Book 20: Playing by the Book – S. Chris Shirley

Shirley, S. Chris - Playing by the BookI wasn’t sure what to expect with this novel, but with a southern religious protagonist I knew I needed to read it to see how the author handled this and I am glad I did. I was a little hesitant at first as the last two book I read from this publisher, 50 Shades of Gay and The Hunger Gays weren’t amazing, but this one was excellent. I received a copy of this book from Riverdale Avenue Books and this is my honest opinion and I received nothing in return.

Playing by the Book is the story of Jake Powell and his journey from Preacher’s Kid (PK) in small-town Alabama to an elite summer journalism program at Columbia University in New York City. This is the first time he’s away from home and needless to say it is the experience of a lifetime. Not only is this a coming out story, it is a true coming of age story. Many young adult novels over emphasis one or the other, but this novel intricately tied the two together.

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Book 18: Winter’s Tale – Mark Helprin

Helprin, Mark - Winter's TaleAfter nearly a month of trekking through, I’ve FINALLY finished this book. Coming in at 748 pages, this is 250 pages longer than in other book I’ve read this year and it definitely felt like it was longer! I did take a bit of time out to read two additional book during the time I read this, but they were much-needed reprieves. I of course decided to read this after seeing a trailer for the film adaptation released this past February.

I can’t say this was a bad book, because it was excellently written, but I can say it was too damn long. Most striking, however, I chose the perfect winter to read it. This winter has definitely felt as if it was one of the epic endless winter’s Helprin wrote about throughout this novel: the constant snow, the frozen water and the plunging temperatures. The only thing missing from my winter was the romance and the magic!

Aside from the length of the novel, I struggled with the reality of the novel. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out if this novel was a historical fiction novel or a fantasy novel and apparently it was both. I knew there were fantasy elements of it, but I wasn’t sure how much of it should have been fantastical or real and for some reason I found it incredibly challenging!

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Book 16: It’s All Geek to Me – J. L. Merrow

Merrow, J. L. - It's All Geek To MeWhat a quick fun read! I thoroughly enjoyed this book and if Merrow were to expand this story into a longer novel, or even a series of short stories, I would definitely check it out. I received a copy of It’s All Geek to Me from the publisher, Riptide Publishing and received nothing in return for my honest opinion.

From the adorkable premise of the comic book store to the “aww” worthy ending, I couldn’t help but smile through this quick novella. I of course loved the two main characters, the gorgeously described Welshman Rhys and the adorably emotionally fragile protagonist Jez. Merrow did a great job building the tension between the Rhys and Jez and adding in a (not completely) unexpected turn. I wasn’t quite sure what the hidden secret was but I was so worried it was going to be something completely different and the actual reason was so adorable and their reactions were so adorable that I couldn’t help but smile.

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Book 12: Significant Others (Tales of the City #5) – Armistead Maupin

Maupin, Armistead - Significant Others (Tales of the City #4)Coming back to Maupin’s San Francisco is like going home after a really long vacation. There’s something comforting and something genuinely nice about being back on Barbary Lane. (See the first quote under Additional Quotes).

I can’t believe it’s been almost three years since I binge read Tales of the CityMore Tales of the CityFurther Tales of the City and Babycakes. And like everyone else who has ever read a single one of The Tales of the city books, I’m finally taking the time to catch up on the series, which has spanned five decades so that I can read the final (I’m assuming) novel in the series The Days of Anna Madrigal released at the beginning of 2014. I won’t binge read them, but they’re such quick reads I plan to read them all this year.

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Book 11: Openly Straight – Bill Konigsberg

Konigsberg, Bill - Openly StraightI saw this book first on Sarah’s blog Sarah Reads Too Much and as soon as I saw the author and read her review I knew I wanted to read it. My first introduction to Bill Konigsberg was through his debut novel Out of the Pocket. It’s hard to believe I read it three years ago AND it was my very first book on my old Sony e-reader.The best part is as I did a quick re-read of that post Konigsberg answered quite a few of my critiques and he’s clearly matured as a fiction writer over the past few years!

As I read the book I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between this and Andrew Smith’s Winger which was a great novel I read last year. However, they are distinctly different and as much as I enjoyed Winger I would probably put this one ahead, not for the writing, but for the story and the subject matter.

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