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review 2015-03-12 16:07
So much potential
Call And Answer - Val Kovalin

A homosexual black man who can morph into an alligator? Who has an affair with an eighteen-year-old white boy? In Louisiana? In the 1950s? There was so much potential to this plot set up I couldn’t help but read it.

Sadly, the story fell short of my expectations. The whole alligator shape shifting deal never had a point. Why give a character that ability but then have it play no role in the plot? He did morph a few times, but he could have morphed into a mouse, kitten or puppy and the story would have been the same. I was hoping for some alligator fight scene where he defends the white boy.

The racist thing, never really played much of a part either. Really, this book could have taken place today, rather than the 1950s and people’s reactions to the couple would have been the same. Same for the gay factor, no one really reacted much different than they would have today.

So… what did happen in this book? Nothing. The whole book read like a tease. I rolled my eyes when the “sex magic” was introduced. But again, nothing really came of it either. They would create magic when they’d have sex… and what would they do with that magic? They fixed some brakes on a car that were going bad. No joke.

The writing style read a little rough for me too. I could tell the author was attempting to be creative and detail oriented. But the details were directed at the wrong items. I’m reading an erotic sex scene and getting a graphic description of the color and design of the boxers one of them is wearing. Yeah… you’re just slowing down the story buddy. Or the suspenseful scene where we are getting into the car to go save the mom from some guys who have boxed her car in, and we pause the story to tell me how the character uses his sleeve to open the car door cause the sun has made it so hot. I’m sure you get the idea. Those moments just jerked me from the story and made it difficult to stay in the moment.

So, would I suggest giving the book a read? Well… no… not really. This one wasn’t bad, just not as good as it could have been.

Source: mizner13.wordpress.com/2015/03/12/call-and-answer-book-review
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review 2013-04-09 00:00
Still Life with Shape-Shifter - Sharon Shinn Better than the first book, hands down, this is actually two stories in one, and while there are some romances in the book, there is not such a repetitive (and quite boring) constant reiteration of being unable to bear living without said lover.
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review 2013-03-31 00:00
The Shape of Desire - Sharon Shinn Stalled out in the middle of this (combination of too much O/T at work and brainless-yet-addicting games on the Ipad.)
Overall, a nice read, and I really didn't see the ending coming. Have the sequel on my shelf at home, will be starting it next.
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review 2013-03-01 00:00
The Shape of Desire - Sharon Shinn Some how this fantastical story manages to be wholly absorbing. An immediate, sharp edged love story that feels as dangerous and real as any true-crime thriller.
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review 2013-01-14 00:00
Still Life with Shape-Shifter - Sharon Shinn This is a sad, sad book, beautiful and absorbing but melancholy, emotionally intense, almost heart-rending. I cried in the end.
I hesitate to pigeonhole this tale to a genre – it transcends genres. As a love story, it might be categorized as romance, but it’s so much more. Published by Shinn’s lifelong publisher Ace Books, a traditional fantasy publisher, it’s a fantasy on the surface. After all, it deals with shape-shifters, but when I look deeper, inside the allegory of shape-shifters, this novel tells an utterly human story of being different.
Melanie’s beloved half-sister Ann is a shape-shifter. To protect Ann from the world’s unfriendly scrutiny, Melanie has been keeping Ann’s secret for all 20 years of Ann’s life. Now, a charming reporter Brody shows on Melanie’s doorstep. He is going to write a book about shape-shifters and he suspects Ann is one. What is Melanie to do? Her dilemma deepens, when Ann is afflicted by a mysterious sickness. Could Melanie take the risk to expose Ann’s true nature by consulting a doctor? Or should she keep the secret and risk Ann dying? Could Melanie trust Brody to help them? Could she trust her own heart, which is falling in love with Brody? Twisted with uncertainties and assaulted by guilt, Melanie tries to maintain as regular a facade as she can, but life puts her through the grinder of impossible choices.
By telling Melanie’s story, Shinn explores the theme of being different from various angles. How hard it’s to be different. How hard it is to love someone who is different. What sacrifices we are wiling to endure, what difficult decisions we are willing to make for those we love. What does it mean to accept your difference and live with it without losing your dignity? Or your humanity? (An apt question for shape-shifters)
The novel also touches on a connected theme: the devastation of secrets. Secrets take over people’s lives; sometimes they destroy families, but no matter how hard one tries, secrets have the tendency to come out eventually. Secrets are poisonous, but what if there is no choice?
The characters of the novel are alive, real, living among us and grappling with the same problems we do. Although not always sympathetic, they are inevitably true to their backgrounds and situations in life.
The plot is seemingly slow; it’s definitely not an adventure flick, despite its shape-shifters mystique. It’s a novel of contemplation and inner growth, where most of the action takes place inside the characters’ minds and hearts. And inside the reader’s mind and heart as well. I read it and I couldn’t stop thinking, putting myself in the heroes’ shoes. What would I do if I had to struggle with such adversity? Would I be good enough? Could I cope?
My reflections, as I read the book, also took a form of musing on a tangent. Some people, especially teenagers, often want to be different, to stand out. Or they think they do. They pretend in any case by wearing unconventional clothes, or talking nonsense, or joining some outrageous clubs, or dyeing their hair pink, or what not. But all those attempts to impress their peers are just posing, for show. These poor misguided youngsters don’t have a clue how hard it is to be different.
Many of those who really are different – because of their ethnicity or religion, illness or talent – have been trying the opposite throughout human history and fiction: to camouflage themselves as normal, to blend in. Their attitude is best described by this snippet of conversation from the novel. One of the characters in the book asks her lover, a werewolf:
“If you could control it [the change] completely, would you ever choose to be a wolf again?”
“No,” he said.
“You’d be ordinary? Instead of extraordinary, which is what you are?”
“I think anyone who isn’t ordinary wishes he was,” he said quietly. “No matter what makes him different, he wants to be the same as everyone else.”

Nobody wants to be a freak, when it’s for real. Unfortunately, some of us don’t have a choice. The only choice we do have is how we handle our abnormality: with gentle elegance or with self-pitying spite. The former – I bow to them with deep admiration for their courage. The latter – they are those who pick up a gun and shoot innocents.
A sad association for a simple fantasy novel, isn’t it?

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