Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Gay Authors/books that Inspire Me: Dream Boy by Jim Grimsley




First love is never easy for a gay boy. But when the new kid in town is secretly being abused by his father, first love may be the only thing that can save him. Two teenaged boys living in a countryside setting, commit themselves to one another and are assaulted for it by an abusive father and the blistering meanness of rural bullies. But through the force of their passion for each other—and with a confirming grace that love comes from the universe itself—they and their hopes are miraculously saved.

A heartwarming love story marred by violence which seems all too real. I love this story, both for its beautiful prose and its compelling story where love overcomes all, even death. It is heartbreaking and also uplifting. It is a well-crafted story that flows exquisitely into a breathtaking ending. Grimsley shows the power a simple story can fashion.

The story’s power and poetry continues to astound me every time I read it. It is my favorite in Grimsley’s impressive stable. 


Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Gay Authors/Books that Inspire Me: The Hoursby Michael Cunningham


The Hours interweaves the lives of three women from three different times: Clarissa Vaughan, who one New York morning goes about planning a party to honor a beloved poet/writer; Laura Brown, who in a 1950s Los Angeles suburb begins to feel the constraints of a “perfect” family and home; and Virginia Woolf, recuperating with her husband in a London suburb, and beginning to writer her beloved novel Mrs. Dalloway. These three tales come together in an act of subtle and haunting grace that few gay authors could have pulled off.

It is a beautifully written novel about relationships, living and dying, and love.

Of all the gay-themed books I’ve read, I believe this is not only my favorite, but also the finest example of gay literature we have. The author’s deep empathy of his characters as well as the extraordinary resonance of his prose continues to astound me every time I read it. It is, in my opinion, Cunningham’s most mature and masterful work. I can think of no other work by a gay author that has influenced and inspired me more.

https://www.amazon.com/Hours-Novel-Michael-Cunningham/dp/0312243022/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1531331587&sr=8-1&keywords=the+hours+michael+cunningham&dpID=51nJi6kvjrL&preST=_SY291_BO1,204,203,200_QL40_&dpSrc=srch 

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Author Laury A. Egan reviews Surviving Immortality by Alan Chin



A Propulsive, Suspenseful, Dystopian Novel: Surviving Immortality

Reviewed by Laury A. Egan

Surviving Immortality—a provocative title (an oxymoron?) that raises a myriad of questions, chiefly: How can someone survive immortality if one is already immortal, i.e., there is inherently no need to survive if a person already will live forever? How can the state of immortality exist? What would create such a state? As I approached Alan Chin’s new book, these were my initial thoughts. 

The novel is a cautionary tale about how society and, indeed, our civilization has been poisoned by people’s need “to convince themselves that they are relevant in an irrelevant universe.” Chin cites three pernicious threats that are destroying us: Religion: “The myth of God and a hereafter [that] gives [people] a false sense of importance.” Greed: “the idea that we are what we own…that gluttonous pigs want not only the best of everything…but they don’t want others to have what they’ve got.” The third is that “people [are] willing to defend themselves and their cause at all costs. Their sense of heroism gives them relevance. They have a deep distrust of governments, other religions, and other tribes.” In our present times, these insidious menaces are eating at the fabric of our humanity, eroding our democracy, our belief in truth, our feelings of empathy, our trust and morality, and our system of justice and government. Surviving Immortality is a serious warning about where the human race is headed and a very relevant one.

Although the book deals with weighty themes and edges into the category of dystopian fiction, it is primarily a fast-paced thriller wrapped around a coming-of-age story about Matt Reece Connors, an eighteen-year-old boy who, over the course of events, becomes a man. The beginning chapter sets us on a ranch in Nevada. Matt Reece is a fine horseman and cowboy who lives with his father, Jessup, and his stepfather, Kenji—the two are married. Matt Reece himself is gay, though without any sexual experience. At first, the reader may expect that a western—perhaps in the mold of Brokeback Mountain—is about to unfold. Then, suddenly, as we are settling in to life on the ranch, a tornado of events engulfs Matt Reece, and he is forced to rush headlong into a journey that takes him to multiple exotic places and thrusts him up against a cast of villains who embody all that is wrong with our world. 

Alan Chin writes with an impressive knowledge of science, medicine, technology, sailing, horsemanship, and also masterfully describes numerous national and international locations. The action is propulsive and suspenseful, yet never loses sight of Matt Reece’s personal challenges: his quest to overcome his fears and to find his identity.—Laury A. Egan, author of Fabulous! An Opera Buffa  

Published by Dreamspinner Press. Available in paperback and eBook.


Additional Information
Format
ebook and print
Length
Novel, 446 pages/154331 words
Heat Level
Publication Date
05-June-2018 
Price
$6.99 ebook, $19.99 paperback, $19.99 bundle
Buy Link

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Little Vin at Dreamland by Edward Patterson


Reviewer: Alan Chin
Publisher: Dancaster Creative (April 21, 2017)


An Enchanted Adventure 

Every once in a while a book comes along that has a unique voice, a fresh and vibrant set of characters, and has the ability to transport me into another world for an adventure beyond my limited imagination. I recently experienced a writer who took me on an adventure filled with history and wonder and valor found in unexpected places. The author is Edward C. Patterson and the story is called Little Vin at Dreamland.

Little Vin at Dreamland takes the reader back into 1910 during the zenith of Coney Island’s Dreamland amusement park. Out of this rich history comes the journey of one young man, Vincent Grainger, who dreams of breaking free of the hard-toiling life in the Irish immigrant community, and expanding his acting/dancing talents in Dreamland Park’s Congress of Oddities.

Vincent (Little Vin) starts his journey mucking out livery stables while keeping an eye open for opportunities to bringing in pocket change and keep aspirations afloat. And he finds opportunities - posing for artists and waiting tables and dancing for dimes. It’s a time to sparkle for those with ambition; and little Vin has the spark to get him through the best and worst of it.

Although Little Vin is the protagonist, the main character in this novel is the dazzling world of Coney Island in its heyday, and the wide spectrum of Brooklyn society, ranging from the posh to the seedy. Little Vin takes the reader on a journey through this interesting and vivid landscape, from the thousand lights of Dreamland, Luna and Steeplechase Parks to the early days of the silent film industry at Fort Lee, NJ. 

This is a story about loyalty, duty and determination. Loyalty to family, to friends, but mostly loyalty to that dream that burns within. It follows Little Vin’s efforts to balance family duty with his burning aspirations, and the stakes are raised when love blossoms in the most unexpected way.

This story is a vivid, imaginative, and often humorous romp through a pivotal point in American history. I found it a delightful read, a feel good story where love and hope and all that makes American society great eventually triumphs. 

This is a character driven story (I do consider the location a character), and Patterson skillfully presents these characters with marvelous depth, using an excellent blend of tragedy and humor.

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.

http://www.dancaster.com/



Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Book Review: Surviving Immortality by Alan Chin



Reviewer: Rainbow Book Reviews  at http://www.rainbowbookreviews.com/book-reviews/surviving-immortality-by-alan-chin-at-dsp-publications
Publisher: DSP Publications (May 05, 2018)
Pages: 446

Book Blurb
This is the story of the fountain of youth.
When Kenji Hiroshige discovers a formula that will keep people youthful and healthy for several thousand years, he tells the world he will not divulge his secret until every gun, tank, battleship, and bomb has been destroyed. When the world is free of weapons, everyone can live forever. And then he goes into hiding.
Before he disappears, his son Matt Reece is exposed to the formula. Kenji takes Matt Reece on the run with him, but as they struggle to elude both government agencies and corporations who will do anything to profit from Kenji’s discovery, Matt Reece learns that world peace might not be his father’s only goal. But what can a young man who’s barely stepped foot off his isolated ranch do in the face of something so sinister?
This is the story of human greed and the lust for violence. It’s the story of a world on the brink of destruction, but it’s also a tale of one young man who finds in himself the will, courage, and compassion to stand against the darkness—both outside and within himself.
This is a story of hope.

Book Review
At first glance the title sounds like a contradiction because immortality, by definition, means survival. And maybe it does on a purely physical level for each individual, but for humanity as a whole? It would require entirely different survival strategies than the ones we have developed over the millennia since we stopped living on trees. Immortality, for humans so far, is a philosophical construct. Its consequences, beyond what it might mean for an individual, are hard to imagine – and Alan Chin does a good job of speculating about the effects it might have. Religion might cease to exist since no fear of death means no need for an afterlife so no more funding for any religious organization. The pharmaceutical industry would be gone overnight. The medical profession – wiped out except for a few doctors needed for occasional reapplication of the formula. And what about the threat of overpopulation with everyone surviving? It requires a lot of imagination to think through the effects of immortality on humanity, and Alan Chin has done an amazing job at presenting one possible scenario. He takes a kernel of (unproven but not impossible) science as a catalyst that explains how the formula for immortality is discovered, uses a range of characters to illustrate various possible reactions, and spins a tale that includes murder, secrets, deception, betrayal, and more twists and turns than should be legal in one novel. The resulting story is breathtakingly spellbinding, to say the least.

Matt Reece is only eighteen when the proverbial sh*t hits the fan, has lived on his family’s ranch since he was born, and has been pretty much a recluse for the last two years. Like his father Jessup, he is gay and the bullying in school got so bad after his older brother left two years before the story starts that he has been homeschooled. In no way does any of this prepare him for what is to come – though I would argue that nothing can prepare anyone for having to face immortality, not to mention every single political, military, and religious group on the planet being after you for the secret. Matt Reece feels the burden of responsibility to “do something great” with the gift he has been given, but, at first, he has no idea what that might be. Combined with being on the run and fearing for his life, he faces terror from so many different angles that it’s a miracle he remains sane.

Kenji has invented the immortality formula but he is a shifty character almost from the start. While he seems to have commendable goals – like ending war, poverty, and disease – I did not like his attitude toward his husband, Jessup, and that was before the blackness of his soul emerges. The things he does to achieve what looks like a noble goal expose his ruthless side, and in that sense, he is a perfect incarnation of the principle that “the end justifies the means” which has terrifying consequences for his family and, ultimately, for him.

The story is told from different points of view, revealing a variety of perspectives offered up like puzzle pieces. Nobody knew everything at any point in time, nobody had any sort of control, and most characters were out to save their own behinds. Pretty realistic on any given day, but with the bombshell of immortality affecting everyone’s world view all of a sudden, this was particularly true. Alan Chin does not pull his punches with criticism on religious leaders, multinational corporations, the corruption of governments and politicians worldwide (but particularly in the US), and the military and law enforcement are shown from their worst side as well. As a whole, this novel offers an assessment of the worst side of the human race, and the emergence of the potential of immortality worsens the greed, infighting, and ruthless power-grabbing about a thousandfold. The situation changes the world as we know it to the point where it becomes a postapocalyptic situations where new rules emerge from the rubble that used to be civilization.

Despite the overall darkness shown by exposing humanity at its worst, there are a few flecks of hope and light throughout. Matt Reese is young and naive and seems helpless at first. He suffers both emotionally and physically as Kenji tries to drag him down into the moral abyss that is Kenji’s soul. But there is a stubborn goodness in Matt Reece that gradually grows stronger as he finds his way. Finding love gives him purpose, his family members join him in his fight, and when courage grows out of fear, Matt Reece emerges like a phoenix from the ashes, a very different person than he was before.

If you like thrillers with a global scale, if you want to watch a family go from peaceful ranchers to the only guys who can save the world (with the help of a few good men), and if you’re looking for a suspenseful read that explores human nature in a mesmerizing story with a surprisingly hopeful ending, then you will probably like this novel as much as I do. I found it emotionally draining yet utterly captivating!
DISCLAIMER: Books reviewed on this site were usually provided at no cost by the publisher or author. This book has been provided by DSP Publications for the purpose of a review.

Additional Information
Format
ebook and print
Length
Novel, 446 pages/154331 words
Heat Level
Publication Date
05-June-2018 
Price
$6.99 ebook, $19.99 paperback, $19.99 bundle
Buy Link

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Book Review: Vagrants Hollow – Southern Swallow Book V by Edward C. Patterson




Reviewer: Alan Chin
Publisher: Dancaster Creative (May 11, 2018)
Pages: 406

★★★★

The Magical Adventure Continues

Every so often a book comes along that has a unique voice, a fresh and vibrant set of characters, and has the ability to transport me into another world for an adventure far beyond my limited imagination. Tolkien certainly did that for me, as did Frank Herbert and several other fine writers. Edward C. Patterson is another author who fills each page with adventure and history and magic and valor found in unexpected places. I’m talking about his Southern Swallow series, now a complete five-volume set. I was delighted while reading the first four books, and now I’ve completed the fifth and last book in the series, called Vagrants Hollow, which concluded a touching love story that spans thousands of pages. But it is also a tale of intrigue, loyalty and honor.

Vagrants Hollow takes the reader back into China during the Sung dynasty, when the Emperor was considered the “Son of Heaven” and vast armies trembled at his every whim. Out of this rich history comes the journey of Li K’ai-men, who must out maneuver government intrigues to bring order and solid leadership to the throne, and then battle bizarre forces in the land of the dead in order to fulfill his magic warrants which will determine the destiny of the world.

Li K’ai-men utilizes the magic power of the Jade Owl to form a supernatural force that binds and protects his small group of followers as they battle traitors to the throne, and then journey into the land of the dead in order to reunite with his ever-faithful lover, Fu Lin-t’o, and complete his warrants. 

As with all previous books in the series, this story is a vivid, imaginative, and often humorous romp through a pivotal point in Chinese history. It quickly blossoms into a tense tale of intrigue, court politics, and treachery, and then transforms into a quest to complete Li K’ai-men’s life mission to bring order to the future of the world. 

And, of course, K’u Ko-ling, Li K’ai-men’s rather clownish manservant, has matured and become a key player in protecting the realm. As narrator, he starts and finishes each chapter with his 1st person point of view, but the bulk of the story is told in 3rd person. I found these POV switches to be seamless and greatly added to developing the depths of the main characters. This is a character driven story, and Patterson skillfully presents these characters with an excellent blend of grace, tragedy, and humor.

Because of the many different characters and magic powers that are explained in earlier books, I advise readers to read the other four volumes before undertaking this one. Much like Lord of the Rings, these five books are a continuous story that spans a great deal of territory and needs to be read in order to fully appreciate what this author has accomplished.

The author’s consummate skill at crafting prose and his untamed imagination 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.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Book Review: Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman




Reviewer: Alan Chin
Publisher: Holtzbrinck Publishers; Media Tie In edition (October 3, 2017)


★★★


I saw the movie when it first hit the theaters and love this slow-burn love story. I loved it so much I bought the book and plowed through it. This is one of the few times when I thought the movie was much better than the book.

The protagonist, Elio, a precocious seventeen year-old becomes infatuated with Oliver, a twenty-four year-old staying at their house as a summer intern for Elio’s father. Elio and Oliver, through several intellectual and esoteric conversations, become attracted to each other, and eventually fall in love. It is a simple love story. During this time, Elio constantly analyzes and second-guesses every innuendo-laden exchange with Oliver. This scrutiny was subtly done in the movie, but in the book it is relentless to the point of becoming annoying, and making Elio appear to be a self-absorbed, distressingly obsessed twit.

Yes, I get that a teenager can be self-absorbed and obsessed over love. I’m not so old I can’t remember what that was like. But that doesn’t mean I want to read page after page of it throughout an entire book. It gets overly tedious after the first fifty pages.

The prose is very well written and most often a joy to read. There were moments between the lovers that were poignant and relatable, sweeping me up into their relationship, but those moments were often swamped by page after page of Elio’s internal dialogue, worrying his feelings like a dog worries a bone. It is a beautiful story, yet it never reached the height or splendor of the movie.

Had I not loved the movie so much, I’m not sure I would have finished the book.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Book Review: Boy Erased, a Memoir by Garrard Conley





Reviewer: Alan Chin
Publisher: Riverhead Books


★★★



This was not a book I picked to read, as I’m not interested in reading about anything as grotesque as conversion therapy. It was selected by my book club.

It’s a story about a gay son of a Baptist minister who got outed to his parents. They placed him in a conversion therapy camp to “cure” him, and things didn’t go well for the young man.

Although the prose is extremely well written, I found the pacing and content numbingly boring. What I did find interesting was the total Christian brainwashing that the author had suffered as a young man. I find it both horrifying and amazing that, in this age of science, people still take the bible literally. Boy Erased, in my opinion, is a book of sadness. A story of people who rebuff nature to pursue a myth.

This book reinforced every negative stereotype I have of organized religion and modern-day Christians.