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text 2018-02-02 18:44
A Queer Trade KJ Charles 99 cents!
A Queer Trade - K.J. Charles

Apprentice magician Crispin Tredarloe returns to London to find his master dead, and his papers sold. Papers with secrets that could spell death. Crispin needs to get them back before anyone finds out what he's been doing, or what his magic can do.

Crispin tracks his quarry down to waste paper dealer Ned Hall. He needs help, and Ned can’t resist Crispin’s pleading—and appealing—looks. But can the waste-man and the magician prevent a disaster and save Crispin’s skin?

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review 2018-01-23 23:11
Godsgrave: Nevernight Chronicles #2
Godsgrave: Book 2 of the Nevernight Chronicle - Jay Kristoff

If you've read Nevernight then you have an idea of what to expect from this book. (And if you haven't, then you should really go do that.) As with the first book, the language remains florid and snarky. As soon as I began reading I found myself grinning - it was so fun to revisit this particular voice. There's plenty of all the things you have come to expect from this series: blood, action, sex, sarcasm, sneaking through shadows, and intricate plans that always seem to have wrenches thrown into them. You know, assassin stuff. Then this book also surprised me by digging into new depths I didn't expect. Issues of slavery and social injustice. Examinations of sexual orientation and identity. Weighty stuff sandwiched in between the ill conceived plans and vengeance. It was a nice surprise.

 

The world and characters continue to be intriguing and well developed. If the first book had a dash of Hogwarts (as the initiates trained in the Red Church) then this one has a healthy dose of Hunger Games. The central focus of this book is on the gladiator arena, which makes for plenty of drama, battles, and high stakes. When the whole idea going in is for Mia to be the last one standing, and you start getting to know the other gladiators, well, it leads to pretty fertile emotional territory for both Mia and the reader. The only reason I'm not giving this book 5 stars is because it has a bit of a middle book syndrome - it sets up a lot of threads for the conclusion of the trilogy, which makes the ending of this volume a bit less satisfying. I can't wait to read the third installment. This series has become a solid favorite.

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review 2018-01-21 00:29
Out in May
Queer City: Gay London from the Romans to the Present Day - Peter Ackroyd

Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley

 

                One of my closest friends is a gay man who is twenty plus years older than me.  Most days, we take a walk though the local cemetery, The Woodlands (where Eakins and Stockton are buried among others).  Early on in our ritual, we noticed a headstone for a couple, but the couple in this case were both men.  Sadly, it was one of those couple headstones where one partner is still alive, and the other has died years ago.   My friend said that it was likely that the husband had died of AIDS.  When I asked him why, he pointed out the death date and the link to the AIDS epidemic.  Seriously, after a conversation like that, you never look at tombstones the same way.

 

                I found myself thinking about that as I read Peter Ackroyd’s Queer City.

 

                Queer City is another entry into what I call Ackroyd’s London History series (London, The Thames, London Under), and, as the title indicts, follows the history of London’s Queer residents and culture.  Queer here meaning homosexual and trans, which dates further back than you would think.  Ackroyd’s Queer City is a bit close to a chronical history, in a way that the other London books are not, though much of the flow and hither and there is still present.  You are either going to love this poetic style or hate it.

 

                There is a level of almost catty gossip and sly humor to Ackroyd’s non-fiction books.  Even a massive tome that is London doesn’t feel anyway near that long because of his tone.  It engages the reader, moving the book far past a simple history book.  So, we have observations like, “They were a tribe of Ganymedes and he was their Zeus”.

 

                Yet, the book covers so much.  Ackroyd starts during the Pre-Roman/Roman era, detailing even how gladiators weren’t perhaps quite the men we think they were (apparently, they really like perfume).  He then moves to the advent of Christianity and the Anglo -Saxons.  He does discuss not only homosexual men but women as well, noting that society’s view of women was also reflected in how society (not law, but society) viewed homosexual relationships.

 

                Being Ackroyd, he is particularly interesting when discussing literature.  There is a detailed look at Chaucer’s homosexual pilgrims as well as the view of the erotic theatre of Elizabeth’s time (“the codpieces were padded so the cods looked plumper”).

 

                But he also doesn’t hesitate to describe punishment dealt out to those who did not fit the norm.  We learn not only of whippings and beatings, but also of women slicing off a penis of an accused homosexual.  We hear of what happened to two women, one of whom had married the other while disguised as a man.  We learn more about those women who Waters wrote so well about in Tipping the Velvet.  As well as certain Mrs. Bradshaw, who will get approving looks from Disc fans.  We learn about the view of homosexuality and the arrival of AIDS in Britain.  This last section of the book is perhaps the quickest and almost glossed over.  I found myself wondering if this time period was too personal for Ackroyd to comfortably write about, at least in times of his story (Ackroyd’s long term partner Brian Kuhn died of AIDS in the 1990s).

 

                It is this last section of the book that is at once the most hopeful and most touching.  In the same chapter where he discusses the AIDS epidemic, he looks at the legislation of gay marriage as well as the phrase “check our privilege”, and this too made me think about the differences between then and now.  How some younger members of queer culture (or transgender culture) are somewhat dismissive of those that came before.   A trans person was dismissive of older homosexual because of lack of awareness of what that generation had endured.  He was not aware of men and women being unable and even forbidden to attend the sick and death beds of loved ones.  The word Stonewall to this young person meant little more than a Civil War Reference. The student lacked awareness and inability to see beyond or outside his own pain/frame of reference. It is also possible that this young man (his preferred description) had been condensed to by older homosexual/trans population.  One can sense a missed discussion between groups.  It is case like this that Ackroyd seems to be thinking about when he talks about checking privilege.  He doesn’t claim immunity, but he is pushing towards an ability to talk, to discuss, to learn, to be better.  Ackroyd is making a cause of understanding each other, in a way that the city he writes so passionately about seems to understand its residents.

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review 2018-01-16 22:44
The Book of the Unnamed Midwife
The Book of the Unnamed Midwife (The Road to Nowhere 1) - Meg Elison

This book hit just the right note with me at just the right time. It was one of those rare books that made me want to drop everything I was doing just so I could read - in fact, I finished this book in my car after work because I couldn't wait until I got home to read the last ten pages. So yeah, it was that kind of a read for me. That said I can see this book not being to everyone's liking. It has the same sort of grim and violent outlook you find in something like the Walking Dead, which will put a lot of people off. This is not a feel good story. There is a lot of graphic sexual violence depicted, so know that going in.

 

At its core I read this as a book about gender roles and sexuality. With the world's population drastically reduced, women a rarity, and pregnancy a dangerous and fruitless prospect, how does that effect the way we behave? How does this free people, sometimes in very dark ways, and how does it bind them? With a cultural breakdown, and women so vastly outnumbered, humans become sexually "liberated" in the way other mammals are liberated - with no social constructs this changes the dynamic. Some men use this as an excuse to rape and hold women as property. Some women use this as a way to collect harems, trading sex for protection. Some people feel free to choose their partners as they see fit without the societal judgement they might have previously experienced. Some people hide their gender in order to walk through the world unhindered. It's an interesting meditation on how the human animal might adjust gender roles, sexuality, and morality if society, balance, and pregnancy are removed from the equation.

 

In addition to having some interesting themes to chew on I quite liked the character and world building. All the characters felt distinct from one another, and their voices felt unique. The representation of bisexuality was some of the best I've ever read, and I really appreciated that as well. The world felt both real and terrifying, the feeling of constant threat looming in every encounter. This book scared me in the same way as White Horse by Alex Adams, or Children of Men. At the same time it had some hope and beauty sprinkled in (sparingly), to offset the horror of the world. For me it was meditative, haunting, frightening, and a little empowering.

 

If you're looking for a great read about the end of the world with a feminist bent this is a rare jewel. If grim futures, violence, or sexual trauma put you off of a read don't pick this one up. For me the food for thought far outweighed any of the ugliness.

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review 2018-01-14 23:24
Queer Magick (Queer Magick #1) by L.C. Davis
Queer Magick - L.C. Davis

After years of being imprisoned, used and abused by his father, Holden is finally settling down in Stillwater, a small New England town. He's been on the run for a long time, trying to cover his tracks by changing his name and moving from one place to another as far away from his home state as possible. 

A happy protective bubble of Stillwater seems like heaven. It has a few quirks, of course, but which town does not? Everyone knows everybody and people are mostly friendly. That is until Holden meets Daniel, a local vet (who is a veteran). An injured cat and the severity of the injury make Holden a catnapper when he refuses to surrender the poor kitty for euthanization and flees the clinic. 

Daniel knows what Holden is and confronts him shortly after catnapping. From that moment on the town secrets and the mysterious creatures start coming out of the woodwork full force. Every time you turn the page, there is a surprise. Every time you think you finally know who/what the person is, you are proven wrong. Things, people, situations turn and twist; there is humor, there are pockets of darkness and despair; there is an amazing diversity of characters (not going into details on the characters' subject, cause - spoilers! ;))

I could not get enough of the book and really wanted to give it five stars, but here is this:

- it ends smack in the middle of things. I can't even call it a cliffhanger, more like the author roughly separated the manuscript in two without much thought. 

- the story lost its momentum around 80%. Instead of fast paced it became stagnant with characters sitting around in one spot for weeks, waiting for the next full moon, reflecting, eating pizza and even (finally) having sex, since there is literally nothing else to do. But it looks like things are going to pick up with a vengeance in book two :D

Otherwise, an excellent read and pure pleasure :) Highly recommended

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