Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Opposites Attract in Better Than Good

I just finished reading Lane Hayes' first book in her "Better Than" series, Better Than Good.  It's a story of opposites, as the description states:
Matt Sullivan understands labels: law student, athlete, heterosexual. He has goals: graduate and begin his career in law. One fateful night, Matt tags along with his gay roommate to a dance club and everything changes. Matt finds himself attracted to the most beautiful man he's ever seen. All labels go flying out the window. 
Aaron Mendez doesn't believe in labels, and he’s leery of straight curious men. He makes it clear that he’ll hide his fabulous light for no one. While Aaron can't deny the attraction between him and Matt, he is reluctant to start anything with someone who is still dealing with what this new label means—especially when that someone has a girlfriend.
The premise may sound like a typical gay romance but it has certain twists, and I will admit that Better Than Good hit on a few of my pet peeves.  Aaron is flamboyant, wears make-up, and adds an "ee" to everyone's name, such as Matty for Matt.  I really don't have anything against flamboyant gay men, as I believe that we should all be who we are, and if that's flamboyant then so be it.  It's no different from a hyper masculine man.  Some people are just that way.  I tend to think I'm a happy medium, but that's a different issue.  I will admit that I don't quite understand men wearing make-up, but to each his own.  My only real pet peeve though is when someone calls me Joey.  My name is Joe, not Joey.  So, in my own bias, it grated on my nerves each time I read Aaron calling Matt by the pet name of Matty.

With that being said, I have to tell you those were secondary things because the story is beautifully told.  Hayes does a wonderful job at looking at our insecurities and struggles with decisions.  Matt seems straight but not narrow when we first meet him, but Hayes gives us a good look at the fluidity of sexuality.  One of the things I often find when reading female authors of M/M romance is that they are much more open to the fluidity of sexuality than male authors are.  I also think it's a more realistic look at sexuality.  It's not necessarily about a man going from heterosexual to homosexual over meeting one guy, but more that heterosexuality is so often seen as he "norm" by so many, that some men fail to look past the heteronormative perception we are often raised to believe.

While Matt isn't your average "straight" guy, neither is Aaron your average gay man.  Aaron seems not to have the insecurities that many gay men have, but a closer look shows this is a misconception.  Aaron faces insecurities over his family relationships, especially with that of his father, and he's reluctant to give a chance to a man he thinks is straight.  On the surface, Aaron may seem like a carefree, young, out and proud gay man, but when we get to know him, we learn that he is much more complex.  

The love story in Better Than Good is a slow sensuous story that will leave you wanting more.   The conflict here was presented in a different manner than most M/M romances.  Usually it's the struggle of the "straight" man coming to terms with falling in love with a man.  In Better Than Good, it is the gay man who has inhibition about dating a "straight" man, who has a girlfriend and is perceived to be heterosexuality.  Matt's character doesn't have the central conflicts of most "straight" character, and readily admits that he is bisexual. This gives the story a new twist and makes the story a dynamic narrative which results in an romantic and happy conclusion.

Hayes' working title for the book was All You Can Do is Try, which is a good motto for all of us, and it would have been a great title for Better Than Good, but I'm glad she changed the title and decided to expand the secondary characters of Jay and Peter into a second book in the "Better Than" series.  I've already begun reading Better Than Chance, and I'm enjoying it even more than Better Than Good.  It's definitely a series that I suggest you read.  Because this book was definitely better than good.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

One day is there of the series

One day is there of the series
Emily Dickinson

 One day is there of the series
Termed “Thanksgiving Day”
Celebrated part at table
Part in memory -
Neither Ancestor nor Urchin
I review the Play -
Seems it to my Hooded thinking
Reflex Holiday
Had There been no sharp subtraction
From the early Sum -        
Not an acre or a Caption
Where was once a Room
Not a mention whose small Pebble
Wrinkled any Sea,
Unto such, were such Assembly,        
‘Twere “Thanksgiving day” -

Monday, November 24, 2014

Amy Lane's Johnnies

I'm willing to bet that at one point or another all of us have enjoyed watching porn, I know I have.  I'd also bet that most of us wondered about the models' lives outside of porn.  When you hear or read about their lives in the news, it's often tragic in some way: drug abuse, poverty, suicide, and the list goes on.  However, we often put that in the back of our minds as we look at the beautiful models having sex on camera.  However, a recent series of books has made me think about the porn industry a little more critically.  That series is Amy Lane's Johnnies series:  Chase in Shadow, Dex in Blue, and Ethan in Gold.

Lane did a great deal of research for these books, which are about the models in a fictional gay adult video company called Johnnies.  While the opening premise sounds incredibly hot and the sex scenes really are scorching hot, Amy Lane doesn't disappoint with her moniker "Angst and Pain, Amy Lane."  However, the books weave together a wonderful story of the men who make up Johnnies, and the trials and tribulations they go through.  Each has secrets to hide, and each needs Johnnies for various reasons.  These were the fictional parts of her writing though she based each character on actual porn models.  I always wondered how Lane wrote such erotic, and accurate, sexual encounters between two gay men, when she in fact is a happily married heterosexual woman.  

First of all, Lane mainly based Johnies on Corbin Fisher, which quite honestly has some of the most beautiful men in amateur gay porn.  Her research also sounds a lot more fun than when I do research in a dusty library or archives (though I get a special joy out of doing that as well).  And while Lane contacted Corbin Fisher with questions, they were never answered.  So she watched lots of gay porn, but she did found herself not watching the the gay porn videos in the same way most of us would.  Usually, we watch porn for one reason, but in this case, Lane spent many hours watching porn with other straight women, talking about what was real and what was directed.  The "real" they were looking for wasn't actual romantic feeling-- it was more like working relationship feeling.  Lane studied the sex scenes looking for eye contact, kissing, considerate touches, etc. all to understand the relationship between the models, not just to watch the fantasy they portrayed on the screen.  Lane told me that researching the Johnnies books made her look at the nature of touch, pleasure, comfort, and love.

L to R: Connor/Chase, Dru/Dex, Aiden/Ethan, Travis/Tommy, Cain/Kane, Trey/Scott

In the books, Lane loosely based the characters (mostly appearance) of the Johnnies models on Corbin Fisher models.  Chase is based on Connor, Dex on Dru, Ethan on Aiden.  Those are the main one, but of course, there are many other models mentioned, such as Tommy who was based on Travis, Scott on Trey, and Kane on Cain.  Those are the ones I have confirmed with Lane on who she based the characters on.  I enjoy being able to put a face (and in this case a body as well) with the characters.  Usually when I read a book, I picture the characters in my own head, but knowing in this case who they were based on made it all the more interesting.  I want to add a side note here and say that I always pictured CF's Dawson as Digger the older model who has been in many scenes over the years and is always affable and a steady model for the studio sticking around much longer than most models do.  Of course there is the young (18 year old) new and very well-endowed new model Bobby who a friend of mine suggested might be CF's Chandler, but I never have been able to figure out a corresponding model for.

When I finished these three books, I loved them, but I won't deny that all three books are difficult books in the beginning. I don't want to give anything away, but be warned.  However, and you must keep this in mind, the books are worth getting past the difficult reading at the beginning.  And when I say difficulty reading at the beginning, I'm not talking about difficult as in Robert Penn Warren's All the King's Men when page after page is about a car driving down a road.  I mean difficult as in the subject matter.  The first part of these books are a shock to your system, and whereas they are difficult subjects, you must read on so that you get the immense joy of reading an Amy Lane masterpiece.

Of the characters, I really loved Dex and Ethan the most.  Dex is so together but with something to hide.  I honestly, just want to give Ethan a hug, which I've got a feeling he'd like. Chase is the most flawed of the characters, but even with all his problems, you can't help but feel for the guy and wish him the best.  Dex though is the man that you want as a friend.  He may not be perfect, but he will always be there for you.  And when it comes to Ethan, well all I can say is that with all the Ethans I have known, they are sweet, lovable, intelligent, and you just want to wrap them in your arms and tell them that you'll do anything to make their world a better place.

I adore Amy Lane's books and I just want to thank her for the hours of enjoyment that her books have provided for me.  Of course there are always a few tears involved, but it's one of the things that makes her books great. It's the full range of human emotions that she bring alive from the pages of her books.  Thank you Amy Lane for the enjoyment you bring to so many and for touching our hearts.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Taste And See

Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! 
Psalm 34:8

This is a beautiful verse because of its simplicity and all the meaning this verse brings to my mind. If you look up the definition of taste in on-line dictionaries, beyond the obvious meaning, you'll find definitions such as, “a sample of experience” (e.g. the first taste of success) or “perceive, discern, or experience . . .” These definitions should get your attention as we look at this verse because this is what I think we should understand when we read this. Several commentaries suggest this verse, when it was written, meant something very deep and meaningful. In simpler terms, to taste and see that God is good is to relish and delight in God’s goodness manifested in and by God’s gifts, and in the contemplation of God’s infinite perfections and boundless love, and to be persuaded and convinced of God’s goodness as to be encouraged in the worst of times.

Taste and see how God is good.

We all have these days when nothing seems to go right.  We get one set of bad news and then another and before you know it you are completely demoralized and you think how can things get worse.  On some of those days, you realize just how much worse things can get. On those days we always wish things had gone better. On days like that we just have to persevere and continue on, but we just cannot allow ourselves to worry to the point of not being able to persevere. It is what it is. We have to take time to spend with God to remind us to taste and see how good God is. Everything will be okay because God has a path for us.  He is watching out for us and is guiding us. Life gets messy. Perfect or not isn’t the issue. Allowing ourself to feel God’s presence is the issue. Taste and see how God is good. Then, we can be blessed. We can feel God’s grace. That is something for which I am very grateful and I hope you are too.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Moment of Zen: Coca-Cola

"I'd like to buy this guy a Coke, 
And keep him company"

I have to admit there are times on a hot day when there is nothing better than a cold Coca-Cola.  Yes, I prefer Coke to any other soft drink.  As a rule, I may drink one Coke a week, but when I need one,miss the only thing that satisfies, and if the guy in the picture ever wanted to share a Coke, I'd be more than willing.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Coming Monday

I had a particular post in mind for either Wednesday or Thursday and then I thought I'd post it today, but I haven't really had the time to get it written not have I felt like it.  I am feeling better though; my shoulder still hurts some but not nearly as bad.  Plus, last night I couldn't miss watching "How to Get Away with Murder." However, I will tell you that the three men above play a major part in the post.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Sorry Guys

Yesterday seemed to be the day from hell.  First, my shoulder was still in a lot of pain when I woke up and I had the worst time trying to get dressed. Next, my phone died, and I mean completely died, and I had to go get another one, which took forever.  When I finally got home, and my shoulder and neck pain seemed to not be able to get worse, I had to take out the garbage because of course it's garbage night.  I was then finally able to take some medicine to help with the pain and go to bed.  Therefore, I was not able to write the post I'd planned to write.