Friday, November 11, 2011

Amy Lane - The Locker Room

The Locker RoomThe Locker Room by Amy Lane

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There is really only one thing I don't love about this book: the cover.

Okay, to elaborate...

I stumbled across this book purely by accident - and then almost didn't read it after one look at the cover, because really, I have at least 4 friends who could've done a better job. Actually, I could have done a better job. But you know what they say about not judging a book by its cover.

First off, I like the tone in which this book is written. It's a pretty slow paced, dry recounting of the story of two men who have shared almost all their life with each other. There's no flowery prose, no unneeded descriptions, no distractions from the actual story. But that does in no way mean that this book isn't interesting, quite the opposite.

I have to confess that I sometimes had to bite my fingers so I wouldn't comment on other reviews. Both those saying 'oh my god, how could they do that when they really love each other?!' as well as those swooning over soul mates and true love. Because it seems to me that those people haven't really thought about what they read.

To me, most M/M stories are light reading. Fun, but nothing that stays in mind for long - or even five minutes after finishing the book. Not so this one. I think this was the first one that really got me thinking about what I had just read.

It's a love story, yes. But it's not actually as romantic as some reviews would make you think.

There's one thing you need to keep in mind here: Xander was a victim of abuse and neglect, in fact he was on his way to starving when he and Chris first met. He was fourteen years old, and had already learned not to trust anybody but himself, because nobody, absolutely nobody else would ever stand up for him, or try to help. And he had learned that lesson well.

Chris and his family were the first and only ones who ever offered him any kind of comfort. Especially Chris, who somehow saw more in that awkward, silent, tall youth than others and wanted to be his friend.

So those two latched on to each other - Xander desperately needing a friend and someone he could trust, Chris desperately wanting to help Xander, but also depending on his calm stability. And they stayed together like that, through high school, through college, through their professional career. Becoming lovers was practically inevitable.
Can you say co-dependency? I'm sorry, but what is supposed to be so romantic about that?

They had to separate for six months, six months during which they could talk on the phone, via webcam, where they could visit each other - and they simply couldn't function like that. That's not actually romantic, that's not even especially healthy.

I'm not saying that they don't love each other, they do. But the readers really should put away those rose tinted glasses there.

The other part, people being outraged about them sleeping with women while being in a relationship and soul mates and so on, and how dare they?!

This isn't a fantasy novel. It's also not science fiction. It's a very realistic book, and in this reality for two NBA players to come out is pretty much unthinkable if they ever want to play again. That's the world we live in, like it or not. Add in the fact that aside from Chris, basketball was the only thing that kept Xander going during his childhood (and he had been playing ball long before he ever met Chris) and was one huge comfort zone to him which he wouldn't give up as long as he didn't really, absolutely have to - do I have to spell this out?

This whole outrage over them 'cheating' on each other is ridiculous to me. For one, it wasn't cheating. They were both doing it, they both knew about it, they talked about it before. All it would have taken was one of them saying stop. But they didn't, at least for a while, because with a coach always on their case and rumors starting about them in the team, what choice exactly did they have if they wanted to stay together and keep playing?

Like I said, there is a lot in this book to think about. It also makes me wonder just how many men and women are caught in such a situation, and hope that there'll be a time when being different will be, well, normal.

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This had to happen...

Over the last few days I have been very pleasantly surprised to discover some m/m books that I really do like, thanks to Goodreads' 'People who liked this, also liked...' feature.

And then I start reading another book that has an amazingly good rating at Goodreads, and since this particular list hadn't let me down yet, well. Don't know if I'll finish reading it though.

About four pages in I realized that this had to have been a RPS fanfic originally, because one of the main characters is - not just reminds me of, no, is - Jared Padalecki. Unmistakably. So the other guy is Jensen, and his nine year old son got his freckles and mouth and eyes from him, and etc.
Then we have Jensen's- sorry, I mean Andrew's friend, who plays guitar in a band and is named Gary Stevens. At that point I almost fell out of my chair laughing. Then there's Jared's- oops, I mean Nathan's best bud, who is a loudmouth and brash, and his wife doesn't like him at all, and - you get the picture. Hi Chad.

I don't even know what bothers me about this so much. Except that I just don't like to read RPS, and the author of this book really didn't do anything but change the names before she sent it to the publisher. There is really no way to not notice that this is a fanfic. What amazes me, is that it's not just the characters but also the way this book is written that blinks at me like a big honking neon sign saying FANFICTION.

So? I read fanfiction. I have read thousands of fanfics over the years, so why does this bother me? I don't know. Maybe it's simply the fact that I know this is really a J2 RPS story.

(Although, after I read some reviews I'm almost sure I wouldn't like this book very much for other reasons, too.)

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The good, the bad, and the...

Because I have been stuck in the book I was reading, I decided that some distraction in the form of light reading was in order. Which for me means that I randomly open a book of my gay romance collection. What people tend to call gay romance.

I say it's light reading for several reasons, the most obvious being that m/m books tend to be amazingly short. I'm not sure I'd call a story that is only 90 pages long - small pages with big font at that - a novel. But alright. (To be fair, only two of the 11 novels I've read last week were under 100 pages long.)

As for the other reasons...

Mostly, there seem to be two categories when it comes to 'gay romance': sex or schmoop. Or both. You can find lots of books where the sex scenes take up more space than anything halfway resembling plot. Or you stumble across those books that are so cheesy you might be in danger of clogging your arteries just from reading. It gets worse when you find something that's cheesy beyond belief and contains lots of sex scenes. And not even well written sex scenes, oh no.

As someone who has read tons of fanfiction over the years I have read enough bad sex scenes to not even really notice anymore. To be honest, I have read so many sex scenes, that by now I usually just gloss over them or skip them entirely. Believe me, there will come a point at which you've read it all, probably at least half a dozen times. The sad truth is: just because someone is a published author doesn't automatically mean they write good erotica. In fact, all of the best sex scenes I have read have been written by fanfic authors. Go figure.
Also, if you think that male authors would be better at writing m/m scenes you'd be sadly mistaken.

To get back on track with this post, between the bad/too many sex scenes and the schmoopy cheese, the one thing that usually is missing is the plot. And characterization.

All this means that reading these books may be fun (I would hope so, at least), but it sure as hell isn't something that requires you to think or even pay very much attention. Light reading.

What annoys the hell out of me and can take a lot of fun out of reading them, is the often bad editing. A whole bunch of these novels has only been published as ebooks. And a lot of ebook publishers don't spend money on editors. Spelling and grammar errors, continuity SNAFUs, sentences that just don't make any sense - it's all there. Better get used to it if you want to read these books.

There are exceptions of course.

The first books that always come to mind are Marquesate's Special Forces series. These books deserve to be called books by the page count alone. There's plot, there are fleshed out characters, there's development, there's a level of realism that's shaking at times. (Hint: you can download the books for free at her homepage.)

There's Sean Kennedy's Tigers and Devils, which is funny, intelligent, and doesn't contain even one explicit sex scene.

There are, of course, Josh Lanyon's books, which are mostly mystery and crime with a main character that happens to be gay. I recommend reading the Adrien English Mysteries and Holmes and Moriarity.

As for me, I'm still on this reading binge. Until I'm starting to overload, or until I read something that's bad enough to make me not want to open another of these books for a while. Let's see what happens first.

Monday, October 24, 2011

On disappointed expectations

The book I am currently reading is The Hero of Ages, third part of the Mistborn trilogy by Brandon Sanderson. Actually, Goodreads tells me that I have been reading this book since 12. September - or in other words, for one month and almost two weeks. And I still haven't reached the middle.

To recap, I loved the first book of the trilogy, Mistborn. That fact, and the majority of the reader reviews, meant that I had high hopes and expectations for the second book, which according to some people was better than the first one. Then I read The Well of Ascension. Can't say I hate it, but I don't really like it for several reasons (which you can read about here, if you want to brave the spoilers.)

Now I have started book three - and have simply no motivation to read it. And this, I think, can mostly be blamed on my disappointment with the second book. Because now my expectations have done a one-eighty, Vin is still annoying, Sazed is turning out to be too emo for anybody's good - on the upside, there's Spook. And TenSoon, and oh, how relieved I was to read about him again. But that's not enough to make me pick up this damn book and read more than five pages of it at a time.

I want to like this book. I'm just not sure I can.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Writer's sins

For some reason or other I began a list of my favorite fan fiction peeves. (Well, favorite is not really the right word, but let's go with that for now.) Of course I was thinking up this list while I was in the shower, which isn't the best place for taking notes.

Add your own, I'm sure you have some. ;)

1. Authors who
    a) don't bother to proofread their own work
    b) do proofread but still manage to miss at least half of their spelling/grammar errors
    c) don't bother even asking someone to beta their work, even when they know there probably are mistakes in it (and mention said mistakes in the author's note)

2. Authors who write epically long stories that are just bad. And keep doing so, never learning from experience or their own mistakes, possibly because of those twits who always comment with 'that was sooo great' no matter the actual quality of the story.
On the flipside, I admire writers who, years and some precious experiences later, come back to revise their 20k+ stories in order to make them better.

3. Chatspeak. If u r writing lk this or, gods beware, using l33t, I'll assume that
    a) you are under the age of 20
    b) probably even under the age of 16
    c) too lazy to write like a normal person
    d) have never actually read a real book (and are therefore not in the least qualified to write anything yourself)

4. Using other languages in your story. Something which really annoys me in Losers fanfics is the excessive use of Spanish. Yes, I know Cougar speaks Spanish. The thing is, I don't. That's why I'm reading an English fanfiction. Building long sentences or whole conversations into your fanfic, which are in another language than the one you are actually writing your story in, is disrupting the flow of your story and also irritating. Adding the translation in the footnotes at the end of your story/chapter does not help. There are other ways to make sure the reader knows that something is being said in another language.

5. Using foreign words without knowing what they really mean, or grossly misspelling them. (I read a fanfic a few days ago in which the author kept using the word 'katanna'. I don't know what they thought that means, but it's certainly not a Samurai sword.) Now this is something that authors in anime fandoms love to do. If you want to use some phrases that almost every anime fan knows (like arigato, who doesn't know what that means?) that's fine with me. But for heaven's sake, use the right ones! And check the spelling!

6. Retelling something that has happened from the point of view of one of the characters. Which can work, if the author knows what they are doing. Most of the time it doesn't, especially when the author does it in the 'and then this happened, and Character A thought that' style, which happens a lot more often than should be possible. Aside from being bad style it's also mind numbingly boring.

I'm sure I'll think of more, but that's it for now. As I said, add some of your own. Talk to me, people! ;-P

Friday, August 26, 2011

Rosalee Sings...

And she does it amazingly well. A lot of people probably know Rosalee better as the background voice of Steve Carlson, at least that's how I knew her for a long time. And I admit that I wasn't all that enthusiastic to listen to her first album when it came out.

That changed on the evening of 20. April, when Steve, Rosalee and Darren Sher had a gig at the Privatclub in Berlin and Rosalee sang two of her own songs. Fortunately the merch stand had her album, which I am now the proud owner of.

In short: I love it. Rosalee has a great voice, the songs - well, pretty much everything written by Steve and Darren that I know has turned out good, so no surprise there. Which, I have to say, is my one problem with this album. If you know Steve Carlson's music it is pretty obvious who wrote the songs for Love is the Way. The first time I listened to the album I thought that they sounded like something that Steve would play. The exception being 'Singing to Survive', which incidentally is probably my favorite song from the album.

From comments Rosalee made on Twitter I have hopes that the next album - yes, there's gonna be a next one - will be something that sounds more like her, and less like Steve. Because a great voice like hers deserves to be recognized for itself.

But as I said above, I do love her music. So go and visit her website, listen to her songs, and if you like them - buy the album. Come on, you know you want to...

Monday, August 15, 2011

All the Colors of the Spectrum

I'm a green magic drafter!

Take the quiz at Brent

Or in other news, I started reading The Black Prism (Lightbringer #1) by Brent Weeks yesterday. He's the one who also wrote the Nightangel Trilogy, which I love. I've actually seen people complain that the Lightbringer series isn't like Nightangel - of course it bloody isn't, why should it? *shakes head at the stoopid*
But something tells me that this series will be at least as good as the Nightangel Trilogy was.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Musical Discoveries

Here's a question for you: how do you discover new music?

I'm asking, because yesterday I re-read a story I first read... two years ago? I think it was two years. And then there was an author's note mentioning Ian Hunter, which suddenly reminded me that, yes, that particular author is to blame for me liking Ian Hunter. I'd never even heard the name before.
That wasn't the first time either, another story made me start listening to ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, another band I'd never heard of. I think Snow Patrol was such a case, too, and I really wouldn't be surprised to find more examples.

Of course there's also the tried and true method of simply listening to the radio - hello Misery Loves Co. and Backyard Babies, not to mention Savatage.

Friends usually are also a good source for music recommendations. I solely blame Katie for my fangirling of Kenny Wayne Shepherd (brand new album, check it out!), and Dani has made me start listening to so many bands, I can't list them all up here. (Okay, I could, but I'm lazy like that.)

My very first source for music was my brother, who is almost eleven years older than me. Yes, the age difference is worth mentioning - I was born in 1980, he in 1969. Regarding music it makes for a world of difference. The first two bands I really listened to were Die Toten Hosen, a German punk band, and AC/DC. Granted, I had no idea what the lyrics of the AC/DC songs meant, seeing as I was 10 years old at the time and didn't speak English, but still. He is also to blame for Metallica, Megadeth, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Idol, Guns 'N' Roses, and lots more hard rock and metal. Yes, my taste in music was vastly different from most of my friends during school.

Then we have the bands/artist that you just can't escape - because everybody you know likes them, or they get played on the radio all the damn time. Bon Jovi comes to mind there, for one.

Movies and tv shows are also a good source for music. The Supernatural soundtrack alone has almost everything a rock lover like me could ever want. Anime of course startet me on J-Rock.

So, that's me. I don't usually go and search for new artists - I don't have to. How about you?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Out of My Depths

Today I had the brilliant idea to sort my music files by genre, to get a little more order into my folder mess. It was... enlightening? Especially considering that I had to use the help of Wikipedia and MySpace to figure the respective genres out.

In conclusion... what the fuck? Post Grunge? Funk Metal? And what is supposed to be so alternative about Alternative Rock or Alternative Metal? It seems that these days pretty much every band and musician makes alternative something. My favorite is without question Alternative Country. (A/N: that was sarcasm.)

There's a reason why I never cared about music genres. There's music I like, and there's music I don't like, that's it. Okay, so let's divide that into a few groups:

Rock, Metal, Blues, Jazz, Pop, Classical, Electronic, Instrumental, Musical, Country

That pretty much covers everything I usually listen to. You can call it Alternative Rock if you want, to me it's Rock. Or Metal, or Country, or whatever else. What's up with all those pseudo genres?

Years ago I read something about that - in fact it was something the singer of ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead had written as an answer to the often asked question what kind of music exactly his band was making. The short answer was: nothing specific. They don't care about genres, because they play what they like and are in the mood for. They experiment. You can't put simply one label on that.

I guess I listen to music the same way they make it - experimentally. Yes, I will always favor Rock, but that doesn't mean I'll let myself be bound to that genre. Or to any genre.

...where is my point, has anybody seen my point? I think I had one when I started writing. Music genres are bloody confusing? Let's go with that.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Brandon Sanderson - The Well of Ascension (Mistborn #2)

The Well of Ascension (Mistborn, #2)The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Spoilers are blacked out, highlight to read.

Oh ye gods, I'm done! While I really liked the first book in the Mistborn trilogy, this one was... a serious letdown. Let me count the ways...

The Characters.
Vin should be renamed to Mary Sue. That's really all there is to it. While the tendency was already developing in book 1, it really came to the fore here. And without Kelsier as a counter point to Vin it really became too much. Vin is just too good. It doesn't matter that she gets hurt, in the end she always wins without any dire consequences. Be it luck, amazing skill, or a brilliant idea that comes to her just at the right moment, you know every time that she'll get out of it alright. Which takes pretty much all the suspense out of any fight and conflict she's in.
Her teenage angsting about Elend and their relationship just makes her all the more annoying.

Which brings me to Elend Venture - and I'm still hung up on the name, I'm sorry. But Sanderson really should've checked first what Elend means - and I sincerely hope that he didn't and the name isn't intentional. (For the confused ones, Elend is a German word and means misery.)
Aside from that... As with Vin, it only gets worse in the second book. We already knew that Elend is an idealist, but I didn't think he would be that much of a naive, stupid idealist. The man grew up as the heir to one of the most powerful noble houses, and he still behaves like a bumbling idiot who knows nothing about real politics and human nature. Elend, of all people, should know that in the end almost everybody does what's best for themselves, not the 'people'. The only surprising thing about the council getting rid of him, is that it took them so long.
(Or not, I guess having a king who lets his council walk all over him wasn't the worst situation for them.)

Sazed; I have to say, I wish there'd been more about him. He and Breeze are about the only the characters in this book that experienced some development. I enjoyed learning more about Breeze and his thoughts and motivations, but as with Sazed, there should've been more.

Zane had, without a doubt, a lot of potential, and that made me miss him all the more for the last part of the book. I don't believe he's gone though. Come on, you think Sanderson would throw a revelation like that at us and then just kill him off? Especially knowing that there's pretty much only one way to kill him, which Vin didn't know and therefore didn't use?
I hope to see a lot more of him, and please please go deeper than just the surface. All the potential in the world doesn't do any good if it's not realized.
(If he actually is dead, then I can only wonder what the hell his purpose in the story was.)

The most interesting character in this book was the Kandra. And that was even before finding out about TenSoon. Again, I'll hope he'll be back in book 3, or that at least there'll be more about the Kandra in general.

The Story.
Over all not bad, though given how much the two main characters annoy me that's not much of a saving grace. I think there was exactly one thing in this story that came as a surprise, and that was TenSoon. Well, and Zane's secret.
Aside from that...

Zane turning against Vin? Don't tell me you didn't see that coming.

Vin finding a way to control the Koloss? Do I have to mention the Mary Sue factor again?

Marsh turning on them? Please, it was mentioned right from the beginning that he was changing. And after finding out what it was that caused Zane to go around the bend it really wasn't that much of a logical leap.

The Well not being the salvation everyone thought it would be? Now there's the least surprising thing of all.

Or maybe the least surprising thing was Elend becoming an Allomancer. No really, I was expecting that since the beginning of the book.

I'm sorry to say this, but I just could not get into this book. The characters were mostly too flat or annoying to get invested in them, the story didn't really hold any surprises, and the whole thing dragged like old chewing gum. I sincerely hope that the third book will be better than this.

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