Monthly Archives: March 2017

Review of Out of Nowhere (Middle of Somewhere #2), by Roan Parrish

I borrowed a copy of Roan Parrish‘s Out of Nowhere. I reviewed book one in the series, In the Middle of Somewhere, last year.

Description from Goodreds:
The only thing in Colin Mulligan’s life that makes sense is taking cars apart and putting them back together. In the auto shop where he works with his father and brothers, he tries to get through the day without having a panic attack or flying into a rage. Drinking helps. So do running and lifting weights until he can hardly stand. But none of it can change the fact that he’s gay, a secret he has kept from everyone.

Rafael Guerrera has found ways to live with the past he’s ashamed of. He’s dedicated his life to social justice work and to helping youth who, like him, had very little growing up. He has no time for love. Hell, he barely has time for himself. Somehow, everything about miserable, self-destructive Colin cries out to him. But down that path lie the troubles Rafe has worked so hard to leave behind. And as their relationship intensifies, Rafe and Colin are forced to dredge up secrets that both men would prefer stay buried.

I’m really torn about how to review this book. Because it’s good, well written and such, but it’s one of those books that makes me realize I might not be a very good person, at least not very forgiving. And I can’t say I enjoyed a lot of it.

Here’s the thing for me, Colin spent a decade and a half (if not more) actively seeking to destroy one person’s life. He was cruel at every single turn, unremittingly horrible and inspired others around him to be the same, such that his brother had no safe place and certainly no family support where it very likely could have existed otherwise. (If nothing else, he could have been a support and likely Brian would have followed and Sam didn’t seem to care enough to be hostile.) He made several people around him miserable. I’m honestly surprised they survived him and his rancor.

And yes, this book gave me his pitiful, self-hating history. I understood the horrible mental place he was in personally. I understood why he stayed in the closet, why he hated himself, why he was unhappy. I even academically understood why he lashed out against his brother the way he did. But none of that changed the fact that for 15+ years he made someone else’s life hell, purposefully targeted someone he deemed weaker than himself and beat him literally and figuratively. And no pat little, “I”m sorry, I want be happy now” made that go away for me.

As far as I was concerned, he didn’t deserve Daniel’s forgiveness, let alone his instant forgiveness and that poisoned his happily ever after as far as I’m concerned. No amount of “I was miserably too” makes the history between him and Daniel, and by extension Brian, ok in my mind.

It’s a purely emotional response. And it’s not even a fair one. Because I know in real life there are probably a lot of men out there in positions similar to Colin’s, living with an anchor-weights worth of internalized homophobia and trapped in family circumstances that make them feel like they have no options. And a lot of them are probably angry, or masking hurt with anger. And I’ll admit, Parrish wrote the perfect partner for Colin. I can’t imagine anyone else being able to look past what a frankly horrible person he was and see anything redeemable. Honestly, I don’t think I did, even given Rafe’s view of him.

And that’s the thing. As readers of this story, we’re supposed to see a kernel of something better in Colin. But sorry, you are your actions once you’ve spent 15 years solidifying your position at the expense of someone else, and I couldn’t find what was supposed to redeem Colin. I just couldn’t.

Might he be something better from the end of the book forward? Sure. But I simply can’t relate to the person who suffered forgiving and accepting him with open arms. Where exactly was his act of redemption? What did he do to deserve Daniel’s forgiveness? Nothing as far as I could see.

And I know someone shouldn’t have to earn forgiveness. That’s not the way it’s supposed to work; it has to be given. But I suppose that just makes Daniel a better person than me for being willing to offer himself up, but I felt no satisfaction in their reconnection.

I see where Parrish was going with this. What she was trying to accomplish and I know a lot of people really enjoyed it. But the end of the book found me just as angry, if not more angry for Daniel than when I finished the first book. And I know the book really does explore some important things, like the isolating effects of staying in the closet, the harm homophobic parents can do, the importance of peer support, the long-lasting and unfair effects of a prison stint, the damage we do each-other by not teaching people (men especially) communication skills, etc. I can appreciate these aspects of this difficult coming out story, but my emotional reaction to it is such that I found I couldn’t truly enjoy it.

On other matters, I liked that the characters were in their late thirties, though they often felt much younger to me. I liked that one of them was Latino. I couldn’t with all the media references though. I hate that a means to describe a characters. Can you imagine reading this book and trying to guess what the characters look like if you haven’t watched television in over 5 years and have only seen maybe 3 movies in that time? Frustrating! And what was up with the random breath-play?

All in all, I like Parrish’s writing. I have book 3 that I’ll be reading (well, listening to) and I’ll certainly pick up other books. But apparently I’m not a forgiving enough person for this one. I just feel indignant, righteously or otherwise. Sorry.

Review of The Android and the Thief, by Wendy Rathbone

I received a copy of The Android and the Thief from the author, Wendy Rathbone.

Description from Goodreads:
Will love set them free—or seal their fate?

In the sixty-seventh century, Trev, a master thief and computer hacker, and Khim, a vat-grown human android, reluctantly share a cell in a floating space prison called Steering Star. Trev is there as part of an arrangement that might finally free him from his father’s control. Khim, formerly a combat android, snaps when he is sold into the pleasure trade and murders one of the men who sexually assaults him. At first they are at odds, but despite secrets and their dark pasts, they form a pact—first to survive the prison, and then to escape it.

But independence remains elusive, and falling in love comes with its own challenges. Trev’s father, Dante, a powerful underworld figure with sweeping influence throughout the galaxy, maintains control over their lives that seems stronger than any prison security system, and he seeks to keep them apart. Trev and Khim must plan another, more complex escape, and this time make sure they are well beyond the law as well as Dante’s reach. 

I liked but didn’t love this. Mostly because I really think it wanted to be a light fluffy read (and mostly was), but starting with a fairly detailed gang rape killed any real chance of succeeding with this. And I don’t even think showing the rape was necessary. The reader could have known it happened without all the details.

Setting the need for the rape scene aside, I liked both characters. They were each cute and cute as a couple. I can’t say I really felt any real chemistry between them, but I liked them. Beyond liking the characters though, I was iffy on a lot of the book. So many things pulled me out of it.

  • Being set in the far distant future or a galaxy far, far away but people still ordering pizza,  dressing just like we do today and reading Bradbury.
  • The operas and such with names just a little off recognizable contemporary songs. I think it was meant to be cute, but it felt lazy.
  • The questionable idea that anyone could plan and break out of a maximum security space prison, let alone do so easily.
  • The coincidence of so many security setups had the exact same loophole for Trev to exploit.
  • How easily Trev could do anything and everything, bypassing any system in seconds. Somehow even accessing things that shouldn’t be online at all.
  • The ending, where everyone is presumed to live happily ever after, but there is nothing to suggest the bad guy (phrased that way to avoid spoilers) couldn’t find them just as easily as he did the first time.
  • The painful lack of women. Even situations that easily could have women in them were declared “all-male.”
  • The question of how and why Trev was apparenlty the only one in the universe who easily saw androids as human, if he was raised the same way as everyone else. What made him different?
  • Similarly, why was he the only one in his family not to be criminally inlined if he was raised just like the rest of them.
  • The term android, the reader is told repeatedly that android isn’t the correct term for androids, it’s an insult, but we’re never told what the correct term should be.
  • How much of it was written in tell, instead of show.
  • How little happened, considered it’s 294 pages long.

All in all, I’ll say this was a book I don’t regret reading, but I wasn’t blown away by it either. It was ok.

Review of Certain Dark Things, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

I borrowed Silvia Moreno-Garcia‘s Certain Dark Things from the library.

Description from Goodreads:
Welcome to Mexico City… An Oasis In A Sea Of Vampires…

Domingo, a lonely garbage-collecting street kid, is busy eking out a living when a jaded vampire on the run swoops into his life.

Atl, the descendant of Aztec blood drinkers, must feast on the young to survive and Domingo looks especially tasty. Smart, beautiful, and dangerous, Atl needs to escape to South America, far from the rival narco-vampire clan pursuing her. Domingo is smitten.

Her plan doesn’t include developing any real attachment to Domingo. Hell, the only living creature she loves is her trusty Doberman. Little by little, Atl finds herself warming up to the scrappy young man and his effervescent charm.

And then there’s Ana, a cop who suddenly finds herself following a trail of corpses and winds up smack in the middle of vampire gang rivalries.

Vampires, humans, cops, and gangsters collide in the dark streets of Mexico City. Do Atl and Domingo even stand a chance of making it out alive?

I’m going to be honest. I picked this book up at the library based on the cover alone. It is gorgeous and caught my eye. The word vampire was there took and that’s all she wrote. I too this sucker home.

This is a technique for picking out books that has often led me astray, but in this case it worked out just fine. I quite enjoyed Certain Dark Things. I mean, Mexican vampires, or more accurately vampires in Mexico City! The main character is from an ancient Aztec clan, but there are African, Canadian, European, Russian, Chinese and vampires from other places too. Ain’t immigration grand? Not all of them represented in the book, but there are at least 10 subspecies of vampires.

One of the main character is a bisexual Latinx vampire, and the other is about the cutest 17yo boy you’ll ever meet. Honestly, with his tendency to be uncertain in social settings and open, naiveté despite living on the streets, I wondered if he wasn’t meant to be on the autism spectrum somewhere. But I think that might just be me, nothing in the book other than how I interpreted his behavior suggests this. Either way, I adored Domingo. Don’t get me wrong, I liked Atl, but Domingo stole the show for me.

I wouldn’t call this a romance, though I think it has romantic elements and a HEA of a sort. But I like it better for how it ended.

The writing is lovely and I really liked the voice a lot. My biggest complaint is that it is cliche to have a villain obsess over hunting a woman down to rape and torture because his advances were rejected. Yes, there’s more to it than that, but that’s a lot of what it boils down to and that’s just motivation that’s been used and used and used and used.

All in all, Moreno-Garcia is on my radar now and I’ll be checking out more of her work.