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posted by [personal profile] rivers_bend at 12:14pm on 30/04/2016 under ,
My goal this month was to read fewer books than last month, because it was definitely feeling more like an anxiety symptom than a delightful literary pasttime. To that end, I went to the doctor, got a therapist, and ... watched more hgtv on netflix? But the first two things are good. And I read ten fewer books, though probably ten more long fanfics. Which I should probably do a post of too. ANYWAY. that is probably all TMI. The point is, I read books, and here I will talk about them. The first one I already talked about in a separate post at the beginning of the month, but you get it again because the completist in me needs all the book thoughts in one place.



A Gentleman's Position by KJ Charles
I pre-ordered this book in August. I have been DYING for it since then. Valet porn. Valet porn. I have a thing for the studied dressing and undressing of another person. Also service kink. Also, I love the glimpses we get of David Cyprian in the first two books in the series, A Fashionable Indulgence and A Seditious Affair. Richard is also a fascinating character, though a little more challenging to fall in love with. This is the book for that, though.

If you haven't read these books yet, I have to recommend you start with The Ruin of Gabriel Ashleigh. It's a super hot little short that I've read over and over, and it's a great introduction to the characters and the world they live in. It's been torture waiting for each book to come out, but now they're all here, and I can't wait to binge read them all together.

AGP feels in some ways the quietest of the three books, yet the whole thing comes together in an edge-of-your-seat (or in my case at one in the morning, duvet-clutching) adventure. I think that's because there's less focus on the politics of the day, and more on interpersonal communication. I feel like KJC always does interesting things with power dynamics in relationships, often playing with power imbalances in explicitly kinky ways. Which I am into. But this one plays less on their size difference (though there is one), and on the difference in their social standing (though that is also central to the plot and emotional journey), and more on fears and emotional vulnerability, and the ways power exchange can be a delicate feelings dance in constant flux.

I loved the new looks we got at the familiar characters and couples, and the new characters brought in to help give David and Richard depth. I fell SO in love with Dom and Silas in Seditious Affair, and I feel like they get to spread their wings a bit in the background, and also yay for the quality snark they provide. All the players from Ruin forward get their just desserts, whether that's chocolate cake or vinegar pie without the pie, or cake with some vinegar along the way. I was so satisfied by the ending, while at the same time, feel like I could keep reading about the Ricardians forever.

Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear
I super super loved this book. It's got steampunk, wild west adventures, dime store novels, prostitutes, immigrants, gold-rush fever, a hefty dash of Seattle-esque history, and Captain Nemo but not. It's also got queer ladies and gay men, multiple characters of colour with wildly different stories and backgrounds, trans and gender non-conforming characters, and a sewing machine like you wouldn't believe. It's YA, and first person, and the narrator has a distinctive way of speaking. Which I loved, but I discovered from some goodreads reviews it was not universally adored. As you can imagine, a book that centers POC and women and prostitution, not everything is sunshine and roses. If you want more details of anything that might be triggery, let me know.

The Coda Series by Marie Sexton
I read the first six of these in one day (and the last few chapters the next morning), so I can't really distinguish individual plots and story arcs. It turned out my library had them, so I just kept checking them out. They were certainly readable, though I won't be particularly sad that they will head back to the library in a few weeks. Coda is a small town in Colorado, and the group of characters live, visit, or end up there, hence the series name. Ironically, I was looking for books that did NOT have a straight-to-gay or first-time-gay character when I started them, and the whole plot of the first book (Promises) is about a character (Matt) realizing he's not as straight as he'd always thought. The second and third couple the series is about were all gay before the story started, though, which is probably why M recommended them.

Possibly because the books are half a decade old and the author hadn't been exposed to the alternative yet, there's briefly some weird internal monologueing by the "gold star" gay characters that ignores the idea that bisexuality exists which annoyed me, and one of the white pov characters thinks of his Native boyfriend's skin as 'exotic' looking against various backgrounds which made me skim his pov more often than not and never warm up to him. The books I liked the most were the ones the author also categorizes as the Strawberries series, featuring Cole and Jonathan. When they were obnoxious/offensive, the author at least seemed to realize it, and other characters called them out and they learned from it etc etc. And I liked the way we got Cole's POV through brief emails to his bff, and the rest of the books were from Jonathan's pov. The other books are multiple first person POV, which I know puts lots of people off. I can't say I wholeheartedly recommend these, but it was nice that my library had some m/m romances, and they made for a diverting Saturday.

Beneath the Surface by Kate Sherwood
This was one of those books that was just exactly what I wanted. Something about the characters and the setting and the idek what just felt GOOD to read. And it definitely hit the spot of two dudes who are already queer and have their own queer lives before they meet getting together. They are at odds at first, set up so if one wins, one has to lose, but it really worked for me the way they managed to say fuck that, and both win. Very satisfying.

Poor Little Rich Boy by Kate Sherwood
This one, on the other hand, did not live up to the one that went before it. One of the characters was a total douche canoe, with what seemed kind of like a pastede on yay story as to why he was actually just troubled and misunderstood, and blah blah fuck off. I can see how the story would appeal to others, but I think I was partly put WAY off by the way it started with two people who are mfeo and then spent more than a decade separated. That is probably my biggest anti-fave trope. And even though the mfeo part was only a short prologue, and the actual book starts when he comes back to town, I was not disposed to enjoy it. Also, it was set in Seattle, and there was less than zero atmosphere of the city. Which was probably more annoying to me given i live here, but even a touch of atmosphere would have gone a long way.

Sixty-Five Hours by N R Walker
Yet another book that was exactly what I wanted when I wanted it. Two gay dudes have hot UST, get together, have lots and lots of sex, deal with some family stuff, deal with some work stuff, profit. It's set in Chicago, and one of the dudes is from Texas, and... let's just say I was not too surprised to discover the author is Australian. There were a few slips, like they go up in the lift instead of the elevator once, and it didn't have any feel of Chicago at all (not that I've spent much time there, but still), but it was JUST REALLY CUTE. And it made me happy. And honestly? It was not the kind of book that needed to do more than that.

Tonight by Karen Stivali
Another one that was just really cute. Only 65 pages, which made it perfect for my lunch break, it has the kind of curse-filled, filthy-minded college student narrator that I have a soft spot for, and UST and then fluffy, dopey-eyed true love and smut. Almost no angst, almost no drama, lots of breakfast food, sexual fantasies, and then satisfaction.

Learning to Feel by N R Walker
I liked the story of this—an exhausted and overworked Boston ER doctor takes a job in a small-town Maine hospital and finds love and lust with the artist/handyman randomly living in the house that comes with the job. It's an early effort by the author, not pro edited, and thrown up on Amazon e-books for free, and there are places that definitely shows. The only sense of place is that Maine does indeed have a coastline and Boston is a city, but then the doctor's whole family lives in Boston, which last I checked was in Massachusetts, which has had marriage equality since 2004, and she first published this in 2012 and they talk about how they could go up to Montreal to get married. There's a cute dog (who does get injured, and though he's fine in the end, warnings for that) and I love the doctor's mom, and really his whole family is cute, and it has a satisfying happy ending.

His Grandfather's Watch by N R Walker
another free early book, with so much of the word pump/pumped/pumping that I tweeted about it in alarm. This one is mercifully short, because really, at one point I counted and there were 8 'pump' declinations on the same page. Why. It's kind of two stories, one about a texas boy who's moved to San Francisco to be near his dying, senile grandmother, and the young antiquarian watch expert he takes his grandfather's watch to. Now, I've spent 36 hours in Chicago, and I've spent not a lot more time than that in Boston since I was about 12, but I grew up in SF, and it was PAINFUL how little atmosphere there was. At one point one of the characters mentions that he lives only two suburbs away from the other, and I wanted to cry. I know this is my bugbear, and not everyone WANTS to spend a ton of time on google maps when they're writing about a place they've never been and I do it partly because I enjoy it, but yeah. For me, if a place feels real in a story, it's easier for the emotions and characters to feel real too. The second story is about the grandfather and the man who gave him the watch, and that felt stilted for several reasons, not least because two 18yo virgin boys used condoms in the 1940s? This stretched my credulity.

Shotgun by Marie Sexton
so this is the 7th Coda book, and it was published last spring. (which is probably why I had to wait for it when the others were all available same day from my library) It lead me to believe that my suspicions that the author hadn't thought yet about some of the things I found offensive in earlier books were true. The bisexual character (from before) is referred to as bisexual in a casual not derisive way, and the characters of color are treated with more respect. It has a mystery at its center, and I tried REALLY hard not to know who-dunit before the reveal, but I failed. The 13yo girl was my favorite character. It had way more gay angst than I pretty much ever feel like reading, and I felt like it cut a little close to the you know you want it edge occasionally. That was addressed, and discussed appropriately, but I always prefer not to see it at all, as it can be triggery for me and not just dnw. Idk if it would even be noticeable if it's not a problem for you, though.

First and First by Santino Hassell
I love this series, and this book did not disappoint. I was a bit wary as I strongly disliked one of the main characters from the previous books, and didn't even remember the other, but they soon won me over. Super hot sex, though as one of the characters has a history of being extremely repressed, there is some black-out drunk sex and sexual pressuring which while it works for the characters, might not work for you. That kind of pressure can be badly triggering for me, and I was actually fine with it, but I am not everyone. There is one chapter I've read six or seven times it's so hot, and one scene where it cut too close to my lines so I skipped it when I re-read the whole book three days after reading it on release day. I love the sibling relationships, the looks at class and race privilege, the discussion of poly relationships, pansexuality, and sex parties, and I ended up completely hearteyes over the central couple. You could probably read this alone, but it would lose some of its impact. And the first two books are also great (though the first one is quite dark), so I recommend them too.

After Midnight by Santino Hassell
this is a near-future post semi-apocalypse book, which is not my preferred genre, but I was feeling like more Santino after First and First, so I gave it a try. It felt a lot like a gritty show I would watch on TV and wish it were gay, only it really is gay. It's not quite as polished as his more recent books, but also it's free, and his more recent books set a pretty high bar. Not as polished is still better than a lot of the pro pub stuff I've read. I would definitely say it's a to-read if you're a fan of Hassell.

Stygian by Santino Hassell
I mentioned I was on a mission after First and First, right? This was not AT ALL what I expected. I was buying based on author and didn't read much about it, and what I did read I thought it would be like an original fic old-school bandom story, but it was, in fact, terrifying. Horror fans should read this one. (now I think back on some of the bandom fics I read, I might not have been as off base on my original suppositions, I was just thinking of the wrong stories)

The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater
I waited A LONG TIME for this. Maybe a little bit too long. I've seen a lot of mixed feelings. I expect if you've read the first three, you will read this one, and if you haven't, you won't. I loved a lot about it, and one of the things I loved most was some of the meta that came after, talking with friends. Also, omg I have SO MANY FEELINGS about Ronan and Adam and about Blue and Gansey. And also about hands.

Trust the Focus by Megan Erickson
I saw a good review for the third in this series so decided to start at the beginning (because that is how I roll). Also, road trips are my jam. This definitely irritated my 'i'm super over gay angst' buttons, but BFFs to lovers is good for me. Warnings for discussion of past bad sexual experience and also for grieving (a couple years after) a parent's death.

Focus on Me by Megan Erickson
The second in the series, with a surprisingly cute link to the characters in the first book. This one skips the gay angst (YAY), but trades it for anorexia, depression, and suicidal ideation. It very much fits the love at first sight and true love forever tropes, but also deals with the truth that no one else can be the solution to the demons that live in your own brain. It was not the best choice for the week I realized I really needed to go back to therapy myself, and I would have skipped right past if it had had AO3-style tags, but \BOOKS/ fandom, and \boys-in-love/

Out of Frame by Megan Erickson
This one had my favorite characters, and a female BFF I really loved, and lol sneaking around a cruise ship, and a queer black man with a supportive family whose queer angst came from his industry not internalized, and discussion of the problems one faces being bi in a world that expects you to be gay or straight, and the damage from being forced into a stereotype box, and fitted with the theme Erickson seems to have going here: love can't solve your problems, but it might show you how to find it in yourself to address them.


Books I re-read:

I only re-read A Gentleman's Position by KJ Charles and First and First this month. Oh, and three or four re-reads of The Ruin of Gabriel Ashleigh for comfort.
There are 2 comments on this entry. (Reply.)
lucifuge5: (Default)
posted by [personal profile] lucifuge5 at 08:42pm on 04/05/2016
Wow, I'm kinda feeling jelly because you had a way better reading month than me. As per my calculations, a little over half of the books I read throughout April were mediocre-to-bad :(

I had very high hopes for Stygian (because, it's by Santino). There was a lot I did like, but I was a tad underwhelmed by the couple and some aspects of the premise. I haven't read After Midnight or anything from the ICoS series, but I'm thinking of doing so in the summer.

Ah, the Coda series! I read the first (I want to say) 3 books and liked them fine. There was a LOT of grumbling among some of the M/M fans because of how ~different~ Angelo and Zach's relationship was when juxtaposed against Jared and Matt's. To me, the contempt (some people had for the first couple) raised my hackles then although I couldn't quite articulate why.

Looking back, what annoyed me was those readers' idea that there's only "one way" for two men to be together. If one wants to be a bit more generous, one could say that the first couple of books in the series are very much "of their time". Having read your review about the rest of the series, I'm thinking that maybe I'll want to dip my toes back into the Coda books as well.

N.R. Walker wrote a 3-novella series about a May/December romance between two architects. I bought the first one on a whim last fall and basically zoomed through the first two books. Ended up putting off reading the third one (though I'll probably be reading it soon). I also have a couple of other books by her (Point of No Return, Learning to Feel), but they're way low on my "to read" list.

Megan Erickson is one of those authors that whip up books I wouldn't normally enjoy. I can't wait for the 4th book (which comes out in September, iirc).

In short, \books/ and \book fandom/!
sylvanwitch: (Default)
posted by [personal profile] sylvanwitch at 10:15pm on 30/04/2016
Hands and the back of Adam's neck, specifically when it's Ronan's hands and Adam's neck. When they finally kiss? I thought my heart was going to stop, seriously, I wanted it SO much. I held my breath.

Oh! And Adam going back to the trailer at the end. Such a REAL ending, not fairytale (ha!), not romanticized. Just true, I thought, particularly coming from a dysfunctional family myself (though not nearly the same as Adam's, of course).

Also? Blue, post-kiss, resting her cheek against Gansey's, throwback to the way they "kissed" before, and just holding on, holding on, holding on.

I have no mixed feelings. I shotgunned the first three and couldn't wait for four to arrive and I devoured it as quickly as gainful employment and exhaustion would allow me, and I want to go back and re-read it RiGHT NOW, but I won't do that, not only because I'm hip-deep in Paladin of Souls but also because I want to savor the angst, the delicious, delicious angst.

Also, I kind of really like Henry Cheng.

Edited Date: 2016-04-30 10:15 pm (UTC)

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