Book Review – Christina E. Pilz “Fagin’s Boy”

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First, I must confess to putting off reading Fagin’s Boy, which I downloaded for free from Amazon several weeks ago, because I read a lot of historical literature like Dickens, George Eliot and Charlotte Bronte, and I was really worried that this book would not live up to my expectations of it. I’ve always loved the story of Oliver Twist and the movie musical as well. But the idea of a follow up story wherein Oliver and Jack (the Artful Dodger) grow up and fall in love made me giddy with excitement. But I was nervous about the writing.

When I finally began this story and immediately found myself transported back to Victorian London with all its period charm as well as its grime, brutality and criminal underbelly, I was thrilled.

I usually like my gay romance reads to be fast-moving, full of sexual tension and graphically described intimate scenes. This story read more like a literary novel with a leisurely plot and much introspection on the part of the central character (Oliver) which was absolutely fine because the quality of the writing and the author’s attention to period detail supported that. Indeed, I found myself entranced by her vivid descriptions of life in middle class London, then later by the squalid lifestyles of the lower classes.

Pilz does a wonderful job of navigating the subtle dance between two men who share an unstated obsession with each other but don’t fully understand where that obsession comes from or to where it might lead. When it gets there, her handling of Jack and Oliver’s acknowledgment of their physical attraction to each other is beautiful to behold and hotter than Hades.

I recommend this book for anyone who enjoys historical romances with strong, vividly depicted characters and setting and an undeniable passion between two people struggling to survive and thrive in a harsh and unforgiving world.

There are five more stories in this series and I look forward to enjoying each and every one of them, the next being Oliver and Jack: At Lodgings in Lyme.

Thank you to Christina E. Pilz for permitting me to combine my love for historic literature with my fondness for gay romance in her painstakingly researched and beautifully written series.

Movie Review – “Call Me By Your Name”

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*Contains spoilers*

I have watched this film three times now, and it gets better at each viewing.

Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me By Your Name is a feast for the senses – an erotic buffet filled to the brim with symbolism, intellect and culture.

But most of all, innocence.

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Call Me By Your Name is the story of 17 year-old Elio’s sudden infatuation with 24 year-old graduate student, Oliver, one of a succession of yearly summer visitors brought to the beautiful Italian villa by his father to help with paperwork and for the chosen student’s own intellectual and spiritual enrichment. It is based on the book of the same name by André Aciman, which I read before viewing the film. In this case, the movie exceeded the promise of the book – which in itself was wonderful – by immersing the viewer in the lush Italian summer that Aciman writes about and by selecting Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer as the two lead actors.

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Their chemistry is palpable from the moment they first meet through the tentative attempts at flirting and seduction, through to the final moments at the train station when Oliver has to leave. Chalamet was deservedly nominated for an Oscar for Best Actor. Somehow, he is able to show every emotion and thought that crosses Elio’s mind as he tries to figure Oliver out and decipher his own confusing feelings of attraction.

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This is one of the most mature films I’ve ever had the privilege to watch. It is a story in which sex is as natural as breathing, as wonderful a part of growing up as anything else, where nothing is shameful about embracing one’s desires and enjoying the fruit of life. The peaches that ripen in Anella’s orchard are as full of promise and as sweet as Elio. They are innocent but sensual in their own right, just like him.

As Elio and Oliver bicycle through the Italian countryside growing ever more aware of their mutual attraction, the viewer is treated to such a natural growth of love and longing that it becomes a part of the landscape.

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The house in which Elio lives and where Oliver stays for the summer is a character in itself. Like Elio’s parents, the ancient villa is always welcoming, doors open wide to the sunshine, balconies overlooking vast expanses of grass and trees. But there are hidden passages and secret rooms too, where only the most loyal companions are taken. Elio’s private escape above back of the kitchen, where he brings Marzia to wile away the hours until his tryst with Oliver, is also the room where he has intimate relations with a ripe peach and later cries in Oliver’s arms over the fact that Oliver must soon leave.

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This film is a celebration of summertime, first love, sexual exploration of all kinds — opposite sex, same sex, solitary sex with a peach — beauty and desire. It is also a celebration of how a parent can let their child become an adult by sitting back and letting that child explore the world on his/her own terms. By understanding that sexuality is a natural part of living and that putting barriers around who we’re allowed to fall in love with or engage with sexually is a losing game, and why would we want to play it anyway?

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Book Review – “Confessions: Robbie”, by Ella Frank

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*I fell in love with the character of Robert Bianchi in Ella Frank’s fabulous Temptations series. While reading the final book in the six-book series, I was dying to know more about the “Priest” (Joel Priestley) and the “Prick” (celebrity chef Julien Thornton) who seemed to have an unconventional marriage and a private obsession with the young, extravagant Robbie. Luckily, Frank has decided to follow Robbie’s story with the first book in her new Confessions series. And, luckily for me, Robbie very quickly decides that he needs to know more about the married men who’ve shown an interest in him as well.

When I heard that Frank was accepting requests for ARC copies of the new book, I threw my name in and then promptly forgot I had done so. Wasn’t I thrilled and surprised when I received an email on Thursday promising an ARC copy in my inbox come Friday morning?

I started reading on Friday, tore myself away for a couple of hours to work on my own project, then continued, and finished this morning. I almost wish I’d read it a little more slowly to savour it, but I’m afraid that was impossible and, really, that’s what the reread is for, right?

Ella Frank has the innate ability to see into my head and write exactly what I want to see in her books. It is really quite rare for me to find an author that seems to think exactly like I do and writes a book that is perfectly what I want to read (usually, I have to write those books). She did that with the first half of the Temptations series and she’s done it again with Confessions: Robbie.

Because my own James Lucas Trilogy revolves around the development of a close and committed relationship between three different men, I loved the premise of this book. And Frank executed the resulting story perfectly. Ella Frank is able to write sizzling hot sex scenes AND scenes that cut through the bullshit of outward appearances and reveal the inner emotions of her characters, so VERY well. The entire first part of this book was a slow, delicious and tantalizing lead-up to what I knew was coming and what I was desperately waiting for. By the time I got it, the flames were licking up the sides of my Kindle.

Seriously. This book is HOT.

But it is also full of three dimensional characters who are all struggling with something and who find answers in each other.

I highly recommend Confessions: Robbie and look very much forward to the rest of the series. I was thrilled to read in the back matter that Confessions: Julien is supposed to be out by May of this year, because I so desperately want to read more about the Priest, the Prick and the Princess.

*A copy of this book was provided to me in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Is It March Already?

Whew, is it really March??? Winter flew by incredibly fast this year!

We just celebrated my son’s 11th birthday and spring weather is upon us a little early. I know that the snow and cold will make a reappearance before this month is over but I’m really enjoying it right now.

I only have one work week left (Sunday, Monday, Tuesday) before getting 11 days off for March Break. Three years ago when I got this job I spend part of the March Break training but every year since I’ve taken the week off to spend time with the kids. Usually we travel somewhere nearby but this year we are staying in town. We plan to visit a couple of museums, go bowling, out for lunch and dinner, maybe a movie. It’s really nice to be able to spend a week together as a family once a year.

In February I read two really good books that I want to recommend:

The first is a book called Priest by Sierra Simone.

I don’t often read MF anymore because I love MM so much, but every once in awhile a blurb will call out to me and I’ll give it a try. This one got me with the whole conflicted young priest thing and the author’s very straightforward disclaimer that this book represented her own interpretation of the way sex and religion can go together.

Anyway, the sex was smoking hot, the angst bearable and appropriate to the story. I liked both characters very much and felt the writing was excellent.

 

The book I just finished reading is Verismo, by E.M. Lindsey. This one is MM and a slow burn which I also tend to not read as often as other sorts of stories, because I am obsessed with well written sex scenes – in my own work and in others’.

But I found the story entrancing from the start and loved all the classical music and piano references. It was fairly obvious how the story would play out and it was lovely going along on that ride. Again, both central characters were compelling and fascinating. I especially loved Cedric, the young, formerly blind pianist who I couldn’t help visualizing as being played by Thimothée Chalomet (Call Me By Your Name) in the movie that was running in my mind. The writing was outstanding and I will definitely read more by this author.

 

Anyone else read anything good lately?

 

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