Curve Ball by Charlotte Stein

A couple sits on a boat. She smiles at the viewer and is wearing a pretty sundress. He's shirtless and wearing sunglasses and smiling at her.This is a short little novella so there’s not a ton to discuss. It’s a girl-carries-a-flame-for-her-older-brother’s-friend story featuring a curvy heroine and a muscular hero, but the story is almost inconsequential. The beauty of this book is in the telling.

It’s told in first-person present tense from the heroine’s point of view, which I typically loathe. Stein, however puts on a clinic for How It Should Be Done. The heroine’s personality is front and center, pouring from the little asides and stream of consciousness. You feel all of her emotions along with her as she puzzles them out with the reader. Occasionally she breaks out in Pratchett-like lists, at one point making me break out in hysterical laughter in the middle of some seriously hot sexual tension:

c) There is something pressing into the small of my back, and I’m pretty sure it isn’t a tube of Rolos. And if it is, he really needs to tell me where he bought such an enormous packet.
I love Rolos.

If this were an HFN rather than an HEA, I’d give it five stars. The emotion and passion was just completely awesome and the narration was pitch-fucking-perfect. I just thought the ILYs at the end felt rushed and unnecessary. B+

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I will add a caveat or a content note to this, as it deals with fat in a way that some people might find problematic.

Early in the story, Steven, the hero, tells a story using a lot of fat-phobic and fat-shaming language:

‘So I picked up this cute little fat chick,’

‘And I mean, she was a big girl. I could hardly get my arms around her waist.’

‘And her arse … Man, her arse was the size of a small planet.’
‘But the best part was these thighs she had … These big, billowing thighs.’
‘It was like an avalanche of flesh, on top of me. At one point, I was genuinely afraid for my life – one false move and I could have been crushed.’

‘But then it turned out that she was a total maniac who liked to eat paint. Thank God she was heavy … I didn’t have to run all that fast to get away from her.’

The heroine, being fat (“Anything over a size two would likely make the grade, in his eyes, and I passed that stage around 12 levels ago. You could times his ideal size by seven and still not get where I’m at.”), naturally takes offense at his language and blows up, effectively telling him to go fuck himself. Now, he’s immediately sorry he’s hurt her feelings, and I think a later conversation gives his comments some context that make them more about the girl he’s disparaging than a dig at fatness, but YMMV.

I liked how body image was used in the story, for the most part. I thought Judy was insecure about her body without ever drifting into self-loathing. She frequently frets about Steven’s opinion of her body, but seems to also view his potential rejection as his own damn problem, and not a measure of her self-worth. The story also seems to avoid the common “a man loves your body, therefore you’re lovable” pitfall I often see in fat romance. It does a good job of showing that Steven’s attracted to Judy in particular, and that’s the source of his affinity for a curvy woman (‘I really like curvy girls.’ He pauses, right before the kicker. Then he delivers it, with all the punch he can muster. ‘Probably because of you.’)

I am, as many of you know, skinny as a toothpick, and really haven’t got any experience with “extra” weight, so if you read this differently, I’m all ears.

~18,000 words
Published January 21st 2013 by Xcite Books

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RISE FROM YOUR GRAVE

I LIVE!

It’s been a very strange, extremely trying few months, but I think I’m ready to hop back in the saddle and ride. My husband is one of the sorts of people who reads in times of stress to relax, but I need to be relaxed to read. Picking up a book when my wits are scrambled results in re-reading a single paragraph for an hour before I realize I’m not getting anywhere. Reading when I’m out of charity with the world makes every misused homonym, tired cliche and authorial shortcut into a table-pounding WHY DON’T WE HAVE ANY FUCKING STANDARDS ANYMORE tirade, and that’s no fun either. So for the first third of this year I’ve been playing games and just zoning the fuck out and ignoring shit. (For anyone curious about the games, they were the indie games Terraria and Towns. Both were a ton of sandbox fun.)

Anyways. Sonomalass has a great idea in a recent post on her blog:

So here’s what I’m going to try. Below I have listed the books that I plan to read, or have recently read and plan to review, in the next few months. If one or more of those titles is one you’re interested in reading and talking about, leave a comment to that effect. (I’m likely to prioritize those books, to be honest.) When I post my reactions, I will tag the tweet with “#onthesamepage.” I’ll do my best to let you know that I have posted, so that you can come comment, and we can have a discussion.

Like her, I also feel out of step with the review blog zeitgeist. I not only don’t have any of the books people are talking about, I don’t want to have them. Rather than have another table-pounding, Record Store Clerk Taste® moment, creating our own group experience sounds like a lot of fun. I don’t own any of the books on her list, but I could see my way towards buying the Grant, Lin or Morgan books if lots of other people are reading them. When your TBR is at 225, what’s a few more, right?

Working off what I do already own, here’s what I’m looking to read soon:

  • Innocent Hearts by Radlclyffe – Lesbian romance set in 1860s Montana. I’m a sucker for westerns, and I’m always looking for f/f or lesbian romance. 
  • True by Erin McCarthy – A New Adult novel about a privileged, virgin heroine and the working-class, “bad boy” hero her friends pay to sleep with her. I don’t expect to like it, but I want to talk about it for the DA book club. 
  • The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold – A fantasy novel I grabbed in a sale on everyone’s recommendation.  
  • The Theory of Attraction by Delphine Dryden – Sure, it’s another maledom BDSM ero rom, but no one’s a billionaire and the hero seems to be on the Autism spectrum. 
  • Outlaw in Paradise by Patricia Gaffney – Gunslinger hero, saloon-owning heroine. Hello gorgeous. Where you been all my life?  
  • Something Like Normal by Trish Doller – New Adult novel from the POV of a young man back from serving Afghanistan. I’ve heard only good things.  
  • The Wedding Fling by Meg Maguire – I keep hoping every new Maguire book is the one where she plots as good as she writes.  

What do you think? Anyone want to read these too?