[698]: When We Rise by Cleve Jones

A compelling, inspiring memoir about the beginning of the decades-long fight for LGBTQ equality.


When We Rise
by Cleve Jones

When most of Americans exalted at the news that marriage equality was finally the law of their land, the world joined in the celebration. #LoveWins trended for days after the proclamation. And the religious right stayed in their homes clutching their pearls while they prayed for everybody’s souls.

Now I sit here with worry. Because among all the other disturbing things that are happening in the States right now, there is something else simmering on the stove of this ridiculous administration: the new VP is a huge proponent of conversion therapy for gay people. I wouldn’t put it past them to enact something as heinous as sending kids to a gay camp to cure them of their burgeoning homosexuality. Adding to the worry is the vacant SCOTUS seat which, judging by the cabinet members President Shit For Brains has been installing, will more than likely be filled by another bigot. (I feel like I’ve been angry since November and I’m not even sorry. ) For now, at least, the marriage equality is safe (fingers crossed).

When We Rise is a memoir that needs to be read by everyone. It comes at an anxious, but much-needed time. If the November election has thought us anything, it’s that our marches helps fire up a revolution in our own little way. It doesn’t start as a raging inferno. It begins in small sparks. Cleve Jones’ role in the LGBTQ equality was an accumulation of a lifetime of fighting for recognition spurred on by the beatings he’s gotten as a teenager and his parents’ inability to acknowledge him for what he truly was. Yet despite his parents’ shunning, and the bruises he’s endured, his bitterness was noticeably absent.

He was a man who grew up at an age where sexual promiscuity, gratuitous drug use, and decadence was pertinent. A man who didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life other than to make the next buck that will sustain him for the immediate time. He moved from Arizona to San Francisco when his father let him know exactly what he thought of his sexuality. He would travel the world and switch between San Francisco and Europe. So when did his revolution began? I got the impression that everything fell on his lap. Not that it was easy, mind you. You’d care to know that even though San Francisco was the epicenter of it all, none of it was easy.

 The emergence of AIDS in the 80s was when we see him go through griefs for the losses of his friends and lovers. It was during this time when he would be in the biggest fight of his life – literally and figuratively. The number of deaths due to AIDS back then rose to an unfathomable number. Their fight for equal rights stalled all thanks to the prejudice and backlash they’ve gotten because of AIDS. Conservatism and Reagan were in office. And funding for research and cure was not a priority even though it was killing Americans at an inconceivable rate. It would take years and a Democrat in office before America actually paid attention.

When We Rise is a great book to read if you ever need a starting point to understanding the fight that they’ve long since waged. It’s interesting to see the birth of the revolution that wasn’t well received in the State of California at first. Surprising, considering that California is the cradle of progressive government in the country.  Mr. Jones highlighted the many struggles and triumphs that the movement has gone through over the years. The men and women who helped brought forth an awareness to their cause that eventually paved the way for the progress that the American LGBTQ community experiences nowadays. It was great to learn that Nancy Pelosi has been such a long time supporter of equality for the LGBTQ.

Cleve Jones’ memoir chronicles the never-ending fight that the community faces. Along the way, he’ll meet countless of valiant people willing to fight alongside with him. He imparts a message that couldn’t come at a better time than now. That it takes more than one march to fight for your rights, against the injustices of the world, and for what you believe in.

[697]: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Strange, imaginative and intricately plotted.


The Night Circus
by Erin Morgenstern

One of the hazards of reading and reviewing a book such as The Night Circus is it renders one’s reviewing ability virtually useless. It’s a good thing and a bad thing. For one, piecing together a coherent take on the book is an arduous task. For another, it’s a shot at your already frail capacity to write a review in the first place. To top it off, The Night Circus was very vague in a lot of aspects. So the chances drawing blanks while writing the review is considerably high.

Still, I can say in all honesty, that this book is highly imaginative, however strange. Though it’s tough to follow sometimes because the timeline jumps sporadically. And the fact that the train arrives without warning at the most random places adds to that confusion. The train itself is magical, obviously. It carries the performers who possessed some otherworldly abilities recruited by the mysterious founder.

At the core of this novel is a love story between two protégés caught in between two competing magicians. But the romance lacks intensity so it takes a backseat throughout the novel. The two magicians seem immortal, pitting one protege against the other over the years. The mechanics of the game wasn’t clear, which is frustrating for the most part. The object was to beat each other, of course. As to the genesis and end game, Ms. Morgenstern was not very forthcoming.

The world of The Night Circus is magical in the literal sense. Besides the fact that the train travels like the wind (swift as the speed of sound), Celia and Marco have the strangest ability to manipulate thoughts, stop time, and even dabble in telekinesis. You have a fortune teller whose accuracy is uncanny, and kids who speak to animals. But is there anything more magical than love? Ms. Morgenstern explores the dark relationships between the children and their minders. Most of them were taken when they were young then cared for by their guardians. But it is love? Like that of a parent to their child? Celia’s relationship with her father was tenuous at best, volatile for the most part. Marco didn’t fare any better. In the end, it was hard to decipher who was manipulating whom.

There is a star-crossed element to the romance between Marco and Celia. Besides the fact that their masters are mortal enemies, the result of the competition ends in the loser’s death.  Quitting the game is no easy task. It’s almost as if the contest is set up so the competing magicians fall in love, so to win the game also means it’s at the expense of the person they love. That should be enough to titillate the most ardent romance readers, but sadly, the thrill just wasn’t there.

Morgenstern’s writing is very polished but because it’s set in the 1800s, I can’t help but feel that the emotions were restricted. It’s formal, regimented, and unfortunately, very cold at times. I would like to read more of her other works, though. But I would like to wait and see something other than this historical/magical realism/fantasy hybrid.

January Rewind

Hey, lovely readers.

Well, the first month of 2017 is over – and thank the good Lord! I’m sure we all share the same sentiment for whatever reasons. One month less than the four years we all have to endure. Lol.

So how did my January go? Reading wise, I’m on pace with my Goodreads reading goal. Blogging-wise, I’m failing quite spectacularly. The good thing about this year so far is that I’m barely getting any books from the publishers nor have I been buying. I’m still struggling with my review copies, though. Honestly, the world is one big distraction right now so I can’t concentrate on any other books besides nonfiction.  I need to slap myself silly and just get going.

With everything that’s going on, I found myself gravitating towards reading some books about activism and politics. I just finished Cleve Jones’ When We Rise, a book about America’s slow acceptance of the LGBTQ community in California and, eventually, in the United States as a whole. Cleve Jones helped start the revolution from the 60s onwards. The AIDS pandemic of the 80s also made up the second half of the book. A heartbreaking, much-politicized disease that Jones’ movement fought hard to get federal funding for research and cure. The author himself was, at one point, afflicted with the disease so his first-hand account was very candid and from the heart. The Supreme Court’s ruling in favour of marriage equality brought tears to my eyes.

I also finally read The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama, which, in essence, is about his political beliefs, his rise from being a community organizer to a young Senator in Chicago, and his personal and family life. One thing that stood out to me is that very little has changed from his ideology. His passion never dimmed, and he wasn’t deterred by anything (not even an obstructionist Senate & Congress). This man is a prolific a writer as he is a great orator. I suggest buying the book in audio so you can listen to him whenever you want. 🙂

February is Black History Month

I’ve never done this before, but I figure this year is as good as any. For now, my focus will be on the following books: The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill, Tears We Cannot Stop by Michael Eric Dyson, and They Can’t Kill Us All by Wesley Lowery

  

I’ll probably do another post about my February TBR sometime next week. I’ve been spending way too much time trolling the trolls on the social media (I’m not even sorry. LOL) so I’ve been neglecting my reading and blogging obligations.

I hope you’ll have a great February, y’all. Happy reading!

Hoarders, Books Edition: Episode 197


Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman | Tears We Cannot Stop by Michael Eric Dyson | Arrival by Ted Chiang | The Wangs Vs. The World by Jade Chang | They Can’t Kill Us All by Wesley Lowery


God.

Where to start today? This past weekend, I’ve tried and failed numerous times to try to get some semblance of normalcy in my life. I logged on to the blog, fully intending to write a couple of posts or visit Bloglovin’. But every time I try, my mind wanders South of the border thinking about the people who are being held at airports everywhere. Two weeks ago, I was overwhelmed with pride that I bore witness to Obama’s presidency. A week after that, I was inspired by the Women’s March. But today, I’m angry and frustrated. There are no other words for how I’m feeling right now. The madman at the White House lost all traces of human decency. And I hope he knows that he’s now in the running for Top Ten Most Hated Man in the history of the world (Hitler tops this list, incidentally).

I’m worried and disappointed that hatred is spreading far and wide. Even here in Canada where a shooting at a mosque In Quebec City occurred shortly after prayers. I never thought I would see the day that we will be front and center of this despicable act. We are better than this and I hope that they’ll find the perpetrators.  My heart goes out to the victims of this horrible violence.

I do have to try, though. Even if what I’m doing right now feels so insignificant and pointless. Perhaps I’ll be able to find some joy in this somehow and forget how incredibly dark and joyless the world has been lately.

Book Club

Last Saturday, we had our book club meeting at my house. We weren’t able to exchange gifts back in December so we did that. We also talked about the latest bru-ha-ha on Twitter and touched on politics as well. I got The Wangs Vs. The World by Jade Chang and Arrival by Ted Chiang from Lauren of The Autumn BookshelfBoth books have been on my wishlist, so I’m so happy and grateful for Lauren’s generous gifts! It’s always great to see the ladies from my book club. 

On a more personal note

I didn’t finish any books this week. Sad, isn’t it? On top of everything else, it has been quite a whirlwind in my house. Last Wednesday, there were rumours circulating that a boy was going to bring a gun to school. So we kept my daughter until the administration could set us all at ease. It turns out that the boy was picked up at his home at 5 in the morning the same day. He was a former student who got expelled at the beginning of school year. It was very scary as this is a rare occurrence here in Canada. I’m glad it was all sorted out.

My son turned 10 on Thursday. I brought pizza and cupcakes for his class at his behest. And on the same day, my daughter had a dance recital. She introduced us to her boyfriend which freaked me out because she’s only 15 and I’m not ready for her to be dating. It bites, yes. But there’s nothing I can do about it. We’re not going to be one of those really strict parents whose kids end up rebelling. All we can do is guide her and let her learn her own life lessons. We’ll be with her every step of the way, regardless.

I think this is it for now.

Peace, love, acceptance and tolerance.

 

[696]: Wait For It by M.O’Keefe

From sizzling chemistry to boring compatibility.


Wait For It
by Molly O’Keefe

Tiffany and Blake’s meet cute wasn’t so cute. It was contemptuous to start, possibly even explosive. It’s the reason why I was chomping at the bit to read this installment. Because there’s no other romantic device I love more than the enemies-to-lovers trope.

By the first few pages, it was not as earth-shattering as I’d hoped for, unfortunately.

Blake has had to clean up for his brother all their lives. Phil was very good at leaving a trail of brokenhearted, and more often, abused women in his wake. So when Tiffany and her kids came into the picture, he was there with a cheque book ready to buy her off so they may disappear from their lives. Thinking of her kids and the need to flee her abusive husband, Tiffany took the money and ran towards a fresh start. Only it didn’t last long as Phil found them again picking up where he left off.

So the explosive meeting between Tiffany and Blake fizzled practically from the very start of this book. Which is disappointing because that was the main draw for me. It was like meeting two different characters. I can say, however, that separately, Tiffany and Blake are admirable in their own ways. But as a couple, I thought they went from having sizzling chemistry to boring compatibility.

It’s when they added sex into the mix that did it for me. Tiffany has all but lost her libido during the course of her married life with Phil and who could blame her? Phil was verbally and physically abusive so any inkling to indulge in carnal activities left her feeling cold. Blake thinks he can light up her fire again (and he did). But the sex, I found, was gratuitous and awkward at times so I didn’t find it steamy to say the least.

 The underlying lesson of this book is that you can’t buy everything; not happiness, not love, and especially not trust. Blake had to find that out himself. Though he had very good intentions, his method of atoning for his brother’s sins was messed up. You can’t erase traumatic memories of abuse and desolation by money. Tiffany was the hard lesson that he had to learn. Tiffany had some learning she had to do as well. Mostly, independence and courage. This installment could’ve been good but I had a hard time digesting the sexual dynamics between these two. Frankly, it left me feeling cold.

Hoarders, Books Edition: Episode 196


Frost Blood by Elly Blake | History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera | The Rose & The Dagger by Renée Ahdieh | Poison Kiss by Breeana Shields | 11/22/63 by Stephen King | Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy | The Girl Before by JP Delaney


 Have you all come down yet from the high of this weekend?

I can’t. I haven’t. Oh, the feeling, y’all. But I hope we’ll sustain this momentum and keep reminding our American friends that the battle has just begun. #Resist

Anyway, I tried to read this weekend but honestly, who could?! I was so happy to see the entire world supporting human rights/women rights everywhere. I was weepy the whole day. I was sad that I wasn’t able to join the march that was held in my city. It would’ve been a perfect day for it too since we’ve been having such unseasonably warm weather in the last few days. I hope I’ll be able to go next time.

On Blogging

I decided to limit my blog posts to 3-4 per week. I write better (I think) when I have more time on my hands to draft a post. I hate putting pressure on myself when I’m writing and this way, I’ll have more time to read. Speaking of…

Read This Week

Keeping this short and sweet as I don’t know what else to say. I’m blanking out at the moment so get in formation, ladies and keep fighting the good fight.

Have a great week!

[695]: Everything You Want Me To Be by Mindy Mejia

A quiet suspense full of twists and turns that you’ll have trouble putting down.


Everything You Want Me To Be
by Mindy Mejia

The novel opened with Hattie attempting to buy a one-way ticket to New York. Stymied by the airline ticket agent due to her age, she fled and decided to drive as far as she could only to find herself to the place where her body will eventually be found.

Told from three alternating points of view, the novel tells the story of a girl who played various acting roles depending on the audience. Hattie never stopped acting. Before or behind the curtain, she assumed different roles for different people. She was the perfect actress, playing the part of the perfect daughter, friend, and student. But beneath the surface was a dissatisfaction that comes from living in a small town. She’s got big dreams that she knew would never come to fruition if she stayed in her hometown. When she started corresponding with someone online, she found a kindred spirit. Someone whom she considered as the only one that truly knew her. From a clandestine affair between two unlikely people to the eventual investigation of Hattie’s murder, Everything You Want Me To Be was a fantastic mystery that’s quiet and engaging in a way that I prefer my mystery reads ought to be.

Though far from dull, the author sets an easy pace by which she told Hattie’s story. The suspense comes from the slow reveal of the pieces of the puzzle that come together in a surprising visage. In here, we see Hattie as someone who has crafted the art of acting. She was very adept in duping people into believing her genuineness with great efficacy. But that does not make her a suspect character. It’s done without any malice but more so because Hattie was a people-pleaser through and through. The malice that lurks within was in the way she manipulated the people around her. She was a master in a way that actors tend to be so your initial impression would be that she’s a well-adjusted, normal teenager.

I looked at Tommy until the horny teenager faded away and he became my instrument. I looked at his fingers and saw a hand that was mine to wield, that I could drive to murder the king himself. I looked at his confused expression and saw the madness that we would soon share. I became cold, too cold to feel. By the time he cleared his throat to say his first line, I could tase my own death.”

But inside, she’s a mess of ennui and discontent. So when she met a person who had given her a taste of something different and exciting, she clung to him like a buoy drifting into the open sea.

The investigation itself is methodically neat. On the whole, there are only two major suspects so there’s a 50/50 chance that you’ll be right. Still, it’s fun to follow the red herrings. Lately, I’ve been drawn to stories with an easy pace. I like the mystery of the characters and the crime that needed to be solved. Sometimes, mysteries don’t need to be action at every turn of the page. It’s these that make for a perfect book to read in winter afternoons.

[694]: Eleventh Grave in Moonlight by Darynda Jones

More of the same but a fantastic filler for fans of the series, regardless.


Eleventh Grave in Moonlight
by Darynda Jones

The eleventh sequel to the Charley Davidson series finds our favorite grim reaper living with a newfound reality. That she is a powerful god whose immense power is greater than any god that ever existed makes her question the sanity of anyone who says so. And while she’s contemplating the impossibility of her prowess, I found that at times, I was in a state of disbelief myself as well. Because she doesn’t have full control of her powers yet, she’s hesitant to flex her muscles for fear that she’ll bring forth Armageddon unto mankind.  I mean, she did show some but I think we’ve barely scratched the surface of the scope of her powers. Other than being indestructible, she’s apparently a god-eater. Which means she could potentially retain the powers of the gods she’ll consume (or maybe I’m getting ahead of myself here). Let’s hope we’ll find out in the next few books.

So little Beep is still ensconced under the protection of Charley’s army – both holy and unholy alike. I’m not gonna lie, I wish for more interactions between mom, dad and Beep. I want to read more than just a second-hand account of her growth and development. I mean, if this baby is as powerful as prophesied, I kinda want to see how she grows up. I’m itching to ask Ms. Jones when we can expect the inevitable spin-off. It is, however, so much fun to see Reyes bully Osh since finding out the uncomfortable truth about his future and how it relates to Beep.

 As much as this installment was a load of fun, the overall plot of the series didn’t really move. Aside from the cruel ending that is the precursor to the next book, the entire novel consisted of mini story arcs moving towards an intro to the 12th.  There was a brief but sad story of a toddler who died under a toppled drawers; Ubie being distracted by whatever was bothering him; a creepy stalker stalking Amber, and the emergence of a new character and his role in the life of Reyes’ abductors. (Whom by the way, finally got a somewhat satisfying comeuppance once and for all).

In truth, I was annoyed in some parts of the novel. I hate the unnecessary keeping of secrets as a device to stretch a story arc. It’s like, come on, people. We’ve all been here before. Secrets never end well for everybody involved! Thankfully, they didn’t let it fester for as long as they can. But heck, annoying just the same. Charley also grated on my nerve a little. Sometimes, her off-the-cuff humor was off-putting and not at all funny. I mean it was funny, but it was annoying because I feel like there should be a time for serious business.

Despite all my misgivings, there’s very little that could dissuade me from reading the next installments in this series (and I hope there’ll be lots). I’m a fan and will always be a fan so long as Charley remains the neurotic grim reaper that I’ve come to love, and Reyes remains the smoldering Son of Satan who singes the page whenever he makes an appearance.

On the Night Table [44]: Reading Update


The Cursed Queen by Sarah Fine | The Dark Days Pact by Alison Goodman | I See You by Clare Mackintosh


Hello.

How was your weekend? We’re about four days away from the dreaded inauguration, you guys. How are you planning on spending the day? Besides the fact that I have to work, I’m going to do my darnedest to steer clear of the social media and any tv broadcast about it. But if you guys have any suggestions on what I can do that will be more productive, let me know. I’m open to anything.

Anyway, I’ve got more January books on my night table this week. I’ve been doing so well with my review copies but I’ve also been requesting a lot of books from Net Galley lately. I’ve been bad. So so bad. Also, I just noticed that Net Galley is giving us a chance to improve our review stats so I took advantage of that this weekend by submitting the reviews for the ones that I didn’t. I’m so glad. My reviewing percentage is pretty sad, to be honest, so I’m thankful for the opportunity. It also gives me a chance to see which books I have on my Kindle that I need to read. Gah. The number is staggering.

R   E   A   D   THIS   W  E   E  K

The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan was a solid read. Gritty, gory and not at all the kind of werewolf stories I’ve read in the past. Wait For It by M. O’Keefe was a good read, but I found the characters to be different from when I first met them in the preceding books. Everything You Want Me To Be by Mindy Mejia was a fantastic read as well. I’ve already reviewed The Chemist by Stephenie Meyer and Born A Crime previously so you know how I felt about them. Little Heaven was on the blog last week.

Have you read any of these books? Let me know what you’ve been up to lately. 🙂 Have a great week, dear readers. I know it’s not going to be the greatest, but I hope you’ll make the best of it, anyway.

 

 

[693]: The Chemist by Stephenie Meyer

Bella Swan has left the building.


The Chemist
by Stephenie Meyer

Stephenie Meyer has had years to come up with a book that will make her relevant again. The Host, a futuristic utopian novel, gave us a glimpse of what it would be like if she distanced herself from YA and into the alleys of Adult Science Fiction. That book was a winner. I don’t care what anyone says. I don’t care if you’re a seasoned reader of Sci-Fi and you’re scoffing at me right now because of my statement. The Host was phenomenal. I was chomping at the bit and waiting patiently for her next novel. So with nary a fanfare, The Chemist stole into our shelves quietly. And in my case, at the airport bookstore on my way to San Diego.

Unfortunately, this is one of those instances where I got excited for a whole lot of nothing. Because with all its promise of “a gripping page-turner,” this was an absolute snoozer. As much as I’m a big fan of protagonists on the run from big, bad government, Alex didn’t incite any thrills as one that goes by her days looking over shoulders.

Ms. Meyer also failed to show me all the hows and the whys Alex found herself the subject of ire by the very people she worked for. If she was as good a chemical torturer that she made herself to be, why then would her bosses want to get rid of her? How did she become a liability? And then, out of nowhere, they wanted her back in the fold. I smell a setup.

Her reinstatement had her tailing a man who was going to unleash a deadly virus to the American public. But soon she’ll find out that it was only a cover up for something much bigger. Predictably enough, a romance developed between her and her victim (yawn). One of the things that frustrated me while reading this book was I couldn’t, for the life of me, figure out why in the hell would this man fall in love with her when she caused him immeasurable pain?! It was one of the most fucked up Stockholm Syndrome romance if there ever was one. It was at this time when I realized, man or woman, I don’t like reading about doormat characters. Bella Swan drew flak for her passiveness in Twilight. And while I commend Ms. Meyer for the role reversal of sorts in this book, I really couldn’t stand how weepy and eviscerated the male character was (name’s not coming to me at the moment). A classic case of an inexplicable instant-love.

Not to worry, though. All is not lost. You’ll fall in love with the German Shepards trained as lethal but loveable guard dogs. You’ll probably wonder if Alex sells her poison-laced jewelry at the home shopping network. You’ll probably even find Alex’s no non-sense attitude charming, provided that you don’t find her cold and calculating while she’s inflicting pain on her victims. But she’s smart, and she’s not all, kill, kill, kill. Underneath her hard exterior lay a conscience – which is inconvenient for an assassin like her. If you ever thought that Twilight was too passionate or too romantic, you’ll more than likely consider The Chemist the exact opposite.