Showing posts with label polyamorous. Show all posts
Showing posts with label polyamorous. Show all posts

Monday, 27 February 2017

Review Time! - Outsider by Olivia Cunning


Outsider title image



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Title: Outsider
Outsider book cover
Author: Olivia Cunning

Genre: Romance (M/M/F; M/F; M/M,) LGBTQ+ (and polyamorous,) Contemporary

Series: Exodus End (#2)

Amazon: UK - USA










A few starting notes:

I received a free digital review copy of this book via NetGalley. NetGalley provides review copies from publishers in exchange for fair and honest reviews.

This book is #2 in a series, but they're more companion novels - focussing on different characters - rather than one continuous story.

Plus, even the publishers say that it can be read as standalone (so it's not just me this time!)

This book is 18+ only, on account of the amount of graphic sexy-times.

Huge thanks to Naz @ Read Diverse Books for taking the time to discuss queer and Latinx rep with me - any mistakes are 100% mine.

If any Latinx, queer male, and/or polyamorous reviewers have reviewed this title, let me know - I would love to link to your review.

This was a difficult one to review (which is why I keep procrastinating!) because there's so much the author got right, but also so much she got wrong, and I have to somehow explain all that!

So let's give this a shot!







Premise:

Meet Reagan, the new guitarist with Exodus End. She's kind of feeling like an imposter right now - after all, Exodus End are rock legends.

She's also trying to keep the fact that she's dating both Ethan and Trey, together, as a unit, a secret.

Meet Trey, guitarist with Sinners. Though he's Reagan's public boyfriend, he'd prefer things between him and Ethan to be public too.

Meet Ethan - Reagan's body-guard.

Ethan's still in the closet, so admitting he's in a relationship with both Reagan and Trey is out of the question.

But with the tabloids around, and the music business to navigate, things are not going to be plain sailing!






Best bits:

Trey is a beautiful character - he's such a darling, and Cunning writes him with real affection and a real understanding of his feelings and his vulnerabilities.

Basically, if I had to pick the best aspect of this book, Trey would be it. He's amazing.








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I also loved the way the romance wasn't the only thing going on here - each of our trio has their own life, their own hopes, their own personality. They're complete people, not just defined by their relationship.

I liked that we get scenes from each of the characters' points-of-view (POVs,) without the other main characters present, and that we get an understanding of their relationships with family members, friends, etc.

Can we also point out that polyamory is portrayed as a viable and healthy relationship (albeit not perfect)? I think we can. Guys, that's just awesome.

And the relationship itself is not 2-dimensional. People say the wrong thing, they mess up, but they also make things better, comfort each other, make each other laugh etc.










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Of course, the rock music was one of the draws of this book to me - obviously, you can't hear it, but the whole rock-star deal gave this book a centre and a vibe that was pretty cool.

Cunning also explores the issues of being in the public eye, and the problems with being a woman in what is still predominantly a male industry.

People think you got where you are because of sex, because of your looks, etc. - not because of your talent.
Reagan's frustration at the sexist press, fans, and the band management who want to turn her into a sex symbol, is more than justified.

She knows she's good enough to be there. But everyone else seems determined to undermine her achievements.





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'She knows she's good enough to be there...'    Click to Tweet



















Not so great bits:







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The potentially distressing content in this book is:



- homophobia

- homophobic slurs

- biphobia

- bigotry against polyamory

- sexism

- sexist insults

- grief

- parental rejection/abandonment

- press harassment



- libel


- being closeted


- coming out


- being outed


- past emotional abuse (sexual-related)


- jealousy/overprotectiveness


- rough sexcorner image

- one brief but graphic instance of gore

- references to gangs


- references to bad neighbourhoods and guns


- references to past stalking and physical assault






I think that's everything - sorry if I missed anything.












There's also a lot of swearing, and a lot of graphic sex, often involving three people. And there's some references to BDSM.






OK, there were some issues with the representation of various themes/groups of people in this book, so I'm gonna try and break it down for you the best I can, and as efficiently and clearly as I can.

Spoilers are marked in square brackets [] - and written in white.











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Relationship issues:





[Trey] recounts a tale of emotional abuse with a very sexual element when he has a relationship with [Brian.]

Despite that, he's still friends with [Brian] and sees him in a generally positive light.

Look, this emotional abuse involved (this is potentially triggering as well as spoilerific) [turning him around, refusing to look at his face, and telling him to be a girl during sex.]

From where I'm stood, that's messed up.

The way Ethan acts towards Trey can also be very possessive and jealous - I didn't find it over-the-line, but it wouldn't surprise me if others did.







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'From where I'm stood, that's messed up...'      Click to Tweet













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Latinx (Mexican-American) representation:



(Ethan is Mexican-American, and both Trey and Reagan are white.)





  • Negative trope of the homophobic and unaccepting Latinx family - something which gives the impression that all Latinx people are somehow homophobic, and really shouldn't have been tackled by a non-own-voices author.

  • Ethan fears that his Latino brothers will beat up and harm his precious white boyfriend - I can't be the only one to see a problem there.

  • Strange references to being in a Mariachi band as something shaming to the family, and the family's heritage. This seems inaccurate as Mariachi players take pride in their music, and the music is part of Mexican culture.

  • Ethan has a different last name to the rest of his family. In context, this serves as a distancing of Ethan - who has a more Anglicised name - from the rest of his family, and makes that part of his life and heritage seem more 'Other.'










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Polyamorous representation:



My main problem with this aspect was that, even though I know this is an'erotic romance,' the polyamorous people here are written as being heavy on the sexy times, and 'not satisfied' by only one partner.

While of course polyamorous people can have high sex drives, so can monogamous people.

The linking of libido with polyamory gives the wrong impression about polyamory as a whole.

And the repeated portrayal of sex-hungry polyamory in media can lead to some very persistent stereotyping.







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Queer/LGBTQ+ representation:

  • Ethan takes more offense to the word queer than the word perversion. While I get that queer was being used as a slur in this context... are we just supposed to let the perversion comment slide...?

  • Being gay or bisexual is described as a lifestyle more than once. As I've said before, I don't like this, but it's a personal thing.

  • The author gave the impression of confusion between the terms gay and bisexual (more in the 'sexual fluidity representation' section.)






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Sexual fluidity representation:



Look, you guys know that I'm all for sexual fluidity in books. But you've gotta do it right.

If Reagan is the only girl Ethan has ever been attracted to, then fine, but you've really got to know what you're doing when you write that. And Cunning doesn't seem to.

I like that Ethan is questioning, rather than just going, 'ok, I'm bi now!' but in places, Cunning doesn't really seem to understand that there's a difference between the term gay and the term bisexual.

If that's supposed to be because Ethan is questioning, then say that. Don't just casually put gay in when he's in a relationship with a man and a woman.

(And yes, I know it can be an umbrella term, but since Ethan previously identified as gay, it might be an idea to be clearer about these things.)

It gives the impression of Ethan's sexuality changing simply for the purpose of the plot, and so that Cunning can write three-way sex-scenes, rather than because she supports fluidity or homoflexibility/being gay-fluid.

That's disappointing.









Verdict:


There need to be more polyamorous romances. And I'm glad that this presents a largely positive view of polyamory.

It's an enjoyable book, but there are a lot of problems with it.

These are problems that can't be ignored, and should be learned from.




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'There need to be more polyamorous romances...'  Click to Tweet





























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Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Review Time! - Dead Ice by Laurell K Hamilton

Title: Dead Ice.

Author: Laurell K Hamilton.

Genre: Paranormal, Urban Fantasy, Zombies, Vampires, Crime, LGBTQIAP+ and Polyamorous

Series: Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter (#24.)

Amazon: UK - USA.


A few starting notes:

I received a free paperback review copy of this book from the UK publisher, Headline, in exchange for a fair and honest review.

This is #24 in the series - I know, it's a big series. I'd read a few before, and really enjoyed them, but haven't read all of them, and certainly not in order.

Dead Ice can be read as standalone with very little problem, but there are a few spoilers for previous events in the series, so be aware of that if you want to read this book as standalone. 

As usual, the level of spoilerage in this review won't go beyond what's in the blurb of the book.


Premise:

US marshal, zombie animator, and legal vampire executioner, Anita Blake, is on the trail of someone making zombie porn.

That's ick enough in itself, but there's something different about these zombies... zombies shouldn't be capable of fear.

If that wasn't enough, Anita also has wedding plans to deal with, and relationships - both personal and political - to juggle as well. Things are going to get interesting.



Best bits:

I love the frenetic energy of these books - things happen in a whirlwind of personal, professional, fur (there are wereanimals,) and fangs.

Anita's sarcasm and exasperation are, quite simply, awesome. And she's pretty kick-ass in general.

This series is pretty much the pinnacle of urban fantasy (and I do love me some urban fantasy - what with all the paranormal faffing around cities and everything...) and this instalment does justice to Hamilton's reputation as the queen of this genre.

The plot here is involving enough to keep you reading - keeping the right mix of Anita's personal and professional lives with the promise of a criminal case leading through it all.

Strangely, this book is also pretty emotionally healthy. Nope, I mean it.
Sure, bad stuff happens, a lot, and everyone is slightly broken because of it (of course,) but Anita and her household work pretty damned hard to make sure everyone is open, and no-one ignores what they're feeling. Nice and refreshing in any book.

Not so great bits:

Not everyone is going to be happy with the references (though no graphic scenes,) to BDSM.

There are also explicit sex scenes, including with wereanimals, which ultimately aren't going to be to everyone's taste. They are however handled about as tastefully as you could reasonably expect of explicit sex scenes.

There's a lot of characters here - which can get a little confusing when you're trying to remember who said what with who. But overall, it's not too difficult to regain your bearings.

Some of the LGBTQIAP+ representation - especially regarding intersex people - might be a bit off; though there is so much going on here that it's difficult to fully define that. Overall though, just having this amount of LGBTQIAP+ rep in a book is great.


Verdict:

An enjoyable instalment in a tried-and-tested urban fantasy series, showing that Ms Hamilton has enough in reserve to keep the involving plots and intrigues going for quite a while yet.

Buy Now UK - Buy Now USAGoodreads - Author's Site



Amended 29th October 2016



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