Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

JOINT REVIEW: Life, Over Easy by K.A. Mitchell

Dear Ms. Mitchell

Joan: We all know how much I adore your books (well, not all of them, perhaps). This one was a departure for you, in that it was a paranormal and much of the plot — and the emotional energy — was focused on the resolution of the ghost story rather than on the relationship. That said, the relationship was well done, with an HFN that I very much enjoyed and a unique “I love you” revelation at the very end.

Life Over Easy KA MitchellSunita: I’ve just started reading m/m in the last couple of months and given how much I’m enjoying it, I’m really annoyed at how long it took me. The good news is, I get to read a lot to catch up. Your books have received good reviews and word of mouth, and this story is set on a college campus and sports figures strongly, which are two of my favorite contexts. When Joan/Sarah suggested a joint review, I jumped at the opportunity.

Joan: John is a former Olympic diver (double gold winner) who hit his head on a practice dive 6 weeks before his second Olympics and is now brain-damaged, unable ever to dive again. Not only does he have debilitating vertigo and balance issues, he is suddenly synaesthetic (he hears in colors) and he sees kaleidescopes of colors over everyone’s heads. After spending almost his whole life consumed by the demands of competitive sports, he has to figure out what to do instead and has very little experience to guide him. John enrolls in college as a 22 year old freshman, a virgin, and is unsure how to make friends with people outside the diving world. He accidentally stumbles into a frat party and meets Mason, who is far more experienced at life, sex, and college, but who has his own life-changing events to cope with in that he’s still trying to deal with the accidental death of the love of his life. Mason takes John home…and passes out, quite literally, on his dick.

I think this book rewarded a one-sitting read. I was distracted by travel at the beginning and lost a little bit of interest, but when I was able to sit down and just read the last two thirds of it in one sitting, it was wonderful: emotional and well-balanced, with great sex and a strong combination of plot elements. (Also, for what it’s worth, I have been fascinated with synaesthesia as long as I’ve known about it, so part of the joy of this book was you bringing it to life for me.)

Part of my issue maintaining focus, however, was that the first third is very episodic because Mason and John do not hit it off immediately for obvious reasons (passing out during a blowjob is not a good relationship starter, after all). They play a kind of a game of meeting again and trying out the relationship thing, or at least the sex thing, but then Mason (usually) ends up an emotional basket case and is enough of a jerk to make John run screaming. The thing that keeps bringing them back together is Mason’s dead lover, Alex, because it turns out that the colors John can see are, in fact, auras, and the problem with Mason’s aura is that Alex is intertwined in it, basically haunting Mason.

So while John is trying to deal with realizing that he can see and, eventually, effect people’s moods, he is also trying to figure out life outside of 12-hour-a-day practices, and is stumbling into a relationship with Mason, trying to figure out if he’s just a conduit to what Mason really wants: Alex. Mason, on the other hand, is trying to figure out how to live without Alex, trying to live with survivor guilt, and trying to figure out how to let Alex go. He’s never, however, confused about how much he likes John for himself.

Sunita: I was able to make time to read this in one day, and I found myself swept up in the story. I liked the meet-not-so-cute setup at the beginning, and your writing drew me in immediately. The college atmosphere, especially the relationships between the various students and the dorm and house settings, felt very true to life. Where Joan was distracted, I enjoyed the time John and Mason were apart because it established both of their lives as individuals. Some readers find those sections take away from the romance, but I like them because I like seeing who the characters are before they become a couple. I also appreciated that Mason had authentic and unattractive ways of dealing with his loss and that John and Mason’s relationship trajectory wasn’t entirely predictable, but their attraction to and desire for each other was clear. I found the Alex bits less interesting, but that’s partly because I’m not that fond of paranormal elements. But it definitely fit into what you were doing with the storyline, and I liked the way the Alex story was integrated with John’s socialization into normal life.

Joan: As always, you do a brilliant job with characterization. There are a lot of characters in a 180 page book, but I never got them confused. Part of that might be because John’s handy colorization of everyone made it easy to figure out who was who, but mostly it’s your incredibly ability to write real people with real personalities and problems.

Sunita: I completely agree; your ability to bring characters to life and to make them realistic and interesting is really impressive. I paid less attention to the colors and still didn’t have any trouble keeping the characters separate. I never even noticed how many there were! I think that’s because while some of them were types, they weren’t cartoons, so they retained individuality for me. John and Mason were especially well written, but even the briefer characterizations had depth. And when they didn’t (like the twins), it was clearly intentional (and in the case of the twins, hilarious). I found Lizzy to be somewhat less convincing as a character, because her behavior seemed a little too perfect for what the story needed (even when she was angry), but that was a minor niggle.

Joan: The ending seemed rushed to me. John was SO concerned about being able to see and affect people’s emotions…and then he wasn’t. Alex was gone…and then he wasn’t. I don’t know if the perceived loose ends were serial bait or just a rushed ending, but the emotional intensity seemed abruptly foreshortened. Except the sex was hot, so I didn’t really mind too much. And as I said, I loved the way you had the characters say “I love you.”

Sunita: I guess I understand why you ended it the way you did, and your choice of the two attempts that Mason makes to give John something that can be as good as diving are imaginative. And the sex is really good! But I would have liked to see a bit more of them together in everyday life, because for me a big part of the book was watching John make the transition from Olympic hero to normal person. I wanted to watch him get the normal person HEA/HFN. But even though I didn’t, your writing makes me believe in it.

Grade: B

Best regards,
-Joan/Sarah F and Sunita

Book Link | Kindle | Samhain

Sarah F. is a literary critic, a college professor, and an avid reader of romance -- and is thrilled that these are no longer mutually exclusive. Her academic specialization is Romantic-era British women novelists, especially Jane Austen, but she is contributing to the exciting re-visioning of academic criticism of popular romance fiction. Sarah is a contributor to the academic blog about romance, Teach Me Tonight, the winner of the 2008-2009 RWA Academic Research Grant, and the founder and President of the International Association of the Study of Popular Romance (IASPR). Sarah mainly reviews BDSM romance and gay male romance and hopes to be able to beat her TBR pile into submission when she has time to think. Sarah teaches at Fayetteville State University, NC.

8 Comments

  1. Tweets that mention JOINT REVIEW: Life, Over Easy by K.A. Mitchell | Dear Author -- Topsy.com
    Aug 03, 2010 @ 15:16:57

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by KA Mitchell, Sunita. Sunita said: @sarahfrantz Our joint review of Life, Over Easy is up at DA! http://bit.ly/bj7cmm [...]

  2. Kaetrin
    Aug 03, 2010 @ 19:21:45

    Great review – thx ladies. I foresee a book purchase in my immediate future… *shakes fist at Sarah* – you do it to me every time!!

    Is the book written in the first person or third person? Do we get POV’s from both main characters?

    ReplyReply

  3. Joan/SarahF
    Aug 04, 2010 @ 00:59:50

    @Kaetrin: It’s 3rd person and you do get at least Mason and John’s POV.

    ReplyReply

  4. Georgina
    Sep 12, 2010 @ 07:42:57

    As a big fan of some of K.A. Mitchell’s earlier work, I wanted to like this a lot more than I did.

    Mitchell always writes great characters, and I like how she’s not afraid to have them do unlikable things, but Mason was so unlikable for so long that I found it hard to find him redeemed when the narrative told me I should. John, on the other hand, was awesome. I really enjoyed reading his attempts at a normal life, and how strange it was to be in your early twenties and basically starting from scratch. The dialogue was lots of fun and the sex was hot, but I never felt John and Mason had much of a connection beyond the bedroom and Alex believing they should be together. The HFN thus felt very hollow to me.

    Mitchell’s written some of my favourite m/m stories (Collision Course, No Souvenirs), but I’m coming to realise she’s very hit-and-miss for me.

    ReplyReply

  5. JOINT REVIEW: Driftwood by Harper Fox | Dear Author
    Sep 22, 2010 @ 11:00:33

    [...] enjoyed writing our joint review of K.A. Mitchell’s Life, Over Easy and, individually, both enjoyed your own Life After Joe so much that we thought we'd double the [...]

  6. Kaetrin
    Oct 17, 2010 @ 22:41:20

    I’ve just finished a KA Mitchell glom, re-reading Collision Course and No Souvenirs after reading Diving Deep (and realising that DD was, sort of, a prequel to CC). I also read Chasing Smoke and Regularly Scheduled Life and this one.

    I liked that the author dealt with younger characters in Life, Over Easy and I liked the angst – I was prepared to cut Mason quite a bit of slack because I really felt for his guilt and grief – moving on from such a loss is hard and I thought the fallout was believable and understandable (this author writes that so well I think). I also liked how John didn’t just put up with Mason’s rubbish and how he went and found himself friends apart from Mason, even though I was glad to see them end up together. I would have liked to see a bit more – perhaps an epilogue a little way into the future maybe? I wondered what would happen when Mason finished school – he was 3-4 years ahead of John after all (although I think they were about the same age).

    Of all of KA Mitchell’s books, I think my faves are No Souvenirs and Regularly Scheduled Life – and I’m excited that Tony and Jack (who appear in RSL) have their own book soon – You Don’t Know Jack. Can’t wait! I think it’s coming out in December – must go and check the author’s website…

    If you haven’t read RSL Sarah, I highly recommend it – very angsty and a nice change to read about a well established relationship (the main couple have been together for 6 years when the book starts).

    ReplyReply

  7. Kaetrin
    Oct 17, 2010 @ 23:08:34

    Sorry, my OCD is kicking in – I’ve just been to KA Mitchell’s website and the new book is called Not Knowing Jack and it’s apparently coming out sometime in December – but no excerpt yet dammit!!

    ReplyReply

  8. Sunita
    Oct 18, 2010 @ 16:32:07

    @Kaetrin: This was my first K.A. Mitchell book and it sent me off to read Regularly Scheduled Life, which I absolutely loved. I can’t wait for the next installment either!

    And I’m glad you liked this one. I need to go back and reread it, it was one of the first books in the genre I read, and I think I’d like it even more on a reread.

    ReplyReply

Leave a Reply

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.

%d bloggers like this: