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Hot Stuff for Cool People

Reviews, probably some ramblings.  I'm, uh, new on this site.  Bear with me.

The Thirteenth Tale - Diane Setterfield

Intriguing stories, interwoven in a beautiful way. Excellent characters. Some incredibly gorgeous settings, and beautiful writing. I loved this.

My full review is here, on Hot Stuff for Cool People.

Finder - Emma Bull

This is a classic of the genre, for sure, but I love this for so many more reasons than its place in the fantasy world. This has some of the best plotting, characterization and relationships I've ever read. Definitely one of my favorite books of all time.

My full review is here, on Hot Stuff for Cool People.

Warchild - Karin Lowachee

My original, full(er) review for this book is at Hot Stuff for Cool People.


This was one of those books that called to me. That doesn’t happen very often, and it’s kind of hard to describe. It’s like I had to get it and read it. I simply couldn’t not. And then, it probably should have been a lot harder for me to get into this book, because the first 40 or so pages are in second person, which is just… generally a very, very uncomfortable way to read. But here, it works. And before you know it, you’re hooked, completely, and you just want to read about Jos and everything that he’s experiencing.


I think what I love the most about Karin Lowachee’s writing is that she just writes what needs to be written. It’s like, she’s not going to coddle the characters or the reader. Sometimes things aren’t what you expect, relationships, situations, emotions, but they’re always very honest and believable and right, no matter how uncomfortable or undesirable.


Her characters are just always so… real. And unique. Jos and Nico and the other people Jos encounters in ‘Warchild’ are no exception. Jos was just someone that I felt I knew very deeply. And his experiences with the aliens and with Nico, and then, later, his new interactions with humans, were so well thought out and beautiful and frightening and rich. It’s like you’re there, like you’re feeling everything right there with him.


And I loved the aliens, their culture. Is it a bit reminiscent of Japanese culture? Yup. Do I mind? Absolutely not. I love Japanese culture, and to see it transformed here into something new and fresh and different, while retaining the aesthetics of Japanese art and style, the honor of their warriors, was just fantastic.


I’m kind of crazy about books that explore what it means to be alive, what it means to be, maybe not human, but humane, to relate to others, to live and love and hate, and this book just delves right into the heart of all of these ideas. It never tears them apart, never offers concrete answers, just explores, from so many angles, and I was thrilled with it.


And I was thrilled with the relationships between the characters. Jos and Nico were just the most interesting people. The way Jos is raised by Nico, respects him as a man and a teacher and maybe kind of like a brother, but then must forge his own way, separate from Nico, learn things that Nico can never teach him, was difficult and gorgeous and raw and honest.


It’s just an all around gorgeous book, intriguing in the way the plot explores the conflict in space between the humans and aliens, but even more fascinating and wonderful in the individual bonds that are made and broken and torn apart between the characters.


Before I read ‘Warchild,’ I’d been a bit of a fringe science fiction fan, but I was pretty firmly entrenched on the fantasy side of things. Most of the science fiction I’d read was kids’ stuff, actually. It just seemed like it was too hard to walk the fine line between sappy space operas and hard science fiction that tends to be a little too cold for my taste. And to be fair, I hadn’t really been looking. But ‘Warchild’ changed the way I looked at science fiction as a whole. After I read it, I wanted to read all the science fiction, all the time, for a while. The thing about this book, and the books that follow it in the series, is that they’re accessible to anyone. Even if you’re not a big sci‐fi reader, I think anyone could get into these. The science is well defined but never bogs down the story, and the heart of the book is always the characters.


So I highly recommend it. And I recommend you read the rest of the books in the series, which, so far, include ‘Burndive’ and ‘Cagebird.’

Misfits - Garrett Leigh

My original, full(er) review of this book is at Hot Stuff for Cool People.


I wasn’t going to write a review for this. I wasn’t even going to read this. I… honestly, I can’t say this is the most bizarre thing I’ve ever read, because it’s far, far from it. It’s actually not really bizarre at all. And it’s not even the strangest relationship I’ve read. I bet it’s not the strangest relationship a lot of people have read, if they stopped and thought about it. But it is… very, very unconventional. And although I am deeply unashamed of anything I choose to read, announcing to the world at large that I read something like this… Well, it’s a little uncomfortable.


But I really, really liked this. So, so much.


Honestly, when I picked this book up (which I say un‐literally because I read the ebook) I seriously thought that Tom and Jake were going to be in love and Cass was going to split from the equation. At least, that’s what my brain told me it was about. If I’d really stopped to consider that it was a romance that included three people, I don’t know if I would have done it. I have never, never managed to get my head around the idea of three people in a committed, loving relationship. I know it probably happens, and I’ve always found the idea very intriguing and kind of beautiful, and if it works for you, hey, cool, but it would just never quite click in my head. I remember the first time I read about a three‐person relationship, very briefly, in a manga, and the way it was presented seemed so easy and lovely. But… I could never make it work out in my mind. I can’t imagine someone loving two separate people that much, and equally, never mind the other two people also loving the other people in the relationship equally…. I just assume someone’s going to end up jealous. Maybe it’s simply because I could never, never do that kind of thing myself. Because I’m a jealous person. So it’s like my mind just rejected the idea, as much as, intellectually, I wanted to understand it.


But no. I couldn’t. Even Alexis Hall’s beautiful book ‘There Will Be Phlogiston’ couldn’t completely convince me that this type of relationship could work, and I figured if he couldn’t convince me, no one could.


And then I read ‘Misfits.’


I’ve read the author, Garrett Leigh, before, and I’ve really enjoyed her. Her writing is solid and lovely and just very satisfying. Her books make me feel good. But ‘Misfits’ is like… I don’t know. Her masterpiece, maybe. Or maybe her masterpiece so far, because every time I read her, she seems to get even better. And this book is just so beautiful, really strikingly beautiful, and it makes so much sense.


I think if this relationship hadn’t been presented the way it was in this book, I still wouldn’t have been able to completely get it. But it’s so obvious that these three men are completely in love with each other, and that they form a unit that’s whole and equal, and that they each have an emotional role to play for the other two, as well as themselves, just like you would in any tight‐knit group. But of course this group is far more tightly knit. And it was so obvious that something was wrong between Cass and Tom when it was just the two of them , just as it was obvious that they were meant to be together… (I mean, they seemed fine with the open relationship, but it seemed to very much like… not the right thing for them, an imperfection in what was otherwise a close, loving bond.) And then the way Jake came in and glued them back together, and glued them to him, without trying to weasel his way in‐ just by being himself…


I don’t know. I was reading along, enjoying it, but still not totally believing this relationship could happen, and then there was an interaction between the three characters, something so simple and caring, and holy shit, I got it. I saw it. Click.


Add in the excellent writing, and Cass’s intriguing, dark past‐ which is presented so, so well. I mean, Garrett Leigh always writes tough subjects, and she does it so honestly and truthfully, without a lot of drama, just facts, just like it’s someone’s life and this is what happened. And that’s how she writes Cass, and god, I loved him. And it’s how she writes Jake and his Tourette’s and his tics‐ so believably and without fluff or any kind of glossing over.


Ah, it’s great. I get it. And I loved this book. I don’t know that I’ll ever find another book that writes a relationship like this so neatly and wonderfully. And the relationship doesn’t even take up the whole story… It’s really just the whole package, a great plot and romance and wonderful writing and fantastic, believable characters‐ everything about this book is enjoyable. I mean, the romance and relationships were the big things, but they definitely weren’t the only reasons I enjoyed the book. I kind of wanted to just read it over again when I was done. I didn’t. But I haven’t stopped thinking about it since I finished. I think I’ll probably still be thinking about this book, right up until I get the chance to read it again.

The Outsiders - S.E. Hinton

Of all the many, many books I've read, this is my favorite. Nothing ever bests it.

I wrote a whole review about why I like this book so much here, on Hot Stuff for Cool People.

Dirty Kiss - Rhys Ford

I'm crazy about this book- the whole series, actually. I loved the characters, the writing, the plot... yeah. Everything.
My full review is here, on Hot Stuff for Cool People.

Source: http://www.hotforcool.com/bookreviews.html#TheColeMcGinnisSeries

Bream Gives Me Hiccups

Bream Gives Me Hiccups - Jesse Eisenberg I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

I’ve always liked Jesse Eisenberg, which is odd, because I can’t think of a movie I’ve seen him in that I actually enjoyed (except ‘The Village,’ which doesn’t count because he was in it for, what, two scenes?) But I’ve always liked him, his acting, despite the films, and I’ve also always enjoyed watching him do interviews or whatever. He comes across as so personable and maybe a little jittery, but fun and interesting, and I just like the way he tells a story.

So I was pretty curious when I saw that he’d written this book. The thing is, you can never really tell whether a celebrity’s book is actually good or not just by the praise it gets- critics will always say ‘It’s freaking fantastic!’ even when it completely sucks, because no one wants to piss off a celebrity. And celebs do seem to get a lot of leeway in what they write about and how they write it, as opposed to regular people who have to play within a more defined set of rules. So, yeah, super curious- that was me.

And the verdict is, it’s true- Jesse Eisenberg can actually write. Well. Really, really well. Confession time- I’m not a fan of short stories. You have to be really, really good to get me to even notice a short story, and then you still have to hold my attention in an incredible way to stop me from skimming through the book. There is, in fact, only one author I can think of who can do this for me on a regular basis. Shorts just don’t… grab me. Generally. So I tried to go into this with an open mind.

But this was actually good, all the way through. It grabbed me from the very beginning and didn’t let go, even after the first story, all the way through until the end. I was always entertained, never bored, and I never felt the urge to skip any of the shorts or stories at all.

I liked some pieces better than others. I think that’s to be expected in any collection. ‘Bream Gives Me Hiccups,’ the title track, so to speak, was my favorite, and I also inexplicably loved ‘Nick Garrett’s Review of Rachel Lowenstein’s New Book, Getting Away.’ Those two just really tunneled into my heart, in odd ways. I was less enamored with things like ‘My Roommate Stole My Ramen: Letters from a Frustrated Freshman,’ which was bizarre and just uncomfortable… but also weirdly fascinating and something, like the rest of the book, that I couldn’t stop reading.

Jesse Eisenberg seems to have a pretty casual writing style- very loose, easy to slip into, comfortable, exciting. He wrote men and women equally well, and his voices were all so very believable- the narrator of the first story is a nine year old boy, and it was so well-written and honest and real, I actually thought maybe it was autobiographical (I’m pretty sure it’s not, though.) Jesse obviously isn’t afraid to tick anyone off or insult anyone- he lets his characters say exactly what’s on their minds, regardless of how incorrect or downright terrible it is, and he uses that style to get right into the heart of things, bluntly, but honestly. Sometimes the ideas he’s conveying skirt along the line between well-defined and heavy handed, so they’re almost, almost too much in your face, but they never quite cross it. Instead, you’re left with some excellent characters showing you just how they feel, conveying thoughts in a beautiful, articulate, but utterly unsubtle way. And it’s so blunt and right there, and most of the time, it works. Really well.

I read a lot of books. And getting that kind of balance out of characters, saying what you want to say and never letting it feel forced, is one of the biggest challenges writers, even the best writers, face. You just don’t see it happen very often. But Jesse Eisenberg gets there. He’s sincerely talented.

Now. Does he do some weird things that other writers would just never get away with? Yeah, he does. Like, there’s a whole section that’s called ‘Manageable Tongue Twisters,’ where he lists sentences like “Sally peddles fish exoskeletons down by the beach” and “Jimmy bifurcated corn, although I don’t really give a sh*t,” which is pretty funny, but… what do I do with that? He’s lucky- he gets to play around with ideas and thoughts and structure and most other writers don’t. It’s just, sometimes this playing around works really well for him, and sometimes it doesn’t. Never boring, like I said, just not always… I don’t know. Sometimes I was bowled over by the sentiment conveyed in a piece, and a lot of the time I laughed out loud, but sometimes, I was left wondering what, exactly, it was that I’d just read.

I read this book all at once. I think it probably would have been better served if it was read one short or story at a time, though. Most of the pieces are only going to take you a handful of minutes to read anyway. And there are definitely some pieces I’d like to come back to that way. And some I probably won’t ever read again.

All of it is worth reading, though. I was really pleasantly surprised by Jesse Eisenberg and ‘Bream Gives Me Hiccups.’ He’s a mature, talented writer and I’d be eager to read anything he comes up with in the future.

Bleach, Volume 64

Bleach, Volume 64 - Tite Kubo I received this galley from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Also, I wrote a full, spoiler-free review for this whole series at Hot Stuff for Cool People.

I’m a huge fan of the Bleach series as a whole. I just… never expected it to be as emotional and raw and beautiful as it is. I expected a ton of action and excitement and, you know, duking it out, and there is a lot of that, but it’s so balanced that even though that kind of thing isn’t really for me (I’m weird, I’m not particularly into action of any kind in my manga or books) I just absolutely adore this series.

But I think it is, generally, as a whole that this series works. In the first few volumes, that mix of emotion and human interaction and action was blended within each book. As the series stretched on, some volumes were more people and relationship oriented, and others were more strictly fight scenes. I mean, there’s always a bit of a blend, but sometimes I feel a little like I have to read through a really long fight scene, sometimes volumes long, to get back to the more human emotions I can connect to.

Volume 64 of Bleach is like that. It’s one very long fight scene, with the start of a new battle tacked on at the end. Luckily, the author, Tite Kubo, is… basically a genius. So even though I’m not much into fight scenes, he makes them really creative and interesting, and even when there isn’t a lot of introspection, he still offers the reader so many ways to connect to the characters who are, basically, attempting to kill each other. You feel for both the good guys and the bad guys, or at least come to understand them a bit, and it’s that gray zone that he spends so much time in that makes me really love anything Tite Kubo writes.

So… This volume covers the battle between Kenpachi and Gremmy, one of the Quincies. I don’t honestly know if Gremmy is one of the Quincies, actually, or like a tool they’re using, because after 64 volumes, read months apart, I simply can’t keep up with who’s who, exactly. The nice thing, though, is that I never feel really lost, which can definitely happen when you’re reading a terribly lengthy manga series with such long periods of time between volumes. Even though there are about a million characters, and they all have about a million different motives for whatever they’re doing, Tite Kubo makes them, individually, pretty memorable.

Anyway. Kenpachi and Gremmy. It’s a creative battle (the ideas about how people fight and how their weapons work are just surprisingly clever) and even though it takes nearly the entire length of the volume, I was never bored, and there was some nice introspection and such- although I would have liked a little more.

The other thing that never ceases to amaze me- the main character of the series, Ichigo, makes absolutely no appearance in this volume, and neither do any of his closest friends, aka the other main characters. Kenpachi and his people are, at best, second string characters. But although I love the main characters, I didn’t miss them. That’s a real gift there, to be able to ask a reader to focus on characters who aren’t, technically, that important- but obviously they are important enough, because as the reader, you care about them enough not to wonder where the other characters have gone.

At the end, another fight scene starts up, and I had to kind of look sideways at this one, first because it just came so abruptly on the heels of the other and it felt like a bit of a rush. And wow, can we just have a bit of a break between these things? Fighting seemingly invincible enemies is… fun, I guess? But it does get a bit like, what can possibly happen next? And it felt like a lot of that was being thrown at me. I mean, it’s kind of draining, to be told over and over that there is No Way Out, and then get put right back into the same situation without a little, I don’t know, plot.

And also, one of the new characters had a truly ridiculous name which I have to assume was somehow butchered in translation. (Candice Catnipp? You’re kidding me, right? There’s no way that came from the Japanese.) But that’s such a small point.

Overall, I wished there had been a little more personal interaction and a little less let’s-bludgeon-each-other, but the art was gorgeous, as usual, the story was rich with creativity, and I enjoyed it a lot.

The Invasion

The Invasion - Katherine Applegate I always loved these books, as a kid and even later on. They stand the test of time. Instead of reviewing one by one, which... would be enough to drive anyone nuts, I wrote a review for the entire series. Spoiler free. It's here, on Hot Stuff for Cool People.

For Real (A Spires Story)

For Real (A Spires Story) - Alexis Hall I received an advanced reader copy of this book from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review. (Also, this review originally appeared on Hot for Cool.)

This… is going to be long, I can just tell. I liked the book. A lot. You can take that and stop reading here, if you want, because a long review is on its way. Otherwise‐

I saw this book and requested to review it without really stopping to think, because I saw Alexis Hall’s name and my heart did that weird, jumpy thing it does when I think about a really great author, and what do you know, they sent it to me. I got it on a day when I just really needed something to go right. I was thrilled to get the email telling me I got to read it.

And then I started reading it, and I remembered an article by Alexis that I’d read where he talked about the kinky book he was releasing, and I realized that ‘For Real’ was that book. Not that I wouldn’t have known that by the cover. God, the cover. But all I could think was, what am I going to do with this? This kinky book, which is about a BDSM relationship between two guys. How do I tell my mother that this is the next review I want to put on our website?

But I wasn’t even sure if the book was going to be good, anyway, because as much as I absolutely adore Alexis Hall, everyone writes something that just… isn’t. So I tried to put aside whatever thoughts I had about how difficult this might be to read and review, and just read it.

I loved it. Of course I did. It was beautiful.

‘For Real’ is about two men‐ Laurie, thirty‐seven years old, a doctor, who’s long out of his last relationship but sort of drifting and not really over it and not really happy. And Toby, nineteen, also lost but for a totally different reason. And the two meet and magical, completely believable sparks fly. And the whole book is about them and their relationship.

The relationship, this is where it gets… kinky. Kinky book. It’s a BDSM relationship, I guess, but it’s not like any BDSM I’ve read before‐ don’t give me that look. I know you’re all eyeing me like I’m cracked for admitting I sometimes read this kind of stuff. I bet most of you’ve read it too‐ ‘50 Shades of Grey,’ anyone? But I also recognize that it’s difficult to understand, and that most people probably won’t get why I was ok to read this, never mind why Alexis Hall wrote it in the first place. Because it is hard to get. I don’t get it, honestly. It just feels really foreign to me. I can kind of, almost, understand where Laurie’s coming from. He’s… the submissive one, I guess, although, after reading the book, that term kind of makes me feel twitchy. And the way he wants things is understandable, even though I can’t really ever imagine wanting something like that. Toby was harder to understand. I just didn’t… I couldn’t understand why you’d want to hurt someone, especially in love.

And admittedly, I struggled with that for a good majority of the book. There’s even a spot where Toby tries to understand why he wants what he wants, and Laurie pretty much tells him it doesn’t matter, it just is, and I thought ‘Cop out!’ I actually thought that Alexis Hall hadn’t known how to explain it so he said that, and I was a little angry.

But then it occurred to me that I loved Toby. I just… adored him. And I knew he was a good person, a wonderful, honest, emotional person who would never intentionally hurt Laurie out of anger or grief or for any reason that wasn’t… right. And it didn’t matter to me anymore why he liked what he liked, or why Laurie did, because it worked for them, and frankly, it was kind of beautiful. It was a lot beautiful. I got that that’s why Alexis Hall had written that, because it really didn’t matter, not in the grand scheme of things. And I didn’t care anymore if I didn’t completely understand it.

In the same vein, just as much, I don’t really care if anyone thinks I’m strange or pervy or cracked for not only reading, but deeply loving, this book.

And there are so, so many reasons I loved it. The thing is, even though this is a book that is about, mostly, the relationship between Laurie and Toby, it’s really about a lot more than that. God, that was the most awkward sentence ever. What I mean is… The relationship is obviously the thick thread that runs through the plot, the bridge that holds everything together, and it’s the most obvious story line. But ‘For Real’ is also about Laurie and his broken heart, and Toby and his confusion. It’s about failed relationships and weird choices and even about small things, like Laurie’s friends from college or Toby’s odd, disjointed upbringing, and his love for his granddad. And there’s the fact that I think Alexis Hall, at least on some level, wrote this book in order to explain something about the many different, varied ways people love each other and how the conventional way to look at and write a relationship, specifically in this case a BDSM relationship, is not the only or the right way. And it all blends so wonderfully and seamlessly.

I mean, you can’t really get away from what the book’s about. There’s just… so much sex. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever read anything with this much sex and… god, this sounds bad, but that’s really saying something. It was almost surprising because it’s sometimes kind of debauched, and the quantity was just… And you haven’t really read sex until you’ve had to stop and Google the Gates of Hell, um, rings, because you don’t know what they look like and can’t picture them on a person.

Now I can.

And thanks for that, Alexis, really, because now I have no idea what’s going to come up the next time I go on Amazon.

But the amazing thing about the way Alexis Hall writes is that, even though there’s a lot of sex, and a lot of it’s… kind of kinky, although never as startlingly kinky as I was… worried?… about, it never really feels like it’s about sex. It always feels like it’s about so much more‐ love and trust and honesty and just two very real people. And it was always gorgeous. And it always took my breath away.

Alexis Hall always takes my breath away anyway. Maybe I’m biased or just in a mood to devour whatever he writes, but… Yeah, it’s very, very rare to come across someone who writes as beautifully as he does, with such simple elegance.

At one point he describes a tongue stud as ‘A rough little secret at the heart of his kiss.’

Uhh. I don’t even like the idea of tongue studs, but that is just… That is, wow.

Alexis Hall never comes across as overly purple in his words. In fact, he’s sometimes surprisingly modern or slang‐y or casual in his grammar. Sometimes he disregards grammar all together. Nothing ever feels forced or flowery. It’s just that his words fit so uniquely and beautifully together, and the ideas he conveys are simple and complex at the same time and he finds a way to make that work, to lead you to understand without feeling like he’s ever forcing anything on you.

I think Alexis Hall writes in layers of meaning and imagery, too. Like when Toby describes Laurie and the quietness inside him with ‘All these still places in his soul that he disturbs for me.’ There’s just so much in that one sentence, so much imagery but also so much emotion and meaning.

And his characters are just… Wow, they were so real. I knew them, right away. So well. The book is written from both Laurie and Toby’s first‐person, alternating perspectives. That can be a really hard thing to pull off, and it’s especially hard to make both characters unique individuals. But he does it spectacularly well here. Toby and Laurie speak in different ways, think in different ways, react differently. There’s never a question of who you’re reading. Toby is young and a little… ah, impulsive, maybe, but he’s strong and so, so smart, too. And so kind. And Laurie is so surprisingly fragile, behind this shell that he puts up. He’s just… so complex, a truly rich character. I thought he was fantastic. They’re both just such wonderful people, so complex, so very real. It should have felt wrong, too, that Laurie was so much older than Toby. But that was written so well, so neat but at the same time carefully addressing and pulling apart the issues that could arise from that kind of situation, that I never found it uncomfortable. It felt, instead, very right.

And I love that Alexis Hall can not only make them seem like very different people who fall in love, but can actually, honestly, seemingly without bias, look at and describe their two sometimes very different views of the world. The way Laurie looks at things through the life he’s lived, the years he has on Toby, his experiences, is true, but so is the way Toby sees things. Toby never seems less or weaker because he’s younger. He’s never really immature, he just hasn’t seen as much of life yet, and it strikes me as a thing that would be difficult to do, to write both viewpoints so fairly and equally. But it’s done here so fantastically well.

The thing is, there are so many books out there‐ especially romances‐ that are fun or sweet or cute or enjoyable, but that’s it. And there’s definitely a place for those books, they’re entertaining and there’s a lot of value in them. But too often they don’t, I don’t know, impact me. Leave me with much. They’re like cute pieces of fuzz. ‘For Real’ was like the whole blanket. It was big and warm and it left me with a lot.

Of course, it helps that Alexis Hall seems to have some way to dig right into my heart of hearts and pull at the things that I… struggle with, feel deeply, things that I understand. Or want to understand. Of course it’s not me he’s aiming at, he has no clue I exist. But he does it anyway. Like when Toby blurts out how he might like to have a restaurant, and then says he wishes he hadn’t said it aloud, ‘Because once you’ve thought something like that, or said it, all you’ve done is given yourself something to fail at. Or have taken away.’ Wow, did I get that. Did I feel it so sharply whenever Toby was confused about his life, whenever he felt like he was falling behind what he was ‘supposed’ to be doing. And at the same time, did I get it when Laurie talked about how afraid he was to admit that he loved Toby. How broken he was because of how he’d been left in the past. I think a lot of these things are just... things people feel. A lot of people. But the way it’s written makes it feel so personal. Like it matters. Even when Laurie talks about why his previous relationship ended‐ it’s maybe a paragraph or two, and nothing like what he went through has ever happened to me, but I felt it like it had. Like I was there.

There’s just so much going on here, and it goes way beyond the sex, or the kink, even while that all remains a very integral part of the plot. But it’s not the only part. And it’s not… It’s not as hard to understand it as you’d think. As I’d thought, when I first started reading.

Laurie says, ‘I want to give him everything, and the things I can’t give I want him to take.’

It’s like that‐ simple and very much not simple, all at the same time, all wrapped up together.

So I wrote this review. This giant, kind of overly‐gushy review. And I thought, this describes it‐ the book and everything I liked about it and why it was so great. But then the more I thought about the review the more… I don’t know, nervous I got? I guess I felt a bit… a bit silly, being so entranced by a book about kinky sex. Plus I have this weird need to never, never be considered a groupie or someone who hands out praise like candy, like it means nothing. But my praise is definitely given for a reason here. And I don’t think it’s silly to gush over it, because the book deserves it, and so does Alexis Hall. (And I tried to edit this and trim it down, but every time I came back to it, it just got longer.)

‘For Real’ made me think. And it made me feel. And I craved it when I wasn’t reading it. I tried to savor it. I kept putting it down because I felt I was reading too fast, reading it like I needed it. As I got closer to the end, I put it aside more and more because I just had this deep need for it to not end. Because I didn’t know what I’d do when it was over. I don’t know, can’t imagine what I’ll read now. And I realize that I sound a bit rabid about how much I liked this, but I did. It’s beautiful, it captured my heart, it’s intelligent and made me think, and I fell in love with it, with Laurie and Toby. It’s just… really that good.

Waiting for the Flood

Waiting for the Flood - Alexis Hall

(This review was originally a blog post, and is probably better suited to that format.  Short review- I loved this to pieces.  It's wonderful.  Lengthier, blathering review below.)


I got this book from the publisher, Riptide, in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.

Unbiased being the keyword. Now, I don’t know about everybody else who reviews things, and I, honestly, try not to promise very many reviews anymore, but. But. When I do, I am always unbiased. Sometimes books are good and sometimes they’re bad, and I can just pretty much guarantee that no matter what, I’ll let the book speak for itself.

I was a little worried about ‘Waiting for the Flood,’ though. First, I am a HUGE Alexis Hall fan. I’ve so far only managed to get my hands on a few of his books, but his writing just always bowls me over, in the very best way. I’ve had to ban myself from his blog. I’ll start reading an article or review of his, and suddenly I’ve gotten myself lost in his website and hours have gone by. I can’t even go on his Twitter feed anymore. So I thought, maybe, for the first time, I would be biased and love this book because I am just so crazy about the way he puts words and emotions to paper.

And I was just so very, very excited to have the book. I wanted to read it so badly.

I think I kind of psyched myself out, because for the first couple of pages, I just couldn’t get into it. Whenever you read a book with the knowledge that a review must follow, you spend a lot of time thinking about the context of the review and maybe not the book itself. Which is another form of dishonesty, I suppose, and why I only rarely request books to review.

But this is Alexis Hall. And yes, I have a weird, crazy obsession with him and sometimes I ogle his Twitter for longer than is probably healthy, and yes, there was the very real potential that that would taint my opinion of this book. But it didn’t. It didn’t have to. ‘Waiting for the Flood’ is simply so beautiful and wonderful and lovely that it stole my heart all by itself. If I had never heard of Alexis Hall or any of his other books before, I would still have been in love with this.

It’s so simple. Edwin is living in his house in England during a particularly nasty piece of weather. He’s basically waiting for the flood (oh my god, I did not just do that) to rise up over his doorstep. Meanwhile, some flood prevention people arrive and one, Adam, takes an interest in Edwin. And Edwin, who is awkward and lonely and still trying to come to terms with the idea that the man he thought he’d be with forever has left, doesn’t know how to react.

And that’s it. It is a bit of a romance, and it is about the flood, but for me, it was more, or mostly, about the end of Edwin’s relationship, and how that quiet death of a future changes everything. And, at the same time, changes very little. There’s no real drama. There are hardly any outbursts, except one, and even that was more heartbreaking than exciting, more an ache than a sharp pain. And yet, in this quiet way, with these characters who feel very real but are not, in and of themselves, spectacular or incredible, the book conveys so much emotion and so many ideas, ideas that I think usually get skipped over. In the hands of someone who wasn’t as talented and insightful as Alexis Hall, these things would probably be boring. But here they tunneled into my heart. They made me feel… so much. I didn’t necessarily feel for Edwin and Adam so much as I felt like they felt the same things as me. Does that make sense? Like I could understand them because they were real people with problems that seemed small, maybe, but, in their lives, were large. And real. And honest.

And maybe I am biased because I could feel those things a little too closely. When Edwin talks about how he’s using his fear of being hurt, of being left, to keep Adam away… that’s me. That’s what I do, what I’ve been doing for a long time. Wow, did I get what he meant. And there were others things that struck a little too close to home. And the amazing thing is… Sometimes you read a book about something that hits close to home, and you just know that the author doesn’t know what they’re talking about. That they’re using this pain or discomfort as a plot device. But not here. Never with Alexis Hall. I don’t know him, and I don’t know what’s happened to him in his life- maybe he’s just that talented that he can talk about things like he’s lived them- but it always feels like he’s been there, like he’s speaking for an honest place. Like I can trust what I’m reading, and believe in it.

So I enjoyed the characters, and the romance. And I loved the plot. Everything about it. I mean, the flood could easily have felt like heavy handed symbolism, but it didn’t. But what I liked best was the writing. I love the way Alexis Hall folds words together to express things, the way each word fits and feels so good. Like he says in the book- “…dropping the syllables cleanly, like marbles…” I love the way he takes simple things and turns them into something lovely and complex, and the way he takes complex ideas and makes them smaller and more comfortable, so that you feel all the things, the joy or the sadness or the loss, without getting bogged down. Like when Edwin says he wishes he could say that his ex-boyfriend died instead of leaving, so that Edwin would seem “brave and slightly wounded, not just someone somebody else didn’t want.”

It’s a beautiful way to say it. And have you not ever wished that? I have. I’ve just never seen it in black and white, laid out in front of me like it’s perfectly understandable to feel that way.

And I love the way it’s all tempered by little moments of laughter. I always laugh right out loud when I read Alexis Hall, and that’s necessary, to balance the other emotions in the writing. I laughed so many times reading ‘Waiting for the Flood.’

And I love how blatantly intelligent this book is. Maybe it’s weird to say that, to say that it’s a rare quality, but I think it is. You can see how clever the book is in the way it throws emotions at you and just expects that you’ll have enough sentiment to catch them, and how smart it is in the way the writing allows you to pull more and more and deeper meaning from the words. But it’s overtly intelligent, too, when Edwin and Adam talk about their work, or when they have that long, rambling discussion on game theory (which I had to look up because, while I would consider myself rather intelligent, that one made no sense whatsoever to me.) In the middle of a beautiful story, there was intelligence that made me feel challenged. Alexis Hall believed his readers would be intelligent people, and that made me feel like I was reading something that was far more than fluff. It was really refreshing, actually.

Not that any of this felt like fluff, in any way. It was so gorgeous. I loved the easy comfort and discomfort. Loved the sentiment expressed here, loved the smooth ebb and flow of feelings. I wanted to read it forever, over and over. This was short. It should have taken me… maybe a couple hours to read. It took me almost five, because I kept going back and reading paragraphs over. Sometimes I realized I just hadn’t had enough and went back pages, rereading, reabsorbing, just trying to suck all that wonderful writing and characterization and setting and sadness and happiness and loss and loneliness in.

God, it was good.

And!  I assumed this would never be available in print, but now it is!  And this book is so wonderful- it's worth buying in either (or, preferably, both) format. It’s lovely and touching and it left me feeling raw and kind of fragile.

I liked it very much. Very, very much.

This review was originally posted on Hot Stuff for Cool People.

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