Particularly when there was one design (the one I voted for) that featured an ADORABLE dog's profile giving a little glance to the reader. I'll let it go though, because this cover dog does look similar to my mother in law's sweet pup. :-)

 

But props to Thomas Nelson Pub. for at least darkening that area to a little less off-putting level lol Also funny to read in the book the dog's coat being described as "off-white fur". I know it's a little hard to tell with the lighting but that cover dog looks as if it'd be pretty distinctly brown with maybe some black highlight areas. A little reading peeve of mine, when it seems like the cover designer didn't read the book they were designing for! 

 

 

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