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 15: Overcoming Passive-Aggression – Tim Murphy and Loriann Hoff Oberlin

Murphy, Tim and Loriann Hoff Oberlin - Overcoming Passive AggressionTalk about a rough read. The entire time I was reading this, I kept thinking back to that phrase from the 2001 movie A Knight’s Tale: “You have been weighed, you have been measured, and you have been found wanting.” Please don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t solely from this book or the last few that I’ve read that this thought process stems from, trust me. It’s something I’ve been struggling with for the past year and a half and as much as I’ve improved, I knew I was still struggling with myriad issues.

I mentioned when I wrote about Crucial Conversations that I’d had one recently and that the feedback I got hurt like hell but was something that I needed to hear. And honestly I can’t thank that person enough for having the candor to tell me what they did and spurring me to take a long look at myself. Again, don’t get me completely wrong I’ve not been hiding that I’m a horrible person, but I’ve definitely struggled for some time and after reading this I’m wondering how long I’ve been struggling and not knowing or, more than likely, not admitting it.

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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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Book 10: Zazen – Vanessa Veselka

Veselka, Vanessa - ZazenAfter seeing this on Heather’s blog Between the Covers (direct link to her review) and seeing her recommend it to many other people over the intervening years and knowing we have similar book tastes I knew I needed to read this novel.

This was a fascinating take on (post) identity politics in a (potentially) war-torn country. It was incredibly difficult to decide how much was seriousness, criticism, sarcasm or some other commentary. I had a brief conversation with Heather about the book because I was so confused as I started reading it that I thought it might be a translation. In the end I felt Veselka did a great job but I’m still not quite sure what form of commentary she was using. The combination of the identity politics versus the environmental (both natural and manmade) issues made for a really interesting read. Veselka’s writing and story telling reminded me of a less controlled and less refined Margaret Atwood, so of course I was going to enjoy it.

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Book 8: Hunger Gays – Nathan Alexander

Alexander, Nathan - Hunger GaysI’m not sure what I expected with this book, but it wasn’t what I got. When I requested a copy of this book from the publisher I expected a fun parody of The Hunger Games, but ultimately it wasn’t. This is my honest opinion and I received nothing in return.

Let’s start with the good. There is a lot of potential in this writer, the ideas and the story adaptation are there, it’s the translation to the page that needs work. The story is a basic copy of The Hunger Games but it’s solely men entered into the tournament and rather than just killing for survival there has to be some sort of erotic act as well. I think the best thing about this novel, by far, is the name of the government drag queen: Lady Mary Posa.

Mariposa is the Spanish word for butterfly and is often times used in a derogatorily (similar to fag or queer), but in choosing to re-empower this word and have a, what I’m assuming is supposed to be funny, drag queen embrace the name and make it her shtick is quite creative and charming. And the authors creativity is further seen through his imagination (or my lack of imagination) to include the myriad pleasure devices mentioned within the arena.

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