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morningrising

This is the story of Kara and Dylan or as they are known to some people; the Guardian and Morning. This story started with a very contemporary feel and then quickly introduced some fantasy elements, which were not what I was expecting but in a good way! This story left me with a thirst for fantasy.

In short, the story is about Dylan and Kara who were in our human world but they are not from here. They are from InBetween and were only in the human world for their protection. This story, despite being very short manages to be very original and serves as a good introduction to the following two books. The world building is original and practical  as there are elements of fantasy and of our lives mixed together. There is magic but this world is also practical and adaptable. They take inventions from other worlds and are not afraid to use them. In some ways, very much like our own world. As you read along you can imagine the world and experience it as Kara relearns.

We see as Kara and Dylan’s roles are reversed and this applies also for the other two books. First, it was Dylan that needed to be strong for Kara and then the other way round, though by no means does that undermine Dylan’s strength. We also see how Kara gave in to Dylan in the Human World but then in Inbetween, Dylan needed Kara so listened to her.

Along the way there are some nice touches to make us dive deeper into their world. For example, an allergy mentioned in the beginning of the book is later on explained as a common trait.

The style is nicely written in general but sometimes it’s especially awesome and funny. For example:

“Some theme parks could take a few hints from this place”
Samantha Boyette, Morning Rising

There are great moments in the book, because they feel very real. We learn to empathize with the characters and their feelings. We feel frustrated with the situation as Kara is frustrated.

I would recommend this book for fantasy/urban, action, young adult and series lovers. This book is part of the Guardian of Morning trilogy (Morning Rising, Darkness of Morning, When Morning Dawns). The plot although written in a few pages, has a lot of twists and will probably surprise you.

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Despite the recent conservative controversy surrounding Vicky Beeching’s coming out, the Christian community is no stranger to revered spiritual musicians coming out. Jennifer Knapp’s memoir Facing The Music is a soul-searching, earnest examination of the Christian music scene and self discovery including her own coming out in 2010.

Knapp begins her life as a twin in a dysfunctional and divided household. As her parents were separated, she spent her youth navigating the complex conditions of custody, living predominantly with her father and step-mother and occasionally holidaying with her mother. Her first love is discovered and passionately explored as she teaches herself trumpet and becomes enamoured with music. Not being musical myself but living with a musician, I was enthralled in Knapp’s diligent and often demanding relationship with instruments. In fact, her first decision to learn an instrument comes at the direct expense of her limited time with her mum. Her passion continues as she breathes in instrument after instrument, ultimately leading her to study music teaching at college.

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After a period as a wild child, filled with sexual exploits and significant alcoholism (not explicitly explored), Knapp falls for the grace of God and begins to party Christian style; with worship music and religious conversation. Her account for her rise to Christian ‘rock-star’ status is told passively, as though everything just happened around her; her own involvement often reluctant and riddled with self-doubt. I feel this early Christian experience is written through the lens of a changed woman and wonder about the difference in explanation if one had been able to be transcribed at the time. Yet, this is how all memoirs are written; by the hands of current understanding, so I need not fault Knapp for that.

As a Christian myself, I recognised many of the evangelical experiences Knapp described and would advise non-Christian readers not to be put off by this inside look at the Contemporary Christian music scene. Her insights are often darkly described, almost in despising tones and I think Christians will have a harder time processing Knapp’s truths then non-religious individuals.

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Two thirds into Facing The Music, Knapp addresses her sexuality, her withdrawal from the Christian music scene and life as she knows it. She isn’t one to kiss and tell, so if you are hoping for long paragraphs of lesbian liaisons, this isn’t the love story for you. Instead, she recounts her internal coming out experience and the feelings associated with identifying as both gay and Christian, both personally and within the public  eye.

Knapp’s memoir is also littered with unexpected interesting insights, including her involvement with signing Katy Perry as well as adventures in outback Australia.

Personally, I strongly related to her difficulty fitting into certain circles in Christian churches, wearing cargo pants instead of skirts at church services. I also understood her difficulty with self-acceptance and the shame often associated with sharing an experience that strays from the acceptable testimony within church circles. I applaud her personal strength and faith to share her own story and to take her own time to do so.

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Facing The Music is written with honesty, integrity and emotion and will likely captivate fans, memoir readers, Christians and the questioning masses.

For those who enjoy Jennifer Knapp’s memoir, I would strongly recommend Chely Wright’s memoir Like Me, which explores coming out within the conservative country music world. You can also view the documentary Wish Me Away which follows Chely before and after coming out.

If you are looking for music to listen to while reading, Jennifer Knapp’s new album Set Me Free (released by Ani DiFranco’s Righteous Babe Records) is just out.

courtship

Courtship is a forthcoming novel from criminal defense attorney and author Carsen Taite.  It’s the story of law school dean Addison Riley and Julia Scott, a campaign manager with a very successful track record.

When Chief Justice Weir of the United States Supreme court dies suddenly, Julia Scott–fresh from a successful presidential campaign–is put in charge of getting a replacement on the fast track to confirmation. The president wants a quick and easy choice, pushing for a moderate rather than a choice that will make waves in the legislature, and Julia is accustomed to doing whatever her employer wants. But there’s another name that keeps appearing on the Democratic shortlists, despite Julia’s wishes and everyone’s expectations: Addison Riley.

Addison, a former law clerk and solicitor general who had a close relationship with the deceased chief justice, is not a safe choice for confirmation. But she’s got the liberal values that Julia, if she allowed herself to have a personal opinion, would endorse herself. And whenever they meet, there’s a definite spark between them. As circumstances continue to throw Addison and Julia together, attraction–and dilemmas–abound. When it becomes clear that the former chief justice’s death might not have been accidental, things heat up even more. Will Julia be able to get Addison’s nomination confirmed without compromising her professional integrity? Will Addison become the nation’s first female supreme court chief? Who is responsible for Justice Weir’s death?

The addition of the conspiracy/thriller angle to Courtship made it a bit more than the will-they-or-won’t-they workplace romance I was expecting, and the details about campaign management, White House politics, and Supreme Court confirmations were something I hadn’t encountered before. This is not a book for readers who want their heroines to spend a great deal of time together; the road to happiness for Addison and Julia is fraught, but ultimately comes to a satisfactory conclusion. For me, it was tempting to say “get on with it!” at the end, but if it had been a movie I would have watched raptly. For those interested in other political romances, try Madam President by Blayne Cooper and T. Novan or Tracey Richardson’s The Candidate.

Courtship will be coming out in November 2014 from Bold Strokes Books. Advanced copy courtesy of Netgalley.

LittleBlackDress

Linda Palund’s young adult mystery, Little Black Dress, starts with high school student Lucy Linsky dreaming about the funeral of her late girlfriend, Carmen. The story flashes back to the evening that Carmen was abducted and murdered, then flashes back again to Lucy meeting the mysterious Carmen and the teenagers falling in love. Just a few chapters later, Lucy begins to investigate Carmen’s murder, which has the police stumped. With some help from Carmen’s visiting older brother James, Lucy’s old friend Wendy and new friend Seth, and possibly a little intervention from Carmen’s ghost, Carmen’s murder is eventually solved, and Lucy learns some of her late girlfriend’s secrets along the way. First, though, the teenagers discover that Carmen was not the only young woman victimized by the killers, and find themselves in danger too.

The novel is well-paced, engaging, and I cared about finding Carmen’s killers. However, I was not prepared for the amount of sexual violence in this book, or the way it is discussed by the characters. From quite early in the book, you know that three males were involved in Carmen’s kidnapping and death. Without giving too much away, not all the killers were new to abusing young women, and investigating Carmen’s death leads Lucy to some of the predators’ living victims. These girls were victimized largely through coercion and exploitation rather kidnapping, and Lucy’s comments about them disturbed me. At one point Lucy tells the reader that some survivors of a serial rapist “let themselves be raped and kept their mouths shut,” as though they had the option of not “letting” themselves be sexually assaulted. At another juncture, she attributes other survivors’ silence about their sexual abuse to their shame at having “sunk” to being abused, without disagreeing with their self-blaming thinking. Lucy is the narrator, and no one challenges some of the subtle rape culture attitudes she expresses. Worse, toward the end of the book, a sympathetic character arranges for one of the suspected killers to be raped, the scene that is played for humor rather than horror. I also found the level of graphic detail about the many sexual assaults and about Carmen’s murder did not add to the story. At about the third detailed retelling of sexual violence, I wondered why I was reading this book, but at that point I was invested in finding out who killed Carmen, so I slogged through it. If I’d known how many scenes of rape and attempted rape I was in for, I would not have picked up this novel.

The most disturbing thing in this book, though, was all the shame and secrets about things that weren’t shameful. Despite living in present-day Westwood, Los Angeles, with at least one supportive, liberal parent and caring friends, Lucy remains closeted to almost everyone for the entire book. No one but Seth and a few people at a gay-friendly café in Santa Monica ever know that Carmen was more than Lucy’s best friend. She mourns her girlfriend without saying that Carmen was actually her first love. Lucy even possibly hinders the police investigation by hiding her relationship with Carmen when the police wrongly suspect Carmen had a boyfriend who could have been involved in her death. Though Carmen’s family came from the South and seemed to be more conservative, it didn’t make sense to me that Lucy seemed to accept herself as a lesbian but did not consider coming out or even discuss her motives for staying closeted. Midway through the book Lucy gives a little anti-butch rant that suggested to me that she’s less at ease with her sexuality than she claims, but it isn’t examined further. It’s uncomfortable to read a lesbian book where the young lesbian narrator bashes masculine women and stays unquestioningly and dedicatedly closeted.

The shame and silence doesn’t stop there, either. Carmen and her family lived with a troubling number of secrets long before Carmen’s tragic murder. More than one living survivor of the future killers is racked with shame over being sexually assaulted and is terrified of what people will think of her if they found out. The rapists should have been ashamed, not the victims, but no one ever says that. The killers are able to operate brazenly because of this culture of misplaced shame and secrecy, and yet this fact is never explored. In the end, the guilty individuals are found out but no one resolves to stop blaming exploited teenage girls for their abuse, or comes out, or challenges the structures that let sexual assault be an open secret in the first place.

I hesitate to recommend this novel, which is too bad because most of it is a decent read. I would be especially wary of giving it to teens, its target audience. Anyone who reads it ought to also read What You Really Really Want: The Smart Girl’s Shame-Free Guide to Sex and Safety by Jaclyn Friedman as a counterpoint. If Lucy had come out to her friends or family, if one of the survivors had refused to take the blame for her abuse, if anyone had challenged some of the troubling thinking in this book, I’d feel differently. But as it is, Little Black Dress was not what I look for in a lesbian mystery novel, and it probably isn’t what you’re looking for either.

howstillmylove

Familiar with Diane Marina’s work, I expected quite the good read as I delved into How Still My Love; however, I did not anticipate that I would be thrust into a world of characters who could so effortlessly elicit an emotional investment beyond what I am willing to contribute to my own experience. Navigating the mundane aspects of my day-to-day life while between chapters, I’d find myself swept away by everything from desire and intimate surrender to desperation and heartbreak. Time and time again, I’d have to remind myself that I was indeed not in the throes of passion or crisis; yet, upon setting the book down for the night, this more vivid world inhabited my dreams.

Having sustained a broken heart in a physically and emotionally abusive relationship several years before, Beth Anders pours her passion into her graphic design studio. Sure, she’s had a few casual encounters, but she has no interest in risking further hurt. That doesn’t dissuade her best friend, Laurel, from matchmaking however; and, Beth reluctantly concedes to a dinner with Laurel, her husband, and her co-worker, Toni Vincent, who Laurel believes to be the woman of Beth’s dreams.

Indeed, it’s lust at first sight and love shortly thereafter. Beth and Toni’s feelings for one another grow quickly, and it doesn’t take long for them to begin building a life together; yet, just a way down the road, they find that they may not have fully grasped one another’s visions for the future. Such a conflict of needs tends to have no easy resolution, but the couple’s lack of communication, resentments and fear-based behaviors turn a challenging situation into something that very well may prove downright devastating.

Be they scenes of intimacy, ecstasy or gut-wrenching loss, Marina writes them all with power, clarity and an understated intensity that packs all the more punch for its skillful lack of melodrama. All the while, I found her sense of pacing, character development and plot progression to be flawless. The unfolding of Beth and Toni’s relationship is nothing shy of masterfully executed for I felt so palpably the lusty anticipation of intimacy, the comfort and familiarity a few years in and the mingling of desperation and rage in the face of betrayal. Lest I neglect to mention, her penning of the bedroom scenes is sexy without an ounce of the lewd or ridiculous.

As much as I appreciate Marina’s strengths as an author, it is the impact and resonance of her work that left me in a state akin to afterglow upon turning the final page. In that moment, I experienced an undeniable sense of gratitude that Marina would provide such a lush and poignant experience for her readers. I certainly don’t indulge in emotionality or invest my heart to the extent I did while immersed in the life Beth and Toni shared; and, from one jaded soul to perhaps another, that vicarious surrender is a rare and precious gift.

afterworld

Egads, I have such mixed feelings about this novel.  But the first thing I have to mention is that there wasn’t actually much L in the LGBTQ aspect.  There were a few gay men, and a woman who was possible bisexual, but that was the extent of the queer woman dynamic here. So that was a bit misleading, as the author requested this book for review through the Lesbrary site.

Anyways. Beyond that, the story itself was interesting and unconventionally-written. It follows a strange family from Louisiana and gives each of the family members a voice as they recount their twisted histories and unconventional relationships. The last third of the book occurs around the characters as they live through Hurricane Katrina.  The title itself, Afterworld, I’m supposing comes from the fact that several of the characters contribute their stories from beyond the grave – and could be an allusion as well to the world of Louisiana after Katrina. Although considering the first third of the book doesn’t even touch on that topic, I’m unsure.

I think there is sometimes a danger in using too much regional slang, trying to write in the vernacular, because if you’re not very careful and very good at it, it just comes across as insulting to the characters. Walden, for the most part, does fine with her use of the vernacular and it helps to give the many characters a distinctive voice, but there are a few times when it gets a bit heavy-handed and overbearing.

There are also a lot of adult themes in this book, which are mostly handled acceptably well.  I find nothing wrong with this.  However, sometimes I found the inclusions unnecessary, and feel that they were thrown in purely for the shock value.  There’s a surprising amount of pedophilia and incest, and one of the primary characters (who is a gay man) was the victim of such abuse. This kind of stereotype that childhood abuse leads to one becoming gay later in life I find insulting and outdated, as though being gay is a defensive reaction to some past trauma and not something that’s natural.

But I shall give the author the benefit of the doubt here because at least she doesn’t try to implicitly connect the two things.  So moving on from this quibble, we have the writing  itself. It’s very good – most of the time – although this is one of those books I feel that would have benefited from a more stringent editor. Not so much for proofreading purposes, but to take out the random bizarre sentences and to cut some of the story arcs, which just fade away with no conclusion.

This has been a difficult review to like. Overall, I enjoyed this book. The characters were alive and distinct, the events were interesting, and I think it’s done in a very original manner. However, the problems I talked about were too many for me to give this a rave review.  And the fact that it doesn’t really mention queer women, only men, kind of sours me – not on the book itself, but that it was submitted for review here. I kept reading, waiting for the queer women to appear, but they never did.

binotes

Are you looking for a smart, accessible introduction to bisexual academic theory, history, and activism?  Are you a bisexual/pansexual/omnisexual person who needs an anti-assimilationist kick in the pants?  Are you a monosexual (gay or straight) person who wants to learn more about the bisexual people in your life?  Look no further than Shiri Eisner’s Bi: Notes for A Bisexual Revolution.  Although my feelings about this book are complicated, for the most part I am happy that it is out there and that bisexuals younger than myself have it as a resource!  In particular, I think it’s a fantastic introduction to not only bisexuality but queer and feminist studies more generally.  Eisner is great at defining key terms in no-nonsense language and succinctly summarizing complicated queer/feminist theories.  You don’t need a background in queer or feminist studies or academia to understand this book, which I think is great for making it a manageable read for all sorts of people who wouldn’t ordinarily pick up something like this.

What I really loved about Bi was how Eisner put a lots of things about bisexuality and biphobia that I had experienced as both a lesbian and bi-identified woman into words.  I had never taken the time to analyze some of this stuff, and some I had just never realized were manifestations of biphobia.  Eisner dives right in in the early chapters and tackles such tricky topics as bisexual stereotypes, accusations that bisexuality ‘reinforces the gender binary’ and otherwise contributes to the dominant social order, myths that bisexuality doesn’t really exist, the fact that bi men are deemed gay whereas bi women are deemed straight, and bi people being accused of having access to heterosexual privilege.  One of my favourite points that she made was that the sometimes positively-viewed assertion that ‘everyone is really bi’ is really the other side of the ‘bisexuality doesn’t exist’ coin.  Both statements are trying to deny the validity of a bisexual orientation and the uniqueness of bisexual people.

I also really liked how she dealt with the issue of heterosexual privilege and the idea of passing as straight or gay.  She writes, for example,

“The presumption that bisexuals experience oppression not as bisexual people but as ‘quasi gays and lesbians’ … divides bisexual identity into ‘gay’ and ‘straight’ parts [and] presumes that bisexuals are only oppressed by heterosexism inasmuch as they live a ‘gay’ life and that they gain privileges inasmuch as they live a ‘straight’ life.”

Eisner also brings up a really important point about the gay / straight-washing that happens so often to bi people.  Since I’ve been paying attention, I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen bi celebrities as well as regular people referred to as either gay or straight.  Like, I had no idea Alan Cumming was actually bi and I’m pretty sure I’ve seen him referred to as gay a million times.  Recently, when bisexual activist Robyn Ochs (whose wonderful definition of bisexuality I’ll include farther down) was mentioned in a mainstream newspaper celebrating her marriage with a same-sex partner, she was called a lesbian—this is a woman whose career is built on fighting that exact kind of erasure.  So this book was eye-opening for me in a lot of ways, and in particular about the monosexist assumptions that led me to feel like I had to pick lesbian or straight.  A lot of what I read feels empowering and revolutionary, just like the title promised!

One of the things I didn’t love about this book was Eisner’s radical political stance.  I mean, I agreed theoretically with a lot of the points that she made, but often anarchist/radical politics feel naïve and limiting for me.  I want to say, okay, yes, dismantling the entire structure and ways of thinking that our societies are founded on is great in theory, but what can we actually practically do to make things better for people who are getting a shit deal right now?  I heard some echoes in Eisner’s writing of other things I’ve heard in radical queer circles, like the ‘subverting gender binaries’ shtick .  I’m sick and tired of reading about whether this or that identity subverts gender binaries or not. It’s getting old. I’m suspicious of this especially because it’s often evoked (not in Eisner’s case) in an anti-feminine context.

Eisner’s section on men and bisexuality is definitely the weakest section.  Honestly, a bi man should probably have written this chapter—I would have been really interested to hear that perspective, but Eisner’s anti-science tirade about the research that’s been done on bi men wasn’t interesting or illuminating to me.  In fact, in her book Excluded, Julia Serano points out that a lot of feminism’s knee-jerk anti-science is detrimental and misguided.  The section on bisexuality and racialization could have used a lot more variety too.  I get that Eisner is relying on her own experiences, but some references to other racialized people, at least for further reading, would have been nice.

All of that said, I still really recommend this book.  It taught me a lot and made me think a lot about bisexuality and biphobia in many ways that I hadn’t before.  It’s a great starting point for discussion—it will get you thinking and talking and thinking some more!  I want to end with Robyn Ochs’s definition of bisexuality, which Eisner introduced me to:

“I call myself bisexual because I acknowledge that I have in myself the potential to be attracted-romantically and/or sexually-to people of more than one sex and/or gender, not necessarily at the same time, not necessarily in the same way, and not necessarily to the same degree.”

Eisner praises Ochs for the inclusiveness and reassuring quality of this definition.  I think Eisner’s insistence on the messiness and complication of bisexuality is similarly reassuring: she writes that these qualities are not something to apologize for but rather something to value.

sweetandrough-cover

Sweet, sensual adoration and dirty, rough sex meet in this anthology of queer smut penned by Top Sex Blogger Sinclair Sexsmith. The complete collection includes sixteen of Sinclair’s best queer erotica short stories, full of dapper dates, femmes in pretty dresses, flogging, bondage, flirting on the subway, bold moves, and (of course) strap-ons. From ongoing lovers to one-night stands, the kinky queer butch top protagonist delivers heart and dominance, over and over.

Sweet and Rough opens with an introduction discussing enthusiastic consent, in both erotica and real life. An introduction talking about such a serious topic could have been a mood-killer, but Sexsmith handled it very well. There’s an excellent touch of humor and I left the introduction with my curiosity piqued.

The stories all feature Sinclair and a variety of ladies, some newly met, some long-standing lovers. Sinclair describes themselves as “a cock-identified lesbian-feminist queer dyke,” and most of the stories (all but the last three) majorly feature their strapon. There’s all sorts of bondage, an excellent rope scene, and impact play. I really enjoyed how thoughtful Sinclair is as a dom – the narrative makes it very clear that they’re enjoying figuring out what their partner needs. They also do a great job of establishing enthusiastic consent – everyone’s having fun and boundaries are respected.

In the moment, Sexsmith relies on stream-of-conscious writing that really feels visceral and hot. I think the one thing I would’ve liked out of this particular book is a little more variety. Each individual story is hot, but they start to blend together a little when read straight through. This might not be a problem if you take the book one story at a time, or if you really enjoy strapons as a kink.

Otherwise, be aware that there’s a lot of language that would more commonly be found with male characters (hardening cock, that sort of thing), but once I got over my surprise, it’s easy to adjust to. In general, I really enjoyed Sweet and Rough – “All Five Senses” is definitely going on my to-be-reread list – and I think it’s an excellent addition to queer erotica.

Sweet and Rough can be found http://www.sugarbutch.net/sweet-and-rough/

outattheinn

Yes, that title is a pun.

Unsure what I was in the mood to read, I started this book because from my cursory glance at the description I thought it was a mystery novel. It quickly became apparent that it was not. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I was enjoying the novel, a modern drama set in central California. An update on the rags-to-riches story, at first this book almost reads like a slice of life. The writing style is casual (and could use some editing, but if you’re not a stickler for grammar or irked by improper punctuation, it is perfectly readable). A huge portion of the book is basically a how-to manual on refurbishing an abandoned mansion to turn it into a working inn. It brought back fond memories of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, but without the professional crew. Instead, the work was mostly done by one woman: the main character, Leah Van Heusen.

Leah starts out as a simple delivery woman with a dream. But we soon find out that she has a surprising past. Her parents were unbelievably rich owners of a huge corporation. When they died young, however, Leah was left in the care of her unscrupulous Uncle Chet, who eventually cheated her out of every penny her parents left her. Leah escaped dependence on him and began to make her own way in the world, holding down a job and leading  a simple middle-class life. However, when he needs a favor from her, she suddenly has leverage to demand payment from her uncle for services rendered. With the sum from her uncle, Leah feels closer to realizing her dreams of buying, fixing, and re-opening the inn she discovered hidden away on a cliff overlooking a beach. She decides to name it Windswept Inn of San Simeon.

As Leah goes through her adventure meeting new people (some long dead – for the Windswept Inn, like all good old inns, is haunted) and receiving invaluable help from all of these wonderful new acquaintances, her thoughts occasionally stray from her entrepreneurial dreams to different dreams: of love. And although she still primarily focuses on the project of fixing the Inn, her uncle makes a repeat appearance as the antagonist, trying to get his claws back into her life and bank account. After this interruption culminates in a hairy legal battle, things go back to business as usual at the inn… Until a Hollywood star books a few weeks at the Windswept Inn and becomes interested in Leah. Over the next year they grow close. And to make it interesting, apparently the ghosts of the Inn approve of their growing relationship!

Out at the Inn was a pleasant read, good for idling a rainy day away or reading in the chilly autumn evenings to come. The premise requires some suspension of belief, but at the same time fits a certain realm of possibility that is not too far removed from the familiar. Leah’s status as a super-rich heiress was a bit surprising, but not too unusual for a work of fiction. Her chance meeting with a Hollywood star makes sense in context considering Hollywood stars need a place like the beautiful and discreet Inn to vacation from their hectic schedules. The two beautiful women meeting and falling in love is not that big of a stretch after that. Yes, the ghosts are a bit much, but they serve as a garnish to the story. If you think about it, they are quite appropriate for the subject matter. What’s a huge, abandoned turn-of-the-century building without ghosts? It’s practically unheard of. Overall this was a good read, though maybe a little tedious at times if home improvement and gardening isn’t the sort of action you look for in a novel. Personally, I found it relaxing and even comforting to read. It was a feeling like watching an episode of “This Old House” with my grandparents. Maybe that just depends on one’s personal upbringing. I recommend this book for light reading for someone who has a bit of free time on their hands.

exceptiontotherule

Robin, a New Yorker, has a rule: don’t fall for a princess. If you do, she’ll break your heart. Tracy, a southern, has her own rules involving having a fake boyfriend and several short affairs with older women. Both Robin and Tracy are terrified of getting hurt, but they’ve convinced themselves that they don’t need love.

Both of them move into the same dorm outside of Boston. In fact, they live on the same floor and when Robin sees the sexy southerner Tracy her head turns. Tracy notices Robin but doesn’t sense that the New Yorker is interested. Against all odds the two of them become best friends. But can they break down their own barriers and learn that loving someone can actually be wonderful.

This romance novel builds slowly. Rizzo takes the time to explore the three main characters, including the best friend Angie. It brought me back to my college days and all the excitement and confusion about living on your own for the first time and living with strangers in a dorm. Also she discusses the subjects the students are studying. Some readers may not like this aspect, but I did. I love learning new things.

What impressed me the most with this novel was the author’s ability to stay true to the characters. Both Robin and Tracy are stubborn young adults who think they know everything. So when they realize they are falling in love, both of them fight it. It would have been much easier for the author to have them collapse in each other’s arms and make this story overly sappy, but it would have destroyed the character development that she patiently built up. I have to admire an author who doesn’t cave to please some impatient readers and stays true to her story and characters.

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