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review 2018-04-21 03:17
ARC Review: Somewhere Over Lorain Road by Bud Gundy
Somewhere Over Lorain Road - Bud Gundy
Please don't let the cover confuse you into thinking this is purely an M/M romance. It's not. While there is a love story inside, this book is at its core a mystery with gay characters. It's a book about secrets, and unsolved murders, and old wounds, and family pain. It's about coming home to help your aging mother take care of your father in his last days, it's about giving an old man his dying wish. It's about terrible, horrible secrets kept for 40 years, and confronting the ghosts of your past.

Don Esker has come home to North Homestead, Ohio, where his father lies dying, and his mother and older brothers need help with the palliative care. Don has done well for himself in San Francisco, working in marketing, and is in a position where he can work from anywhere. Coming home isn't easy, as the family name is still talked about in hushed voices in connection to an unsolved crime that happened 40 years ago in 1975, when a little boy, the neighbor's and Sheriff's son, mysteriously disappeared, and two other little boys were found brutally murdered. Don's father was a suspect in the disappearance of the first boy, if only for one evening, and while he was never charged with anything, his good name has never been fully cleared. The suspicion alone shattered Don's family, and when he came out as gay, staying in town became impossible for him. Small towns and small-minded people will not forgive and not forget, and the townsfolk certainly wouldn't accept a gay man. 

In a lucid moment, Don's father asks for just one thing before he dies - to have his name cleared once and for all. Don, obliging son, begins a journey that not only brings him to Bruce, the love interest, but also face to face with his childhood friend, the brother of the missing boy, who still lives with his father, the ex-Sheriff across the street from the Esker home. It forces him to confront things of his past. Thick as thieves when they were young, Don and his friend haven't spoken in many years, longer than Don has been gone from North Homestead. There is history there. And hurt, anger, and hate. 

As the story unfolds, we are given pieces of the past, set in the 70s and 80s. There's an incident with an old fridge. There's the moment in which Mr. Esker is hauled from his home to answer questions about the disappearance of the neighbor's son. There's the moment in which Don's brother... no, I won't spoil this for you. Just do yourself a favor and read this book.

There is a moment when I knew, just KNEW, who the culprit was, thought I knew who had committed these crimes. 

And there is a moment when the truth comes out, and I was proven wrong. Except, not entirely. 

The romance between Don and Bruce doesn't really begin until the 2nd half of this book, and it's never in the forefront of the tale. There are no explicit scenes, and there didn't need to be any. It unfolds quietly, organically, and peacefully, just as it should have. These are grown, mature men, and there are no games to be played. No contrived misunderstandings. A love story. Simple. Quiet. 

Obviously, Don is not a skilled investigator, and it's often just sheer luck that he is able to find a piece he needs to solve the decades-old crime. He fumbles more often than not, which is to be expected, but he does persevere. 

The mystery is eventually solved. The truth comes out, as it always will, no matter how much time passes. I wasn't prepared for this truth. I wasn't expecting this truth. Though, the more I thought about it, the more it made sense to go that route, and I must applaud the author for taking this road. It humanized the perpetrator, and though it doesn't offer forgiveness, it offers a believable motive. It does also shine a bright light on deep dysfunction within a family, on emotional and psychological and physical abuse. Facades crumble under such light. Cracks appear. Truth will out.

This book, with its tight narration and unexpected turn of events, kept me glued to its pages until the very last one. It's riveting - a page turner, and masterfully written. 

Give this a try, I beg you. This isn't a romance. It's a mystery with a gay MC. It's a story about family. But it is also a love story. Absolutely worth your time.


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

 

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review 2018-04-20 17:19
Harem by Colin Falconer
Harem - Colin Falconer

I don't know much about this time period, or the Ottoman empire, but this book certainly pulled me in from the beginning!

 

 This is the story of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent and his harem, specifically about 1 of his slave girls from his harem, (Hurrem Sultan), and how she rose to have so much power. I'm sure no one knows exactly what she was like in real life, but in this book she was vile! Just a really vindictive and mean person, but I think that's why I couldn't stop reading this book...because I just had to know what this woman was going to do next!

 

 

 

There was another side story going on the book that was just as interesting, at least to me, because it involved the chief eunuch in the harem, and that one was a bit sad.

 

I hadn't read a Falconer book in a long time...since his Cleopatra book many years ago, (which I also enjoyed). But I have a few of them sitting in my kindle and I am definitely going to be moving them up the queue.

 

Recommended for historical fiction fans.
4/5 stars

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review 2018-04-19 05:23
New beginnings
Four Ways to Forgiveness - Ursula K. Le Guin

These are four loosely connected but independent short stories set at the start of Yeowe's independence from Werel, after 30 years of revolutionary war. They are the stories of people as different as they can possibly come, coming to terms. With loss, with cultural differences, with a place in society, with the past. They are all also big on starting anew. And, of course, feminism. The right to freedom, to a voice, to vote, to an education, to not be raped. These are all discussed and are an important part of the book, given the planet's recent upheaval and it's heavy history of slavery and male-dominated environment.

 

I found it bittersweet and lovely, and ended up with a huge bunch of quotes saved and a lump in my throat that I know not what to do with. There is so much wrong with this planet, so much hurt, and yet... it is so hopeful. I guess forgiveness is a kind of hope. Another chance. Much like love; another thing that permeates the book and is ever-present in every story.

 

I have closed it, as so many stories close, with a joining of two people. What is one man’s and one woman’s love and desire, against the history of two worlds, the great revolutions of our lifetimes, the hope, the unending cruelty of our species? A little thing. But a key is a little thing, next to the door it opens. If you lose the key, the door may never be unlocked. It is in our bodies that we lose or begin our freedom, in our bodies that we accept or end our slavery. So I wrote this book for my friend, with whom I have lived and will die free.

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review 2018-04-16 02:08
Book Review: No More Hiding by Renee Stevens
No More Hiding - Renee Stevens

If my husband came out to me and told me he was gay, the one thing I would NEVER do is deprive him of our kids. Parents - don't do that shit. Kids are not bargaining tools. If your relationship with your spouse ends, they don't stop being a parent. Don't kidnap your kids. Don't withhold your kids from your ex-spouse. If you're like Phillip's ex-wife from this here book - FUCK YOU!

Now that we have that out of the way - this was only my 2nd book by this author, and I enjoyed reading it, when I wasn't ranting at Phil's ex-wife, that horrible woman. 

Phillip (and by extension, his twin brother) has been desperately looking for his two kids ever since his ex-wife didn't turn up for visitation and ran away with them. It's been six long years, and Phillip is barely living. His despair and heartache, his fears and guilt just poured off the pages as soon as we met him. When his brother Robert tells him to join the new gym, Phillip meets Vance. 

Vance is immediately enamored with Phillip, and their relationship takes off relatively fast, considering that we don't really see a whole lot of their interactions other than at the gym and a weekend they spend together. Phillip seems a bit more reticent at first, plagued by guilt over having feelings for Vance when he should be looking for his children. Then Vance and Phillip are in a serious accident that ends up with Vance breaking his leg and ending up in the hospital, which clarifies Phillip's feelings for Vance, even more so when he takes Vance home to look after him.

And then Phillip gets a long-awaited phone call.

I had some doubts about Samantha and Jacob adjusting so quickly to living with their father and Vance, and re-forging the relationships. I would have liked to find out a bit more about what happened to them in the past six years, and also about the man who helped their mother kidnap them and hide them from their father. Even with the relative ease with which Sam and Jacob adjust, this is the point of the book where it all becomes a roller coaster ride, and you can only hope you're strapped in tightly. I experienced a myriad of emotions, sitting on the edge of my seat, hoping that all the ups and downs would end up in a happy ever after.

Which, of course, it did.

The author created a well-rounded supporting cast, including Phillip's twin and his wife, who were supportive and helped Sam and Jacob find their stride again. 

This is definitely an emotional read, which is totally my thing, so it really worked for me. Phillip and Vance aren't perfect, but they're perfect for each other, and it was a joy to watch them both grow into their relationship, as well as become a family. 

Well done, Ms. Stevens. 


** I received a free copy of this book from its author in exchange for an honest review. **

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review 2018-04-14 01:29
The Complete Maus (25th Anniversary Ed.) by Art Spiegelman | Holocaust Remembrance Week
The Complete Maus - Art Spiegelman

The Pulitzer Prize-winning Maus tells the story of Vladek Spiegelman, a Jewish survivor of Hitler’s Europe, and his son, a cartoonist coming to terms with his father’s story. Maus approaches the unspeakable through the diminutive. Its form, the cartoon (the Nazis are cats, the Jews mice), shocks us out of any lingering sense of familiarity and succeeds in “drawing us closer to the bleak heart of the Holocaust” (The New York Times).
Maus is a haunting tale within a tale. Vladek’s harrowing story of survival is woven into the author’s account of his tortured relationship with his aging father. Against the backdrop of guilt brought by survival, they stage a normal life of small arguments and unhappy visits. This astonishing retelling of our century’s grisliest news is a story of survival, not only of Vladek but of the children who survive even the survivors. Maus studies the bloody pawprints of history and tracks its meaning for all of us.

Amazon.com

 

 

 

Inspired by the Holocaust experience of his own parents, cartoonist Art Spiegelman writes and illustrates this Pulitzer Prize wining story of a grown son, also a cartoonist (yes, this one is in the meta / semi-autobio style) who sits down with his father, Vladek  Spiegelman, to record Vladek's story with the intent to publish it. Perhaps to soften some of the more violent aspects of Vladek's story, the tale is told anthropomorphically-- Nazi soldiers are portrayed as big, burly cats, Jewish prisoners are mice, and one African-American man is illustrated as a black dog. 

 

 

Vladek starts with the story of meeting his wife, Anja, and their years together as newlyweds prior to the war. In 1938, Anja develops post-partum depression and is taken to a sanitarium in Czechoslovakia where she experiences, for the first time, full-force anti-Semitism. From there, the war story of Anja and Vladek only gets more painful. Even Anja's millionaire parents couldn't buy her safety. Once captured, Vladek explains that he was able to get some leniency with the Germans because even though his family was Polish, he could speak and write in German, so the Nazis found him useful. 

 

This special anniversary edition features the entire story, Vols 1 & 2, together in one book. As I mentioned before, the story does dip in and out of meta style storytelling. Towards the middle of the book, there is a kind of mini-comic insert where author Art Spiegelman tells the real life tragic story of his own mother's suicide. This book as a whole is not for the faint of heart. There are illustrations of mice with nooses around their necks, descriptions of children being picked up by their legs and swung into brick walls to stop them from crying / screaming (the noise giving away the location of those in hiding). Near the end of Vol. 2 there is also pretty detailed description of the interiors of the gas chambers. This edition also features one color map (the rest of the book is done in black and white) that shows the full layout of the Auschwitz camp. 

 

 

 

Blended with the Holocaust theme, Spiegelman also brings in a modern day father-son relationship story of a grown man honestly trying to make the effort to finally, hopefully, understand the father who has always slightly confounded him. There are some tense life truths brought to the table during these scenes but it provided a relatable, poignant layer to the whole experience that I came to really appreciate. 

 

If you're now reading this thinking, "Man, there is no way I could get through anything that dark," Spiegelman might have had such readers in mind because he does offer moments of levity as well. There's the somewhat scary but also creepy-humorous story of Lucia, the woman who went Stage 5 Clinger on Vladek when he became interested in someone else.

 

 

 

 

Old man Vladek is also dad-funny during his conversations with his son, saying things like "famous like that one guy".... I don't know though, there were a few moments there where old Vladek was coming off as pretty strongly racist himself... so it left me with mixed feelings about him. 

 

I'm glad I finally took the opportunity to experience this epic graphic novel I've heard so much about over the years. The story is a tough one to take, but important to hear. Truthfully though, I'm not sure it's one I see myself revisiting, at least not any time soon. 

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