Tag: reviews

Jonathan Groff to Critics; He Hates Condoms; Vintage Gay Art

Jonathan Groff to Critics

I posted my thoughts in a review of a review about the new LGBTI show, Looking, last week and most of my readers seemed to agree with me. It’s all subjective, which is important to take into consideration. But in this case what the critics of Looking who call it boring don’t seem to understand is that gay men like me and thousands of others aren’t sitting back anymore while only a handful get to voice their opinions.

In other words, the gay community is highly diverse and those select few in the gay community who have represented us in the past often find themselves being challenged now in ways that wouldn’t have happened ten or twenty years ago. No one challenged Truman Capote because no one ever admitted to being gay back then. In this case, though small when you think about all the issues we still face, it’s with the TV show Looking.

The star of Looking, Jonathan Groff, isn’t sitting back either, and he’s responded to a few comments about Looking that I think are highly significant with respect to many gay men and situations these gay men often find themselves in these days.

“The way that, potentially, this show is moving in the next direction, [is that] while all of the characters are gay, nobody’s sort of grappling with the fact that they’re gay,” he explained. “This show is about a group of gay men where their sexuality is kind of the least of their worries. Their problems are more their work environment or their love relationships or their friendships. Or they’re moving out of town, or you know, it’s about many other things in addition to being gay. Hopefully, its a reflection of where we’re at, which is where being gay is a huge part of who you are but it’s not the definitive thing about who you are.”

I think Looking, in a way, is a lot like Sex in the City, but with gay characters, and without the bad gay stereotypes Hollywood has been cramming down our throats since the beginning of film.

You can read the full article here, where there are vocal excerpts from the interview.

He Hates Condoms

The condom topic always creates highly charged discussion in any forum, but this article is a little different because the author, Matthew Ebert, discloses his HIV poz status in the first line.

I have always struggled with condoms. They remind me of something I hate, my HIV-positive status. My bad, you say? Nope. I just love barebacking. But I will not have anal sex without condoms. Which means I have not had intercourse in 18 years. But recently I met a younger guy who is HIV-negative, and I don’t want to risk transmission, so I decided to start loving the condom and learned to stop dropping those mind bombs that kept me down on the farm.

I can’t tell you how much I love this entire article.

You can read more here. It’s the first thing I think I’ve ever read that not only gets into the reality of condom phobia but also the reality that it doesn’t have to rule your life.

 Vintage Gay Art

During the ten years I owned my art gallery in New Hope I carried a number of newer artists who focused on gay art, but my favorite pieces…and those that usually sold the best…were always vintage. And this next article gets into not only gay vintage art, but magazine art.

In the 1950s, art admirers were hard-pressed to find images of gay male life adorning the walls of major galleries and museums. Instead, the beautiful work of photographers and illustrators like Bob Mizer and Tom of Finland were often exhibited within the pages of gay magazines. Diverse depictions of private male life — particularly erotic life — were thus made available only to the people who knew where to find it.

Knowing where to find it was an important phrase up until recently. For those gay men who were in the closet and had little access to large cities it was almost impossible to find anything even related to gay art.

You can read more here. There are also visual examples.

Photo attribution here.

Court Rules to Unmask Anon Reviewers; Brian Boitano on Coming Out

Court Rules to Unmask Anon Reviewers

When I saw this on social media in several places I figured I’d share because the topic often hits close to home with authors, publishers, and readers. Evidently, seven people gave nasty reviews with fake names on Yelp about a carpet company. The carpet company is challenging the validity of these reviews because they claim the comments made in the reviews were contrived. In order to pursue this legally the carpet company needed real names and Yelp refused to provide them. And now they are all on their way to court, which means this could set a new standard.

That position notwithstanding, the court continued, the right to speak anonymously is not an absolute one: “Defamatory speech is not entitled to constitutional protection.”

You can read more here. I’m bookmarking this one to see how it turns out.

I’ve been predicting things like this would eventually happen because so much of what happens online is so questionable it often takes advantage of freedom of speech as we’ve always known it and puts innocent people at risk. I’ve posted before how companies I’ve had work for me have asked me to leave good reviews for them because their competition left nasty fake reviews with fake names in hopes of hurting their business. And judges are catching on, so I think this is just the beginning of more to come.

I also think authors and publishers will become more litigious. 

Brian Boitano on Coming Out

This is stunning, because it’s so emotional to many gay men who have considered coming out. It seems Brian Boitano’s coming out statement last month was not planned and he only decided to do it moments before it was announced he would be part of the Olympic delegation, at the White House.

 Boitano said his decision to say “being gay is just one part of who I am” in a statement on Dec. 19 “literally came to fruition” moments before the White House announced the makeup of the delegation. 

“I don’t feel that I can represent the country without revealing this incredible side of myself,” Boitano said. “This is an important moment, and to represent my country in Russia, it’s a platform that is so important for me.”

You can read more here.

Review: My Hero by Max Vos

Review: My Hero by Max Vos

I would normally leave this kind of short review on Amazon and Goodreads, but I’m not sure anymore about their guidelines with respect to authors reviewing other authors in their genres. Even though none of my reviews have ever been removed from Amazon, I figured I would post it here on the blog instead of taking that chance. Authors are readers, too. Authors also read other authors within the same genre all time as well. We shop for books and sometimes we like to review them. There’s nothing wrong with that.

I heard about My Hero by Max Vos last week on social media, and I’ve read a few things by this author in the past and I’ve always enjoyed his work. So in full disclosure I did come to this book with a few set expectations. But I was pleasantly surprised in a different way this time.  This book seemed to have even more intimacy than past fiction I’ve read from the author. I love stories were fate seems to play a hidden role, and the clever way the two main characters came to know each other reminded me of past experiences I’ve had. I also like stories with football players who are typical jocks, and yet just a little bit different from the stereotypical jock.

The main characters, Johnny and Rich, meet up again after not seeing each other for a while.  (I also liked the fact that I could pronounce their names, remember their names, and that they had normal names.) Johnny is straight. Rich is gay. And the initial conflict begins when the two men find themselves in a situation that could be detrimental to Johnny’s reputation. Johnny, however, doesn’t seem as intimidated as he should be and comes off looking more interested than he probably should. This is also a quality of the story that I found highly realistic (and erotic) in the sense that these situations happen all the time and no one really knows about it. I’ve been listening to a similar story in real life recently, only with two middle aged men. My point is, without giving out spoilers, that it’s handled well and I could relate to it as a gay man, which I like to do when I’m reading gay fiction.

The book is sexy, and the sex does what it’s supposed to do: move the story forward, and help the characters grow. For me, that’s as plain and simple as good erotica gets. It’s emotional in some parts, and I found myself relating to the characters all over again. It’s a fast read, the character development continues throughout the book, and I found a few amusing/entertaining family situations, too. And it wasn’t as predictable as I thought it would be. I found myself surprised a few times when I least expected it. I would recommend this story without thinking twice, and I’ll most likely go back and read this one again down the line because the characters are already so memorable.

I purchased this book at Amazon. Here’s the link to the Amazon page. I still might leave the review there as a verified purchase eventually. If I do I’ll give it five stars.

New Review "Feedback" Feature on Amazon I Love

I honestly don’t know how to describe this completely, and I only found out about it by accident while reading reviews for scented oils I buy on Amazon for my Lampe Berger last night.

It looks as if Amazon has added another feedback feature to their review system that allows customers to comment on reviews if they don’t agree with them.

In other words, I read this review for a one scented oil that I’ve already purchased. I didn’t agree with it, and I clicked “No,” that it wasn’t helpful. And when I clicked “No” a box popped up with comments that read:

Please tell us why this review is not helpful (optional)

  • Offensive content
  • Not about the product
  • Doesn’t seem genuine
  • Not enough information
  • Other

I tried to find out more about this new feedback feature with a simple search, and couldn’t come up with anything. If anyone knows more about it, or you can provide me with a link, feel free to comment or e-mail me in private. I’m curious about this as a consumer. I’ve purchased a lot on Amazon over the years. Most recently, besides oils for my lampe berger, I purchased fake potted shrubbery and it’s the most realistic fake shrubbery I’ve ever owned. I live on a large expanse of property, most of which is a combination of pachysandra and Ivy and Lawn. I have a lot to do around here to maintain things, plus a full work load, and I do it all alone right now. So anything like fake shrubbery that looks real is a blessing to me. I usually put them in urns. And when I read a negative comment about these fake shrubs I wanted to balance it out with my own comments about how wonderful they are so other consumers are not mislead by one bad review that may or may not be authentic…or may have been written by a lunatic.

Are Gay Male Authors Afraid to Comment/Review Books by Women Writing Gay Fiction?

I saw a comment on social media this past week that suggested gay male authors are afraid to comment on or review gay fiction that is written by female authors. So I thought about it for a while and decided to post something about it.

I can only speak for myself. I am a gay male author writing gay fiction and I don’t like being grouped into anything because as an author I work alone. It’s the same reason why I don’t have beta readers. I make the choices, for better or worse. No one influences me in any way. It will never happen.

First (note: not firstly…this is not up for debate either), my reading tastes are not limited to gay fiction. If you check out the books I’ve reviewed on goodreads (which isn’t even up to date) you’ll see that I read a great deal, and it can be anything from Rita Mae Brown to a spiritual books by Shirley MacClaine. I re-read authors like Toni Morrison often. I have read every single book Anne Tyler has written three times at least because of her tight writing style. I may be many things, but amateur isn’t one of them.

Second, I try to buy and read books I know I’m going to like. I vet before I purchase. I read reviews, I read author blogs, and I read blurbs. I do judge books by their covers sometimes. I know I’m not going to like a book with a woman in the long flowing red dress on the cover, so I don’t buy it. It’s that simple for me sometimes.

Third, on the occasion I do read gay fiction (or m/m romance) I review the book according to how I feel about it. Most of the time the gay fiction I’ve read written by women is good and I can leave a positive review or rating (I don’t always have time to leave in-depth reviews).

But I don’t review a book differently because a man wrote it or a woman wrote it. I don’t care what sex the author is. (I’ve written more than a few hetero novels with pen names and I’m gay.) You can check out my reviews on goodreads for this as well. I have left both good and bad reviews. The reason why I don’t leave more bad reviews is simple. Like I said above, I try to read what I know I’m going to like. And when I do leave a bad review, which I once did for a book written by a woman who writes gay fiction, it was because of the writing, not the sex of the author. In this case the writing was so poor I gave examples about why I left that bad review.

I actually didn’t like leaving that bad review. But it was honest and I wasn’t AFRAID to do it…with my own name. The key word here is afraid.

So this gay male author isn’t afraid to review or comment on books written by women who write gay fiction. I’m not afraid to review or comment about gay fiction written by gay men either. I’ve had my fair share of both good and bad reviews and I’ve never complained about them. And when I’m leaving a review as a reader I don’t expect anyone else to complain about my reviews. And, I’m never afraid to do it.

An Interesting Concept for Reviews in General

I’ve always maintained one single account for the web sites where I review or rate…anything. On Amazon I have one single account, under my own name, Ryan Field, that I’m sure could be traced if it had to be. On Goodreads, it’s the same scenario. Just one GR account, with my real name and identity, not a fake. I do sometimes comment on threads as anon in blog discussions, or with a fake name. But not often, and only when I don’t think it’s important for my identity to be revealed. Sometimes there are reasons to do these things. For example, (I know you’re waiting for a reason) I follow and love one blogger who writes middle grade fiction. I don’t think it’s appropriate for me, due to the subject matter of what I write, to comment on his middle grade thread. I love his work, and yet he doesn’t even know who I am.

To make this point even clearer, right now I’m using a pen name for a book that’s been difficult to write. The publisher asked me to use the pen name; it wasn’t my choice. I’m not fond of doing this, I don’t like doing this, and I’ve basically done nothing to promote that book. I’ve tried to get into it. I’ve tried to promote the book and the pen name. But it’s not working. At this point in my career, I don’t think it’s worth risking my own real identity for the sake of a pen name that means nothing to me. And once the next book is finished, that’s the last book the series will ever see with me attached to it. And if this doesn’t prove how strongly I feel about my identity, nothing ever will.

To reiterate: I only have one account on each review site with my own name. If necessary, these accounts could be traced back to me. This way I know what I wrote, when I wrote it, and I can be held accountable for everything I’ve put into writing. I do this for various personal reasons and I feel very strongly about these reasons. I learned years ago I have nothing to hide, and if I’m going to put something in writing I don’t mind being held accountable for it. I’m also well past the days of meltdown when it comes to getting bad reviews, so THAT can be scratched off the list. My meltdown days ended about four years ago. I don’t really care if my name comes up in comment threads either. If you don’t think so, ask me and watch me smile.

One account and identity is what most people do, I believe. I know this is what my mom does with her Amazon account, and it’s what my good friends do. The one thing I’ve always had a problem with is leaving bad reviews. I prefer to leave good reviews for books I like instead of focusing on bad reviews with books I didn’t like. And I don’t like to attack other authors, just like doctors don’t like to attack other doctors and teachers don’t like to attack other teachers. For me it’s more about solidarity and collaboration. And just because I don’t like something doesn’t mean it’s not good. So I will admit that’s my review flaw. But that’s not going to change. Some things are just too subjective to be objective.

I actually stopped all google alerts in April of 2009 and rarely ever read my own reviews because I don’t think it’s a place where I should go. When people review my books they should have the ability to go there without me looking over their shoulders or getting involved in their discussions about my books. I don’t belong there. In fact, I don’t even like it when I see publishers leave ratings and reviews for books. I respect all opinions, good or bad. I’ve also learned…and posted about here before…that not all bad reviews hurt authors and books. Sometimes they help. I’ve also posted many times before that I’ve found some of the books I’ve loved the most from reading bad reviews. That’s how I found “Fifty Shades of Grey,” through a bad review, long before it went mainstream.

I think it’s important (for me) to stand behind my name and my identity and to enforce how strongly I feel about using my own name and identity in case anything questionable ever does crop up. Others may disagree with me and that’s fine.

But there is one thing I’d love to see added to review sites with everyone’s profile, including mine. I understand that some people have to use pen names for various reasons and I don’t see anything wrong with that. But I’d like to know just how many pen names and accounts they actually have from the same IP address. Now that would be interesting, if not entertaining. Because if the number of accounts started to appear on everyone’s profile and it turned out that some had multiple identities, I’m not sure what I would think. I might not think twice if I saw someone had two or three fake names and identities. That’s plausible, I guess. But what about if they had five, six, seven, or more fake names. Like I said, I understand the need for pen names. But I’m not so sure I understand the need for multiple identities, with an extended number.

Unfortunately, this will never happen…at least not in my lifetime. But it is very entertaining to think about it. I’m also sure that some who read this post will still question who I am and if this really is my real name and identity. It seems no matter how hard I try to get the point across there are always some who are so jaded by Internet deception they won’t believe me. That’s unfortunate. Because I might just show up, in the flesh, in person, someplace high profile when I’m least expected. Maybe I can get my buddy Ryan to come with me because he’s experienced similar things and he’s not even an author. RWA might be a great place to start.

Do You Ever Read a Book You KNOW You Won’t Like?

The title of this post sounds ridiculous at a glance. Seriously, who on earth would buy and read a book they know they aren’t going to like? For that matter, who on earth would even read a free book or a discounted book they know they aren’t going to like?

And we all know, for the most part, whether we’re going to like a book or not. Of course there are cases where it’s not always easy to tell and we wind up disappointed in something we thought would be better. It’s happened to me. But usually the cover, the blurb, and the excerpt help us decide on whether or not a book is for us. If that fails, the reader reviews usually help make the final decision.

For example, I know I would never read a romance novel with a cover that had a woman with a flowing gown, a trite tag line that might do well in David Letterman’s top ten list, and exaggerated font with curls at the end of each word (I wouldn’t even have one visible in my home for guests to see). Even if I thought I might like a romance novel with a woman in a flowing gown, I would read the blurb and the excerpt just to be sure. Nine times out of ten the excerpt makes the decision for me. In books like this I usually see too many adverbs and said bookisms. And when I see more than one said bookism or adverb on the first page, that’s the dealbreaker for me.

Now that’s just my own personal taste. I prefer fiction that’s tightly written, and practices word economy. I think this can be done in romance, and it can be done well. I’ve seen it done well. But the point of this post is that I wouldn’t read the book with the woman in the gown, not even for free. I’m sure many would disagree. But it’s just my own personal, subjective taste.

And yet I’ve seen something interesting happening in a few places on the Internet. I just don’t get it. A book reviewer on a review site will read the first book in a series and hate it. They not only hate it, they roast the book, the author, and the publisher. And, it’s usually done in that forced quasi snark way (I’m a bitch, oh yeah, that’s me, funny-funny, slap-your-knee, haha, deal with it), with a mom and pop tone, that’s almost funny but in this case would never make it to David Letterman’s top ten list.

Of course there’s nothing wrong with giving a bad review. I truly, deeply believe everyone has the right to review and express opinions about a book…or anything on the Internet, without question. I’ve left my own bad reviews that range from opinions about books to clothing I’ve purchased. But when the same book reviewer reads the second book, and then the third book in a series where she already HATED the first book, I have to wonder what the mind-set behind this is. What is motivating her to read something she clearly knows she will hate?

In other words, if you hated the first book in the series so much, the odds state you’re not going to fall in love with the second book. The odds are the people who read the first review about the first book will not take a chance on buying the second book in the series either. The job has been done, so to speak. I would simply move on to a book that I KNOW I’m going to love…or at least a book I think I might like based on the information given to me. Life’s too short to waste time doing things I KNOW I’m not going to like.

Maybe I’m missing something here. Maybe people who do things like this are such good, honest, decent, ethical people they want to give the second and third book in the series another chance. Maybe they are hoping they will love it so much they will be able to write a wonderful, positive review without the fake mom and pop snark and forced comedy that is beginning to get really tired on the Internet. Or maybe they just do it because all the world does love a clown…even a BAD clown. It’s been said, and I paraphrase this from the old song, “Be a Clown,” that if you can quack like a fucking duck the checks will keep coming.