I sincerely hope none of you are out fighting through the hordes to get the last Elsa doll on the shelf. There will be more, I promise.
(I hate Black Friday. With a passion.)
Anyway, books! We like books. We like books a lot, and we also like Small Business Saturday, so please, go buy shit tomorrow if you’re going to buy shit at all, and do it local!
Mo Yan won the Nobel Prize for Literature, and because I can’t seem to stop myself from reading the books that end up on snooty book prize lists, I picked up Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out. Ximen Nao was a good man. A landlord, he treated his tenants fairly and often donated time, food, or money to those in need. So it makes no sense to him that his fellow villagers would murder him in the midst of Mao’s Land Reform Movement. But murder him they do, and he’s subsequently reborn as a donkey, ox, pig, dog, monkey, and a large-headed boy.
There’s an (almost) epic reading journey to go along with this epic tale. I borrowed this book from my local library and renewed it twice before I actually got around to opening it. When it became clear I wasn’t going to be able to finish it by the time it was due back, I checked out the digital version. But it was worth it. Each of Nao’s lives takes place at a pivotal time in modern Chinese history, and you get this fantastic sense of what rural life was like through all those changes, despite Nao being an animal through most of them. Some parts were a little tedious – when the narrative switches to Lan Jiefong, it loses a lot of the humor and lightheartedness. If you’ve ever been interested in modern China, though, Life is an excellent place to start. I’ve gotta hand it to the Swedish Academy. I’ve read a number of Nobel laureates, and for the most part, I’ve enjoyed their work.
In between all that history I managed to squeeze in The Duality Principle by Rebecca Grace Allen. Gabrielle’s in Portland, Maine, to work on her PhD thesis. She’s trying to disprove the duality principle. But she can’t stop fantasizing about a man she’s never seen – the guy who owns the motorcycle that rumbles by her grandmother’s house on a regular basis. Then she meets Connor, and she’s both intrigued and disappointed. Intrigued because there’s a rebellious spark in his eyes. Disappointed because he won’t give in to it.
It’s a cute story, short and fun. Gabrielle’s a great character, sassy and smart (very, very smart. Math-nerd smart) and frustrated because she’s never met a man she can indulge her particular…interests with. She thinks Connor might just be that guy, if only he’d stop pulling back at the last moment. Connor didn’t work quite as well for me. It might be because I don’t quite understand the setting (Portland’s portrayed as having a bit of a small-town vibe to it, but it definitely doesn’t look like any small town that I’ve ever seen) but he was so damn worried about what people thought of him that it just didn’t make sense. Sure, he got into trouble in the past. In a town that size, though, I would have thought people would have forgotten or at least gotten over it. At any rate, I like them together, and I especially like that Connor finds Gabrielle’s mind amazing, because it kind of is. If you’re looking for a quick read that will make you forget about the gloomy weather outside, this is a great choice.
Speaking of choices, my TBR Jar pick for this month was Harper Fox’s Scrap Metal. Nichol surprises a burglar one icy night, and instead of turning Cam over to the local bobby, he offers him a warm bed and the chance to hide out on his farm. Because Cam is running from something, but the longer he stays on Seacliff Farm, the less important it seems to Nichol – and the more important it becomes to get Cam into his bed. Cam’s past eventually catches him, though, and what he’s running from could break Nichol’s heart.
Okay, aside from the romance (which I’ll get to in a second) the setting in this story is AWESOME. Fox does an incredible job plopping you down on a tiny island off the coast of Scotland, full of sheep (did you know baby males are called tups? So cute!) and heather and bracing sea air and salt spray. It was glorious. Scarily cold, warm in ways that only a Scotsman would think was warm, and the house! I kept picturing this old white-washed stone house full of creaks and groans. I don’t read a lot of M/M romance, but I enjoyed this one. Nichol and Cameron’s relationship was sweet, given to rocky moments brought on by their respective pasts, giving it that hint of realism I love. Despite Cam’s secrets, they communicated well, and while I didn’t think their connection was particularly steamy, it felt natural. They were each willing to make an effort for the other, and it showed.
So one of my favorite four letter words is FREE. And to kick off the holiday season in style, Liv Rancourt’s offering her romantic short story, The Santa Drag, for free this weekend! It’s a quirky, sassy tale about an out of work actress who takes on a job as a mall Santa, fooling everyone – until Joe McBride walks in. Joe McBride, legit famous actor and the only man she’s ever loved. Wanna find out what happens? Go here and indulge your one-click habit.
I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving. Try not to get run over by the ass behind you in your mad scramble for those Beats by Dre wireless headphones.
Copy of The Duality Principle provided by the publisher in exchange for review.