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review 2018-03-09 00:02
The Sumage Solution: San Andreas Shifters #1
The Sumage Solution: San Andreas Shifters #1 (Volume 1) - G. L. Carriger

I wanted to love this book. In theory I really should have loved this book. But I just...didn't. I suspect part of this is due to the fact this was my introduction to Carriger's universe, and the world-building just isn't there. I spent the front chunk of the book feeling like I was missing a lot, and trying to decode what I can tell is an elaborate world filled with critters and magics. I will say I was intrigued enough I'm interested in going back and trying her first series.


It wasn't just the world-building though. It was the way everyone talked. If you like puns and innuendos this will amuse you to no end. If, however, you find that sort of thing annoying this will drive you crazy. It's sort of like the book equivalent of someone waggling their eyebrows and saying, "that's what she said" for 300 pages. Toss in some instalove and I just couldn't stand it whenever the main characters talked (or had an interior monologue, which is often). It's hard to cheer for a romance when you're cringing through every verbal exchange. I also felt like the pacing was a bit weird. The characters jump right into the sex early on, and the later chapters set that aside and go for a more serious plot line and leave the sexy romping behind. I'd have preferred to have more plot throughout, and the sex scenes interspersed more evenly rather than back to back (no pun intended) before pretty much vanishing. Again, maybe that's just my preference.


For me the issues were writing craft ones more than anything. (Pacing, world-building, dialogue, etc.) The pieces were there, they just weren't put together well. For example, we get some good character development, but it comes late in the book and gets undercut but snarky one-liners. It means that if you read between the lines, or over certain things, you can have a very different interpretation of this story. You can fill in blanks and make it great, if your imagination so desires, but that isn't really what is on the page. This is not going to bother a lot of people, and that's fine. For me it read a lot like fanfic, which again, isn't necessarily a bad thing. In the end it just wasn't to my taste. I really like the idea of a gay werewolf story with a diverse cast, I just didn't like the way this one was put together.

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review 2018-03-01 00:44
All Out: The No-Longer-Secret Stories of Queer Teens Throughout the Ages
All Out: The No-Longer-Secret Stories of Queer Teens throughout the Ages - Saundra Mitchell

I've never been a big fan of short stories, so a collection has to be really special in order to entice me to pick it up. I'm also not usually terribly fond of historical fiction. What I *am* a big fan of is excellent queer representation in my books, especially those written for teens. When I saw Anna-Marie McLemore was in this collection that tipped the scales for me, and I dove in. I'm so very glad I did. Not only did I discover some new authors I'm interested in reading, but this book made my heart very happy.


While most of the stories are straight up historical fiction, some range into magical realism and pure fantasy. Each of them takes on a different time period and flavor, and explores a different teen experience. I was happy to see many different facets of the queer community represented - while most of the stories have gay and lesbian characters there are also trans characters, bisexuals, and an asexual. Including a wider spectrum of inclusion made this collection extra special to me.


All of the stories are fairly short, and the writing was good throughout (and occasionally exceptional). Anthologies are always going to be a little lopsided (you're going to like some pieces more than others), but this one had far more gems than not. There was really only one story I didn't care for, and the rest I either loved or liked, which is pretty impressive given there are seventeen. My favorites were:
Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore
Burnt Umber by Mackenzi Lee
Every Shade of Red by Elliot Wake
Three Witches by Tessa Gratton
The Inferno and the Butterfly by Shaun David Hutchinson
Healing Rosa by Tehlor Kay Mejia


There was a lot in here to love, and I can't wait to recommend this book far and wide. I wish this collection had existed when I was younger - I am ever so thankful it exists now.


Gratitude to Harper Collins for providing me with a review copy.

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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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