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REVIEW:  Two Boys Kissing  by David Levithan

REVIEW: Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan

In his follow-up to the New York Times bestselling Every Day, David Levithan, co-author of bestsellers Will Grayson, Will Grayson and Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, tells the based-on-true-events story of Harry and Craig, two 17-year-olds who are about to take part in a 32-hour marathon of kissing to set a new Guinness World Record—all of which is narrated by a Greek Chorus of the generation of gay men lost to AIDS. While the two increasingly dehydrated and sleep-deprived boys are locking lips, they become a focal point in the lives of other teen boys dealing with languishing long-term relationships, coming out, navigating gender identity, and falling deeper into the digital rabbit hole of gay hookup sites—all while the kissing former couple tries to figure out their own feelings for each other.

Review:

Dear David Levithan,

In the author’s note at the end of this novel you say the following:

“On September 18, 2010, college students Matty Daley and Bobby Canciello kissed for thirty-two hours, thirty minutes, and forty-seven seconds (longer than the characters in this book) to break the Guinness World Record for longest continuous kiss. I am just one of many people who were inspired by what they did”.

The story was inspired by what they did.”

cover2This was an unusual book. The narration in this book is by a chorus of gay men who died from AIDS watching the gay teenagers of today’s generation. They worry about these kids, they reminisce about their own past and their best and worst moments, and they hope that these kids, these teens will pull through and have better lives.
The main focus of this book is a record-breaking kiss that high school students Harry and Craig are planning which serves as a spotlight for several other couples; one is just starting a relationship and one may be on the verge of the possible break up. And there is also more somber storyline about a teenager who is on the verge of possible suicide

This is definitely a book with a message, a very loud and very unapologetic message. One reviewer at Amazon basically called this book preachy, but added that because this is a message she supports, she did not care. I am pretty much in agreement with her, but at the same time I am not sure if the word “preachy” is the right one for me. It does have a message, a very simple, obvious one – that every gay kid, gay teen and gay man is deserving of love – and this is a message that I of course also support. But the book also tells a story, so I am conflicted about the word “preachy”. It moralizes for sure, but in such beautiful and moving language that I really loved it.

The story also made me choke up several times, but here reader reactions may differ. This is a book where I highly recommend getting a sample first. I am saying this as a reader who does not read many samples, but if the style does not work for you, you may have more of an issue more than with other plottier books. Here are some examples for you which in my opinions are very indicative of the tone in the book.

“So many of us had to make our own families. So many of us had to pretend when we were home. So many of us had to leave. But every single of us wishes we hadn’t have to. Every single one of us wishes our family had acted like our family, that even when we found a new family, we hadn’t have to leave the other one behind. Every single one of us would have loved to be loved unconditionally by our parents.

Don’t make him leave you, we want to tell Mrs. Kim. He doesn’t want to leave you”

“Eventually Harry will leave Craig curled on the couch. He will tuck Graig in, then tiptoe back to his own room. They will be in a separate places, but they will have very similar dreams.

We miss the sensation of being tucked in, just as we miss the sensation of being that hovering angel, pulling the blanket over his shoulders, wishing him a sweet night. Those are the beds we want to remember.”

There is really not much that happens, plotwise and most of the characters while sympathetic and likeable, are not very fleshed out. But I do not think this was the point of the book. Was the point to portray a connection between the generations , using both the similarities and differences and to issue a cry out that everybody deserves of love and that every boy or man deserves to live his life as he was destined to and not to feel such hopeless despair as to want to end his life?

I cannot be sure, but as I said, while the message of this book was pretty obvious, it worked for me.

I think if the author wanted to write the love story of any of the couples in this book in more details, I would buy that book in a heart-beat. I especially would have loved to see where the story of Ryan and Avery would take them. Avery was a transgender gay teen, and I appreciated the author including the transgender character in the book. He just seemed like a character with such an awesome potential and he had great chemistry with Ryan. That was another amazing thing about this book – all the couples showed great chemistry which I do not see that often in the many m/m romances I have read.
I guess I also have to admit that I felt a little uncomfortable because even though the author insists in the note at the end that the characters are not similar to the boys who beat the kissing record in real life, he also talks about talking to one of the boys about what it was like during the time of their kiss and I started to wonder just how much fiction and reality was mixed up together in this one. Of course writers are always inspired by real life events and people, but I think to a certain degree this fictional book read like a non-fiction to me.

Grade B.

~Sirius

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REVIEW:  Blade Song by J.C. Daniels

REVIEW: Blade Song by J.C. Daniels

Blade Song jC Daniels

Dear Ms. Daniels,

I have grown more and more cautious in my approach to new (to me) urban fantasy series. I love the genre with a fierceness that sometimes surprises me, but recently I’ve noticed it’s becoming harder and harder for new heroines and worlds to live up to my favorites. Kate Daniels and Mercy Thompson are at the top of the list, for what it’s worth. It is a silly, to say nothing of unjust, way to look at it, I know. But there it is. I read a couple of your romantic suspense novels (written as Shiloh Walker) awhile back and enjoyed them just fine, so when I realized the same author also wrote urban fantasy under a different name, I decided it sounded like just the thing for fall. It didn’t hurt that the protagonist was an assassin half-breed. I have something of a weak spot for reluctant rogues. Also gleeful rogues. Really just rogues in general. And I have to say, Kit clawed her way to the top of my list within moments of meeting her.

Most days Kit Colbana can be found holding down the fort of her somewhat dilapidated private investigations agency on the rougher side of East Orlando. Half human, half aneira, Kit is descended from a mystical race of female warriors. Trained as an assassin, she was exiled from her home as a teenager for being too slow, too stupid, too human. Happy to be free of the chains that bound her, Kit blew from place to place until a ragtag group of rebel shifters took her in and gave her a reason to stay. Now she flies solo, running her own PI operation in the neutral zone between the human and non-human sectors of Orlando. Kit takes most jobs that come her way, but she works best alone. Which is why she finds herself in such a difficult position when the notoriously insane alpha of the local cat clan sends her top enforcer to present Kit with an offer she can’t refuse. Damon Lee prowls into her office on a cloud of arrogance and ill-concealed contempt. His alpha requests Kit’s assistance tracking down her missing nephew. The job pays well and promises to boost her rep. Unfortunately, the alpha insists she take Damon with her as a bodyguard. Just in case things go south. It takes all of Kit’s paltry restraint to swallow her objections and agree to the terms. Not only does she need that money, but she has a sinister vampire with serious anger management issues breathing down her neck. And so she takes the job. Because for all Damon Lee’s imposing presence and insufferable attitude, Kit consoles herself with the knowledge that she has a few tricks up her sleeve should push come to shove.

Kit had my allegiance from the word go. She’s scrappy as they come. And her aneira “family” were not kidding around with her training. The few flashbacks she allows through the cracks were more than enough to convince me she had earned the right to be as cagey as she liked. As a result, Damon barging into her life, manhandling her like one of his subordinate cats rubbed me just as wrong as it did Kit. And so as it became clearer that he was indeed cast in the role of love interest, I worried I wouldn’t be able to get past the violence and the ego. It was such a relief to have these fears prove unfounded. Because if I’m sure of anything in this cold, hard world, it’s that Kit and Damon are one hell of a match. What initially set my teeth on edge evolved into the most entertaining (and surprisingly touching) relationship I’ve had the pleasure of reading in quite some time. These two personalities are forces to be reckoned with. This is not to say that they’re indestructible. By definition of her partial heritage, Kit is more fragile than Damon (than most of the supernatural big bads she has to deal with on a daily basis, to tell the truth). But the skills she does have are honed to an unparalleled degree. I gleefully enjoyed watching her throw her pursuers off her tail with her mad sword fighting and hidden talents. There is little of peace or joy in Kit’s life. For as long as she can remember it’s been kill or be killed. She has a solitary witch friend here, a shifter who owes her a favor there. But by and large, no one looks out for Kit but Kit. Here and there, though, the darkness is leavened by a punch of light:

The intensity in the air faded and instead of two angry shifters hovering nearby, there was only one.

My one.

He looked at me and then jerked his head as he headed outside.

There was a car waiting.

Es had said it was on loan.

It was long, lean and black, a throwback from the days of those old muscle cars and it looked like it might have been made just for him. As he leaned back against it, he stared at me with fury dancing in his eyes. “You had to do it, didn’t you?”

“Yeah.” I thought it all through one more time. Then I nodded. There wasn’t anything I would have taken back or changed. “Yeah, pretty much.”

These moments of understated humor save the reader from succumbing to the horror of Kit’s past and grim reality of her present. As does the sizzling attraction between Kit and Damon. There is little to no smooth sailing between them, and they give each a few new scars to add to the old ones. But they’re both so compelling that I, for one, couldn’t look away. The writing itself is clear and fast-paced, though the copy-editing in my copy left something to be desired. Peopled with clever witches, nightmarish vampires, wild shifters, and one half-human girl who can handle herself, this ruthless world is one I cannot wait to return to. B+

Cheers,
Angie

Angie is a bookish sort with a soft spot for urban fantasy, YA, historicals, and mysteries. Ever since she read The Witch of Blackbird Pond and made the acquaintance of one Nat Eaton, stories with no romantic subplot need not apply. Her favorite authors include Robin McKinley, Juliet Marillier, Sharon Shinn, Mary Stewart, Megan Whelan Turner, Kristin Cashore, Patricia Briggs, Ilona Andrews, and Ellen Emerson White. You can find Angie at her blog www.angie-ville.com or on Twitter @angiebookgirl.

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