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review 2016-08-07 20:33
I read it so you don't have to
Night Watch - Josh Lanyon

I knew what I was getting myself into when I clicked that buy button and yet I did it anyway.

 

If you haven't noticed, I've had issues with Lanyon's work ever since I stumbled on an old book that had the characters spouting that reverse racism is a thing. Or something like it. Thing is, Lanyon spins a good yarn, if you ignore the whitey lenses of privilege, and I keep hoping maybe I'm wrong. I'm not. 

 

Yeah, this is a sweet four star novella of two adult men spending a non-explicit night together and possibly finding a new start while waiting for a escaped prisoner to get caught or come after them.

 

But Lanyon can't leave well enough alone and (s)he has to make a dig about police violence and young unarmed dead persons. Race isn't mentioned, but considering this novella is published in 2016, you have to be willfully blind and/or privileged not to see what (s)he's getting at. Sure, twelve thousand words in a romantic novella isn't going to solve police brutality and racism in America, but Lanyon didn't have to be as dismissive as this:

 

"'Are you serious? Do you really think the majority of cops approve of shooting unarmed civilians? Of shooting kids? Do you really think guys like me want to see a departmental cover-up?'

 

In the face of his quiet scorn, I felt a little ashamed. 'No. Of course not.'

 

'There are some bad actors. We all know it. And there are some guys and gals who would be better cops if they had better training. We all know that too. But most of the men and women I work with are out there cleaning up the human garbage the best they can with the tools they've been given—and putting their live on the line every single day to keep people like you safe to write the truth however you see fit.'"

 

And then the narrator muses how he was wrong but not completely, and how much he likes his police protector for being able to argue the subject dispassionately. And they agree it's a sore subject for the both of them.

 

Sore subject indeed.

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review 2015-12-02 00:00
The History of Us
The History of Us - Nyrae Dawn


5 so very unexpected Stars!


Let me explain something. I am not a fan of NA books. Most of them annoy or ittitate me, because the MCs either act as though they're 3 or 33. And if they do act according to their age, I still get irritated with a lot of them - because the Angst! Teenage angst is an emotion I have a hard time with in books. Not because I'm not sympathetic, or because I don't understand, but because I do. I really, really do. And most of the time I don't want to think about my teens too much. Let's just say it was NOT a good time for me. So I pass most of theYA/ NA stories I see, because I know in the end, I won't enjoy them. A blurb has to really draw me in to change my mind. Some books did that effortlessly, like The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Gives Light (Gives Light, #1)] or Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit.

This blurb drew me in from the start, but it was that kind of book, so I was somewhat hestitant to pick it up. But I liked the blurb so much, and came back again and again, reading it, so in the end I thought "What the hell." and bought it. Boy, am I glad I did!

Here we have Bradley, 18 years old and not-so-freshly out of the closet. But he has a very unique predicament. He came out, and then... he was out. Or was he? He didn't have dates, he didn't have queer friends, and never in a million years would he talk to his friends about his thoughts and feelings towards other guys. Not that there would be much to tell, or that his friends didn't accept his outing. His mother was very suppportive, too. And yet... Right from the start I could feel the loneliness coming off of him in waves. Everything he did, how he acted and how he suppressed himself with all his might, really broke my heart.

His freak-out when cutie TJ tries to flirt with him - literally in front of God and everyone - didn't exactly come as a huge surprise. What did surprise me, was the fact that these two guys actually managed to go on this road trip together. I was almost sure one of them would mess it all up before it even started. Thank God, they didn't! I enjoyed their journey so much! One reason was the project these two were doing. Meeting different people, with different stories, relationship statuses and dreams, was fascinating to read about. Some of the stories broke my heart so much, it was painful in all the right places.

The other part was their inner journey - especially Bradley's. He struggled so much. Every "gay" thought, every "gay" action was analyzed to death, thought over a million times, and in the end, more often than not, he was still terrified of the possibilities. But he learned. He tried so hard, every day. He understood some important things over time, let go of preconceived notions and found himself along the way. At least as much as you can find and define yourself at 18.

TJ was a whole different ball game. At one point I had a serious problem with him, because while I suspected that there was more to his story, the actual twist took me completely by surprise. At the same time it made him look like a hypocrite with a mile wide chip on his shoulder. Not my favorite, to say the least. But it all worked out in the end, and in a way I came to love. A lot. I absolutely rooted for these two.


A little rant on sexual content.

There is none. Not really, and most definitely nothing explicit. And I saw a lot of readers complain about that. One main argument: "When I was 18 and would have been alone with my crush in hotel rooms for days - I would not just have kissed him a few times and be satisfied with it. Because 18 = raging hormones = a lot of first times in a short time." And you know what? That just pisses me the hell off! Because most of the people complaining like that are adult straight women.

Did it ever occur to you that despite us all being worth the same, there are some actual differences between young adults with different sexual orientations?! It's so great that you were confident and (hopefully) safe enough to have your first sexual expieriences with 15. Guess what, I had my first "First" with a boyfriends at 14. But sure as hell not with a woman! I didn't even begin to accept that side of myself, let alone act on it at that point in time! And no matter who I ask - my former roommate, my best friends, the undecided young boys and girls I had in classes - they all say the same: It is completely DIFFERENT if you're queer. Sure, some boys and girls do have their first experiences with the same sex at a very young age. And that's fine. But the ones struggling with it, fighting it, hating it and hating themselves? They most certainly do not fall into bed the minute they are alone with a crush! Coming out and accepting your sexuality is a very complex process, and it is about more than sex, or crushes, or telling your family.

And if you ask me, everyone who complains about the lack of sex happening here, didn't understand Bradley and his story. He was going through MASSIVE changes, finally starting to actually accept his sexuality, to stop being ashamed of being gay, and people are annoyed that he is not fucking another guy the minute they shared their first kiss?! WTF: Makes me super, super ragey! *Rant over

So, as I was saying, I loved the lack of explicit sexual content. Yes, you heard it right. I'm not saying that I don't like to read it. Or that there are books where I'm not disappointed when sex only happens off-page, or not at all. But with this story? It worked perfectly! Most of all, because it was less romance, but way more coming-of-age, and coming-out story.

I absolutely loved this one, from top to bottom. Definitely one of my favorite YA/NA reads in a long time.

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review 2015-09-01 00:00
How to Repair a Mechanical Heart
How to Repair a Mechanical Heart - J.C. Lillis

3.5 stars rounded up to four because I liked the writing so much

This one was a little difficult for me. I've been looking forward to this one for a long time. And in a way, I wasn't disappointed. The writing was really, really good. I loved the voice, I felt so much for Brandon and I could have read about his inner musings all day long. I actually did.

I also really enjoyed the whole part about fanfictions and the world of fandoms. It was funny, it was entertaining and in some aspects it was dead on. It's not everyday that you laugh about something so hard that was actually part of your own life at some point. Overall, I was thoroughly entertained, grinned and laughed a lot, and had a lot of fun with Brandon's very own way of describing, acting and retorting. Loved it.

And I was very happy with his character development. His struggle with his religious upbringing was heartbreaking to read, but in a very good way. I think it's important that stories like these exist. No matter how often you tell yourself that it doesn't matter what your family thinks and that you're entitled to live your own life exactly the way you want to, in the end it's all just BS. It takes an unbelievable amount of time, and PAIN, to get over your very own family rejecting you - no matter what the reason behind it. I'm not even sure you really can get completely over it. It gets better, but you know what they say about opening wounds and inner scars and all that. What made it so good for me to read Brandon's story was the fact that he knew, he just KNEW in his head that what his church was preaching was wrong. He didn't believe in it, not really. But he doubted a lot. And had an even harder time standing up for himself AFTER his coming out than many others have who are rejected completely by their family the minute the word "gay" is on the table. I'm not saying they have it easier, far from it. But I do believe that it's harder to break out of a hurtful situation and finding your own way outside of your family valueas and beliefs, when on the other hand, you somehow feel your family members' affection and concern - no matter how twisted - shine through here and there. Brandon's struggle with who he wanted to be, who he was supposed to be, and most of all, how to react to a family that wouldn't accept him completely but "tried" to love him anyway, was wonderfully done and I loved every minute. I might have wished for more of his "F*** You, I am who I am and you are supposed to love me unconditioanlly no matter what!"; but in the end that just wasn't him and that's all there is to it.

Now on to my problem with the story. It was a great CoA-YA story. It delt with religion and family and church respectfully and in a very real way. Nothing was just black and white, nobody was completely good or bad - not at home, not in the fandoms, not even the drunks and assholes from the TV show. Even the side characters were three-dimensional, very well crafted and real.

But the romance? I'm sorry, but this book would have been better without the romance in it. Why? Because I couldn't feel the connection between Abel and Brandon. They were great friends, best friends even, and their Bromance was actually kind of sweet. But as a couple? Nah, I just couldn't see it. That had nothing to do with the sex happening off page. I couldn't care less. Sure, seeing some of the intimacy in bed can be part of a good romance, but it doesn't have to be. Good sex doesn't make the story, and it sure doesn't break it when it isn't explicit. But even before that, even when it was just about kissing and touching, or "having a crush", it didn't work for me. I didn't feel a thing, except maybe amusement about their friendship. I thought the fights might save it, because you know, I'm a sucker for emotional explosions and word-vomiting and hurt feelings and good apologies. But that, too, fell flat for me. Again, everything worked as a nice Bromance, just not as a love story. The ending was very sweet, but I still couldn't buy it. Maybe because I never really connected to Abel in the first place.

So I liked the book, just not the romance in it. Which is kind of bad when you're reading a romance. But, whatever. I liked it, I understand why people love it, it just wasn't a real hit for me.

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review 2014-10-11 10:00
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

In ten words or less: It's a horrible, terrible book and you should read it.

 

Ayn Rand's 1168 page behemoth is listed under classics and fiction, though, I fail to understand how it fits under either genre. Atlas Shrugged is a poorly written, illogical propaganda manifesto without even a semblance of character, consistency or plot. Everything is orchestrated to serve Rand's absurd philosophy and to deify her main hero, John Galt, a Christ-like figure who was, in fact, based on a child murderer.

 

Not counting infodumps, and convenient telepathy when a third-person omniscient narrator could have been an option, Rand struggles with basic concepts of good story telling such as showing not telling, foreshadowing, and in-world consistency. More crucially, her basic reading comprehension is in question. For example, I don't think Rand had any idea what logic is.

 

Here a character is explaining why people won't believe Galt:

 

"'It seems to me,' said Chick Morison, his voice tentatively helpful, 'that people of nobler spiritual nature, you know what I mean, people of… of… well, of mystical insight'—he paused, as if waiting to be slapped, but no one moved, so he repeated firmly—'yes, of mystical insight, won't go for that speech. Logic isn't everything after all.'"

 

And here's an excerpt of a dinner conversation:

 

"'If you still want me to explain it, Mother,' he said very quietly, 'if you're still hoping that I won't be cruel enough to name what you're pretending not to know, then here's what's wrong with your idea of forgiveness: You regret that you've hurt me and, as your atonement for it, you ask that I offer myself to total immolation.' 'Logic!' she screamed. 'There you go again with your damn logic! It's pity that we need, pity, not logic!'"

 

Additionally, Rand doesn't seem to know how women work, despite having been one herself. None of her female characters—there's a handful—come across anything more than pawns and men's playthings. Even Dagny Taggart, the supposed heroine, is little more than a Mary Sue Magdalena to Galt's Jesus.

 

Certain prominent American politicians have inhaled her ideals hook, line, and sinker and want to live out Rand's libetarian utopia, but that doesn't mean the rest of us should. They can't make you. Except that they're politicians who set policy, so in a very tangible sense they are making you.Littered with post-its, my library copy of the book.

 

Atlas Shrugged is a prime example of why you shouldn't just go with the flow, and accept what people appearing smarter than you say. You should be fully aware of what you're co-signing by proclaiming the author as one of the great thinkers of recent history. You should read the detailed racism, misogyny, and misandry Rand and her followers preach. You should read, so you can suss out when someone is just repeating what they've heard—or worse—genuinely believes that empathy is the cancer of humanity.

 

So, yes. It's an actively offensive book, and you should read it.

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review 2014-09-20 18:14
Reading progress update: I've read 1168 out of 1168 pages.
Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

I AM DONE. Finally. Not four months as I thought but almost three. Because of some things I was linked to—thing one, thing two—I am definitely writing a review. If I ever recover to write coherently again (HA!). 

 

Post-it count: 314 (I sort of lost my spirit towards the end and started letting things slide.)

 

Last note: "That's not how it works."

 

Other: While we wait for my review (*chinhands* whatever will it say, come on tell me!) we can still play the game where you give me a number between 3 and 1168, and I'll give you a quote or a post-it comment and a quote it refers to. Or a general description of that page. If you like.

 

Or you could click the links, read the articles, and we could discuss.

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