Books read in August 2015

Ah reading friends.  August 2015 is going to go down as the month in which I discovered smart smut.  What is smart smut and how did I discover it?  Well here’s what happened.  I went to the Willamette Writer’s Conference and went to a session on writing steamy love scenes that was given by Heidi Joy Tretheway.  Her session was great and from her, I got the moniker “smart smut.”  Which I am further categorizing as a book with a goodly amount of sex happening while the characters working their way toward a relationship.  The day after the workshop  I was volunteering during another conference session and it was, in a word, boring.  So I took the opportunity to download Ms. Tretheway’s first book in her Tattoo Thief series partly because I was intrigued and partly because it was free.  Guess what?  Good way too hook me.  I didn’t pay for that book, but I read nine full length smart smut books and three novellas and I paid money for all but three of those books/novellas.  And I read them all on my phone.  So yeah.  That happened this month.




Picture Books: I yam a Donkey.
Middle Grade: Nothing
YA: Consent; Point; Emmy & Oliver
Young People’s Nonfiction: Stonewall [There’s a movie coming out about Stonewall. This would make a good primer.  It’s short.]
Adult Fiction: The Given Day
Smart Smut: The Girl Next Door (but only if you’ve read the first two books of the Bend or Break series); Revenge Bound (but only if you’ve read the first two books of the Tattoo Thief series)

picture books



I Yam a Donkey
Cece Bell
Read for Librarian Book Group
Delightful and fun to read aloud.

The Princess and the Pony
Kate Beaton
Read for librarian book group
Sometimes over the top is too much and sometimes over the top is just what fits the bill.  Very funny.

Boats for Papa
Jessixa Bagley
Read for Librarian Book Group
A nice story of dealing with loss.

middle grade
The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate
Jacqueline Kelley
Read for Librarian Book Group
I was a great fan of Kelly’s first book, The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate.  I wasn’t alone, it won a ton of awards including a Newbery honor.  Which, I guess, means that this book came to pass, even as mediocre as it was.  I couldn’t find a plot thread to save my life, the entire book seemed to be episodic and rambling.  Kelley also kept dropping broad hints as that other things would come to pass in a very “Duh, duh DUMMMMMM!!!!” way that set my teeth on edge, especially when this undermined the things that did come to pass, making them seem not quite the earth shattering events they were promised to be.  I would suggest a re-read of the first book rather than spending time with this one.

Circus Mirandus
Cassie Beasley
Read for librarian book group
I would give this to a middle reader who is interested in stories of loss and/or magical realism elements.  But I wouldn’t recommend it too enthusiastically because I found this story to be a slog.  Also, the great-aunt character was such a cardboard evil character the author might as well have given her a Hitler mustache and had her marching around in boots.  The story of the bird lady was absolutely horrifying and then just left to sit there being horrible with no real conclusion which makes me think she will have something to do in a possible sequel.  Which is also annoying.
young adult



Brady Colbert
An aspiring ballerina turns out to not be the most reliable narrator in this book that crams a lot of issues into one plot, which I find to be a plus, not a minus.  As the tension builds, the pace is crackling, making for a very good page turning experience.  I would have liked to  have more resolution/explanation about her friend as information is promised and teased, but never given, which left me with a feeling of betrayal, but overall this was a solid (if icky) read.

Nancy Ohlin
Story of piano prodigy who connects with her music appreciation teacher during her senior year in high school. Opens many avenues for discussion of what must be termed statutory rape, no matter how much someone is into the idea.  It does all this while also telling an interesting story and managing not to go the easy route of demonizing the teacher.

Underneath Everything
Marcy Beller Paul
Most of the first part of the book kept referring to “what happened on that night” which grew tiresome.  In addition, I never could get a handle on if the author wanted me to think the interest between the main character and her ex-friend/friend was sexual or just regular friendship infatuation.  I’m fine either way, but having that point so muddy was distracting. All characters seemed flat in an over-dramatic way, I found the depiction of high school social structures and popularity entirely unrealistic  and the whole thing where the girl liked maps seemed like it was just the “thing” that had been grafted onto her to give her some personality.

Me & Earl and the Dying Girl
Jesse Andrews
I had a group of friends-who-were-boys in high school and they were hilarious.  Sitting around listening to them talk, I  never knew what incredibly gonzo thing would come out of their mouths.  Someone would say something and someone else would pick up and riff on it and you could see the whatever they said grow and change, getting handed off from one to the other, ending in a strange place far from where they started. They were musicians, and they could manipulate words just as well as they could music notes.  I’ve never laughed so hard as when I was with them, and I loved them so much, I dated two of them.

This book was like hanging out with them again.  The main character wasn’t like them at all, but the way he would take a thought and worry it to the bone, reminded me of them.  “Me” (aka Greg) isn’t the most likable character–he sure doesn’t like himself.  But his ruminations and conversations and hatred of himself, and even the story he was telling, cracked me up and I loved him just as much as those high school boys.  This book isn’t likable in many ways–so much of it is not standard YA novel stuff, but I loved it even more for that.

Special “there’s a movie!?!” paragraph:
I cannot imagine how they could keep any of the things I liked about this book and translate them into a movie.  I mean, is Earl-in-the-movie really a poor, angry kid with crazy brothers and a mother who ignores them all?  Is Greg really that pathetic?  I have a sneaking suspicion that the filmmakers took the sock puppet remakes of classic movies and ran with it, shoving a dying girl story around it.  I will eventually find out if this is true, but right now, I’m going to just live with the book version.

Emmy & Oliver
Robin Benway
This is the second book I’ve read this month about a girl who was friends with a boy who was kidnapped and is now back.  Weird.  I liked this iteration because I think it’s a great example of what happens when parents are way too over-involved in their child’s life.  In fact, I would like to hand it to more than a few parents of children who attend the elementary school in which I work.  This was a pleasant read with all the pieces falling nicely into place, though I would probably have edited out all the parenthetical references. (There were many.) (And most were not necessary.)

Trouble is a Friend of Mine
Stephanie Tromby
Nothing to read, so I grabbed this off the Lucky Day shelf and it delivered on it’s very tall promise of a cross  between Sherlock, Veronica Mars and Ferris Beuller’s Day off.  Funny mystery, good subverted love story, lots of weird things strewn hither and yon.

Young nonficiton

Ann Bausum
Read for Librarian Book Group
I found this to be slow in the beginning, but once the riot started, the prose crackled.  Bausum’s explanation of gay life and culture pre-Stonewell was very well done and appropriate for the age level.  I would have liked to have more information about the Village Voice article about the riots, any reaction or reflection by the people involved in creating it.  Overall, a solid book.

Untamed: The Wild Life of Jane Goodall
Anita Silvey
Read for Librarian Book Group
Solid nonfiction text about Jane Goodall’s career.

Water is Water
Miranda Paul/Jason Chin
Read for Librarian Book Group
This book included a few extra stages of the water cycle (mud?) that I took to be padding to reach the magical 32 page quota/limit.  The rhymes were clunky at times.  But I would recommend this for the illustrations alone.
smart smut



Tattoo Thief
Heidi Joy Trethaway
I cut my romance teeth on bodice rippers during my junior high years and I still think fondly one one author’s books, though not fondly enough to do some internet research and figure out who she was or what the books were.  I eventually got tired of the formula and the budding feminist in me got really tired of the strict gender roles.  I moved onto other things by high school and causal dipping into the literature in the years since showed me nothing much had changed.

I also don’t read e-books.  I like a real book, I like a real page, I like going to the library, I like my thumb calibrating how much longer I have until the story is over.  I don’t want to buy yet another device to keep charged. Reading time on my phone is taken up with keeping up with social media and reading the electronic version of the paper on the days there isn’t a print issue.

However.  Heidi Joy Tretheway’s sessions at the Willamette Writers Conference were funny and informative and she describes what she writes as “smart smut.”  Hitting a conference wall, a combination of tired/boring presenter/it was a gorgeous day/there was a pool at the hotel, I downloaded this book and spent a couple hours hanging out in the shade, not learning about writing historical fiction and flipping through this little adventure.

There wasn’t as much smut as I was expecting (hoping for), but the stuff that was there was good enough, the characters didn’t seem to be locked into traditional gender roles and the character development was interesting.  I think this book suffered from the relationship developing mostly online, as reading google chat messages back and forth is less immediate than in-person encounters, but things were ultimately engrossing. It helped that the male lead was the singer in a famous rock band.  Who isn’t a sucker for famous rockers reforming their ways?

And I must say, finishing this book, took me straight into the second in the series, and had me staying up until one in the morning finishing that.  Which led me directly to the third book, and I would have stayed up late finishing the fourth, but THERE IS NO FOURTH BOOK YET!  So I started over with book one and devoted a vacation day to reading three books I’d just finished.  I’d say Ms. Tretheway’s got something.

(I really debated posting this review and admitting I’d read this, but when something takes that amount of my attention, I should probably just admit it.)

Tyler & Stella
Heidi Joy Tretheway
Our adventures with the band Tattoo Thief pick up where the first book left off, this time focusing on Beryl’s friend Stella and the bassist in the band, Tyler.  Here we subvert the bad-boy reform plot because it’s Stella who is going off the rails.  Luckily for her, the tall, built bassist is ready to lead her back to a straighter path, though there will be the trials and tribulations along the way.  And the sex is hot, having the advantage over the first book of the couple actually being in the same space, not communicating via computer.

Revenge Bound
Heidi Joy Trethaway
In this book, the best of the bunch so far, we work our way further through the band Tattoo Thief to the guitarist Jayce, who is smitten with photographer Violet, who has fallen on some unfortunate times due to an ex-boyfriend posting revenge porn of her, including identifying name, phone number, place of work and address, which has lead to some creep stalking Violet.  Jayce–the guy in the band who couldn’t get enough of the groupies–wants to fix things for her, but Violet knows that being seen with Jayce will just call attention to the thing she’s trying to get rid of.  I haven’t read much about dominant/submissive relationships, but there’s a nice overlay of that in this book that seems to try to be making up for all that I’ve heard is wrong with 50 Shades of Grey.

My foot is impatiently tapping for the last book in the series.  Taptaptaptaptap.

Off Campus
Amy Jo Cousins
Not wanting to explore Heidi Joy Tretheway’s Phoenix Candidate series, but still interested in this smart smut stuff, I chose this book, which was recommended by Ms. Tretheway.  And I loved it.  Amy Jo Cousins can write sex, and also desire and longing, like nobody’s business, and if her books were just that, things would be A-OK.  But her characters are complex and interesting, packed with vulnerabilities and flaws that make the story sing, but also had me rooting for them, not just as a couple, but as individuals, to find their way out of their dark places and into the light.

This is male/male romance, set in an elite college in Western Mass (which might be Amherst College?).  Aside from making me care about Tom & Reese, she’s also created a fabulous secondary character, Cash, who is the classic dumb jock, but is also a good friend, and scene stealer.

Nothing Like Paris
Amy Jo Cousins
Book two in the Bend or Break series follows Tom’s Evil Nemesis Jack back home to Iowa, after he is kicked out of college for the semester.  Things are bad: he’s let things get out of control; his future with the college may or may not happen; his family life isn’t great.  And his high school boyfriend/best friend is still around, and still angry that Jack left him abruptly three years before.

I was interested to see the other side of a villain from the first book and Cousins reveals the multiple layers of pain that probably hide behind most bullies.  Once again, characterization is fabulous, both with Jack and Mike/Miguel, the boyfriend left behind.

The Girl Next Door
Amy Jo Cousins
Book three in the Bend or Break series reunites us with Cash, dumb jock, good friend and scene stealer from Off Campus.  Cash is living in Chicago, having finished college and fled Boston and the cushy job in his father’s firm he was never cut out for.  He’s happy being poor, working for a sports nonprofit and living his own life.  Then his seventeen year-old cousin Denny  shows up, newly out and fleeing his parents response to his sexuality.

Making sure Denny feels safe pushes him to reunite with college friend and late-night hookup  Stephany Tyler, who may be the girl who got away. As I’ve come to expect from Amy Jo Cousins, there is a lot of hot sex, as well as lot of really awesome character growth.  And it’s fun to hang out with that still-rare phenomenon the straight guy who is so comfortable in his sexual identity that he doesn’t mind if anyone thinks he’s gay, and is okay exploring other things.  Also?  We get to see how Tom and Reese from Off-Campus are doing.

The Phoenix Candidate
Heidi Joy Tretheway
Perfect combination of politics, political consulting and hot sex.  I cannot stop reading Heidi Joy Tretheway.

The Phoenix Campaign
Heidi Joy Tretheway
I’m the kind of the person who would much rather lay things out on the table early on in the game, rather then spend any amount of time pondering things, so the endless pondering in this book drove me crazy.  “JUST TELL HIM!!!!” I thought innumerable times.  The political aspects were interesting and the sex was good, but overall, the lack of forthrightness–though it was firmly grounded in character–sunk this book for me.  But I’ll probably read the third.

Five Dates
Amy Jo Cousins
This short novella was inspired by a fan writing a letter about what should happen in the story.  There was also a picture element.  If you are looking to dip into M/M steamy romance, here’s your gateway as this is free.  Engaging tale of a 30-something guy whose sister posts a 20-something picture of him on a dating site when he looses a bet and must go on five dates she’s chosen for him.

Full Exposure
Amy Jo Cousins
Another in the M/M romance novella with letter/picture as inspiration.  This story is awesome! It involves a geeky computer guy who goes to Chicago one weekend to help his brother out on a photo shoot with a hot rock star.  A connection is made, stuff happens, and you will forget to cook dinner, you are so busy devouring this fabulous tale.

Level Hands
Amy Jo Cousins
I have sworn, hand to [whatever god-thing I swear to] that I will not buy any more of these smart smut ebooks and read them on my phone.  I get my books from the library.  I like the feel of paper.  I have a ton of things to read that are not romances.  But then I find my hands creeping back to my phone.  Because it’s the next book in the Bend or Break series.  And this time it’s Denny, the then-17 year old kid who showed up at his cousin Cash’s door in The Girl Next Door.  But now he’s 19 and Rafi, Cash’s co-worker, is joining him at the same elite Western Massachusetts college that Cash and Steph and Tom and Reese all graduated from.

Amy Jo Cousins, aside from her expertly written sex scenes and her fantabulous character development, spends a goodly amount of time dealing with Rafi’s fitting in to the elite college environment, as well as being a very brown guy in a very white place.  There’s a rowing element to the plot as both Denny and Rafi are rowers.  Overall, the push-pull is the feeling Rafi has that he needs to make his own way in this world, while also being crazy about Denny.  Plus, there’s a “tables turned” element.  The last time we saw the two main characters, Denny was a just-out 17-year old and Rafi was 18 or 19 and, having been out through high school, was the Obi-One in their friendship.  But it’s been a few years and Denny’s had some experience.  Cue the trouble.

Adult fiction



The Given Day
Dennis Lehane
Read aloud
Still very good the second time around.  Probably would have been even better if we hadn’t wandered away from reading aloud and taken more than a year to finish this.

Top Movies of August 2015

13 total movies watched.

Great performances and soundtrack.

grand_seductionThe Grand Seduction
Really great at what it does.  Funny.

thanks_for_sharingThanks for Sharing
Solid actors and an engaging 12-step story.


two_night_standTwo Night Stand
Two of my favorites talk about sex in a way I never see in movies.

A peek into the world of transgender prostitutes.

Say goodbye to this three-quarters of a block

It’s coming down to make way for new construction.

First, the building I refer to as the Unfortunately Stuccoed Building.  I’ve been hoping for years that my school could move to this building.  It’s bigger, we would be able to occupy two floors and it’s right next to the park.  IMG_4534

But no, this building will soon be no more.  What a great front entrance that would have been. Note that the building on the right is staying.IMG_4535

Here is the north side of the block.  This building is nothing to write home about and spans one-quarter of a the block.IMG_4536

The northeast corner of the block has this two-story brick with nice bones.IMG_4537

A view of the two-story with nice bones from the corner.IMG_4538

Representative of a really good concert photo.

IMG_4533I think it’s the couple front and center that make this photo for me. He, looking at the camera so slyly and she looking away.  Its hot and there’s a lot of smoke drifting in from fires, and people are everywhere around them, but they are young and in love, and there will be music and it doesn’t matter if they are stuck together with sweat.  Good job David Greenwald.

What happens when you ignore your kombucha for a month.


You need a scoby to make kombucha and if they are properly fed, those scobys grow new scobys.  I had four jars going and, boy howdy, did I grow some scobies. Sadly, most of the kombucha went down the drain, being too tart to drink.  I saved a few scobys so I can work my way back to four jars.  The rest went in the worm bin.

Three sentence movie reviews: New Year’s Eve

new_years_eveI went into the movie Valentine’s Day not knowing anything and was pleasantly surprised by the gravistas brought by the actors and the interesting weaving of stories.  This, my friend, is no Valentines Day, featuring a cast of B-list actors (or A-list actors giving B-list performances) and stories that I just didn’t care about.  This was a terrible movie that wasn’t bad enough that to be fun.

Cost: free from library
Where watched: at home

Three sentence movie reviews: A lot like love

lot_like_loveSome days I’m up to watching something of substance, or something inventive, or something with style. And some days I’m tired and need to paint my toenails and just put on a so-so romantic comedy with non-offensive actors.  Overall, it wasn’t terrible, it was a fine movie for meeting my exact needs at that moment.

Cost: free from library
Where watched: at home.  Toenails are green now.

City of Roses Ground Floor

Now that I can walk on the sidwalk in front of the Northwood Apartments, we can take more pictures.IMG_4518

One of the things I find interesting about the ground floor is the weird configuration of some of the spaces.  This unit (C) has a weird protrusion through the middle of it.  I’m interested to see how this space is used. It’s supposed to be a live-work unit.IMG_4519

Unit B has this room that is both kitchen and living space and then it also has a bedroom/bathroom/closet part.  There’s another ground-floor unit with the same configuration. I think I would have trouble decorating this as a residential unit.  The kitchen area is too long and takes over the space.  As a live-work unit, I guess it would work if your work has something to do with a kitchen taking over most of the space?IMG_4520

These are the windows that were the last to be installed.  And you can see there is landscaping now.IMG_4521

Too much glare on this picture, but this is the lobby area with a mural and a couple of cushy hang out spaces. I will be very surprised if I ever see anyone hanging out in the spaces.IMG_4522

The corner unit, with the visible big slabs of wood.  No one has leased it yet.IMG_4523

Some information about the property.IMG_4524

From the Max station approach.IMG_4525

It has a (vastly out of scale, in my opinion) neon sign.IMG_4526

Publication in the Viewpoint

“I was eating my breakfast, and reading your letter in the Viewpoint…” began the Facebook message from Sue.
“I have a letter in the Viewpoint?” I wrote back.  Then immediately got out my as-yet unread copy of the Cottey College Alumni magazine and flipped through it.IMG_4516

And indeed, there was my letter.  Which I didn’t really intend to BE in the Viewpoint when I wrote it, I was just sending a friendly email chat to Steve Reed. But there it is.IMG_4517This is an edited version (which I’m fine with.) The original letter had another paragraph that talked about Viewpoint controversy my freshman year of college because it reported that an alumni and her female partner had adopted a baby and some of the PEOs (the organization that sponsors/is heavily involved with the college) didn’t really like that.  Now we see in the Viewpoint all sorts of marriages and births of alumni who choose women as partners. And isn’t that a great change.