March 2016 recap and links

Sorry for the radio silence! Turns out that while you can work and study full time, at the same time as writing and trying to review, it’s actually a terrible idea for your physical health. Or for mine. I shouldn’t speak for you – you could be a superhero who can do it all. Me, I can barely move off the couch.

What happened recently on this site:

I posted a favourable review of Trailer Trash by Marie Sexton on the 13th of March.

What’s happening elsewhere:

This interview with Marjorie Liu about, amongst other things, the transgressiveness of romance novels, I found interesting.

At Huffington Post, 11 Women Throughout History Who Wrote about Sex. They’re obviously not the only women who write about sex, but it’s always nice for people to be reminded it’s not rare. (I’m more of a fade to black girl, myself.)

On the Inevitable Pettiness of Creative Work.

This link round up at Dear Author has a link discussing the ‘gay for you’ trope in m/m fiction. Interesting discussion (and further links) in comments ensues. I think they’re worth the read.

Kat Mayo’s speech at the Australian Romance Readers Awards dinner.

Review: Trailer Trash

Trailer Trash by Marie Sexton
Acquired how: ebook ARC via Netgalley

I requested an ARC of this one, because the idea of a gay romance set in the rural 80s intrigued me.

Mine was not the MTV 80s, either. I was young in the 80s, and I lived in Australia, which back then was very different from America – but I did live in a town in the middle of nowhere and I do remember the fear bred by the AIDS crisis. It was very real. In fact, for a long time it seemed like all gay fiction could talk about was the AIDS crisis. I used to get frustrated at how depressing it all was for me, as a young queer person, to only be able to find stories about people dying.

Now, it often seems like the AIDS crisis has all but been forgotten. Magazines claim young people today have the sexual freedom people had before everyone was afraid sex would kill you, and antiretrovirals mean that people with HIV can live longer than ever. Finally, I’m more willing to look back at that period of time, and read fiction that recalls being young and afraid.

To be honest, I can’t extricate my reaction to this book from that. I will admit that I am incapable of being fully objective here.

There are some problems with Sexton’s book – none of the prices quoted for groceries in the review copy really make sense. But the grinding feeling of poverty and never feeling like you will dig your way out of it is quite true to life. The fear Cody and Nate have, of being trapped in a town with nothing but a bowling alley and a lot of dirt, was ably evoked. I believed Sexton’s setting because it felt right.

The relationship also made emotional sense. The characters were poised on the cusp of adulthood and starting to try to make adult choices, but not just ready to let go of childhood attachments yet. The struggle between being afraid of what you want and what it says about you, and going after things without quite considering the consequences, seemed believably teenage. I could see why Cody and Nate were drawn to each other, and how desperation intensified their feelings. They go from feeling like they don’t fit in with anyone, to an ‘us against the world’ mentality. The setbacks in their relationship made sense, as did the steps they finally took to overcome them.

Ultimately, I enjoyed it, and I think a lot of others would too. I’m not going to get into a habit of reading romances about teenagers in the future (so much drama), but in terms of relationship progression, and evoking an era I’m starting to want to look back on, this was satisfying for me.

Week ending 6th March 2016

I posted short reviews of Out of Rhythm and Pictures and Memories on Saturday.

The Book Smugglers had an SFF in Conversation post with writers transitioning from writing short stories to novels or vice versa.  As a reader I often find it interesting to see writers talking about their methods and the different ways they write different types of stories.

SBTB has a post What’s on Your Romance Wishlist? Asking people what they’d like to see in romance. It’s interesting to see the variety of things people are looking for in books but have trouble finding. Be warned, though: reading through these comments may make you spend a lot of money.

Short reviews 2016/March 5

Out of Rhythm  by Shona Husk – (bought ebook) Gemma and Kirsten shared a kiss that ruined their friendship before Gemma went on tour with her band, but now that she’s back how will they deal with it? With a lot of tell instead of show, that’s how. I’m usually not too bothered with the show don’t tell rule – honestly, sometimes it’s useful for a character to be clear that they know themselves, or to summarise plot that would take too long to show and warp the pace of the plot – but this was too weighted in favour of telling. This was a short book, but I think all the exposition made it feel even slighter. Some elements of the story could have been described or shown through actions to make the story more convincing, and with a lot of the exposition cut out it wouldn’t have been any longer. It was difficult to get a feeling for the characters. Fine, but not good.

Pictures and Memories by Lauren E. Mitchell – (ebook ARC via Netgalley) I liked the idea of a short story exploring a holiday romance that a person doesn’t want to let go of and that lingers in memory. However, this felt too short. There were too many characters for a short story. It did feel like the story relied on cultural stereotypes, too.

I think a romance short story can be done well – but they tend to work better as a sense impression or a memory of the first time I met my partner type of story. This story just underwhelmed me, unfortunately.