This review is going to be disjointed because my notes are long and all over the place and I’m too lazy to make everything all orderly.
The story is excellent, the mystery quite good and would almost stand alone, the pacing and the rest of the plot also very good, and there’s a lot of mortal danger, mayhem, action, drama, and intense declarations of love. Yummy.
The best part is the characters. There are many different characters and each one is a clear individual that I can picture. There are strong women in addition to the men and there are different ethnicities, not just Korean and white American. Jae drives me crazy but I love him and Cole together and by the end of the book, I loved him, too.Good things
The opening line is hilarious:
I knew she was trouble as soon as she walked through my door.
Those of you who have read or know Sam Spade, will probably find amusing the fact that this was said about a little girl seeing a dognapped puppy.
It continues (after she’s listed the things she has to offer):
Not bad for a nine year old with a net worth of three dollars and fifty-one cents. I admired her bravado. Then I dialed her mother to come pick her up. I took the case. For the cost of the chocolate bar. I gave Ava back the pig and unicorn. It seemed like the right thing to do at the time. Now, in the middle of a warm Los Angeles night and being herded by the savage growls behind me, I was beginning to think I should have held onto the unicorn.
I LOVE this paragraph:
People who raise dogs to fight should be shot. Men who steal a little girl’s dog to bait a fighting dog should die the slowest, most torturous death possible. Their skin should be separated from their flesh with an air hose through minute slits and then have water from the Salton Sea injected slowly into the cavities while someone rips off strips of duct tape from their balls. But that’s just off the top of my head. I was sure I could come up with something more concrete if given a little time.
The sex scenes were both beautiful and hot.
Even if most of the boys in blue weren’t too happy about us waving the rainbow flag, we were still their brothers. Okay, Bobby was still their brother. I was that second cousin once removed everyone had to invite to the wedding or else there’d be talk.
“Can I bring my girlfriend?” Wong teased. “You know, so you don’t get any ideas that it’s a date.”
“Sure, so long as I can bring Jae. You know, so you don’t get any ideas that you actually have a chance with me,” I countered.
This cracked me up because I’ve so done this:
I chewed on the end of my pen, then pulled it out of my mouth as if Claudia was next to me admonishing me not to get ink on my lip.
Seriously, once in the middle of a meeting someone stopped to point out that I had ink all over my face.
I closed the door behind my laughing brother and headed back into the living room to soak in more of the Pastafarian Ouija board I’d created.
If you know what a Pastafarian
is, I’m pretty sure you’ll find that sentence as hilarious as I do.
One great character has prosthetic legs.
Cole is an ass about his Japanese brother. Cole hates him even though being alive isn’t his fault. The reason I love this, despite my frustration and annoyance with Cole, was that it’s realistic and shows that Cole has both his good and bad sides. It also provides a way for us to see how Cole processes information and an opportunity for growth.
A teenage boy is left to his own devices at a computer for an hour, and later the adults find pictures of naked women on it. Completely realistic and totally funny.
This is a pretty big spoiler but it happens about midway through the book:
Jae tells Cole he can’t see him anymore.
“So this is it? Between us?” This time I refused to be shoved aside by his anger and pain. I wrapped my arms around him and held him as close as I could. My heart broke with every straining push he gave me to get away. “Jae, I can’t lose you. Not like this. Not over something like this.” “You’re not losing me. Maybe. I don’t know. I need time to… I don’t know what I need, but right now, it is not you.” He took a small step back, putting a bit of distance between us. It was the length of a knife, and the space thrust into me, cutting at my guts and severing a burning line through my heart.
I was practically sobbing at this point.
But this was the clincher that made me fall in love with Cole:
In that moment, I knew what love was. It was walking away from the man in front of me. It was turning my back on the man I’d made cry out my name and beg for more of me inside of him. I needed to turn away because he asked it of me. Whether I wanted to or not, because I loved him, I was supposed to step back into the shadows and fade from his view. “If that’s what you need, baby. I’ll give you anything you need.”
I have always said that this is what someone would do if they truly loved the other person. They wouldn’t stalk them, they wouldn’t push and push and push. The only other time I’ve seen this, though, was in a Tim McGraw song:
When you said time was all you really needed
I walked away and let you have your space
'Cause leavin' didn't hurt me near as badly
As the tears I saw rollin' down your face
You know, the whole “if you love it/him/her, set it free. If it/she/he comes back, it/she/he was yours and if not, he/she/it was never yours in the first place”? That so rarely happens in books. Not so much:
Cole frequently refers to his nerve-seizing scar tissue. This is confusing to me as the scar I have after major surgery has no feeling at all nor does most of the skin around it.
dont understand .my nerves are gone
Then there are sections that are a bit overwrought:
It was still pitch black outside, but the liquid stink of a Los Angeles morning was already rising up from the streets. A rotary cleaner chugged past us, spurting out lukewarm suds to wash oil and soot from the road. The foam slunk down to the curbside, a frothy curl of dirt and black specks.
I’ve gotten really sick of the whole Korean family thing. I get that a man’s identity is wrapped up in his family but that’s not the only culture that thinks that way. And frankly, losing your family whether it’s your identity or not is damn hard. It happened to Cole and he thinks he’s selfish for wanting Jae to come out.
The rejection is extremely difficult to overcome. Why else would so many gay teens commit suicide? It’s the rejection by their peers and often perception that they’ll be rejected by their family. Different sources site that gay teens are anywhere from 3 to 5 times more likely to commit suicide than heterosexual teens. There are also numerous sources that have done research that concludes that gay men and lesbian adults are also significantly more likely to commit suicide than heterosexual adults. I don’t believe those are all Korean. That means that gay people in general are sad and alone, the general consensus being that rejection from society and family are by far the biggest factor. I think Jae and Cole need to get over their narrow definition of family. It would be simpler coming out, not always hiding. Maybe you’d be equally miserable. But if you’re going to be miserable, why not be miserable with the love of your life and happy in your own home rather than alone and rejected at family gatherings?
He also knew, once he came out of the closet, he would have no one left… no one but me, and he wasn’t quite ready to trust that I’d be with him to the end of time.
In this book in particular, but all through the series, more and more extended Korean family members turn out to be gay. He’d still have family left and if he and Cole didn’t last, he’d find a new man to love. He lives in the US, not Korea.
On top of that: (large spoiler)there’s a Korean character in the book who fakes
being gay because it’s good for business because all the Korean women trust him! That scene right there completely contradicts everything else.
Cole sees a really hot guy that is his type but has no reaction at all, the man does nothing for him. Yeah right. Cole is a red-blooded gay American male. He would still see the guy was hot despite having no interest in him.
There are way too many metaphors.
The family tree is so complicated that in second book I had to draw a diagram. In this one, it was so complicated, I couldn’t. While a complex family tree is good, and I loved it in the other book, this was too much for the story. I would have liked a diagram in the back of the book or something.
There are several references to Jae being the sole financial support of his mother even though she already doesn’t like him. He has no money as he’s an artist. How is he supporting himself and a family back in Korea? This is given as a reason why he can’t come out. Well why can’t he still send her money? It’s her own fault if she rejects the money, not his. I don’t know why he’s sending it to her in the first place since she’s so awful.
Jae brings Cole a lot of places and I think it’s a little strange that no one suspects that they’re lovers.
This comment bugged me:
I didn’t have a chance to get her to love me. Isn’t that what all mothers want?
It is implied that this is the most important thing. It would be nice, but that’s not the primary thing a good mother cares about. Good moms want their kids to be happy. And I’m speaking as a mother whose daughter’s mental health issues mean that she’s incapable of experiencing love like the rest of us do and doesn’t usually even indicated that she cares a whole lot. I’m not a mother so that I can have someone love me.
Another part that I didn’t like because I thought it was forced was that (mild spoiler) Cole’s brother is a tattoo artist and disapproved of by his family because of it. This is common ground where Cole believes the man understands what it’s like to be shunned by your family because of something you have genetically been since birth. It’s not the same thing at all but thanks for playing.
Cole is kind of rude sometimes, disapproving of “hipsters” and “granola” people. While it’s realistic for him to be a jerk sometimes, bigotry is never cool and I don’t like it. There are groups of people who choose stuff I don’t like but as long as it isn’t harming anyone else, it’s not my place to judge.
Jae keeps being described as pale. Light, maybe, but not pale like Irish pale and Cole supposedly takes after his Irish mother. (Truly, I don’t know if there is a culture more pale than those in the UK.) It also bothers me like him being lighter is somehow more attractive which feels racist to me.
Descriptions sometimes got repetitive.
My reaction to:
I loved seeing him… feeling him stripped free of the shroud he wore around his soul. When we were alone, I could see the angel wings the world clipped short so he couldn’t fly. In those moments, I felt him soar… and finally reach out to touch the sky. With his body around mine and (a bit graphic) my mouth on his shaft, I felt like I was drinking heaven dry.
was “Good Lord, enough already.”
There’s a bit of that being able to see something that wasn’t possible to see from that person’s perspective, like Cole once sees a collarbone when he couldn’t have, sees Jae’s belly button and eyes when Jae’s back is to him.
One of my biggest peeves: frequent multiple male orgasms. I know it happens on occasion with young guys but not every single time they have sex and three per session is really pushing my suspension of disbelief.
Cole’s allergic to the cat who sleeps in bed with him, yet never he only mentions it once in passing, he doesn’t get stuffy, or need antihistamine. Animal allergies usually result in horribly goopy eyes, a clogged nose, sneezing, and in general feeling like there’s cotton in your head and your insides are pouring out of your eyes.
A character used the old coffee & cold shower cure for a hangover. It’s been scientifically proven to not work and it drives me crazy to see this.
There’s a sort of cliffhanger at the end, probably a teaser we’ll find out about in the next book, but there’s one line that I’m not sure is a clue or just someone saying something cruel: (minor spoiler)
His ex-partner’s wife (the partner that shot him) says she hates Cole because,
You probably got him sick and that’s why he killed himself. Because you gave him some faggot disease he couldn’t live with.”
What do you think? Hint or just homophobic speculation?