One day, Sam will move to the beach…

Category: Books

For all the reviewers in the house…

After a conversation with a reviewer in the m/m community, I was taken by the need to write you reviewers, for lack of a better term, a love letter. I’ve met a handful of the reviewers in the m/m community, and every one that I’ve spoken to has been a lovely person. I feel lucky to be writing in a genre that has these people in it.

You guys don’t have to be here. It’s not your job. You don’t get paid to show up. Most of the time, you don’t even get thanked for your efforts. You sometimes get treated like dirt for expressing your opinions. On terrifying occasion, people get threatened, stalked, and attacked for being reviewers. With all that, the fact that you stick around and keep going? It amazes me.

I’m a writer. I could try to be something else, but I’ve done that, and it doesn’t work for me. So I have to be here. I come back every day not just because I love books, but because this is my bread and butter. If I do my job well, I get paid for it.

You? You’re just here because of the books. You could read and not review, but you choose to share instead. Sure, sometimes if you review long and well enough, you get free books to review. You didn’t get promised free books at the outset, though, and chances are they’re not the only reason you’re here.

And sure, there are some books that make you angry, or bored, or disgusted, and you give them bad reviews. But you’re not here for those. You’re not here because you want to insult bad books. You’re here because you want to find the good ones, and share them with other readers. And frankly, there’s something incredible about that. You’re here to find and share joy.

Sometimes your review will disagree with the overall opinion of the community, and that’s fine. Sometimes you’ll review and then realize that there were issues surrounding the book that you didn’t know about, and that’s fine too. Sometimes, you’ll give my favorite book (or even *gasp* my book!) a bad review, and that’s fine too.

The thing is, you’re here. You show up and tell us about the amazing books you’ve found, and everyone needs more amazing books in their life.

Thank you.

 

*I swear, this isn’t an attempt to get better reviews. As has been said over and over again, reviews of my books aren’t for me, they’re for potential readers. If, as a reviewer, you feel like my book deserves to be panned, pan away.

His Quiet Agent by Ada Maria Soto

After recommendations from Ami and Annie from FTtB, I knew I had to read this one. There aren’t many books with any kind of asexual representation, and fewer with anything I’d call /good/ representation. (Hint, if your character is somehow ‘reformed’ into a different sexuality, then it’s bad rep.)

This did not disappoint. The characters were well-formed, realistic people, with flaws and quirks that made them fun to read about. I’m sure one of the common problems people might have is that there isn’t much of a plot, because it’s not one over-arcing storyline. Instead, it’s a character-driven story, and focuses on how the two main characters come to love and trust each other.

While the main characters work for a government agency, they aren’t ‘secret agents’ as in the generally used romance novel trope. There’s no action sequence, no chase scene, no passionate sex anywhere to be found. If you’re looking for that stuff, skip this.

The book is exactly what it says it is, and is one of the most aptly titled pieces of fiction I’ve ever read. If you like the idea of a quiet, sweet romance, and think people can love each other without sex, then definitely read it. It’s excellent writing, good representation, and is going on my list of favorites for sure.

On Book Reviews and Bad Behavior

So there’s been a lot of talk recently about reviewing books, the behavior of authors in relation to reviews, and the like. I was thinking about writing a long post about the reviewer/author relationship, and how we’re essentially co-workers, only reviewers don’t get paid to show up.

But then I was hanging out on Twitter, and Annie from From Top to Bottom Reviews referenced a Santino Hassel post about the subject, and after reading it, I feel I can safely say that he’s got me covered.

Santino’s post about the author/reviewer relationship.

If you’ve ever wondered about how to react to a situation with a reviewer or an author, I think this is pretty much it. I feel totally unnecessary in its presence.

My Destiny… of Dragons

I can honestly say I’ve never done this before. Not when the long-awaited finale to Robert Jordan’s ponderous Wheel of Time series finally released. Not when the last Harry Potter book came out. Not even when they released Serenity to give us Firefly fans some closure.

But here I am right now, re-listening to Michael Lesley‘s utterly perfect narration of The Lightning-Struck Heart by T.J. Klune, in preparation for the release of the sequel, A Destiny of Dragons, on the 30th.

Three days. Yay!

Life’s Too Short For Bad Books

When I was sixteen, I prided myself on finishing every single book I picked up to read. It didn’t matter how bad it was, or how much I hated it, if I started it, I was going to finish it. That melodramatic Victor Hugo epic Les Miserables? Every. Last. Word.

In my twenties, a few started slipping through the cracks. I blame it on schoolbooks. There was no way I was going to read the C++ manual front to back. I might have died of boredom.

My twenties saw me finally abandon some fiction, too. The first I remember was Twilight. I tried, you guys, I really did. I got all the way to the last one. Then there was that whole pedophilia thing, and I just… couldn’t. I ran screaming in the opposite direction and never finished the book. That particular hardcover is the single book in my house that gets no respect whatsoever. Which is to say that we use it as a doorstop.

In my thirties, there have been things like the abusive BDSM series that everyone knows. I think that one was my breaking point.

That was when I realized that when I finished a bad book, I didn’t feel accomplished. I felt annoyed, or ripped-off, or outright angry. And it wasn’t like I didn’t see it coming. I can usually tell in the first few chapters whether a book is going to work for me or not. So why am I wasting my precious reading time on things I hate? So that I can be angry and go leave nasty reviews on the work of authors who spent time and effort on those works I hate? I hope not. That’s not the me I want to be.

tl;dr: I have embraced the DNF. Life’s too short for bad fiction. If I decide at any point that the book is going to get a bad review from me, I’m putting it down.

Beyond the Sea by Keira Andrews

I grabbed Beyond the Sea last month for a dollar during a bookbub sale. I realize that there’s been some drama over the blurb lines, “Two straight guys. One desert island.”  Many people seem to see it as bi-erasure, and I understand why that would be a point of contention. Bi erasure is a big problem. Maybe I’m just too asexual to understand the point of view as it relates to this book, but as I read it, the characters both believed they were straight and fell in love with another man. I also didn’t even pay attention to the blurb before reading the book, so I didn’t have a chance to get offended and put it down before reading it.

The main characters are both believable and sympathetic at the beginning, and grow as people throughout the novel, which I’ve always found important in any genre. The story is well done. It covers the tropes you’d expect to find in such a novel, and some you wouldn’t. Some research obviously went into how airplanes work, and I didn’t have a moment of doubt as to the validity of the information. (I don’t know if it’s all right, but it’s well presented enough that I believed and didn’t feel a need to look it up.) Some of the most basic things that often get overlooked in stories like this were addressed – like Troy’s depression when he first starts to believe that they won’t be rescued, and the give and take between an introvert and an extrovert in such a stressful situation.

Olive Juice by T.J. Klune

I think T.J. Klune dislikes me for some reason. I decided this after reading his recent novella, Olive Juice, because there is no other reason a person would want to make me cry as much as he seems to. I’m not talking like one perfect angsty man-tear here either, I’m talking the full waterworks, nose blowing and all.

I won’t rehash the blurb or premise, I’ll just say that if you like anything else by him, you should read it. I was underwhelmed by the premise, but that’s because in order to avoid giving too much away, it’s not well explained. Since I’ve read enough Klune to trust him I picked it up anyway, and I was not at all disappointed.

This is one of those conundrums we’re taught to avoid by college creative writing professors. Never surprise us, they say. You’ll alienate readers, and no one likes to be lied to. And they’re right. Except that they’re also wrong.

Because unlike the writers of Dallas trying to fix enormous mistakes in their previous season, T.J. is up front about the fact that he’s lying to us. He feeds us tidbits of the truth one at a time, like handing us single pieces of the puzzle until we can put together enough to see what he’s made. Different readers will take different amounts of time to figure out what the picture is, but the reveal is satisfying whether you figured out what the picture was beforehand or not.

As I read fiction for escape from dreary reality, I tend to avoid anything that looks like it’s going to make me cry. T.J. is one of those rare authors who can write that tear-jerker, and make me want to pick up the book anyway.

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