Review: Gays of Our Lives by Kris Ripper - 4.5 stars
I was captivated from the moment I opened Gays of Our Lives. It's written in first person, and the author Kris Ripper uses the perspective with a mastery few can boast. From the first line, we are given the flavor of Emerson's personality: a man who wants very badly to be in control, but can't.
His struggles with both MS and his feelings of hopelessness take center stage in the narrative until he meets Obie, a handsome hipster who almost pries his way into Emerson's life.
This leads to some awkwardness. Sometimes the awkward moments were far too cute to handle. Then again, the best love stories are.
What struck me the most was how low-key the book was when the relationship got rocky. While there are plenty of tense moments and conflicts in the book, it was absent the normal yanks on your emotions authors use frequently to get you to pay attention.
This lack of an emotional yank back and forth worked well for me as a reader. It also seemed to channel Emerson's own discomfort with his feelings.
The pain Emerson felt over their breakup felt more immediate and somehow even more important because he kept living his life. Even during Emerson's darkest moments he got up, went to work, went home, repeat, almost on autopilot. It felt somehow gently heartbreaking.
I also loved the interactions between the characters. They called each other on their bullshit in a way which felt loving, but still weren't all-knowing.
Emerson Robinette only leaves his apartment to get laid and go to work. Having MS—and trying to pretend he doesn’t—makes everything more complicated, especially his fantasies of coming on strong and holding a guy down. Finding a partner who’ll explore that with him isn’t Emerson’s idea of a realistic goal.
Until a chance meeting with a hipster on a bus makes him reconsider. Obie is happy, open-hearted, and warm; what’s more, he gets his kicks being physically dominated, spanked, and teased until he’s begging. It would be perfect, except for one thing: Emerson isn’t made for happiness, and he doesn’t see how a guy like Obie would settle for a cynic like him.
But as far as Obie’s concerned, the only thing keeping them apart is Emerson. Can Emerson handle a boyfriend who’s more invested in his future than he is? Emerson’s barely convinced he has a future. But when Obie’s smiling at him, anything seems possible.
Marissa Meyer is no stranger to my bookshelf, and her elegantly crafted fractured fairy tales are a joy to behold. Heartless is no different, as it tackles Lewis Carrol's Wonderland from an entirely new perspective: the POV of the Queen of Hearts.
She's not the dreaded Queen yet, though - she's just Catherine, a young girl with dreams and a formidable skill with tarts. The strong will we have come to expect is heavily tamped down by a desire to please those around her, but Catherine is determined to find her own way to persevere through annoying croquet games and strange tea parties.
When she meets Jest, the court joker, her plans become flexible enough to include him as well. Unfortunately, no one else is flexing.
What struck me above all the cleverness and playful nods to the original story was the accessibility of the tale. Readers of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and (to a lesser extent) Through the Looking Glass will enjoy the references to the timeless classics, but those who haven't read either story will love Heartless just the same.
The tale is poignant and thoughtful while retaining the Wonderland zaniness. So many connections between characters almost seamlessly fit with their originals that it seems eerie at times, in a good way. Once again, Marissa Meyer has married classic stories to powerful emotions, and the result is well worth the read.
Long before she was the terror of Wonderland—the infamous Queen of Hearts—she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love.
Long before she was the terror of Wonderland, she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love. Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next queen.
Then Cath meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the king and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into an intense, secret courtship. Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.
Normally I'm not much of a thriller fan, but Yeager's Law by Scott Bell is well worth the detour. This book doesn't rely on cheap jump-scare tactics and eerie feelings to communicate a sense of danger, which is nice. It's fast-paced and action-heavy. If you're looking for a bit of modern-day swash and buckle, this one is for you.
Bell flips back and forth between multiple viewpoints to give us all angles of the story. That can get confusing, but I never had to check back and figure out who was whom. For a batty reader like me, that's an impressive feat. Even with all the viewpoint switching, there were still a few surprises saved up at the end, which made it fun as well as interesting.
There's a low-key romance element there too, which helps a lot - especially since the love interest in question is an impressive lady herself. Fainting damsel in distress she is not.
My only complaint is that the "bad guys" were at times a little too definitively "bad," but only a little. I never felt it was outside the bounds of reason, but once or twice I wrinkled my nose a bit. Still, Abel Yeager and his cast of co-stars were plenty awesome enough to make up for it.
This book is part one of a series, and I definitely plan to check out the next installment!
Abel Yeager is dead broke, down on his luck, and suffering from a serious case of what-the-hell-does-it-matter. His transition from active Marine to stateside long-haul trucker hit a wicked speed bump when his rig was involved in a wreck that claimed the life of a pregnant woman and laid him up for several months.
Back at work but deeply in debt, Yeager meets bookstore owner Charlie Buchanan in St. Louis and jumps at the chance to haul a load of remainder books to Austin for her. On the way south, a crew of truck thieves tracks his every move. But none of them know what Charlie’s ex has smuggled inside the book pallets, who he stole it from, or how far the owner will go to get it back. Charlie’s the first person Yeager has cared about in a long time, but as their bond deepens, so does the danger they’re in.
With enemy forces closing in, Yeager battles greed, corruption, and his own fatalism in a bid to hold true to Yeager’s First Law: come home at the end of the day.
I'm sure by now you know all about my Patreon page, but you might not know that I am also a patron to six artists on Patreon. Today, I'd like to share a couple of my favorite Patreon artists.
"Don't quit your day job" is the kind of sarcastic saying people use to indicate that someone is bad at what they're doing, but for many artists, that statement applies even if they're awesome. The arts don't usually pay well, and even when they do, it's notoriously inconsistent. As a result, even artists who are talented and successful can't turn their full focus to their craft. Enter Patreon.
Patreon is a great crowdfunding program which allows artists to work without worry about fluctuations of income.
Without patrons, artists have to find a way to supplement their income, which can be a huge bummer when those supplemental income sources have nothing to do with the art they create.
Today, I want to share with you six artists I support directly from my own income on Patreon, because nothing is better than knowing that your contributions support not just one, but seven members of the artistic community. I'll also add in some super-useful animal pics along the way, for science. Here's a preview:
Look at those adorable knees! I mean - AHEM. In no particular order, here we go.
N.K. Jemisin is an award-winning author of science fiction and fantasy novels and short stories. Her work is always fresh and exciting. She sets up strange worlds and storylines with effortless poise, and her characters are so full of heart it hurts sometimes. If you've never read her books, I highly recommend her first novel, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms.
This should of course be followed by everything else she's ever written in quick succession.
What do I mean by "award-winning author," exactly? Well, check out her description on the about section of her website:
Her work has been nominated for the Hugo (three times), the Nebula (four times), and the World Fantasy Award (twice); shortlisted for the Crawford, the Gemmell Morningstar, and the Tiptree; and she has won a Locus Award for Best First Novel as well as the Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice Award (three times). In 2016, she became the first black person to win the Best Novel Hugo for The Fifth Season.
So what does this masterful storyteller need from Patreon? Well, from her own description, she wanted to quit her day job. In order to quit her job and devote herself to writing, she needed a steady, dependable income.
N.K. Jemisin had serious writing chops and the awards and publications to prove it, but she still needed the promise of steady income to quit her day job and devote time to her craft.
What do patrons get?
She reached and blew past her initial income goals, so she has time to write and even opened up some of the upper-tier bonus award to everyone. Patrons can expect perks like:
Exclusive short stories
Adorable cat pics
Monthly Q&A videos
Early looks at chapters
All of this is available to every patron, for a dollar per month as long as her income stays above a certain level.
Best of all, she writes more than ever now, so you can binge read her work with even fewer interruptions.
Fredrin/Fred Gallagher/Piro is a webcomic artist best known for megatokyo, a manga-style online comic which started in 2000 and has maintained a devout, sometimes obsessive, fanbase ever since.
I'm one of those fans, and as soon as Fredrin mentioned he had set up a Patreon account, I jumped at the chance to add my name to the list. He quit his "day job" to support himself and his family with his art years ago, and ever since Megatokyo has had fewer and fewer updates.
That seems counter-intuitive, doesn't it? Part of the reason was because he devoted his time to many, many projects, like the Endgames Series or re-draws of the comic for his Megatokyo Omnibus. Part of it was due to a much more basic reason, as addressed on his Patreon page:
Oddly enough, the writing, drawing and creation of comic pages is the one thing in Megatokyo that does not directly support itself.
Megatokyo has always been free, and he doesn't stuff his page with ads, so the money he made from the site was always from side jobs. Thankfully, his side jobs involved illustrating characters from his own comics for commission, which is closer to making money via your art than any of my other favorite Patreon artists got.
What do patrons get?
He has a few tiers of rewards, but even at the very lowest level (one dollar per months) patrons can expect things like:
New comic strips 1 day early
New drawings 1 day early
Best of all, he's back to posting regularly! Yay comics.
That's all for now. I'll be back soon with another installment of my favorite Patreon artists. Check these two out! You have nothing to lose!
I've read, watched and agonized over a ton of twisted/fractured/rebooted/whatever fairy tales lately. My favorite in the last several weeks is Mechanica by Betsy Cornwell. It has nothing to do with the story I'm writing, unfortunately. Still, you may find some of it has crept into my mind.
The main character, Nicolette, is an inventor and an analogue for Cinderella. She lives a life of constant servitude to her stepmother and evil stepsisters, but without all the sweetness and kindness of the Charles Perrault version. Nicolette (named Mechanica by her stepsisters) has a plan to get herself out of this mess, and it relies on her brilliant abilities as an inventor.
This YA novel explores themes of independence, morality and the nature of love without seeming like a lecture. Nicolette is heroic and admirable, but she is also flawed. She hurts others in her struggle to break free, and she finds herself in a state of deep regret many times. Despite or perhaps because of her flaws, it is easy to cheer her victories and mourn her defeats alongside her.
Mechanica by Betsy Cornwell is a story worth reading, even without the Cinderella twist. The world is believable and complex. The main character is interesting and likable without being saccharine. The magic is well set up with obvious rules without retreating to overly simplistic cliche. All in all, it's fun to read.
Go check it out!
Nicolette’s awful stepsisters call her “Mechanica” to demean her, but the nickname fits: she learned to be an inventor at her mother’s knee. Her mom is gone now, though, and the Steps have pushed her into a life of dreary servitude. When she discovers a secret workshop in the cellar on her sixteenth birthday—and befriends Jules, a tiny magical metal horse—Nicolette starts to imagine a new life for herself. And the timing may be perfect: There’s a technological exposition and a royal ball on the horizon. Determined to invent her own happily-ever-after, Mechanica seeks to wow the prince and eager entrepreneurs alike.
I've decided I want to be like Julie James when I grow up. She's already a bestselling author, so you probably already know of her. If you don't, please allow me to introduce you!
She's got a ton of books with great protagonists and super hot love scenes. Her leading ladies are self-assured, professional women always ready with a quip, and the men they fall for can keep up with them in every arena.
Best of all, every story is funny. She seems to delight in putting these attractive, successful people in every embarrassing and frustrating predicament in the book. (ha! you get it?)
I've included an amazon associates link to the first in her FBI/US Attorney Series, which is 6 books long and still going strong. You can easily jump into the middle of the series without a problem, but I always like reading from the beginning.
The first novel in Avery Flynn's Sweet Salvation Brewery series is a quick, fun read. There are two more, if you fall in love with the colorful denizens of Salvation. Here's her blurb:
Enemies ...After years away, Miranda Sweet returns to Salvation, Virginia to save her family's brewery, but her fate is in the hands of her lover-turned-enemy, Logan. What's a girl to do when the only person who can help her is the man who betrayed her?
Lovers ...Logan Martin can't believe his luck when the woman who smashed his heart to smithereens walks into his bank asking for his help. What she doesn't know is that he needs the land her brewery is on--and he'll do whatever it takes to get it.
An Irresistible Combination ...Their wager becomes a battle between their attraction and their determination to win. But it's in each other's arms that they realize there might be more at stake now than their bet. With the town against the Sweet Salvation Brewery's success, Logan has to choose between what's expected of him and what he really wants...
I've decided that when I find a particularly good book, I'll mention it here on the site. After all, what good is having a blog if you can't gush about things you like? I'll add some Amazon Affiliate links for your convenience, but really I just want to talk about the great books I get to read. Let's talk about Say Yes to the Marquess.
Say Yes to the Marquess: Castles Ever After is an example of what happens when a good story meets a wonderfully weird person. It's got a mix of amusing happenstance and deliberate planning, and it's hard not to love. Between an aged bulldog who never budges until the most inconvenient time and a buddy to the MMC who thinks all he needs to break into high society is a monocle, Tessa Dare has wedged a gorgeous love story.
There's nothing to dislike here, which is pretty normal for a book by Tessa Dare. The sex scenes were hot, the characters were well-rounded and I even learned a bit about beer. If you're in the mood for a happy-go-lucky romance with a strong female lead and a lot of clever wordplay, read this book.
Your presence is requested at romantic Twill Castle for the wedding of Miss Clio Whitmore and ... and ...?
After eight years of waiting for Piers Brandon, the wandering Marquess of Granville, to set a wedding date, Clio Whitmore has had enough. She's inherited a castle, scraped together some pride, and made plans to break her engagement.
Not if Rafe Brandon can help it. A ruthless prizefighter and notorious rake, Rafe is determined that Clio will marry his brother--even if he has to plan the dratted wedding himself.
So how does a hardened fighter cure a reluctant bride's cold feet?
He starts with flowers. A wedding can't have too many flowers. Or harps. Or cakes.
He lets her know she'll make a beautiful, desirable bride--and tries not to picture her as his.
He doesn't kiss her.
If he kisses her, he definitely doesn't kiss her again.
When all else fails, he puts her in a stunning gown. And vows not to be nearby when the gown comes off.
And no matter what--he doesn't fall in disastrous, hopeless love with the one woman he can never call his own.