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review 2017-03-25 18:03
A love stronger than anything in the background of recent LGBT Swedish history
Last Winter's Snow - Hans M. Hirschi

I received an ARC copy of this book prior to its publication and I voluntarily decided to review it.

This is not the first novel written by Hans Hirschi I’ve read. I’ve read The Fallen Angels of Karnataka, The Opera House, Willem of the Tafel, Spanish Bay… and, different as they are, have enjoyed them all. Mr Hirschi has the ability to create believable and engaging characters the readers care for, and he places them in backgrounds and situations that put them to the test. Sometimes the situation and the background might be familiar to a lot of readers, whilst on other occasions, we might know little about the place or the world they live in. And, Mr Hirschi’s books always draw attention to discrimination and oppression, making us question our beliefs and attitudes. This book is dedicated ‘to the oppressed minorities of the world’ and all the books I’ve read by this author could bear the same dedication.

I must confess to knowing little about the Sami community and their land, Sápmi, other than the images most of us might have of snow, reindeer and colourful clothing. The book opens with Nilas waking up to find his husband, Casper, dead in bed next to him. (I don’t consider this a spoiler, as it’s how the novel starts, after a brief introduction into Sami’s culture and history, and anybody who checks the beginning of the book will see it). Most of the rest of the book is taking up by his memories of his relationship with Casper, in chronological order, from 1982, when Nilas, a native Sami, goes to study in Stockholm, until the present. At the beginning of the story, he knows he’s gay but within his community, he hasn’t had much chance to experience what that mean in full, although he’s told his parents about it. One of the beauties of the book is that, although initially shocked by the news, his parents, from a tiny and many would think old-fashioned and traditional community, accept it (in fact, he discovers one of his uncles is also gay). At the other end of the spectrum, Casper, a Swedish student he meets in a bar in Stockholm, although living in a bigger community and seemingly a more cosmopolitan society, has not dared to tell his parents he’s gay as they are very religious and intolerant of anything other than what they see as the natural order. Nilas and Casper are made from each other, and the novel chronicles their relationships through episodes that illustrate events they go through, on many occasions linking them to events for the LGBT community in Sweden at large. We live with Nilas and Casper through the alarm of the AIDS epidemic, the uncertainty and the fear that an illness that seemed to target a specific group of the population created at the time. We also follow them through changes in career and moves, through the recognition of registered partnership and eventually gay marriage, through family disappointments, trips, success, heartache, illness and ultimately, death.

The relationship between Niles and Casper serves as a microcosm of the gay experience and history in Sweden (and, although with some differences, in many Western world countries). Theirs is an ideal relationship, their love stronger than anything. Although they are tested by external events, society, family, and work, they are committed to each other, exclusive and faithful from the beginning. (Perhaps this is an idealised relationship where there are some differences of opinion but these are quickly resolved and they are together against the world, especially at the beginning of the relationship). They are discriminated against at work, they have to face the AIDS crisis, family hostility (Casper eventually tells his family and he was right when he thought they wouldn’t accept it), assaults, put downs, incomprehension, insults, frustrations… They also find people who accept them and love them for who they are, mostly, at least at the beginning, people who have gay friends or relatives. And it’s true that studies show that exposure and knowledge are the best ways to fight discrimination and oppression. The lack of knowledge, the fear of anything or anybody different and unknown, the us against them mentality and the labelling as ‘other’ of those who aren’t like us are a sure recipe for intolerant attitudes.

The book is written in the third person, from Nilas’s point of view, and it contains beautiful descriptions of places (Sápmi, Stockholm and Gothenburg, the Maldives, Swedish islands, the house they move into…), reflections on nature, landscape, the importance of tradition, and what makes a place home and a people, our family and our community. We sometimes have to go a long way to discover who we really are and where we belong to. Mr Hirschi manages to balance the showing and telling by combining very personal experiences with more subjective and spiritual reflections.

I enjoyed the setting, the discovery of a place and a people I knew very little about (and judging by the author’s note at the end, I’d love to get to know more) and the way the characters and the story merge seamlessly to provide a personal, political (indeed, the personal is the political) and social chronicle of the recent events in LGBT history in Sweden. I particularly enjoyed the way Casper is adopted by the Sami community and how there is a parallel made between different types of oppression. This is an excellent book that could help younger generations understand recent LGBT history and will also raise consciousness about oppression and intolerance in general. And, we sure need it more than ever.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-03-25 05:03
Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit
Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit - Jaye Robin Brown

Word of Caution: If you hate the Big Misunderstanding trope, then avoid this book, because the entire thing hinges on it. Not only is it a "big misunderstanding" but it's perpetuated by one character consistently lying to everyone, and not even for a very good reason. Well, she thinks it's a good reason. Me? Not so much.

 

This is the second F/F book in a row with a punk lesbian. I guess this is a common enough thing to already be a recognizable trope? Aren't there country-loving lesbians? Or jazz-loving lesbians? Or hip-hop loving lesbians? WHERE ARE MY HIP-HOP LESBIANS?

 

But seriously, this book is both complicated and simple. It's told in a simple, rather straightforward way that rarely delves into the depths that this book could easy delve into given the subject matter, mainly how do LGBTQ+ individuals who need faith in their lives deal with the hurtful messages that too many churches STILL put out there because they're stuck in medieval times. I was looking forward to that aspect of it, because too often the one sole religious person in M/M books often acts like he or she could be an offshoot of the Westboro Church family tree. I know many people of faith, some who are close-minded in that way, but others who really embrace Jesus's teachings about acceptance and loving each other without judgment. So let's look at both sides of the spectrum and everything else in between here, right?! Except it never really happens. *sigh*

 

Jo's dad, who runs his own evangelical radio show, accepted his daughter without hesitation when she came out to him. And now that he's remarried and his new MIL has a stick up her butt about EVERYTHING, and because they've moved to a more conservative, smaller town, he asks Jo to lay low. That is, go back in the closet. And she agrees. So she can get her own radio show that she unironically calls "Keep It Real." I say unironically because she's completely unaware of the irony of the title while she's lying about herself to everyone around her. 

 

Except one boy she meets and befriends. She tells him immediately. Which pretty much pulls the rug out from under her every other time she tries to explain to herself why she can't tell the truth to her girlfriend she's so super in love with. Oh, no! Can't do that! And it leads to one ridiculous, cliched "twist" after another until I just wanted to smack her Cher-style.

 

 

Oh, Cher. Where are you when we need you most?

 

I do like the various different characters. There's a weird subplot with Dana. It was nice to see how Joanna and Elizabeth eventually work out their issues. When Joanna does finally stand up for herself, that's pretty great too but comes a bit too late in the story, so that everything after that is rushed. Joanna overall is a passive character and except for that one moment of backbone, she never really stops being passive. Barnum was great, as were George and Gemma. The pastor of the other church, the not-friendly-to-gays one, has this weird quasi-transformation, maybe? It doesn't really go anywhere. 

 

So I guess there's a hopeful message in here. And I guess this is eventually about being true to yourself, even when that self isn't who you originally thought it was. But for each thing I found to like, there was another thing that annoyed me in equal measure.

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review 2017-03-25 02:19
La leggerezza del principe - Leta Blake,Keira Andrews,Cristina Fontana

Ho aspettato con impazienza l'uscita di questo libro, la trama mi sembrava originale ed intrigante e la storia narrata sembrava essere perfetta per una fiaba che associata al genere M/M che adoro rendeva la lettura un must, capace forse di farmi ritrovare la magia provata nel leggere "Bruto" di Kim Fielding . Ho iniziato con gioia la lettura, con ottime aspettative che purtroppo si sono completamente infrante. Sapevo che ci potevano essere delle "lacune" essendo la storia sviluppata come racconto breve e avendo appena 100 pagine, non mi aspettavo certo un approfondimento psicologico nei minimi dettagli viste le premesse però avrei voluto vedere qualcosa almeno! La storia è... inconsistente, leggera come Efrosin potremmo dire, inizialmente sembra quasi non esserci, per dare spazio a parti più erotiche e poi viene ammassata completamente nel finale rendendo tutto simile a un minestrone. I personaggi non sono caratterizzati al meglio e anzi sono piuttosto piatti così come il loro rapporto. Posso capire che non è semplice cercare di creare un rapporto tra i due in 100 pagine ma neanche puoi farmeli limonare allegramente nel giro di neanche 20 paginette senza neanche essersi presentati o detti ciao... seriamente ok che Efrosin non ha gravità sentimentale o come vogliamo chiamarla però Dmitri è un essere umano alla fine e almeno lui dovrebbe avere un po' di senno o almeno poteva avere un minimo di carattere... Vedere due personaggi che interagiscono soltanto saltandosi addosso e che quasi non condividono emozioni o sentimenti in particolare mi ha lasciato triste e molto delusa. Nonostante abbia apprezzato la resa delle scene erotiche descritte molto bene e anche intriganti avrei di gran lunga preferito che non ci fossero state, le avrei sacrificate senza problemi per lasciare quelle pagine alla conoscenza tra i due, alla creazione di un rapporto di amicizia e poi di amore, sarà forse il mio lato romantico a parlare ma mi riesce difficile cogliere la bellezza dello scontatissimo lieto fine di zucchero e cannella se ste due a malapena sanno il nome uno dell'altro. La storia così come i protagonisti è lasciata molto a se stessa, ci vengono buttati addosso frammenti di trama per spiegarci il motivo delle maledizioni dei due giovani e per dare un contentino al lettore più esigente ma il tutto con molta fretta, quasi a voler giustificare il finale e la "liberazione" dei due, avrei voluto vedere un combattimento finale con la strega che ha causato i malefici, vedere i due ragazzi affrontarla e dimostrare il loro amore uno per l'altro invece... il tutto si riduce a una scena ridicola e completamente affrettata e priva di senso che libera come per magia i due protagonisti dalla maledizione... così a caso, qualcuno si chiede il perchè di tutto ciò? No! Dov'è finita la strega? No! Se mai potrà tornare a maledire nuovamente i due? No! Non che mi aspettassi il realismo ma... WTF? Non puoi ridurmi 3/4 del libro a sesso,sesso,sesso e poi concludere la vicenda in modo affrettato, ridicolo e no sense! Questa cosa mi ha... deluso... tantissimo! Vorrei poter dire che qualche pagina in più avrebbe giovato alla lettura dando spessore ai personaggi e alla storia ma qui la volontà manca del tutto, non si tratta di una storia sviluppata e affrettata per mancanza di tempo e personaggi descritti frettolosamente per risparmiare pagine, qui proprio manca il senso della storia, se fosse una fan fiction avrebbe sicuramente il tag "Porn with plot" essendo appunto più che una bella favoletta un escamotage per descrivere scene erotiche e aggiungere una storiella per intrattenere e non cadere nel PWP. Quindi, delusione... non mi sento di mettere meno di 3 stelle essendo alla fine una lettura godibile, essendo scritta bene e avendo apprezzato la descrizione delle scene più hot ma rimane un M/M mediocre e che non mi ha lasciato praticamente niente, non ho empatizzato con nessuno dei personaggi trovandoli tutti odiosi, inutili e vuoti, si salva un po' quel povero santo di Geoffry ma solo perchè è il meno peggio e anche la storia alla fine è priva di un contenuto che ti spinga anche solo a dire "Wow lo rileggerò di sicuro tra qualche anno" questo libro finirà sicuramente nel dimenticatoio, quasi me ne sono già scordata e avendolo anche comprato mi secca... molto... non mi sento quindi di consigliarlo, leggetelo solo se non avete di meglio o come me ci avete speso i soldi e vi scoccia non approfittare del vostro acquisto in caso contrario potete trovare di meglio

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review 2017-03-24 19:13
Nicht perfekt, aber unterhaltsam
The Northern Heart - Sasha L. Miller

The Northern Heart ist der zweite Teil einer klassischen Fantasyreihe. Elfen, Magie, ein Fluch und ein alter Konflikt treffen in einem mittelalterlich anmutenden Szenario aufeinander. Die zugrundeliegende Handlung ist einfach aufgebaut, bietet aber nette Unterhaltung. Vor allem die Dynamik zwischen Pearce und Emmerich ist es, die einen neugierig auf den Fortgang der Geschichte macht.

 

Das Wichtigste vorweg: Ich hätte dem Buch gerne 4 Sterne gegeben, weil es eine durchaus solide und unterhaltsame Basis hat. Was es für mich aber dann letztlich doch etwas verdorben hat, waren die vielen textlichen Fehler. Wortwiederholungen, Satzwiederholungen, inhaltliche Wiederholungen. Sprachlich hätte man mit einem halbwegs ordentlichen Lektorat locker noch einen Stern herausholen können. Leider scheint der Verlag das generell nicht anzubieten, denn ähnliche Probleme habe ich auch schon bei anderen Büchern dieses Verlagsteams gefunden. Sehr schade.
Auch der Weltenbau kommt etwas kurz. Oft hatte ich das Gefühl, die gesamte Handlung spielt sich auf drei Quadratmetern ab, mit kurzen Ausflügen in ein anderes drei-Quadratmeter Zimmer.

 

Warum hat mir das Buch trotzdem gute Unterhaltung geboten? Weil es eine zwar einfache, aber auch leicht wegzulesende Geschichte ist mit einer süßen Romanze zwischen Pearce und Emmerich. Man erlebt The Northern Heart aus wechselnden Perspektiven der beiden Hauptcharaktere, was es einem als LeserIn ermöglicht in die Köpfe und jeweiligen Sorgen und Ängste der beiden Figuren vorzudringen. Dadurch lässt sich leichter nachvollziehen, wie es zu bestimmten Missverständnissen zwischen beiden kommt, weshalb sie diese oder jene Hemmung davor haben ein bestimmtes Thema mit dem anderen anzusprechen. Man ist also gewissermaßen in einer allwissenden Position als Leser, während die Figuren durch ihr Halbwissen lange im Dunkeln tappen. Man beobachtet, wie die beiden Männer unbewusst umeinander herumschleichen und lauert darauf, dass sie endlich die Wahrheit erkennen.


Man ahnt es also schon: Natürlich werden sich Emmerich und Pearce im Laufe des Romans kriegen, der Weg dahin ist aber mit einigen Hürden gepflastert, die auch ihrer eigenen Unsicherheit geschuldet sind. Ich für meinen Teil war neugierig auf den Moment, da es endlich Klick bei ihnen macht.

 

Interessant fand ich auch das Magiesystem. Ich habe es nicht vollständig verstanden, was auch damit zusammenhängen könnte, dass ich unbewusst zum zweiten Teil einer Buchreihe gegriffen habe. Vieles erschloss sich im Laufe des Textes dennoch und die Szenen, in denen Magie gewirkt wurde, fand ich sehr plastisch und lebendig. Da die Hauptfiguren des Vorgängerromans außerdem andere waren glaube ich nicht in der Hinsicht zu vieles verpasst zu haben. Der Neugier halber werde ich mir den ersten Teil aber auch noch zu Gemüte führen.

 

Was ich auf jeden Fall positiv fand ist die Tatsache, dass wir hier trotz mittelalterlichem Setting keine Vorurteile gegenüber Homosexualität finden. Pearces Vater geht sogar soweit, dass er seinem Sohn eine Scheinehe mit Emmerich aufdrücken will, weil das in der Öffentlichkeit verschiedene Probleme bezüglich Emmerichs Magiefähigkeit erklären würde – es ist normalerweise nur der Königsfamilie und ihren Ehepartnern möglich Magie auszuüben, da man dazu ein besonderes Artefakt braucht (Juwele die als Herzen bezeichnet werden).


Auch die wenigen, aber recht ausführlichen Sexszenen zwingen einem kein Augenrollen auf. Die gemeinsamen Momente machen einen liebevollen Eindruck. Der Konflikt zwischen Menschen und Elfen und Emmerichs Trancewanderungen sorgen aber ohnehin dafür, dass man nicht in einer schnulzigen Dauerschleife gefangen ist, sondern auch mal Gefangene macht oder wackelige Allianzen mit einer eigentlich verfeindeten Fraktion eingeht.

Kurzum: The Northern Heart ist keine wahnsinnig innovative Erzählung, aber sie hat all die essentiellen Bestandteile einer klassischen Fantasyqueste mit einer warmherzigen Romanze. Irgendwie schafft es das Buch – trotz seiner sparsamen Beschreibung von Äußerlichkeiten bei Welt und Figur – eine unterhaltsame Lesezeit zu bescheren. Auch wenn es äußerlich nicht perfekt ist, kann ich das Buch empfehlen.

Source: moyasbuchgewimmel.de/rezensionen/titel/n/the-northern-heart
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review 2017-03-08 14:37
Review: Major Conflict by Jeffrey McGowan
Major Conflict: One Gay Man's Life in the Don't-Ask-Don't-Tell Military - Jeffrey McGowan

I really enjoyed reading Maj (Ret.) Jeffrey McGowan's memoirs about being gay in the US Army during the Regan, Bush, and Clinton administrations. His story is more than about his sexuality; it is also a snapshot of a great shift within the military. He describes the Regan years as a military focused on one particular enemy (the Soviets) and flushed with money and equipment that gave service members a swagger and confidence in their careers. McGowan gets a front row seat to this as his first assignment is in Germany. As the Cold War ends, the Middle East wars begins; McGowan really grows up here in the desert as both a person and as a military leader. All the while, he is conflicted about his sexuality and his place in the military. Once Desert Shield/Desert Storm is over, he goes Airbourne at Ft Bragg; the military goes through an upheaval as well, as the Clinton administration comes into power. Don't-Ask-Don't-Tell becomes policy after much compromise, but McGowan really doesn't see a change in his fellow service members' perceptions of LGBT* serving (even thought they have always served!). McGowan becomes a commander of an unit that ends up putting him in the position between following the old guard and discharging a hard working private or risk defending said private and accidentally outing himself. He ends up defending the private and starts making his way toward leaving the military on his own terms.

 

McGowan had such a fresh voice and easy writing style; no matter where in the world he was writing about, you really get a sense of time and place. His heartbreak is real, but his growing confidence in himself to come out was something to root for. This was written and published 5 years before DADT was repealed.

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