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review 2018-07-10 03:52
Roller Girl (Lake Lovelace, #3) by Vanessa North 5 Star Review!!
Roller Girl - Vanessa North

Recently divorced Tina Durham is trying to be self-sufficient, but her personal-training career is floundering, her closest friends are swept up in new relationships, and her washing machine has just flooded her kitchen. It’s enough to make a girl cry.
Instead, she calls a plumbing service, and Joanne “Joe Mama” Delario comes to the rescue. Joe is sweet, funny, and good at fixing things. She also sees something special in Tina and invites her to try out for the roller derby team she coaches.

Derby offers Tina an outlet for her frustrations, a chance to excel, and the female friendships she’s never had before. And as Tina starts to thrive at derby, the tension between her and Joe cranks up. Despite their player/coach relationship, they give in to their mutual attraction. Sex in secret is hot, but Tina can’t help but want more.

With work still on the rocks and her relationship in the closet, Tina is forced to reevaluate her life. Can she be content with a secret lover? Or with being dependent on someone else again? It’s time for Tina to tackle her fears, both on and off the track.

 

 

Review

 

I have heard how good this book is and should have picked it up much sooner because this is an excellent romance. 

Tina is a wonderful heroine. North has created layer upon layer and we get to see her fall in love again after being so hurt in her marriage after she transitioned. 

My favorite thing about Vanessa North's writing is that her characters have full complex lives and part of the plot is the merging of those lives and the complication that can bring. 

Joe is very sexy and we get the joy of roller derby plus a great circle of friends. Oh and Elvis the dog. 

I would love a little longer of a happily even after but so many of aspects of this book delight with tenderness, passion, and the glow of both love of another and of self.
 
 

 

 

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review 2018-05-28 23:55
Long Macchiatos and Monsters by Alison Evans Review
Long Macchiatos and Monsters - Alison Evans

Jalen, lover of B-grade sci-fi movies, meets the far-too-handsome P in a cafe while deciding whether or not to skip uni again. When P invites them along to a double feature of Robot Monster and Cat Women of the Moon, Jalen can hardly believe that hot boys like bad sci-fi, too. But as their relationship progresses, Jalen realizes P leaves them wondering if they're on the same page about what dating means, and if that's what they're doing.

 

Review

 

Awkward new adult dating with a geeky bad movie habit with a disinterested non binary college student and a mohawked too sexy transgendered hero.

Everything that is this story is good. P and Jalen lightly but with real care deal with issues of gender, class, and disability. However, it is pretty short and some some elements feel stunted and P's lack of communication skills are weary making but lovely overall.

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review 2018-01-14 23:24
Queer Magick (Queer Magick #1) by L.C. Davis
Queer Magick - L.C. Davis

After years of being imprisoned, used and abused by his father, Holden is finally settling down in Stillwater, a small New England town. He's been on the run for a long time, trying to cover his tracks by changing his name and moving from one place to another as far away from his home state as possible. 

A happy protective bubble of Stillwater seems like heaven. It has a few quirks, of course, but which town does not? Everyone knows everybody and people are mostly friendly. That is until Holden meets Daniel, a local vet (who is a veteran). An injured cat and the severity of the injury make Holden a catnapper when he refuses to surrender the poor kitty for euthanization and flees the clinic. 

Daniel knows what Holden is and confronts him shortly after catnapping. From that moment on the town secrets and the mysterious creatures start coming out of the woodwork full force. Every time you turn the page, there is a surprise. Every time you think you finally know who/what the person is, you are proven wrong. Things, people, situations turn and twist; there is humor, there are pockets of darkness and despair; there is an amazing diversity of characters (not going into details on the characters' subject, cause - spoilers! ;))

I could not get enough of the book and really wanted to give it five stars, but here is this:

- it ends smack in the middle of things. I can't even call it a cliffhanger, more like the author roughly separated the manuscript in two without much thought. 

- the story lost its momentum around 80%. Instead of fast paced it became stagnant with characters sitting around in one spot for weeks, waiting for the next full moon, reflecting, eating pizza and even (finally) having sex, since there is literally nothing else to do. But it looks like things are going to pick up with a vengeance in book two :D

Otherwise, an excellent read and pure pleasure :) Highly recommended

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review 2018-01-14 05:43
Coyote's Creed (Broken Mirrors #1) by Vaughn R. Demont
Coyote's Creed - Vaughn R. Demont

3.5-ish stars.

 

Warnings: 
Non-romance. There are some smooches, sex, even attempts at "i love you", but - no, not a romance. 
Elements of horror.

One full star off for Present Tense. I find it generally awkward and unnatural, bordering creepy, unless it's tied to the story/characters, like The Silvers, where one of the MCs lives "in the present" and processes everything accordingly.

0.3 stars off for the urn shuffle. The whole business is rather fishy and springs an unhealthy amount of unanswered questions.

 

0.2 stars off for non-american feel. I kept thinking I am in Europe somewhere, no matter how much the author wanted me to believe otherwise.

Anyway, a very entertaining read. Rounding down to 3 (considering the rough beginning) and moving onto book 2.

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review 2017-08-22 21:23
A kaleidoscopic novel about India, gender, politics, class, society, and humanity, demanding of its readers but rewarding in the same measure
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness: A novel - Arundhati Roy

Thanks to NetGalley and Hamish Hamilton (and imprint of Penguin Random House, UK) for providing me with an ARC copy of this novel that I freely chose to review.

This is not an easy novel to review. So far I’ve found that with all the novels longlisted for the Man Booker Prize that I’ve read so far. They all seem to defy easy categorisation.

I know the author’s first novel has many admirers and I always felt curious when I saw it (be it at the bookshop or the library) but as it was also a long novel I kept leaving it until I had more time. That was one of the reasons why I picked up this novel when I saw it on NetGalley. I thought it would be a good chance to read one of the author’s works (and I know she’s published more non-fiction than fiction), and I must admit I loved the title and the cover too.

As a starting point, I thought I’d share some of the fragments I highlighted as I read. Some because of the ideas expressed (that made me pause and think), some because of the author’s powers of description, some because they were funny, some beautiful…

I’m not Anjum, I’m Anjuman. I’m a mehfil, I’m a gathering. Of everybody and nobody, of everything and nothing. Is there anyone else you would like to invite? Everybody is invited. (This one I added at the end, when I reread the first chapter, that had intrigued me but at the time wasn’t sure exactly of who was narrating the story, or even if it was a who, a what, a ghost, a tree…)

And she learned from experience that Need was a warehouse that could accommodate a considerable amount of cruelty.

Then came Partition. God’s carotid burst open on the new border between India and Pakistan and a million people died of hatred.

Saddam had a quick smile and eyelashes that looked as though they had worked out in a gym.

He spoke like a marionette. Only his lower jaw moved. Nothing else did. His bushy white eyebrows looked as though they were attached to his spectacles and not his face.

…a mustache as broad as the wingspan of a baby albatross…

When the sun grew hot, they returned indoors where they continued to float through their lives like a pair of astronauts, defying gravity, limited only by the outer walls of their fuchsia spaceship with its pale pistachio door.

Normality in our part of the world is a bit like a boiled egg: its humdrum surface conceals at its heart a yolk of egregious violence.

She walked through miles of city waste, a bright landfill of compacted plastic bags with an army of ragged children picking through it. The sky was a dark swirl of ravens and kites competing with the children, pigs and packs of dogs for the spoils.

These days in Kashmir, you can be killed for surviving.

In Kashmir when we wake up and say ‘Good Morning’ what we really mean is ‘Good Mourning’.

I think the first quotation (and one I mention later on), in some way, sum up the method of the novel. Yes, it is the story of Anjum, a transgender (well, actually intersex) Muslim woman from India who, from a very young age, decides to live her life her own way. She joins a group of transgender women (who’ve come from different places, some who’ve undergone operations and some not, some Christian, some Hindus, some Muslim, some young and some old…) but at some point life there becomes impossible for her and she takes her things and ends up living in a cemetery. Although she starts by sleeping between the tombs, eventually, with a little help from her friends, ends up building up a semblance of a house (that incorporates a grave or two in each room), where she offers room and boarding to people who also feel they don’t belong anywhere else. Her business expands to include offering burials to people rejected by the official church. But the story (yes, I know it sounds weird enough with what I’ve said) is not only Anjum’s story, the story of her childhood, her struggles, her desire to be a mother at any price, but also the story of many others. People from different casts, religions, regions, with different political alliances, professions, interests, beliefs… The story, told in the third person, also incorporates poems, articles, entries from a peculiar dictionary, songs, slogans, pamphlets, in English, Urdu, Kashmiri… The telling of the story is fragmented and to add to the confusion of characters, whose connection to the story is not clear at first, some of them take on different identities and are called by different names (and many difficult to differentiate if one is not conversant with the names typical of the different regions of India and Pakistan). Although most of the entries in other languages are translated into English, not all of them are (I must clarify I read an ARC copy, so it is possible that there have been some minor changes in the definite version, although from the reviews I’ve read they do not seem to be major if any at all), and I clearly understand why some people would find the reading experience frustrating. All of the fragments of stories were interesting in their own right, although at times I felt as if the novel was a patchwork quilt whose design hid a secret message I was missing because I did not have the necessary key to interpret the patterns.

The settings are brought to life by a mixture of lyricism, precise description, and an eye and an ear for the rhythms and the ebbs and flows of the seasons, the towns, and the populations; the characters are believable in their uniqueness, and also representative of all humanity, observed in minute detail, and somewhat easy to relate to, even though many of them might have very little to do with us and our everyday lives. But their love of taking action and of telling stories is universal.

There is a lot of content that is highly political about the situation in Kashmir, religious confrontations in India, conflicts in different regions, violence, corruption, class and caste issues, gender issues, much of it that seem to  present the same arguments from different angles (all of the people who end up sharing Anjum’s peculiar abode are victims of the situation, be it due to their gender, their caste, their religion, their political opinions, and sometimes because of a combination of several of them) and I read quite a few reviews that suggested the novel  would benefit from tougher editing. I am sure the novel would be much easier to read if it was thinned down, although I suspect that’s not what the author had in mind when she wrote it.

This is a challenging and ambitious novel that creates a kaleidoscopic image of India, an India made up of marginal characters, but perhaps truer than the “edited” versions we see in mass media.  I have no expertise in the history or politics of the region so I cannot comment on how accurate it is, but the superficially chaotic feeling of the novel brings to mind the massive contrasts between rich and poor in the country and the pure mass of people that make up such a complex region. Although stylistically it is reminiscent of postmodern texts (made up of fragments of other things), rather than creating a surface devoid of meaning to challenge meaning’s own existence, if anything, this novel’s contents and its meaning exceed its bounds. The method of the novel is, perhaps, encapsulated in this sentence, towards the end of the book, supposedly a poem written by one of the characters: How to tell a shattered story? By slowing becoming everybody. No. By slowly becoming everything.

As I’ve written many times in my reviews, this is another book that I would not recommend to everybody. Yes, there are plenty of stories, some that even have an end, but it is not a book easy to classify, nor a genre book. There is romance, there are plenty of stories, there is poetry, there is politics, history, war, violence, prejudice, friendship, family relationships, but those are only aspects of the total. And, beautiful as the book is, it is not an easy read, with different languages, complex names, unfamiliar words, different styles and a fragmented structure. As I have not read Roy’s previous novel, I don’t dare to recommend it to readers who enjoyed her first novel, The God of Small Things. From the reviews I’ve read, some people who liked the first one have also enjoyed this one, but many readers have been very disappointed and have given up without reading the whole book. I’d say this is a book for people who like a challenge, who are interested in India from an insider’s perspective, don’t mind large doses of politics in their novels, and have the patience to read novels that are not page-turners full of twist and turns only intent on grabbing the readers’ attention at whatever cost. Check the book sample, read other reviews too and see if you’re up to the challenge. I know this is a novel that will stay with me for a very long time.

 

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