Review: Glass, by Alexis Hall

This story is . . . perfect, a small masterpiece, really. Haunting & heartbreaking & beautiful.  I was just, so incredibly deeply moved by it.

It’s like a line in the story itself: “The silence ached.”

This story ached.

As ever, this author kills me, the way his writing is so emotionally evocative without being emotionally descriptive, the perfect example of “show, don’t tell”. I always think it’s like the words somehow literally encapsulate feelings, so when you read them they’re transferred to you.

But in this, there’s also this striking theme of opposites running through it. Like the way the narrator’s spare, clinical voice sets off the rare instances of lyrical description like stunning gems in a stark setting. And then there’s a scene of cruelty juxtaposed against the beautiful prose & imagery of a rising and setting sun and moon, making it all the more heartbreaking and all the more beautiful all at once. And in the end, of course, there’s the dichotomy of brokenness vs perfection.

And then there’s the way, for all that the main character is a being of Artificial Intelligence, or more likely because of that, that this story is so deeply evocative of loneliness and human suffering. So particularly redolent of feelings of SPOILER REMOVED, SCROLL DOWN TO VIEW SPOILER Which, if any of these things resonate, it kind of breaks you to read this, but the ending kind of glues you back together again, (or, at least it did me) so it’s okay ❤

I would recommend this to everyone, but this story is currently only available to subscribers to the author’s newsletter. So I guess if you want to read it, go forth and subscribe 🙂
 

 

 

SPOILER:

So particularly redolent of being unwanted, unloved & unlovable, defective, not good enough, worthless, alien, dehumanized, used. Of trying too hard to be what someone else needs. Of breaking yourself to be loved.

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Book review: Forbidden, by Beverly Jenkins

Oh wow, I have all the feels, and I do mean all the feels, for this book!

This is my first book by this author, first of trilogy, and now I really can’t wait to read the other two in the series! And beyond, as I know she has an entire treasure trove of stories out there to dive into 🙂

Before I go on, I’m going to talk about elements of plot in this review. Mostly I don’t think they’re very spoilery, they’re things mostly revealed or hinted at in the blurb, the Prologue, or both. But I’m not going to hide anything under spoiler tags, so if you’re acutely spoiler averse, this is your cue that this review may not be for you. 🙂

This is the story of Eddy Carmichael, a young black woman circa 1870, on her way from Denver to San Francisco where she hopes to open a restaurant. But a series of misfortunes results in a detour to Virginia City, Nevada, and to a fateful encounter with Rhine Fontaine, who is not only handsome, charming, honorable, and kind. He is possibly the richest man in town, and he’s also a white man – or, so it appears. Which makes the attraction instantly sparking between the two of them a problem for both, due to the times. Marriage between whites and persons of color was forbidden then in most states, and Eddy Carmichael is a woman with far too much self-respect to become a wealthy white man’s mistress. What she doesn’t know and the reader does, is that Rhine Fontaine, to whom we’ve already been introduced in the Prologue set 5 years before these events, is in reality a black man and a former slave, born on a Georgia plantation. With the end of slavery following the Civil War, because he is very light skinned, Rhine has been able to pass as white, and has chosen to do so. And in doing so he’s risen to a position of power & respect in the white community, a position he consistently uses to support his own people at every opportunity. But his choice has also come with a price, and this story is as much the story of Rhine coming to terms with that & rethinking his choices, and the story of Eddy coming into her own as an individual and a member of a community, as it is the story of Eddy & Rhine’s relationship.

It’s very much a slow burn, both in terms of the story & the romance, so it took a while for me to realize how truly awesome this book is. I didn’t mind, I just took it as a sort of leisurely read, figured I’d probably be giving it a four star rating. But somewhere just past the mid-point things really caught fire in this story and I ended up finding it just incredibly romantic, meltingly sexy, and more than anything, powerfully moving. And no question, it’s a solid 5-star read for me.

The reason it’s such a slow-burn is that quite a bit of time is spent in setting up the story, introducing us to a fairly large cast of characters – to an entire community, really – and in introducing them to each other, allowing relationships to form and build. Quite a lot is also spent in allowing the main character, Eddy, find her place in her new community, and to blossom in a way a life of hardship has never allowed her to do before. Laying this groundwork is necessary and there’s a big payoff later in the story, a greater emotional impact to the things that happen, for having this deeper sense of knowledge of the characters and their lives. But it does mean that much of the earlier story proceeds at a sort of pedestrian pace.

Once this story really hits its stride, however, that all changes; and the story fairly explodes with drama and feeling. The building love story between Eddy and Rhine deepens, their relationship becomes touchingly caring, and then passionately romantic & sexy, whoa, in a deliciously seductive way I have to confess I’m particularly fond of. It’s a bit of an old-fashioned style of sexy, I suppose, sensuous in detail without being explicit, but I found it no less affecting for that. But the power of this story goes far beyond sex & romance. To be able to have Eddy in his life in the way he wants her, in the way that respects her as she deserves, Rhine must make a courageous, life-changing decision. This becomes a catalyst for ensuing events. Reactions to this by the other characters of both races show their true colors in ways that have nothing to do with race and everything to do with human decency, courage, compassion, or the lack thereof. And with true self-respect, vs false-pride.

This book was exciting, swoony with sexy romance feels, made me laugh out loud, gave me such fond warm fuzzies for the characters I wanted to reach into the book & hug them at times, moved me to anger, then to cheer each time the good guys gave the bad guys their well-deserved comeuppances, and moved me to tears many, many times, tears of joy, of compassion, of pride in the courage of these characters, and just for those little moments of human resonance, where something happens and you’re like, yes, I know exactly how that feels.

This is a great story, and if you like slow-burn romance and don’t mind a slow buildup, I would unreservedly recommend this to everyone.

As a bonus, there are some really cool notes on the research for this story at the end, with some fascinating stuff about the true bits of history that inspired parts of this story. Also, I see that Rhine Fontaine appeared as a character in a much earlier novel, Through the Storm, so now I need to go back & read that one too!

Meanwhile, on to the next book in the trilogy, Breathless!

Conversion Therapy, Revenge Porn, and Criticism

Here’s an important perspective, I think, for anyone who reads or writes LGBTQIA+ romance.

'Nathan Burgoine

I always feel like I need to start blogs like this with a caveat: I’m not telling someone they can’t write something. I will never tell someone they can’t write something. Much like my latest “Why You?” post over at SpAN, or previous discussions over Pseudonym vs Identity or Gay-For-You, I want to be super clear on this point, again, just in case: I’m not suggesting a limitation who can write what. At all.

What I am suggesting is there are topics that need a tonne of forethought, and that some topics are definitely going to get critical feedback. This? This is critical feedback.

So. A book crossed over to my radar yesterday which had multiple plot threads that gave me pause. I only ended up talking about one of them because I had spoons enough for one go, but I’ll touch on more today likely.

Now, this book…

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Book review: The Whites of Their Eyes: A Collection of Queer Horror by Xen Sanders

Blurb

There are no happy endings here.

In the town of Inverse, Silvino and Scott Orellano discover the darkness in their deepest hearts. At the cusp of a new life, Kane Orwell learns terrible truths whispered by a black and eldritch mouth. Torn between one identity and another, Shania Logan struggles to hold on to the fragments of her self. 

And standing on the threshold of the afterlife, a grieving wife balances between life and death on the flicker of a candle’s flame. 

Inverse. 

Insurrection. 

Mouth. 

Flicker. 

Four tales of horror, written from a queer perspective. In this collection of short stories and novellas, our heroes and heroines will explore the depths of terror both macabre and mundane–and live their darkest fears, reflected in the whites of their eyes.

Review:

This was some strong stuff, most of it quite intense, packing a powerfully visceral and psychological punch. Seriously, it was the stuff of nightmares. 

But it was also just incredibly good, very moving and so well written. 

It’s hard to pick a favorite, but I guess one was Mouth, because I loved the relationship between Kane and Michio, even though that made the horror aspects of the story even harder to take. 

Mouth also contains these words, which so struck me with their feeling of familiarity; it’s one of the best descriptions of toxic shame and it’s causes, that I’ve ever read in a work of fiction. 

“He’d spent so long being told he had no right to exist, that he should apologize for being in this space or that, for taking up room, for breathing air.

It was like some deep harsh part of him demanded he apologize for his success, too, as if the entirety of the world was leaning in and saying how dare you.


How dare you, someone like you, want anything for yourself.

The other one I was especially drawn to was Flicker, because it was so full of love. Even though I cried all the way through, because the story of that love was told in context with it’s imminent, heartbreaking loss, it was still very beautiful.

Looking for Group by Alexis Hall – Blog Tour with Giveaway

From Top to Bottom Reviews

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Please welcome Alexis Hall who kindly agreed to submit himself to our questions. We hope you have as much fun reading his asnwers as we did planning the questions. Here we go!

First of all, we want to thank you for agreeing to this interview. You’re one of our go-to authors, and we were really excited at the idea of getting to ask you some questions. We promise we’ll behave. We’ll do a few general questions, and then some related to your latest release Looking for Group.

What does your typical writing day look like? Do you have a writing schedule?

I’m actually full-time employed so I usually write in the evenings and weekends. I don’t particularly have a schedule, but I try to write every day if I can.

Where do you think you’re your most comfortable writing? Home? A café? The train station? The possibilities are endless and…

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For You

Wow, incredibly good post on this subject!

'Nathan Burgoine

One of the things about being a gay author of short fiction that usually finds itself on the more spec fic side of the street than the romantic is I’m not often a part of the romance culture as I’d like to be. I love romance, and a great deal of the short fiction I’ve written has definitely been gay romance, and even my first novel, Light, had a romantic sub-plot that was almost as weighty to the sum total of the book as the spec fic content was.

Often, this means I don’t often see a lot of the discussions that occur until they’re very well underway, and often those discussions have turned into a lot of anger before I see them at all. Which sort of sucks. I often only see a topic when someone posts a “This is So Damn Wrong!” post, a “It’s No Big…

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The Mythical Unicorn of LGBTQIA Novels (Or, the A doesn’t stand for Ally.)

Really important piece about asexuality!

Just Love: Queer Book Reviews

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I read a book last week that made the breath catch in my throat, made me pause and re-read a dialogue exchange once, twice, and then punch the air and shout “YES AWESOME!” That book was Part & Parcel by Abigail Roux. The scene that affected me so strongly was this one:

“Are you asexual?” Kelly asked carefully.

“That mean I don’t really like having sex?” Digger asked, and Kelly shrugged and nodded. “Then I guess so.”

I’ve discussed this a few times previously here on my blog. I am asexual. I am part of the approximately 1% of the world that is*. Think about that. 1% of the entire world is ace. That’s more than 70 million people. By comparison, only about 2% of the male population in the world identifies as gay. And yet there are thousands of books with gay romantic pairings, and only a handful with…

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Tuesday Night Book Review: Glitterland–A Spires Story by Alexis Hall

What a lovely review of Glitterland <3!

The Story Struggle and Beyond

Glitterland

I just finished reading Alexis Hall’s Glitterland. I need a moment or thirty to get myself back in the right frame of mind to do anything other than flail and be relieved. Oh, who am I kidding? This book is going to dog me for days, if not weeks. (And, to be perfectly honest, perhaps even years.) I knew going into this I adored Alexis Hall as you may remember if you read my glowing review of For Real a few weeks ago, so I wasn’t surprised I liked the book, but I was surprised BY the book, if that makes any sense? Enough chatter from me.

Let’s begin in our usual way with the blurb, shall we?

The universe is a glitterball I hold in the palm of my hand.

Once the golden boy of the English literary scene, now a clinically depressed writer of pulp crime fiction, Ash…

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You are oppressing us!

Wow, I think this is an important piece. Incredibly complicated & thought provoking.

feministkilljoys

Those who are oppressed – who have to struggle to exist often by virtue of being a member of a group – are often judged as the oppressors. We only have to turn the pages of feminist history to know this. When lesbians demanded entry into feminist spaces, we were called a “lavender menace.” We got in the way of the project of making feminism more acceptable. To be rendered unacceptable is often to be treated as the ones with the power (the power to take something away). I recently heard a heterosexual feminist speak of lesbians in feminism in exactly these terms: as wielding all the power. When black women and women of colour spoke of racism in feminism we were heard, we are heard, as angry, mean and spiteful, as hurting white women’s feelings. The angry woman of colour is not only a feminist killjoy she is often…

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