Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Match Maker by Alan Chin


Title: Match Maker
Author: Alan Chin
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Contemporary M/M
Length: novel (337 pages)
Buy Link: Amazon.com
Rating: 5+ stars out of 5


A guest review by Victor J. Banis
Summary: the author pulls all the stops out in this gripping story of love, tragedy and redemption, set against a backdrop of professional tennis. An emotional roller coaster that will hold the reader enthralled until the last, fully satisfying page.
THE BLURB
In the four years since being forced off the professional tour for being gay, Daniel Bottega has taught tennis at a second-rate country club. He found a sanctuary to hide from an unkind world, while his lover, Jared Stoderling, fought a losing battle with alcohol addiction to cope with his  disappointment of not playing on the pro circuit.
Now Daniel has another chance at the tour by coaching tennis prodigy Connor Lin to a Grand Slam championship win. He shares his chance with Jared by convincing him to return to the pro circuit as Connor’s doubles partner.
Competing on the world tour is challenging enough, but Daniel and Jared also face major media attention, political fallout from the pro association, and a shocking amount of hate that threatens Connor’s career in tennis, Jared’s love for Daniel, and Daniel’s very life.
THE REVIEW
When I first looked at this novel, I thought, “Oh, no, a jock book.” I mention this right up front because I suspect one or two of you might have the same reaction. Let me put your minds to rest. This novel is about tennis in the same sense that Shakespeare’s Macbeth is about the Scottish moors.
Yes, the author uses the world of professional men’s tennis as a setting for his story, and yes, there is plenty of tennis action in it. But even if you are not a tennis fan, the author’s knowledge of tennis and his love for the sport are infectious. You will find yourself pulled into the story regardless—because, again, the story isn’t about tennis, it’s about homophobia, and love, and courage and grace under pressure and, finally, redemption—in short, the very elements that make all great stories gripping. And make no mistake, this is a great story—surely the one Alan Chin was fated to write—and you will find it gripping.
After being driven from professional tennis for their homosexuality, Daniel Bottega and his partner Jared Stoderling have found  sanctuary of sorts—Daniel as a country club tennis instructor, and Jared in a bottle. Now, Daniel is asked to coach a talented young, and straight, tennis player, Conner Lin. Daniel sees in this the chance of a new beginning for him and Jared, and he convinces Jared to come on board as Conner’s doubles partner. And from the beginning, the author’s love for his protagonists is as real as his love for tennis.
“He kissed me again, and in the quiet wake of his kiss, the surrounding sounds became loud: rustling leaves overheard, the pop of the ball, the chirp of tennis shoes on pavement, the boys’ insistent grunts.”
Of course, once again they find themselves paying the price for being openly gay; but this time, Jared determines that they will not shrink into a closet, they will let the watching world know who and what they are.
“Well, hell, what’s next,” Sikes said, “players kissing?”
“Let’s give it a try and see,” Jared said. He seized the back of my neck and drew me to him, kissing me on the mouth. The move surprised me so much it took me a moment to pull away.
The crowd fell silent.
# # #
“The first time,” Jared said, “everything happened behind closed doors. That’s how they beat us, by keeping us afraid and in hiding. This time we’ll flaunt it. They’ll probably still beat us, but at least everyone will know why.”
There’s no shortage of action and the theme of homophobia adds plenty of suspense along the way, and it looks early on as if the three players will make it to the top of their sport just fine, and you begin to breathe a little sigh of relieve and pleasure. So far, it’s been a fine read, and the good guys are winning.
Then, in an astonishing display of authorial authority, the writer just plain pulls the rug from under the reader. You find yourself both horrified and mesmerized, on a non-stop roller coaster ride that carries you right to the last page. I don’t want to spoil the read for anyone by giving too much of the plot away, but I can safely tell you that the love Daniel and Jared share is sorely tested in ways that will break your heart and ultimately nourish it. I had to stop reading more than once because I couldn’t see the pages through the tears. Yes, it’s that moving. And that was reading the book for the second time.
If you’ve ever been in love, you will agonize with both these young men, both of them wrong and both of them right, as they try to grope their way back to one another in the wake of the tragedy that has driven them apart.
“If I die today, wouldn’t it be better if we had made love last night?”
“Better is putting your skinny butt on a plane and getting you somewhere safe.”
“It’s okay to hate me a little. Sometimes I hate you too. I hate your good legs, your strength, your ability to ignore me.”
His face froze with pensive rejection.
I said, “We need to fight them, not each other.”
And as with all his writing, the author has more for the reader than just details of plot. There is beauty and wisdom here, but he writes as well of Life’s ugly side, of the horrors of war, and of many different kinds of suffering. When Jared is cheated of a win by a gay-hating umpire, he tries to crawl back into the bottle, but Conners’ Grandfather Lin, who survived WWII in occupied China, will have none of that.
“Stop feeling sorry for yourself and become a man. You think you have it hard? You think life is unfair? You are worse than a baby, crying, crying, crying.”
“Leave my house, old man,” Jared growled.
“I will tell you what a hard life is: being a fourteen-year-old boy chased from your home at gunpoint, watching aunts, uncles, cousins slaughtered like hogs, hiding in a cave, never seeing daylight, searching for food at night where there is no food, so you cut meat from bodies that the Japanese soldiers leave along the roadside. When the bodies go rank, there is nothing but grass, but that is never enough, so you watch your family grow weak and sick. Then you marshal the courage to sneak up behind a Japanese soldier and slit his throat in order to steal his food, so that your mother and father might live a few more days…”
There is beauty here as well, and wisdom. You come away from this book understanding yourself and humankind just a little better than when you started it, and a writer can’t do any better than that.
In the end, the author scores a grand slam win with the best gay sports novel I have yet read, bar none. And ultimately, you realize that it is the Alan Chin who is the Match Maker of the title, and the game he’s sharing with you is not the game of  tennis, but the Game of Life.
If you love a beautifully written and heart rending love story with a true but very special Happy Ever After ending, I urge you not to miss this one.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Book Review: Master Wu’s Bride by Edward Patterson




Reviewer: Alan Chin
Author: Edward Patterson
Pages: 292



The story begins on Chi Lin’s wedding day – an exciting time for any bride, unless the groom has died and the ceremony, as per contract, must proceed. Chi Lin becomes a ghost bride—the Fourth Wife in the House of Wu, a respectable Ming Dynasty household. Chi Lin assumes her role under the stern command of her mother-in-law and the disdainful eye of the First Wife. Still, as Mistress Purple Sage, Chi Lin fights to uphold her honor and maintain her many secrets while breathing fresh life into this ancient household.

As with all the novels I’ve read by Edward Patterson, this story blends an imaginative touch with the author’s life long devotion to China and its history.

A unique voice and a fresh and vibrant set of characters gave this novel the ability to transport me into another world for an adventure far beyond my limited imagination. The book delighted me with a rather touching love story. Yet this is a love yarn of a different nature, the tale of a woman who falls in love with her dead husband’s household. It is a story of intrigue, loyalty, and honor.

The author takes the reader back into China during the Ming dynasty, when women played a subservient role, supporting their husbands, revering their fathers and elders, and assuring their children followed the same dauntless path. Still, within the narrow confines of a subservient life, there was always a place to leave a mark and alter the future.

As with the author’s Southern Swallow series, this story is a vivid, imaginative, and often humorous romp through a pivotal point in Chinese history. It blossoms into a tale of intrigue, household politics, love, and overcoming hardships in a repressive environment. The plot is a bit predictable, yet stays interesting. The author’s consummate skill at crafting prose and his well-researched details kept me fully engaged until the last page. I would recommend this read to anyone who enjoys multifaceted characters, humor, and a well-crafted story.


Sunday, January 17, 2016

Match Maker by Alan Chin




Reviewer: Paddylast Inc
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press 
Pages: 388


★★★★★

I got Alan Chin’s Match Maker after reading a couple of sports-themed stories and I think I got more than what I’ve paid for it. Upon reading it June of this year, I immediately exclaimed over Goodreads that
Alan Chin’s Match Maker just became one of my favorite books ever! And I don’t even understand Tennis! What a profound, special, highly technical and just all kinds of brilliant!!!”
My exact words and they’re still true until now! Everything about it just clicked on my five-stars-o-meter.
This being under the mm / gay romance category, I’ve already made some preconceived ideas about it and really thought that Daniel and Connor would end up together so I was pleasantly surprised to discover from the first few chapters that Connor is actually straight with a guy best friend who’s actually in love with him.
Now, Daniel’s relationship with his best friend turned lover Jared was just the sweetest I’ve ever read. Even after everything they’ve been through, the hardship from the sports where they opted to come out as a couple and vying for acceptance from people around them – they remained together and I think that’s what I absolutely adore in this story regardless of the heavier issues discussed in it.
The side characters are just as vibrant as Daniel’s plight. The story of Connor’s grandpa and his resilience was very admirable and of course, the barrage of story arcs circling in and out of Tennis. (Shar, Spencer, Connor’s family…etc)
The story in general was heartfelt with genius dialogues, realistic scenarios and very human characters. What a well-rounded book this one is and I couldn’t ask for a better book to read as my first from Alan Chin.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Friday, December 25, 2015

My Razzle Dazzle: An outsider's true story by Todd Peterson




Reviewer: Merrick Hansen
Publisher: iUniverse (April 8, 2015)
Pages: 344


Peterson has written something that could be an honest relief to many. He recounts a difficult childhood – from being teased for playing with girls to far worse experiences as he grew older. On top of that, his story takes place in the Midwest where I grew up.

This is something that isn’t in the popular narrative of queer literature. Nobody really talks about the places where the same kind of harassment Peterson talks about still happens. Because where I am in Iowa, it might as well still be the 1970′s. Sleepy little towns still see plenty of us “different” folk being teased or at the very least stared at. For instance, I’ve been kicked out of a barber shop at least once within the last 7 years just for asking for a hair cut.

Obviously reviewing an autobiography is a little different, but what I can tell you is this: there is comfort in reading the story of someone who has been through similar harassment and experience. It is a comfort to see that things do improve, that they do eventually change and the people around us are generally only temporary – particularly if they’re negative or hateful.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Arctic Summer by Damon Galgut



Reviewer: Alan Chin
Publisher: Europa Editions (Sept. 2014)
Pages: 370


This book is a fictional exploration of the life of one of Britain's finest novelists. It illuminates E M Forster's life in a way that makes you feel on intimate terms with Forster, knowing his thoughts and needs as keenly as your own. “Arctic Summer” is in fact the name of an incomplete novel written by E.M. Forster in 1912/13 but published only in 2003; and Galgut uses its title for his novel about the famous author. The story is well researched and much of the content, even word-for-word dialog, was taken from Forster’s diaries.

The first hundred pages or so explores Forster’s life growing up in England, showcasing his awakening homosexuality, his tormented and unconsummated relationships, and being constrain by proper English society. During this time he also meets the love of his life, an Indian student, Masood, much younger than himself. I had a tough time trudging through this section of the book. I found it well written, but it lacked action, and I found it exceedingly dull. I almost gave up on it.

Once Forester traveled to India, Egypt (where he had his first sexual affair), and again to India, my interest in the story skyrocketed. Beautifully woven into his travels are the details of his life that laid the foundation of his masterpiece A Passage to India. Galgut is a master at constructing realistic and compelling landscapes, from inhibiting England to war torn Cairo to exotically vibrant India. He gives these locations the same kind of fragile humanity that he gives Forester.

Galgut’s prose blends perfectly the spare and the lyrical, often letting gentle humor shine through. His pacing is flawless. I was swept up into his cadences, and was never overburdened with needless detail. My senses were awakened to sensory impressions that were visceral.


A lovely and interesting story, one of the most satisfying reads I’ve enjoyed in years. Anyone who enjoys a rich blend of romance, adventure, and exploring exotic locations will no doubt fine much to admire here.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

One Last Lie by Rob Kaufman


Reviewer: Jon Michaelsen
Publisher: Rob Kaufman 
Pages: 326


One Last Lie by Rob Kaufman in a word is awesome, an incredible psychological thriller that will have the reader hanging on the edge during the explosive and thrilling final pages. Which is odd, since the reader knows a very important fact very early on that drives the novel - and yet, I found myself shocked and stunned by the actual event. To say that I was affected is an understatement.

The first half of the tense and romantic novel seems tame at best, a love story between two men wanting desperately to have a child and the one driving this dream is the one who is sterile due to a previous bout with cancer, of which he is a survivor.

Kaufman is a master of romantic suspense. The novel is set in the beautiful, romantic Westport, Connecticut. The subject - gay couple wanting to father and raise a child - popular in today's gay culture. The protagonists, Jonathan Beckett and dashing Philip Stone, are successful, love their careers, very wealthy and can afford the finer things in life - and to fulfill their dream of having a child.

In comes Angela, an old college friend – err, girlfriend – of Philip’s, squirreling her way into Philip and Jonathan’s lives, ironically offering what the boys are looking for – someone to carry Jonathan’s child via artificial insemination. Angela experiences a Jekyll-Hyde complex, able to turn on a dime with both her low-life moronic boyfriend, Tommy, and her brooding – and easily manipulated -- best friend, June. Angela manipulates anyone around her that she feels able to advance her agenda, an agenda set into motion the moment Angela picked up and moved to Connecticut, without invitation, to assist the boys in having a child with her via artificial insemination.

Kaufman’s gift as a writer is detailed within the sharp dialog, vivid imagery, skillful flashbacks, and well-rounded multidimensional character portrayals, but his inherit talent lay in his remarkable ability to craft a spell-bounding story, laid out for the reader in a way to have you cheering for the good guys and demonizing the psychos.

There are critical clues dropped within the novel that are thrilling, yet disturbing yet the same as Kaufman’s hurls the readers toward a well-crafted, suspenseful climax that will leave some breathless and others – like me- angry. Yes, I said it; angry. The reason for my anger is simple: I didn’t want the ending to happen as it did yet I KNEW what the ending would be and still, the author managed to shock me.

Angela is neurotic, psychotic and delusional – all required traits in portraying the villainess she becomes. Several characters that came before her came to mind as I learned more and more about her character, such as “Alex Forrest” (portrayed stunningly by Glenn Close in “Fatal Attraction”), or Annie Wilkes in Stephen King’s “Misery” (portrayed in film by the astounding Kathy Bates), even the sultry Rebecca de Mornay’s portrayal of Peyton Flanders in “The Hand That Rocks The Cradle”.

The malicious plot Kaufman’s Angela devises years before putting the such an evil plan into motion upon signing the co-parenting legal contract with Jonathan’s and Philip’s attorney.

But, I digress…Kaufman has created a spectacular psychological thriller that is sure to stun – is that the right word? – Readers of the genre. [Book:One Last Lie|14624158] is chock full of tense drama, betrayal, lies, compassion and violence; all the marks of an excellent thriller.

My only complaint is likely due to the HTML uploading issues unique to Amazon’s conversion technology for uploading e-books. The reader can become confused with the sudden backward or forward in time breaks without the benefit of section dividers. However, these small inadequacies are easily overlooked.

Ultimately, Kaufman has created a “must-read” novel for anyone searching for a kick-ass psychological thriller with a strong romantic theme. [Book:One Last Lie|14624158] will suck you in and won’t release you until the shocking ending, indeed the ‘one last lie’.