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Willaful Review: Almost Like Being in Love by Steve Kluger

Sensuality Rating: technically candyfloss, but with some explicit language


“I don’t know what you’ve got up your sleeve for Travis and Craig, but I want the boys to wind up together. If you put me through all this without a happy ending, I’ll see to it that you never work in this town again.”

After John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, this is the sweetest, funniest book that ever broke my heart. (Which is not a spoiler for the ending, by the way; it broke my heart on page 30.) In the world’s most adorable book opening, theatre geek/activist Travis and jock/baseball lover Craig become the best buddies ever who don’t know they’re in love. And then just when they figure it out… BAM. We’re suddenly twenty years later and they are not together! Though you can still see their influence on each other’s lives: Craig has become a civil rights lawyer, and Travis teaches history to jocks by comparing major historical events to major moments in baseball. (His students’ test answers, which include advice on how to conduct his love life, are one of the highlights of the story.)

Craig is also in a long term relationship, but Travis’ attempts to find love have all been dismal failures. And he suddenly realizes that it’s because he already had it… and lost it. And so begins an epic journey to rediscover the love of his life.

Told in a stream of journal entries, school essays, phone conversations, court documents and so on, and featuring a large cast of lovably eccentric characters, this was as amusing to read as it is affectionate. I especially loved that Kluger gave each main character a sassy, wise straight friend. By genre standards, this would qualify as a novel with strong romantic elements rather than a romance, but the spirit of romance pervades the book and much true love is found all around.

Two things kept this from being a 5 star read for me: I didn’t think there was enough individuation between the different character’s voices, and I felt a little too manipulated by Kluger keeping Craig and Travis apart for so long. (And you can tell from the quote above that he knew he was doing it.) Though I’m tempted to give that extra star, because after creating a seemingly impossible situation, the story pulls off an ending that feels right.  I love the book, even though it hurt. You can buy it from Amazon here.

Published by William Morrow. Review from borrowed copy. I want my own.

me me meme!

me me meme!

Friday, December 28, 2012
Posted in: willaful


I saw this meme at The Book Binge; it originated at The Happily Ever After. I’m way too lazy to do a yearly round-up or top ten list, but this is perfect.

My Life According to the Books I Read in 2012:

Describe yourself:
The Marrying Kind by Ken O’Neill

How do you feel:
Restraint by Charlotte Stein

Describe where you currently live:
A Place Called Home by Jo Goodman

If you could go anywhere, where would you go:
On the Island by Tracy Garvis-Graves

Your favorite form of transportation:
Last Bridge Home by Iris Johansen

Your best friend is:
Wish List by K.A. Mitchell

You and your friends are:
Crazy on You by Rachel Gibson

What’s the weather like:
A Kiss for Midwinter by Courtney Milan

What is life to you:
Next of Kin by Ann Somerville

Favorite time of day:
The Sleeping Night by Barbara Samuel

Your fear:
I want Candy by Susan Donovan

What is the best advice you have to give:
Wanting What You Get by Kathy Love

Thought for the day:
Serious Play by Bonnie Dee

How I would like to die:
Woman of Honour by Emma Darcy

My soul’s present condition:
Standing on the Outside by Lindsey Armstrong

I fudged a few of them, but most of these actually represent how I feel surprisingly accurately.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012
Posted in: Uncategorized

TBR Challenge: The Bridal Veil by Alexis Harrington

Sensuality rating: Lightly Steamy

(This was a difficult challenge for me because I don’t much like holiday stories. That fact became extremely obvious when I searched my paperbackswap TBR listing for Christmas books — most of what showed up turned out to have been already purged, and the remaining books became almost instant DNFs. I then looked through GoodReads listopias of best holiday books and saw mostly 1 and 2 star grades from myself. 

Recents events made the thought of attempting another obnoxiously cheery Christmas read intolerable, so I went searching in my historical TBR cabinet — the genre which needs the most help — hoping to find something with any connection to a holiday. And a random glance at a page in this book showed a reference to…. Jacob Marley! Good enough.)

Out of work, money and family, Emily Cannon takes the place of her recently deceased sister, who had been going to Oregon as a mail-order bride. Farmer Luke Becker had been looking forward to marrying the petite, dark-haired Alyssa – in his mind, expecting her to look just like his beloved dead wife — and is aghast when the tall, plain, straw-haired Emily suggests he marry her instead. But Emily has a card up her sleeve: she’s a teacher of deportment, and Luke’s young daughter Rose desperately needs to learn some civilized manners.  And so they marry, though Luke warns Emily that it can never be a marriage involving love.

As Emily begins to make a place with Luke and Rose, despite the fierce hostility of his former mother-in-law Cora, she begins to bloom. In her family she was always the plain, sensible sister, but Luke starts to notice her quiet grace and elegance. And while her civilized touches make their home a more attractive, comfortable place, she learns to let go of her too-rigid insistence on proper etiquette.

There’s a tender wistfulness to this story that I loved, embodied in the symbolism of the bridal veil.  Emily’s wedding is too hurried for her to even wear the veil, an heirloom which she had fantasized would make her look beautiful. She’s both admirable and pathetic, as she tries to sublimate her desires for emotional and physical love in duty and propriety.  In some ways, Luke is in a similar situation; although he’s always been attractive to women, his life hasn’t led him to expect much for himself. He’s just trying to support his family and be a good father, without hoping much for his own happiness. It’s very satisfying when these two both discover what they have to offer and what they can find together.

After the fact, I don’t think it was a coincidence that I picked up this book to examine.  I find Americana romance soothing; it values home… family… hard work… community… cooperation… endurance. The quiet, homey virtues, the ones that a major tragedy always highlights.  I give The Bridal Veil 4 stars, though I’m tempted to give it 5 because it held my wandering interest on a terribly sad and upsetting day. It’s out of print, but inexpensive copies are readily available, or it can be bought for Kindle here or for Nook here.

Originally published by St. Martin’s Press. Reviewed from owned copy, probably acquired at paperbackswap

Redux: Forty Plus Things I've Learned In Romanceland This Week...

I do love when a random pingback takes me back to an old post. This one was written back in 2007. Most of them are still relevant. Some even more so.


1. Romanceland is full of nutters, and crazies not too dissimilar to The Right Honourable Betty Boozer.

2. Carol Lynne responded perfectly to my review. She said nothing. I admire that.

3. I’m not the only person who doesn’t understand what the Lotus Circle is about.

4. Reviews are not for authors. They are for readers.

5. The subject of reviewing will never die.

6. A Newbie author who’s book gets ripped apart will realise in five years time, that the blogger was probably right. That book did indeed suck Great Big Hairy Donkey Balls.

7. Some authors truly believe that bloggers / reviewers buy books just to rip them to shreds.

8. Until the crap that was Ben’s Wildflower, I hadn’t posted a negative review since November 2006. This must not happen again.

9. I’m not the only person who’s fed up with Vampires, Shapeshifters, Paranormals,and effing BDSM books.

10. Racism in romance isn’t considered as big an issue as homophobia in romance.

11. Awarding a 12-book contract to unproven newbies is not sound business.

12. Some authors will happily stick their tongue up your arse, and take a long lick, as long as it’s not their book or their publisher that you are dissing.

13. I’m suspicious of anybody who peppers their posts with “Lololololol!!” all the freaking time.

14. Some people are better at sucking up than others.

15. People who take the trouble to post that they wont be visiting your blog ever again, are usually lying.

16. Just because you got published, doesn’t mean that you deserved it. Your editor may have been high at the time.

17. Romanceland is full of passive aggressive women, and hypocrites.

18. Authors will always Google themselves, no matter how much they say they don’t.

19. I’m not the only person who thinks EC standards have gone waaay down.

20. Some popular bloggers seem to feel threatened by other popular bloggers, and refuse to mingle with them. You know who you are.

21. Some people should not be let out in public, without being fully medicated. You know who you are.

22. The Slash and Burn Reviewer/Blogger is an urban legend, cooked up by authors who’s book (s) got dissed, and dismissed.

23. Reviewers/ bloggers who personally attack authors are also an urban legend, cooked up by the same group of people.

24. Authors can be trolls too. You know who you are.

25. Some authors can be snarky too, they are just less honest about it. You know who you are.

26. Negative reviews will always generate more column inches, than positive reviews.

27. Nobody ever remembers gushingly glowing reviews.

28. There are certain people who always seem to hijack other people’s blogs. I recently got rid of at least one of these PWTTAFBA – types.

29. Anybody who writes that “Snarks go for an obvious joke just because it’s funny, not because the book really doesn’t work.” just doesn’t get it.

30. Some authors don’t understand that it’s not all about them.

31. ‘Nice Girl’ Review sites hate bloggers like me.

32. I hate pussified bloggers who hold themselves up as a shining example of how other bloggers should behave. You know who you are.

33. A lot of authors hate bloggers like me.

34. Women don’t rule the world because we cry far too easily and exhibit pussy-like behaviour in the face of adversity.

35. Some books suck more than others.

36. Authors should understand that readers like me don’t really care how much effort they put into writing a book. All they care about is whether they enjoyed it or not.

37. It should take longer than two weeks to write a book. Unless you are Nora Roberts.

38. Rabid Fangirls will always tell you that “You’re just jealous because you’re a frustrated writer with no talent!”, if you diss their favourite authors.

39. I hate the phrase “If you can’t say anything nice”. People who believe that, have no business reading this blog, yet they continue to do so.

40. Some ladies in Romanceland will talk about respecting other people, whilst they secretly send e-mails trashing you to their buddies.

41. Good editors are worth their weight in gold.

42. Bad reviews wont kill you, but the Rabid Fangirl stalking you might.

I can’t remember what inspired this particular post, but it did make me laugh re-reading it.

Which of these do you guys think are still relevant? Of course I’ve highlighted the ones that I think still apply:)