Slam Poetry Mini Review: Something Else In My Veins (2020)

if you haven’t fallen in love with an addict
don’t talk to me about love
your husband’s friends may be a handful, it’s true
but I sometimes have to wonder if my man will make it home in a single piece, or maybe in two

This is a very raw, gritty book of poetry that deals with addictions and love. I definitely recommend giving it a go. ‘Don’t Talk to Me About Love’ and ‘Superman’ were my favourites.

Goodreads

Book Review: In Other News (2020)

Hi, I’m Marlon, and I’m sure you’ve seen my face all over the news. Nice to meet you, and yes, the rumors are true. No, he couldn’t talk about it, let alone acknowledge its existence.

This is the first book I’ve read by Dale Robbins and I’m definitely going to be checking out more!

In Other News reminds me of Speak. The story follows Marlon when he returns to university after his assault is made public without his consent. He finds that not only are rumours swirling about what happened, but some people are downright hostile and blame him. Although the rapist has been kicked out of school, many people hold Marlon accountable. There’s a lot of bullying and homophobia directed towards Marlon, but he eventually finds solidarity amongst those who believe him and help him get through the ordeal and ensuing trial.

This is a very raw and realistic tale of how people explain away the actions of rapists and blame the victim. You really feel for Marlon throughout the story.

Review cross posted to Goodreads & Reedsy.

Book Review: The Magnificent Sons (2020)

The Magnificent Sons by Justin Myers, narrated by Joe Jameson

‘Is my life a picnic? Am I, you know, privileged?’
The trouble with this question, in Kia’s experience, was that people having to ask it undoubtedly were and also usually preferred to remain ignorant of that fact.

FIVE STARS FOR THESE DISASTROUS CINNAMON ROLLS

If this book isn’t on your list, I must insist you add it! I really liked Myers’ first book, The Last Romeo, but this is definitely my favourite of the two. I loved Jake. He’s definitely the heart and soul of this story. It’s so nice to get a bi mc, which is something not enough novels do.

Okay, this review gets SPOILERY from here so beware. ❤ Also, it’s just a WHOLE LOTTA THOUGHTS, so apologies if it’s ramble-y.

The story follows Jake, who’s been closeted his whole life and his little brother, Trick, who has always embraced his true self. After Trick has a coming out party that leaves Jake reeling with uncertainty, he comes out to his girlfriend and breaks off their relationship because he’s not happy and he’s never been himself. When he decides to come out to his family, none of them, including Trick, have a great reaction. In fact, Jake experiences a lot of biphobia throughout the novel which was really hard to get through. My heart ached for Jake throughout the entirety of the story. His loneliness bleeds through the pages.

‘When Mum was pregnant, I hoped someone else like me in the family would come along. Prove I wasn’t a weirdo, maybe. Then there you were, a star is born. You were like me, but nothing like me. […] This isn’t about you being gay or me being bi, not for me. No, I hated that you didn’t seem to need me. Not at all. You seemed to be doing well on your own. I felt even more of an outsider.’
‘I thought you hated me because I was camp.’

This scene is basically,

The two brothers spend the novel defining themselves by their differences, rather than their similarities, and butt heads as a result. Jake is understated, reserved, stoic and uptight; Trick is flamboyant, extroverted, chatty and seemingly the life of the party. It’s something Jake’s deeply jealous of: jealous that Trick knows who he is, jealous that everyone embraced Trick easily, jealous of his energy, jealous of how he never had to face the constraints Jake faced. On the flip side, Trick doesn’t understand why Jake can’t be happier that things were easier for him and doesn’t get why his brother harbours less than open-minded views on clothing and self-expression. Jake, for example, gets easily embarrassed by Trick, which hurts Trick on a fundamental level. And that’s honestly what’s so heartbreaking about the story. Both sides are entirely sympathetic. Jake should have been able to grow up being himself, just like Trick, but being born a decade later hasn’t erased Trick’s problems and insecurities and fears.

I really appreciate that Myers addressed biphobia and how it can often be found in people who otherwise believe themselves to be open-minded, even though those scenes were hard to get through. One of the first things Jake’s parents ask him, having never had an issue with Trick’s being gay, is why can’t Jake be ‘normal’. It’s gutting. I wanted to reach into the book and hug Jake throughout that entire scene. There’s a later bit where Jake’s straight friends accuse him of ‘lying’ to a girl he’s flirting with because he must be ‘secretly gay’. And his own brother even thinks he’s lying about being bi.

As he left the kitchen, he turned back. ‘Just ask yourselves why Trick’s life is one great big gay picnic and mine is inconvenient because you’ve run out of straight sons and don’t have a spare.

THIS SCENE. IT WRECKED ME. PROTECT JAKE AT ALL COSTS. ;_;

This book is basically a coming-of-age bro tale and I wholeheartedly recommend it. (And I went for the audiobook and the narrator is class!) ^_^

(Audio)Book Review: Days Without End by Sebastian Barry

Days Without End by Sebastian Barry, narrated by Aidan Kelly [lgbt+, historical fiction]

that strange love between us. Like when you fumblin’ about in the darkness and you light a lamp, and the light comes up and rescues things. Objects in a room and the face of the man who seem a dug-up treasure to you. John Cole seems a food; bread of Earth. The lamplight touching his eyes and another light answering.

5 HEARTS-IN-MY-EYES STARS for Thomas McNulty, Handsome John Cole, little Winona, and an epic historical fiction novel whose central cast is a gay couple and their adopted daughter.

A man’s memory might have only a hundred clear days in it and he has lived thousands. Can’t do much about that. We have our store of days and we spend them like forgetful drunkards. I ain’t got no argument with it, just saying it is so.

*faints from prose fangirling*

We knew what to do with nothing. We were at home there.

READ IT. READ IT. READ IT.

(Audio)Book Review: The Last Romeo [2018]

The Last Romeo by Justin Myers, narrated by Joe Jameson [lgbt+, contemporary, comedy]

‘If only men knew how charming, how attractive it is to admit fault. To say they fudged it, to confess they don’t know something, to be willing to learn. It’s hot. Refreshing. […] It is all powerful. But men must come to this conclusion themselves. They can’t be told. They don’t like to be told.’

The Last Romeo is an utterly charming novel! It follows James on his quest to find love and the problems that come from being too open on the internet. After his breakup with his long term beau Adam, he begins documenting his attempts at navigating the dating world on a blog, vaguely keeping things anonymous but not quite as anonymous as he probably should have been. Along the way, he meets numerous kinds of men. The dates range from the utterly awkward, to the gross and uncomfortable (the description of one man’s bathroom will stay with me for ETERNITY), to the heart-fluttery and love-struck.

James, or ‘Jim’, makes a lot of mistakes in his quest for the perfect man. He gets bitter, even mean in his blog posts, but the other characters are quick to point out his bitchy moments and don’t shy away from telling him when he’s in the wrong. I quite liked the background characters as well, which is hugely important for a story. His friends Bella, Richie and Nicole, and little Hayden are all awesome; Nate, the (closeted) sports star, was adorable and totally stole my heart; then there’s Finn, the writer, and Luca, the blog fan who James gets to know over months of posts. They’re all very well rounded. You get more characters on the dates, but those really stick out in my mind. There’s also James’ rival at work and his dealings with his boss, both of which come up quite often throughout the novel.

I adored Nate especially. PROTECT NATE AT ALL COSTS. But James does spend a good bit of time thinking about his actions and reflecting; he admits his faults and tries to change. There’s good character growth. He acknowledges enjoying the fame his blog eventually brings him and how it negatively impacted his own view of things. He also gets some very sage advice: ‘If you don’t give your critics any meat, they can’t tear it from your bones.

My prediction of the ending changed a few times and I kept wanting him to end up with different characters at different points. Ultimately, I quite liked the ending! If you’re looking for a fun rom-com novel, I totally recommend this one. And I’m definitely adding the author’s new novel The Magnificent Sons to my list.

Review Roundup [27/05]

A Small Revolution in Germany by Philip Hensher, narrated by Neville Watchurst [review cross-posted to Goodreads]

Sometimes, as humans, we decide without consultation what would be best for people.

It made for a nice listen and the narrator was quite good. Spike was interesting character and his relationship with Joaquin is explored well. The political conversations and musings are thought-provoking, and Hensher certainly knows how to write witty dialogue. I’m just not sure what my thoughts are on this one. Overall, though, the prose was good, and it made for a nice addition to lgbt+ historical fiction.

Beneath Ceaseless Skies Issue #304 [review cross-posted to Goodreads]

She offered me a handful of bees and told me what to do, word for word.

Listened to ‘The Honey of the World and the Queen of Crows’ by Dimitra Nikolaidou. Amazing title, just sayin’. Well written short story and the audiobook is worth a listen! Available here.

The Curse of the Black Cat by Lou Wilham [review cross-posted to Goodreads, Reedsy]

This is an inherently sweet spin on the classic fairy tale. Prince Alrik of Edan is set to marry Princess Amriah, whom he doesn’t, and can’t, love. Cos, you know, he fancies the pants off Filip, his valet. He tries to play along and give Amriah a chance, but he can’t. He feels nothing for her. Filled with fear of his secret being discovered, Alrik seeks out the witch Gwydion, for help: he wants to be ‘cured’. 😦 It’s a very sad moment, but rather than take advantage of him, Gwydion tells him there’s nothing wrong with him: I’m afraid there is no cure for such a thing, dear prince. We love who we love, and that is the end of that. No magic can change it, not even mine. Nor would I want it to. I really liked her! She’s such a kind person.

Unfortunately, Alrik doesn’t take this well and Gwydion turns him into a cat. And she can’t change him back cos magic doesn’t work like that. A cat you are now, and a cat you shall stay until you can learn to love yourself. It’s an interesting twist to say the least. In addition to being a cat, he’s now immortal. With no way back to his life as a prince, Alrik watches the world pass him by while trapped as a cat. He travels around, seeking out witches, but to no avail.

One day, centuries later, Alrik finds himself in New York, at a Japanese restaurant. He starts to fall in love with both the food and the chef, Yuuki. Very soon, Yuuki begins taking care of Alrik, and dubs the cat ‘Prince’. ADORBS.

What follows is a very sweet, fluffy *pun totally intended * romance. If you’re a fan of adorable fantasy tales, this one is totally for you (⌒▽⌒)

Mini Review Roundup [25/05]

This was an audiobook and poetry weekend, to be sure! After finishing Gold Rush Manliness and Everything You Love Will Burn, I decided to pick up some romance and poetry. I have a lot more nonfiction on my list, but mixing it up definitely keeps things interesting. I’m also enjoying Cage of Souls by Adrian Tchaikovsky, an epic sci-fi book.

Almost Love by Louise O’Neill

All she wanted to do was stand there and look. Being by the sea always made Sarah feel small. Insignificant in a way that was comforting somehow.

I’m actually setting this one aside for now. About halfway done, and whilst I really do like O’Neill’s writing and I’m definitely going to try one of her other books, I’m not in the right mood for this one. I think what the book is trying to depict is an important topic to discuss – how bad relationships can become – but I don’t think I’m in the head space for it. As well, Sarah is a character that I’m struggling to connect to. I’ll probably come back to this at some point though. The story certainly does draw you in.

I also picked out a few poems to read this week as I was definitely missing poetry. Uncanny Magazine has a lot of great poetry, so I checked out some of their recent issues

Issue 31 / Issue 32.

I started with ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ by Ada Hoffmann.

Have you ever torn through a forest of books, trawling the half-naked
flotsam
of dream and the tarnish of myth, desperately seeking
a memory?

Pretty, right? I liked this one. What a lovely poem. Available here.

Followed it up with Brandon O’Brien’s ‘Elegy for the Self as Villeneuve’s Belle’, which was brilliant.

Wanting pretty things is hunger, too,
and having is feasting, denied by few.

Available here.

I also read Annie Neugebauer’s ‘The Wooden Box’. Really liked this one!

It’s a wooden box,
ornately carved, beautifully
stained a dark mahogany.

It’s dry as I lift it up
and gently slide out the
tongue-and-groove top.

Gave me chills, to be honest! Read here.

  1. Cage of Souls | science fiction, dystopian
  2. A Small Revolution in Germany | lgbt, fiction
  3. Agnes Grey | classics, fiction
  4. The Curse of the Black Cat | fantasy, lgbt

What’s everyone reading this week?

Indie Book Promo Post

Hi guys! Fancy checking out an indie author?

To date, I’ve published two standalone novels, a novella, one series, and an anthology with several other talented writers. But I’m struggling to get more readers. It’s a tough industry to break into! So I thought I’d make a promo post to try and put a spotlight on my books.

I’d be absolutely grateful to anyone willing to give them a chance. 🙂

Haze [paranormal romance, urban fantasy]

When Eliza Owens gets a phone call in the middle of the night from a girl she’s never met, she doesn’t know what to think. The girl introduces herself as Paige, and says she used to date Erik Stern, Eliza’s fiancé. What’s more, she has something important to discuss.

The only problem? Paige has been dead for years.

Believing it to be a sick prank, Eliza tries to force it from her mind until Sam, Eliza’s older sister, tells her she met Paige only a few weeks before. And, according to Sam, Paige has nothing nice to say about Erik.

The fight which follows shatters the lives of everyone involved, and Erik disappears without a trace.

Five years later, Erik returns to town after his father’s death. Old wounds quickly resurface, and with them several burning questions. None the least of which is: Who spoke to Eliza and Sam if it wasn’t Paige? And why?

Dust & Lightning [science fiction, no romance]

In the near future, humans have gone beyond simple space travel. By the year 4054, multiple solar systems are inhabited, and taking a spaceship is as commonplace as taking an aeroplane.

Unfortunately, not everything about the future is so advanced. The central planets, led by Earth, have risen high at the expense of cheap labour on distant worlds. Dissent is widespread and arrests are common. Sometimes prisoners are released; sometimes they disappear without a trace, sent to labour camps in other solar systems.

When Ames Emerys receives a letter telling him that his brother Callum has died en route to the remote planet of Kilnin, he takes the first ship he can off Earth, desperate for answers. But the secrets Ames uncovers prove far more dangerous than he could have imagined.

And trouble isn’t far behind.

Spellbinding [anthology, fantasy]

Everyone knows magic isn’t real … But what if it was?

Nine tales, each one a snapshot of what happens to those who suddenly find themselves entangled with magic. From the wish that grants one sudden, unimaginable power, to a dark hex upon a wood, to faeries with nefarious intentions and hunters seeking blood, this anthology showcases the intricate web of adventure that comes from messing with magic.

A Touch of Death [science fiction, dystopian, later books LGBT]

A thousand years in the future, the last of humanity live inside the walls of the totalitarian Kingdom of Cutta. The rich live in Anais, the capital city of Cutta, sheltered from the famine and disease which ravage the rest of the Kingdom. Yet riches and power only go so far, and even Anaitians can be executed. It is only by the will of the King that Nate Anteros, son of the King’s favourite, is spared from the gallows after openly dissenting. But when he’s released from prison, Nate disappears.

A stark contrast, Catherine Taenia has spent her entire life comfortable and content. The daughter of the King’s Hangman and in love with Thom, Nate’s younger brother, her life has always been easy, ordered and comfortable. That is, where it doesn’t concern Nate. His actions sullied not only his future, but theirs. And unlike Thom, Catherine has never forgiven him.

Two years pass without a word, and then one night Nate returns. But things with Nate are never simple, and when one wrong move turns their lives upside down, the only thing left to do is run where the King’s guards cannot find them – the Outlands. Those wild, untamed lands which stretch around the great walls of the Kingdom, filled with mutants and rabids.

A Game of Wings and Marks [urban fantasy, romance]

When Octavia Coal goes to the mountains to clear her head, she doesn’t expect to find an angel in trouble.

He tells her his name is Tamiel and he’s one of the Irin – the army of angels tasked with keeping demons from overwhelming humanity. But Tamiel broke a sacred law – he fell in love with a human – and now he’s being hunted by the same angels he once served.

With nowhere else to go, Octavia and Tamiel – along with Jack, the human in question, and her brother Caleb – appeal directly to Zev, the Demon of Games. A trickster of unparalleled power, Zev gives nothing for free, and the gift he offers Octavia to keep Tamiel alive comes with a confusing catch: He makes her the Healer of Raphael, archangel and Commander of the Irin.

Suddenly a target for both angels and demons, Octavia quickly learns that the only way to survive is to play the game better than they do.

The only problem is, she doesn’t know whose game she’s playing … 

Audiobook Review: Swimming in the Dark (2020)

book review

Swimming in the Dark by Tomasz Jedrowski, narrated by Robert Nairne

When it comes to audiobooks I’m insanely picky about narrators. Storytelling is just as important as writing, after all. Let me just saw that not only is the writing for this book beautiful, so too is the narration. I totally, totally recommend the audiobook. 🙂

I turned my head and looked along the line to find Carolina, but instead my eyes fell on you. I had never seen you before. Not consciously, anyway. Yet my mind felt strangely relieved, as if it had recognised someone.

This book follows Ludwik and Janusz as they fall in love and traverse life in 1980s Poland. The writing style reminds me of The Lessons, which I read at the start of last year. Lush, evocative prose that’s just determined to break your heart.

No matter what happens in the world, however brutal or dystopian a thing, not all is lost if there are people out there risking themselves to document it. Little sparks cause fires, too.

That line absolutely floored me. Fantastic prose and I can’t wait to read more by Jedrowski! I definitely recommend this one!

May Books 2020

currently reading

Gold Rush Manliness – [non-fiction, history] Really liking this one so far! It focuses on how race and views on masculinity affected the men and women of the gold rushes in California and British Columbia. I have to finish up its review by the end of the month.

Swimming in the Dark – [lgbt, historical fiction] I just started this one and I have a feeling it’s going to break my heart in beautiful ways. The writing is so lush. It follows a young gay man in 1980s Poland.

Agnes Grey – [classics] I’ve always loved Anne Brontë. Started this one after I got into a conversation about the Brontës the other day and reignited my FEELINGS on the fact that Charlotte tried to prevent Anne’s book from being republished after her death. There’s more here, but I will never get over Charlotte almost killing her sister’s career AFTER SHE DIED. She literally said this about her sister’s writing: “Wildfell Hall it hardly appears to me desirable to preserve. The choice of subject in that work is a mistake – it was too little consonant with the character – tastes and ideas of the gentle, retiring, inexperienced writer.” LIKE WHAT THE FRIKKITY FRAK DISCO TRACK IS THAT?!

 

What’s everyone else reading this month?