Karelia Stetz-Waters reviews From the Boots Up by Andi Marquette

Students often tell me that they want to major in English because they love to read. I am professionally obligated to be happy about this announcement. However, I have reservations. I enjoyed reading more in high school than I did after my two degrees in literature. Mind you I can spot a Shakespearean reference a mile away, but that’s not the same thing as curling up with a good book. Now when I curl up, I immediately start critiquing comma usage. It’s very trying.

That is why I was so pleased to find Andi Marquette’s From the Boots Up.  She has consistently good comma usage!

What? I haven’t sold you on the book yet? Let me try again.

Andi Marquette’s From the Boots Up tells the story of Meg, a hardworking ranch hand, and Gina the L.A. reporter who stays for a week to write a story about Meg’s ranch.  Meg and her father, who owns the ranch, hope the article will drive more traffic to the struggling dude ranch. All Meg has to do is entertain the annoying city slicker for one week. The only problem is that when Gina turns up, she isn’t an annoying city slicker at all.  Meg feels and instant connection to the beautiful and supremely capable Gina, an attraction that she must conceal in order to maintain her professional image at the ranch.

I was immediately hooked, and Marquette held my attention right through to the very end. The main characters are believable and likeable. Their attraction to each other is palpable. The supporting characters are interesting. The subplot (Meg coming out to her father) is as engaging as the main narrative.

What’s more, she makes the novella length work for her. I am not always a fan of the novella. To my taste, some novellas read like underdeveloped novels (or worse yet over-developed short stories). That’s not true here. From the Boots Up is exactly the right length for the story Marquette has to tell. It is qualitatively different from a novel, and it does not want to be a page longer or shorter.

All of this is made possible, of course, by the good writing (and I don’t just mean comma usage). Marquette’s pacing is right on the mark. Her descriptions are vivid. She also does a great job capturing flirtatious banter between the protagonists which is a difficult task. It’s easy for that kind of banter to sound artificial.  It doesn’t here.

Additionally, Marquette can turn a phrase in a way that is poetic without being showy.  Here are a few of my favorites:

She was dressed in jeans that fit her much too well for mixed company and a faded gray T-shirt that hung on her like a best friend.

Gina looked at Meg and a slow smile eased like a summer evening across her face.

Meg’s jaw dropped and the crowd quieted as Gina belted the lyrics in a low-down bluesy voice that could undress you from the next room.

I will definitely check out more of Marquette’s work, starting with Some Kind of River. The only question is whether or not I’ll be able to save it until I get to the beach.

On a side note, I wrote to Marquette with a question about the world of lesbian publishing. She wrote back a very kind and thorough response.  If you happen to pick your books based on the niceness of the author, I would give Marquette two thumbs up in that regard as well. But, you don’t have to take my word for it. Marquette will be appearing at the Left Coast Lesbian Conference in Palm Springs, California, October 9 – 13th 2013.  The conference promises to give readers a chance to mix and mingle with their favorite authors. It looks like fun and you can learn more here: https://www.facebook.com/leftcoastconference.

More about the reviewer at www.kareliastetzwaters.com

Danika reviews Red Rover by Liz Bugg and Land of Entrapment by Andi Marquette

I decided to review these in the same post because I have similar things to say about both of them.

My favourite thing about Red Rover is the queer elements. Not only is the main character a lesbian whose relationship is a side story in the novel, she also has ties to the queer community. Her best friend is a drag queen, and she looks for evidence in the queer community, including the queer clubs. She also asks for help from her ex-girlfriend. It’s nice to have a book that features queerness, not just in the individual, but in the community. In fact, I liked the descriptions of her neighborhood overall, which is unusual. I usually dislike a lot of descriptions of scenery and setting.

Although I liked most of the neighborhood description, I found some of the other descriptions a little long-winded. A pet peeve of mine in writing it when the author takes you by the hand to show you things, and this shows up sometimes in Red Rover, like explaining the emotions the protagonist is feeling when the dialogue pretty much speaks for itself.

I don’t read a lot of mystery because I tend to completely miss the hints and get lost halfway through. The plot of Red Rover kept me interested, so I never got to the point, but I predicted the “bad guy” very early on, which was a little disappointing.  I did like the plot overall, though the ending seemed fast-paced compared to the rest. I also liked the back story of Calli and her father and how it related to the plot.

Overall, I liked Red Rover, but I felt like it could have been better with some minor changes.

I liked the characters in Land of Entrapment. They were interesting and seemed really organic. The romance and friendships in the novel were complex and just seemed… natural. I really liked that.

I did have the same pet peeve crop up in this novel as in Red Rover, however: over-explaining. At some point, I remember every street and exit being named as the main character drove. This may be a flaw completely particular to me, however.

The subject matter is definitely interesting: neo Nazis. Drama! Suspense! But the plotting is a little uneven. It takes a little while to really get started. Once it does, however, Marquette seems to really know her subject matter, and the plot is engaging.

Again, this is a novel I liked overall, but there were some minor points that detracted from it.