Friday, February 17, 2012

Of Such Small Differences

Of Such Small Differences
by Joanne Greenberg


This is an amazing book, but the author who wrote I Never Promised You a Rose Garden. It's a love story about a deafblind young man named John, and an able-bodied woman named Leda. John was born blind, and became deaf as a child. He can speak and use ASL but communicates primarily through fingerspelling. He lives on his own, and works in sheltered workshop, where he meets Leda, an aspiring actress who works as a van driver.

Greenberg had extensive contact with the Deaf and deafblind communities, through her husband, a social worker, and her experience lends authenticity and realism to the story. This is not a romance, but a realistic, deeply affecting, poetic novel. The entire novel is narrated entirely from John's point of view, a stunning accomplishment. He's also a poet, and the poetic descriptions of how he encounters the world are amazing. But it also means that we as readers get as bewildering and incomplete a view of the world as he does. The experience of reading an entire book narrated this way gives a tiny glimpse of how difficult it is for him, and as a result the reading experience is sometimes exhausting.

The book was originally published in 1989, and it is quite dated, actually it seemed like it was set in the 70s. Leda is a self-absorbed hippie, as are her flaky actor friends. John was educated in residential schools, and the book reveals the abuses possible in those schools, and the deep scars institutionalization leaves on his psyche. Greenberg makes many sharp observations about disability, the cultures among disabled people, and of the social workers, interpreters, and volunteers who help them.

John is a fascinating, resilient character, but so many bad things happen to him, it's a bit upsetting. His family is nightmarish. But what really bothered me the most was Leda. She's so selfish and thoughtless, I just wanted to smack her. Still, the dev factor was really high for me, and I highly recommend the book.

Sadly, it's been out of print for a long time, but there are used copies floating around. It's definitely worth searching out. Watch out though, for some reason all the reviews on Amazon spoil the entire plot.

A Hearing Heart

A Hearing Heart
by Bonnie Dee


Western romance. Set in turn of the century Nebraska. Catherine leaves her wealthy family in upstate New York for the tiny town of Broughton as a schoolteacher, looking to start her life over after the death of her fiance. Jim, who was born deaf, works in the livery and saloon. One day, Catherine witnesses some drunk men abusing Jim and rescues him. In helping him to recover, she discovers that he is not simple-minded as she has been told, but merely unable to speak or write. She decides to tutor him, and love quickly blossoms between them. But they are constrained by the gap in the social status between them and the disapproval of the town. Things in Broughton are not so peaceful either, with the wealthiest man in town buying up all the land, and Jim can't avoid crossing paths with him.

As romances go, this was a pretty good one. Jim and Catherine are both appealing characters, and the obstacles they face are realistic. After a glut of romances with asshole heroes, it was so nice to find one with a hero as sweet and kind as Jim. The writing is a bit flat at the beginning, but it picks up as the book goes along, and there are some very touching love scenes.

The depiction of his deafness is also pretty good. Catherine starts out trying to teach him to speak, but he doesn't make much progress, so she quickly switches to sign language, which they learn together out of a book. The only thing that was unrealistic was that Jim learned to read lips on his own as a child, with encouragement from his mother. Sorry, that's just not possible, but it does serve to make Jim a more independent, competent character. In any case, lip reading is depicted as not perfect, and there's still a lot he misses, which is more realistic.

Also note this is more erotica than romance. There are a lot of very explicit sex scenes, much more than in a standard romance.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Blind Passion / The Sculptor's Muse

Two e-books this time, both blind guy male-male erotica with supernatural elements.

Blind Passion
by Penny Brandon


Steamy, explicit homoerotica set in Australia. Adam is an elementary school teacher, blind since birth. Luke is a bit of rough trade who is assigned to be Adam's reader as community service following a crime he committed. Sparks fly immediately, but even though Adam is assured and competent in his everyday life, he's never been with a guy before. Luke has never had a problem picking up guys, but he can tell Adam wants more than just sex and he thinks Adam will hate him once he knows the truth about his criminal past.

Adam is an appealing character, and I really liked how well adjusted and confident he is. However, he also has a supernatural ability that partially compensates for his blindness: when he has a strong emotional connection with someone, he can see whatever images the other person imagines. Normally I really hate this kind of thing, because it's just an excuse for an author who doesn't know or want to write honestly about blindness. Here, it doesn't so much stand in for normal vision as serve to heighten the bond between Adam and Luke. It was more an annoyance than outright hateful.

The balance between sex scenes and character development is pretty good, although heavier on the sex than the plot, which is slight. Still, an enjoyable read, with some good devo moments.

The Sculptor's Muse
by Emily Veinglory


Karl is a rising star in the London art scene when he suddenly goes blind due to a disease. Clarius is his muse, a disembodied spirit charged with inspiring his art. But with his new blind-guy nonvisual senses, Karl notices Clarius, who breaks the heavenly rules by taking physical form and becoming his lover. What could possibly go wrong? Oh yeah, and Karl also has a murderous ex-lover stalking him.

I found the devo factor on this one relatively low. The focus throughout the story is on Clarius, not Karl. His illness is never even named or described, just one example of lazy writing. While the premise is quite original, the secondary characters are all stereotypes, and even the two main characters seemed rather flat.

Both these books are extremely sexually explicit, so be warned.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

In a Soldier's Arms

In a Soldier's Arms (Harlequin American Romance)

By Marin Thomas


Is book is okay but I felt a bit cheated at the focus of the story didn't feel like it was on the romance but rather that was incidental.

It is about a nurse whose mother died and her estranged grandmother writes to her to say she has some of her effects. We then follow Maggie's journey of discover her roots which her mother had told her very little about. So there is her relationship with her gran, her Gran's neighbours, her Gran's patients, the clan and them her relationship with the hero of the piece, who is suffering from PTSS and has lost his leg in battle.

He is far more interesting than the Maggie's character but I felt that he was kept at a distance through the story. Also it ended too suddenly for me. I like the romance books that have a final chapter where the romance issues have been resolved and we get an insight as to how they will be together.

The sex scenes were okay but not to many of them because they weren't together enough. They were explicit but in a poetic way.

It was a good read but just didn't hit the spot. We needed more Abram and less Maggie.

Abram is very insecure about his injury and it does border on annoying and doesn't ring true as he is so self possessed in all areas in his life except for his body image.