This Is How by Augusten Burroughs

This Is How by Augusten Burroughs
Stars: 4.5/5

Length: 230 pages
If you're fat and fail every diet, if you're thin but can't get thin enough, if you lose your job, if your child dies, if you are diagnosed with cancer, if you always end up with exactly the wrong kind of person, if you always end up alone, if you can't get over the past, if your parents are insane and ruining your life, if you really and truly wish you were dead, if you feel like it's your destiny to be a star, if you believe life has a grudge against you, if you don't want to have sex with your spouse and don't know why, if you feel so ashamed, if you're lost in life, if you have ever wondered, How am I supposed to survive this?

This is How.

A self-help book--sorta--that teaches you how to help yourself and deal with what life throws at you. While I don’t agree with everything, I found some very helpful bits of advice...if only I can apply them.

Parts of this book were spot on, amazingly insightful, and inspiring. Those are the parts I’ll take from this book and apply to my own life. I pulled a couple dozen quotes that I really liked that I’ll hold on to and remember when shit gets tough. Put it this way: this book was good enough that I want to buy a copy (I originally borrowed from the library).

Other parts made me worry about people reading it and taking it and going to a bad place. I can imagine psychologists would get angry about large sections of this book, but I also think it could be important for a mental health professional to read. They may disagree with a lot, but I also think it could create some potential for how they can help their clients.

It’s interesting to see the changes that have happened in Burroughs’ writing from Running With Scissors to this. Fans will find something very different in this book, but if you’re willing to be honest with yourself, I think you may even enjoy it.

And now a few quotes:

“But feelings, no matter how strong or ‘ugly,’ are not a part of who you are. They are the radio stations your mind listens to if you don’t give it something better to do.”

“The truth about healing is that you don’t need to heal to be whole.”

“Because they are not the only ones who die: you die, too. The person you were when you were with them is gone just as surely as they are.
“This is what you should know about losing somebody you love. They do not travel alone. You go with them.”

“This is how you you survive the unsurvivable, this is how you love that which you cannot bear to lose, this is how you reinvent yourself, overcome your abusers, fulfill your ambitions and meet the love of your life: by following what is true, no matter where it leads you.”


Sinner’s Gin by Rhys Ford

Sinner’s Gin by Rhys Ford
Stars: 3.5/5

Length: 260 pages
There’s a dead man in Miki St. John’s vintage Pontiac GTO, and he has no idea how it got there.

After Miki survives the tragic accident that killed his best friend and the other members of their band, Sinner’s Gin, all he wants is to hide from the world in the refurbished warehouse he bought before their last tour. But when the man who sexually abused him as a boy is killed and his remains are dumped in Miki’s car, Miki fears Death isn’t done with him yet.

Kane Morgan, the SFPD inspector renting space in the art co-op next door, initially suspects Miki had a hand in the man’s murder, but Kane soon realizes Miki is as much a victim as the man splattered inside the GTO. As the murderer’s body count rises, the attraction between Miki and Kane heats up. Neither man knows if they can make a relationship work, but despite Miki’s emotional damage, Kane is determined to teach him how to love and be loved — provided, of course, Kane can catch the killer before Miki becomes the murderer’s final victim.

A dramatic romance that toes the line of insta-love and sweeping rescue hero but has enough strong points to make all those elements work. The mystery is well done with some disturbing images but no heart-stopping suspense.

I’ll freely admit that I have a giant soft spot for broken characters, so Miki pushes that button easily. He had a bad past and just when he was getting things together, life threw him a curveball. But then, it also threw him Detective Morgan, so it isn’t all bad. Kane is from a giant Irish family that is friendly and accepting (although a bit overwhelming). Even though he and Miki have a rough start, fate keeps tossing them together and makes it impossible for them to ignore the attraction they feel.

Kane plays the hero, sweeping in to protect and save Miki, while also healing him and teaching him to love. Analytically I could see how some readers would find this cliche or overdone, but I felt it was handled well and brought something to the relationship besides chemistry. Although I would definitely say that having a preference toward hurt/comfort helps.

While I found the police investigation to be a bit drawn out, I can see why it was done that way. Still, I think better pacing or balance between the police drama and the romance would have made for a quicker story. In addition, the amount of detail to settings and visuals threw me off sometimes, but I think it was more because I’m not used to reading stories with so much, so often, but that could just be me.

Miki’s emotional struggle is the driving purpose behind the book and what made it so easy for me to finish. I think anyone who doesn’t enjoy Miki will find this difficult to read, as he’s obviously a main character and his issues run deep. He develops and changes over the course of the story as he gets a support system, but for the majority he’s a prickly pear.

One sort of issue I had with the ending was the tagged on bit. It really threw me for a loop. It felt disconnected from the story at large although it was related to the events, and it had a very different feel from the main story. I can respect it’s potential necessity in order to introduce the idea before the next book (or else they would hardly feel connected at all) but it also made my brows go up and my nose wrinkle. If it weren't for this odd teaser at the end, the story would have concluded very satisfactorily. It still sort of does, but another can of worms is opened.


Five movies walk into a bar...

Breakfast With Scot - Eric (Thomas Cavanagh) and his lover, Sam (Ben Shenkman), are pushed into becoming temporary parents to an 11-year-old boy (Noah Bernett) with a fondness for gold chains, lace and the color pink while Eric's brother (Colin Cunningham) -- the boy's guardian -- is out of the country. Neither man ever saw himself as a father, but having such an undeniably colorful child around the house has a funny way of changing their minds.

(rent) The blurb of this movie is kind of misleading, as the real focus is Eric and Scot, their clashing personalities, and whether they can find happiness by reaching a middle ground. I was uncomfortable with this movie in the beginning, as Scot is over the top and Eric is nearly incompetent. I ended up getting through it by multitasking, but overall it was a well-done movie dealing with bullying, stereotypes, and family. The story didn’t really grab me, and I found more dynamic between guardians and child than the main couple, which made it hard to believe.

Weekend - This frank drama centers on the cautious relationship between two gay men--one a genial lifeguard, the other a lusty art-gallery worker--who contemplate turning a passionate one-night stand into something more meaningful.

(meh/rent) There was nothing particularly wrong with this movie, but it also wasn’t fantastic either. I found the accents quite pleasant, but the actors tended to mumble their lines (although this could be in part due to accent differences). It was pretty slow moving and tended toward awkward, which the description somewhat indicates. I found the end to be both hopeful and depressing. I didn’t particularly enjoy this movie, but I could see others liking the alternative feel.

Weiss Kreuz - Refined florists by day but deadly fighters by night, the Knight Hunters are led by the silent Aya Fujimiya, with temperamental athlete Ken Hidaka, computer expert Omi Tsukiyono and playboy Youji Koudo rounding out the foursome. When the sun dips below the horizon, the quartet -- also known as Weiss Kreuz -- metes out rough justice against terrorists, drug lords and other baddies who are beyond the long arm of the law.

(rent) If you’re looking for good anime, this is not it. However, it also is kinda famous among the yaoi community despite a complete lack of canon gay. The first season (described above) has a wandering, ambling story that often skips major plot points or doesn’t explain things completely (or at all). The characters are funny and the action is laughable. Also, I found the art style a little too ‘90s for me.

Season 2 (Gluhen) has a much more cohesive plot and an art style that appealed to me more. Unfortunately, large chunks of information via alternative mediums that is available to the native speakers is not available in translation, so some things are a little confusing. The plot was pretty good still, although I found the ending to be more somber than I was hoping. In some ways I liked season 1 more because I could laugh at it, although I can’t deny having actual plot was good.

Brave - Scottish princess Merida uses her archery skills to establish her independence, but when she accidentally angers the ancient land's three powerful lords and is granted a poorly conceived wish by a witch, she must go on a quest to repair the damage.

(rent/buy) First off, I felt the blurb was a bit misleading with the ‘ancient land’s three powerful lords’ bit. Not strictly a lie, but it made it sound like she pissed off ancient spirits. The plot development was so-so, as many things happened just to further the plot/action, especially things involving the spirits. To some extent it works with the somewhat mystical elements, but sometimes it was just like, “Really? Again?”

Still, this was a cute, fun-for-the-family movie. Definitely more for ‘girls’ than ‘boys,’ although there are things that will keep the boys entertained. It’s funny, well animated, has a fair amount of adventure and a soft, cuddly theme. Overall pretty enjoyable.

De-Lovely - Kevin Kline stars as the celebrated 20th-century composer Cole Porter, who looks back on his life unfolding like one of his musicals, replete with drama, suspense and joy -- at the center of which is his mercurial relationship with his wife, Linda (Ashley Judd). After meeting in Paris, the couple marries with the understanding that Porter -- who penned many hits, including "Anything Goes" and "It's De-Lovely" -- is gay.

(rent) This was a very slow moving and mellow movie and definitely isn’t for everyone. I think it’s important to go in with no expectations, as this movie doesn’t really do anything. It’s mostly just a visual biography, although I’m not sure the amount of research involved. It was interesting and had plenty of musical numbers (well timed), but it didn’t particularly move me or absorb me into the tale. Worth a viewing, but not necessarily extremely entertaining.


Rhys Has a Crush by Melanie Tushmore

Rhys Has a Crush by Melanie Tushmore
Stars: 4/5

Length: 10,700 words (28 pages)
Nineteen-year-old wannabe rockstar Rhys spends his days hanging out and drinking with his garage band in his friend's house. It's not like there's anything else to do in their boring home town.

Then Seb's older brother appears; a gorgeous vision in tight, black clothing, and long dark hair. Rhys is instantly attracted, though his attempts to flirt with the mysterious Damien don't go all that well. So Rhys resorts to a fail safe plan: steal Damien's phone number, and send him anonymous love-texts.

A short that turns from an annoyingly realistic rocker teen tale to a heart-warming snuggle.

The beginning had me unimpressed with the main character, who came across as shallow and...well kind of like a self-centered teen should. And Rhys is that (both, actually), but as surly Damien is introduced, we also get to see the softer, unsure side of him...which is oddly likeable. As the story progresses, it gets cuter and cuter.

I think my only complaint would be that the characters that start the story don't feel like the ones who end it, and there wasn't enough time to really explore the change.

Still, overall this is an enjoyable freebie...especially if you like rockers.


Long Tall Drink by LC Chase

Long Tall Drink by LC Chase
Stars: 3.5/5

Length: 161 pages
Fourth generation rancher, Ray Ford has lived a lie for nearly forty years. Having seen what can happen to an openly gay cowboy in small town America, and not willing to risk his ranch Ford Creek's legendary reputation, he keeps that part of himself tightly locked down. Everything changes one Sunday morning when Ray, out of character, picks up a handsome hitchhiker looking for work. Hiring the enigmatic cowboy stretches the bounds of Ray's control and, suddenly, he finds himself asking just what he'd be willing to risk for a chance at true love.

Travis Morgan learned a hard lesson early in his life -- love is conditional. Even though he's a world-class horse trainer in high demand, he lives the life of a drifter, moving from ranch to ranch like the wind. He'll play when the opportunity arises, but he won't invest himself emotionally. But when he takes on the job training horses at Ford Creek Ranch, the stoic rancher with the sexy five o'clock shadow just might change all that -- if Travis can take the risk and stick around long enough to find out.

A smoking cowboy story that was a little heavy on the sex and sexual tension for my tastes, but I imagine would be perfect for most readers. Overall, fairly standard, but enjoyable.

The two points that made this story slightly less enjoyable for me, but may make it perfectly enjoyable for other readers, are its high sexual content and it's somewhat standard cowboy themes. I don't judge either poorly (the story makes no bones about what it is), but it did make it more humdrum for me while reading.

The sex is steamy, but most of the pages are filled with longing rather than doing, as the two men oogle one another and get a little grabby hands. The tension makes sense, given their situations, but if you want hard and fast, you’ll have to look elsewhere. The strain works for the story, although I found it understandably frustrating at times!

The underlying drama that Sam causes works well to move the story and create friction, while also exhibiting how tender the men can be to each other and others. Plus it works as precedent to show the reader how the ranch will react to one of their own being gay.

What I found most refreshing about this cowboy tale was the climax. It wasn't what I was expecting it to be, but it turned out to be just what the characters needed. Some may feel that it comes out of left field, but I thought it was fitting. It earned the story extra points in my mind.


First Impressions and Fuzzy by Josephine Myles

First Impressions by Josephine Myles
Stars: 3/5

Length: 34 pages
Surly artist Jez just can't help staring at the brightly colored socks of the businessman who sits opposite him on the train every day. He weaves a whole history for the mysterious stranger in a vain attempt to stave off his attraction, but it only ends up feeding his bizarre obsession. Then one hot morning, Jez finally snaps and starts sketching...

This is a cute story, but after a lengthy "courtship," the relationship moved too fast for me.

This story is a fun idea and the characters are loveable, but everything felt underdeveloped. I would have liked to have seen more interaction between the main characters instead of so much happening solely in Jez's head. I realize due to the type of narrative, that’s going to happen, but the jump in time kept me from really getting to see a relationship develop. It’s hard to understand why these two men are together.

The visual descriptions, character interaction, and general storytelling were great, I just wanted more depth.

Fuzzy by Josephine Myles
Stars: 4/5

Length: 8 pages
When sofas attack!

When Jez gets home early and discovers his incapacitated lover hiding something under the sofa cushions, he expects it to be porn, but what Steve's really hiding is something both embarrassing and strangely sensuous!

This was a fun little short that gives us a little more of a look into the lives of Jez and Steve. Despite figuring the "surprise" being fairly obvious, I found this to be delightfully cute and funny. It's got a little bit of everything for romance readers: humor, sweetness, and sexytime. Definitely worth picking up, I enjoyed it more than the first story, I think.