Book Talk: Three Mini-Reviews and a small work update

Posted December 30, 2017 by Lynn E. O'Connacht in Books, Other People's Creations / 0 Comments


Okay, so I have a few books that I’d like to take about before the end of the year and… I’m failing to write long and proper reviews for all of them, so I figured I’d write a few mini-reviews and bundle them.

These will likely be the final reviews of the year, but I may end up rested enough that I’ll actually write a few more. They may or may not be around this length and they may or may not end up grouped together.

Beyond that… Tiny work update! I’m still poking away at RibbonDancer now that I’ve finally found a direction it’ll move forward in. Yay! (Minor downside: apparently it requires the same song on repeat. This wouldn’t be such a bad thing if it wasn’t one of the distracting “I must sing along” ones that make for terrible writing music.)

DemiPrincess1 is still with its betareaders, so both it and DemiPrincess2 are on hold until I can revise (read: rip to shreds and rebuild from the ground up) DemiPrincess1.

I seem to be in the grips of writing all the nonfiction at the moment, as evidenced by the fact that my latest work has all been nonfiction. This week’s project? Starting to poke at a retrospective of my experiences prioritising books with characters on the asexual spectrum.

I now have, like, four essays in draft format? With nary a clue what to do with any of them because I still pretty much lack the confidence not to self-reject nonfiction?

Thankfully, I do know the overarching issue is that I’m perpetually insecure about how many sources you actually
need. That’s the one thing I wish university had taught us in better detail and more nuance than “Source everything!” and… Yeah. Anyway!

You’re likely here for those reviews I mentioned earlier, so I should probably get to them. In short, writing is slow and mostly focused on nonfiction and wrapping up the year. (I can’t believe it’s almost 2018 already.) These are the last of the reviews for books I read with ace-spec characters in them.

The Foxhole Court by Nora Sakavic

Book Talk: Three Mini-Reviews and a small work updateThe Foxhole Court by Nora Sakavic
Series: All for the Game #1
Pages: 262

Neil Josten is the newest addition to the Palmetto State University Exy team. He's short, he's fast, he's got a ton of potential—and he's the runaway son of the murderous crime lord known as The Butcher.

Signing a contract with the PSU Foxes is the last thing a guy like Neil should do. The team is high profile and he doesn't need sports crews broadcasting pictures of his face around the nation. His lies will hold up only so long under this kind of scrutiny and the truth will get him killed.

But Neil's not the only one with secrets on the team. One of Neil's new teammates is a friend from his old life, and Neil can't walk away from him a second time. Neil has survived the last eight years by running. Maybe he's finally found someone and something worth fighting for.

This book came to my attention because of its supposed demisexual representation. Well, because the series has demisexual representation, rather. It’s gotten rave reviews and was highly recommended and, basically, I feel like the book I read comes from another dimension because this is, hands-down, the worst book I’ve read this year. Nothing in it makes sense.

As for the demisexual representation? I didn’t like it personally. I thought the narrative made it extremely clear that Neil was interested in girls when he was a teenager and his mother abused him for it and doesn’t handle the link between Neil’s sexuality and trauma in a way that worked for me. Also I felt that the beginning of the romance we see here reads more like Stockholm Syndrome than demisexuality. (Fun fact: they’re not the same thing.)

CW: drug abuse, alcohol abuse, verbal abuse, physical abuse, ableism, stereotypical depictions of mental illness, racism

Yep. That’s all I’ve got. Anything else is just a rant.

Far From Home by Lorelie Brown

Book Talk: Three Mini-Reviews and a small work updateFar From Home by Lorelie Brown
Series: Belladonna Ink #1
Pages: 205

My name is Rachel. I’m straight . . . I think. I also have a mountain of student loans and a smart mouth. I wasn’t serious when I told Pari Sadashiv I’d marry her. It was only party banter! Except Pari needs a green card, and she’s willing to give me a breather from drowning in debt.

My off-the-cuff idea might not be so terrible. We get along as friends. She’s really romantically cautious, which I find heartbreaking. She deserves someone to laugh with. She’s kind. And calm. And gorgeous. A couple of years with her actually sounds pretty good. If some of Pari’s kindness and calm rubs off on me, that’d be a bonus, because I’m a mess—anorexia is not a pretty word—and my little ways of keeping control of myself, of the world, aren’t working anymore.

And if I slip up, Pari will see my cracks. Then I’ll crack. Which means I gotta get out, quick, before I fall in love with my wife.

Again, this is a contemporary romance that came to my attention both because it has demisexual representation and also because it’s an f/f romance. It is explicit, so if graphic sex isn’t your thing and skimming doesn’t work for you, this book probably isn’t. It also comes with warnings for eating disorders as Rachel is a relapsing anorexic. The Indian representation also relies on stereotypes according to other reviewers.

I actually have a lot of misgivings about the demisexual representation in this book. Not only does Far From Home feature the Allo Saviour trope variant of introducing an allosexual character for the explicit purpose of introducing the MC to asexuality (or, in this case, demisexuality, because Rachel has already researched asexuality and… somehow has never heard of demisexuality.) and because I’m not convinced that it handles the combination and the intersectionality between eating disorders and asexuality. It comes very close, imo, to suggesting that Rachel’s asexuality/demisexuality is a result of her eating disorder and presented as an element of her recovery process, especially combined with the fact that Rachel decides to marry Pari for a green card without ever having met Pari until the party she says that in.

As such, I can’t say that I really liked the book. I would’ve liked it far more of Brown had presented it as an allosexual f/f romance. Pari is an absolute sweetheart and Rachel is quite sweet as well. They stumble, but they work things out and watching these two women call forth aspects of the other that they didn’t know they had in them is lovely. If you like the premise (and ignore the demisexual rep), you might find it a really sweet and fun f/f romance.

Stake Sauce: Arc 1 by RoAnna Sylver

Book Talk: Three Mini-Reviews and a small work updateStake Sauce: Arc 1 The Secret Ingredient Is Love. No, Really by RoAnna Sylver
Series: Stake Sauce #1
Pages: 204

Jude used to leap out of helicopters to rescue/protect people from terrifying infernos. Now, by day, he protects the local mall from rowdy teenagers who ride their skateboards inside. By night, he protects the the parking lot, and the rest of Portland, from undead, bloodsucking creatures of the darkness. Or would if he could find them.

But he’s just about ready to give it up (living with PTSD and pain from the traumatic event that cost him a leg, a friend, and a lot more is hard enough), when something crashes into his life. And his window.

It’s one of these creatures of the darkness – and he’s a lot less scary than expected. More cuddly, with dark fuzzy wings, and neon-bright hair.

His name is Pixie, and he refuses to bite anyone. Assault/murder/draining fluids isn’t punk, even if being a vampire really kind of is. He’s very hungry by now, and the much bigger, meaner, deadlier vamps kick him around on the nightly. Jude would love to find and fight some actual undead bullies. And Pixie could use some help staying… ‘alive.’ Time to make a deal.

Together they fight crime. And maybe even heal.

Of course, life still sucks when you’re a vampire who refuses to suck blood. Fortunately, there’s a really interesting new barbecue restaurant in the mall, with an intriguing new recipe. (We hear that the secret ingredient is… love. No, really.)

Also by this author: Chameleon Moon, Stake Sauce Arc 1, But Not Up Here (Poems About Remembering In Neon)

Disclaimer: The author is a friend. I’ve done my best to write an unbiased review.

Stake Sauce is, in a lot of ways, not the kind of story I normally read. It’s a contemporary novel(la?) about vampires. They don’t sparkle, though one of them is pink and adorable and stole my heart just a little. Pixie is the adorablest, sweetest creature and well-worth reading this book for.

But, in addition, there’s Jude – a transgender, disabled, greyace, greyro mall cop turned vampire hunter – who deals with chronic pain and PTSD. Like all of RoAnna’s books, it centres disability and community, as well as recovery and hope. It’s absolutely, delightfully queer.

My main issue with the story is that it moved way too fast for my tastes, which resulted in feeling like I kept missing bits of context and details and that kept the whole story from shining as brightly as I could imagine it doing.

The main villain never really had a chance to become terribly scary to me and I don’t think Jude and Pixie’s relationship really got the space it needed to breathe. T_T That said, they are adorable together and I look forward to seeing more of them in later arcs. Plus, I was always going to whinge about there not being enough Pixie, so you may want to take that with a grain of salt in general. RoAnna also manages to walk a really fine line between her depiction of vampires as well.

That said, this is the first episode in an ongoing serial, so the overarching narrative isn’t finished yet at all. While Stake Sauce is a complete story arc in and of itself, it’s very obvious that there’s more to come. If you enjoy vampire stories, I’d definitely recommend it. Not only does it offer you a really intriguing urban fantasy setting that will, I suspect, be expanded on in later installments and the extras RoAnna offers except with more diversity, it also offers you a great mixture of familiar and unfamiliar vampire lore and tons of sympathetic and positive marginalised representation.

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