Mini-Reviews: Shock & Awe, Turning 16, Sibling Rivals

While these are all reviews of adult m/m romance, I have attempted to keep them as safe-for-work as possible.

Shock & Awe by Abigail Roux

This one was short, but I felt obligated to say something because there is so much chatter about it - at least there was 8 months ago when I read it. But I’ve never been exactly ‘current’ so why should I start now! 

This book was not my cup of tea at all. It had some cute moments, but lovers of smut and adirondack chairs will not be disappointed. (Seriously, how many times can two grown men go at it on an adirondack before it breaks?) I also was dismayed at all the casual use of prescription drugs for recreation. 

Ultimately, too short, and too niche, I really think that only fans of Abigail Roux’s Cut and Run series will get the intended effect out of it. I think I’ll be giving that series, and this new one, a pass.

Not recommended for: romantics or medical professionals.

106pp. Riptide. 30 Sept. 2013.

Turning 16 by Perie Wolford

Maybe if I were a fan of John Hughes movies I would be a better person.
That’s unlikely, but I may have gotten more out of this sweet little ditty based on in-jokes from Sixteen Candles and other movies by the much-loved director. The plot, obviously deviating from the movie in at least one major way, was about a boy whose birthday has been a catastrophe every year since he can remember, from setting the house on fire to break limbs, he’s never been spared. This year he can’t seem to shake the weirdo punk who sits behind him in detention, because yeah, he got detention for a whole week this year. It’s not terribly sexy as the characters are underage, but man, oh man, sparks do fly. When the kiss came, I was ready. 161pp. CreateSpace. 20 Feb. 2014.

Look at that pout, though.
So much sass.
Too much for one book?
Sibling Rivals by Summer Devon

When people talk about a story being ‘organic’ I think this is what they mean. 'Real' is another word. There wouldn’t be a story without conflict and a little bit of drama, however, so I present: I’m not gay but my brother is. Wait, that sounds wrong. I’m not gay, but my brother’s boyfriend is. That’s not it either… Falling in love with one brother after getting over the last one? Two brothers fall in love with the same man?

Peter is used to being overshadowed by his "perfect" brother, and accepts the role as slacker until one Christmas when Mark brings home Colin, his boyfriend. Suddenly Peter's not the black sheep anymore. Years later, Colin and Peter meet again, and though sparks flew once, Colin wants nothing to do with either of the Stevens boys. Especially the one that is straight. I’m not sniggering, nope.

It was well written to boot, did I mention how real— oh. Well, the steamy bits worked really well, they didn’t feel forced in or tacked on at all. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did, it's as delicious as it sounds.

130pp. Samhain. 1 Oct. 2013.

Morning Reader Edition #4

Here are we again.
  • Finally posted that review of Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood! That took forever and a day for no good reason at all.
  • My last review was of The Locker Room by Amy Lane
  • You might not believe it, but reviewing Romance is much more tedious than reading it. You might look forward to an editorial about that soon. Or don't look forward to it, I don't mind.
  • I tagged Buffy at Storytime with Buffy to do the Twenty Questions I did last week and she has been just too busy. If you don't mind, go schmooze her. She loves visitors.
  • Did you miss my Book vs Movie post? I look forward to do another one in the future. 
  • Look at what I found on Twitter:
  • Don't worry, the next book I finish, you will be the first to know.
  • I remember having reading resolutions... once.

The Locker Room - Amy Lane

Review: Born Wicked - Jessica Spotswood

Imagine you are wearing sensible shoes and trying to hide your very nature while your sisters care more about flowers and fashion than their secrets...

Cate and her sisters are Witches, abhorred by the Brotherhood, and hiding in a shallow closet, the last thing they need is a member of the Sisterhood teaching them how to mingle in society with the nice girls.

So, here’s the deal, in this alternate historical, a long time ago Witches came to the new world and created a nation which had them in power and welcomed immigrants from all over the world. At some point, a sect of patriarchal Christians saw evil in these Witches and set, in their mind, the world to right. Taking control from women, abolishing witchcraft and punishing any who continued to practice.

This is the world that Cate, and her two sisters, Maura and Tess, all witches, are left in when their mother dies. Their father, intelligent as he is, cannot help them. A meddling neighbor has finally forced them out into the small, close-knit community by recommending a member of the Sisterhood to teach them the niceties of society. They are, after all, well-to-do and each a good catch. As you can imagine, this is the last thing Cate wants for them.

(I decided to try making notes in the book as I read, which is much more fun that I thought possible. School kids stared at me on the bus while I scribbled. I feel very bad, and I feel admired for my reckless attitude!)

It was wonderful to see the horrible positions that Cate managed to extricate herself from, while retaining the horror of her actions. I liked Cate, until Spotswood threw in some competitiveness between the girls. Why do they need to be like that? Goodness. I mean, she’s really cool until she starts shaming other girls for being pretty. With growth Cate may become a favorite heroine, joining ranks with Jane Eyre and Penelope Lumley. Only the sequel will tell.

I liked all the specifications of flowers, but the note about ‘gaudy’ rose motif in the milliner’s shop really doesn’t jive with me. She keeps putting down Maura’s interest in fashion and society. Cate! Don’t you know its okay to want to be pretty? She reminds me of me, and I can only think of the impression a character like Cate might make on a reader of 12 or so, who wants to feel better about not caring about being pretty, seeing pretty girls as being frivolous and lesser. It also seemed that Cate is a bit too self-aware. Reading faster helped a little, but this book is not without it’s rough spots. The ending was wonderfully tight and fast-paced in comparison to the rest, I suspected where it was headed, but my heart pounded none-the-less.

There is so much that I don't know how to say about this book because my thoughts were more jumbled than usual (and it took me more than 6 months to write this - never again) and I couldn't find a way to write about all the things: the love triangle, the experiences of women in the ships and institutes and the wonderful, wonderful twists. I would like to refer you, in my inability to write more without spoiling the whole damn book, to Khanh's review on her blog. I should note that I wish I reviewed books the way Khanh does, fearlessly and with brutal honesty. I should also warn you that she does curse in her reviews.

The sequel was on my night table but it took so long for me to get to it that the library in question sent me threatening letters before I could crack it open. Oops.

352pp. Speak. 7 Feb. 2012.

Twenty Bookish Questions

Snagged from an old favorite, A Guy's Moleskine Notebook.

1. What author do you own the most books by?
Most stand alone books are by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. I have several long series.
2. What book do you own the most copies of?
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling. One hardcover, two paperback, one German translation.
3. What fictional character are you secretly in love with?
Remus Lupin, but it's not a state secret.
4. What book have you read the most times in your life (excluding picture books read to children, i.e. Goodnight Moon does not count)?
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban or Lirael by Garth Nix.
5. What was your favorite book when you were ten years old?
I think I had just read Harry Potter at that point, so it's a moot question to ponder.
6. What is the worst book you’ve read in the past year?
Endless by Amanda Grey. I didn't have much to say about it either, but really couldn't laugh about it, like I did Slammed. In the end, I forced myself through it but really would have rather put it to the side. It's so dull and average that there isn't much to review.
7. If you could force everyone to read one book, what would it be?
Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin. I read it several years ago, but seem to remember it fondly in phases.
8. Who deserves to win the next Nobel Prize for Literature?
Andreï Makine.
9. What book would you most like to see made into a movie? 
Empress by Shan Sa. After all the manufactured beauty in the women and surroundings, the pomp and the religion, then all the backstabbing, philosophizing death and immortality and the ending futility of it all... I suspect I'd like to see Salammbô on the silver screen for the same reason, once I read it. Too bad Merchant-Ivory was rent asunder. 
10. What book would you least like to see made into a movie?
50 Shades of Grey but here it comes any way...
11. Describe your weirdest dream involving a writer, book, or literary character.
I constantly had dreams about the students at hogwarts as a pre-teen. They were more silly, than weird. But then I dreamt that the fifth book was coming out, and I raced on a broom to a parking garage and everyone had already read it. I had a lot of anxiety those days.
12. What is the most lowbrow book you’ve read as an adult?
Considering that most genre fiction is considered low-brow, I'd have to deliberate which of the dozens of books I've read in the last four years was the basest. I think it's best to not decide on principle.
13. What is the most difficult book you’ve ever read?
One day I will tackle an intellectually difficult book, for now, The Physics of Star Trek by Lawrence Krauss took me two and a half years to get through.
14. What is the most obscure Shakespeare play you’ve seen?
I saw Troilus and Cresida a few years ago. Oof.
15. Do you prefer the French or the Russians?
I think there's a lot of overlap historically, but it's the french speaking Russians whom I've got a soft spot for these days. I prefer the bilingual russians, perhaps?
16. What is the biggest or most embarrassing gap in your reading?
The Highbrow Classics. Those books that professors make you read, the over lauded and often discussed. I'm young, I'm working on it.
17. What is your favorite novel?
Dogsbody by Diana Wynne Jones.
18. Work of nonfiction?
Passionate Minds by David Bodanis.
19. Who is the most overrated writer alive today?
Johnathan Franzen and Paulo Coelho.
20. What is your desert island book?
I think I'd take the book I'm currently reading, written by a Russian expatriate, translated from the french, Dreams of my Russian Summers by Andreï Makine.

Book vs Movie: The Last Unicorn

After reviewing The Last Unicorn I realized I had a lot to say about the movie as well. I've decided to compare the movie and the book, barring a few mild spoilers

Peter Beagle's The Last Unicorn was published in 1968 and the animated feature came out in 1984. I did not read the book before I watched it, since I grew up with the movie and watched it many times as a child. We owned it in German so it was never a request that was denied, as everyone hoped my bilingual skills would improve.

The movie gets a lot of flack.

The book is certainly more faceted than the movie which was simplified in several scenes to make the tale flow better for a movie. The movie also gained a musical soundtrack (featuring America) which is actually true to the book, although Beagle's lyrics are seldom used.

I don't know if it was childish innocence or the place I'm living in my life now, but I think the movie also missed the books most mature themes of immortality, good vs evil, and the nature of evil.

Schmendrick is often described as being older than he looks, and when we are told that he was enchanted to never age, the remark makes sense, instead of him just having a baby-face. In fact Molly Grue, described as about 38, is judged by the unicorn not to be older than Schmendrick. This doesn't come out in the movie however.

The unicorn we are told is immortal and unlike a human in many ways, but unlike the movie she encounters this difference much sooner in the book. When in Mommy Fortuna's carnival there is a creature who is left out of the movie, and who set us up to anticipate several cues in the story. She is Ellie, personification of old age, death and the end of everything. Granted, like almost everything else in the carnival she is merely an illusion, but the fear that the unicorn feels is real.

I think it would be accurate to say the movie is appropriate for children because it left out some of these chilling dark elements. I don't think the book is inappropriate, but if the movie had been more true to things like this, it would not have been produced at all.

The art and voice acting are clearly the most loved parts of this movie. Mia Farrow, Alan Arkin, Jeff Bridges, Angela Lansbury, Christopher Lee, as well as many voices whom nostalgic folks will know from the animated Lord of the Rings, for example, Brother Theodore, the voice of Rukh in this, also played Gollum in those movies.

The production companies involved in this movie were also noteworthy, because of the three, two were consolidated or turned into famous studios of today: Rankin/Bass Productions's archives are shared by DreamWorks and Warner Brothers, and Topcraft, the japanese animation company of this feature was dissolved and bought by Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata, transforming it into the company that would release Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind not long after, becoming Studio Ghibli.

In this case I don't think you can go wrong whichever you decide. I love the movie because of nostalgia, but I feel it still has merit on its own.

Review: Katherine - Anya Seton

That painting is a bit lusty, isn't it?
It's by Dante Gabriel Rossetti 
“I only know that from wherever it is that we're going there can be no turning back.” 

It is absolutely astounding to me that this hasn’t been made into a mini-series yet. It’s a fact that because of Katherine and her illegitimate children, the House of York (and Henry VII) and the Tudors and the Stuarts are not only all Plantagenets but Lancasters as well. So much for the fall of the house of Lancaster!

But for those of you who haven’t come for a summary of Who Dated Who: 1366, you’ll be pleased to hear that this novel is the most romantic biographical story I’ve ever read. It goes beyond the Bildungsroman, carrying us into Katherine’s late life, her time apart from her love and briefly touches on everyone she knew and encountered. If you’re a fan of historical fiction (romantic or otherwise) this is such a great book to read.

It’s only show of being dated is the (wonderfully) chaste descriptions of Katherine’s young passion and consequently of her (what else can you call it?) rape. The other is the dancing around of Richard II’s rumored homosexuality. All other rumors are given life, and considering how close she came to this infamous king... but it’s not important enough to the story in the end.

A little tedious was when the Young Katherine is looked upon with desire by every man she comes across, they all lust for her, in a mild way, and see the purity and innocence in her appearance. It is finally trumped when she meets a man, one whom many would scorn and shun for his appearance, that she knows what it is to be looked at with love by a man who does not desire her. In this same segment, where we meet Lady Julian, a woman who, like St. Hildegard von Bingen was, has not been officially canonized, but is still venerated as a saint. The religious aspects of this novel are well placed and wrought with care for the rest of the novel. As important as religion was then, and how pervasive it was, it cannot be for nought that Katherine’s growth happens with the aid of priests and monks, saints and nuns. Equally so for the revolts of the Lollards and the heretics; the demands of an unruly bourgeois who despise the wanton greed of the bishops and cardinals; this was also the time of the schism of the church, where there were two popes in the world.

Phillipa Gregory (famously the author of several novels about the medieval british royals) gives this book a very pointed introduction on the differences of romance fiction and historical fiction. While this book bears a resemblance to the stories of Tristan and Iseult, Arthur and Guinevere, her point is valid, Katherine’s life, while not shaping landscapes directly, mostly of childrearing and observation, did have a marked impact on British history. She’s often strongly admonished in the classic history texts, her role as paramour and later the First Lady of England, has her brandished as an interloper as notorious as Alice Perrers. 

These contrasts of intent, greed versus love, and marriage versus love, are common to historical as well as medieval contemporary stories that explore a world obsessed with true love and empires built by men. The violence that intersperses the sanity and the abandon that pierces through the pious times without plague frame the troubles of Katherine’s life, even this fictionalized account of it. She lives long and sees much, and enjoys the width and breadth of what her world had to offer, even as unhappy as some of it was. I know that much of Katherine’s life is unknown, but there is something very noble about this woman nonetheless, her life is important, even if we don’t know the half of it.

Kudos to Geoffrey Chaucer, by the way, for writing absolutely nothing about his sister-in-law.

I can't believe I  haven't said anything about the fantastic narration! Looking over lines of passages from the book, it sounds so much more classical and stodgy than it did when read by the lovely and talented Wanda McCaddon. She's apparently narrated a couple other classics, historicals and romances: I'm on it!

500pp. Fawcett Crest Books. 1954. 
23:43. Tantor Media. 25 Mar. 2011.

Morning Reader Edition #3

Ugh, I've been a bad reader. And over a month since my last post!
  • I finally finished Katherine by Anya Seton, the audiobook, being carried through the final chapters on an emotional wave of amazement. It's a romance in the old sense of the word. The review is on it's way. Here!
  • Nora Olsen is a wonderful friend and gave me a copy of her new book, Frenemy of the People and just having skimmed the beginning, I know I'll love it. (So excited!)
  • In case you missed it I just posted a review of the cozy neighborhood romance, The Family Man by Heidi Cullinan and Marie Sexton.
  • That Christian Romance I mentioned last time? That was Making Waves and I finally reviewed that, too.
  • I also finally reviewed Dark Edge of Honor. I'm still not sure if it was worth it, but fans of the authors, sci-fi and military romance are sure to enjoy it.
  • All in all, I've been utterly horrible keeping up with my yearly goals. Goodreads says I've read twenty books (while my list says only fourteen), but five of those probably won't even get their own reviews, and in total, ten of the twelve romance books I read were gay romance. I'm seven books behind! My list of seven never-before-read-authors isn't complete, I'm working on paring it down from a long list I came up with back in February.
  • By the way, I've posted a couple snazzy posts on instagram and will continue to post some book related things there. If you don't want to see soccer or my face, just follow the tag #auroralector, no one else is using it.
  • Finally, in the best news of all, Emma Approved, that snappy and wonderful web-series, is back for the summer! It's an adaptation of Austen's Emma by the Bernie Su and Hank Green run company, Pemberley Digital. It's getting better and better as we go on. I know, 70 episodes is daunting, and you may not have read Emma (neither have I, intrepid reader!) but it's so worth it.
More reviews coming, and a little more variety now.