Take My Picture

415767Title: Take My Picture
Author: Giselle Ellis
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Buy link: Amazon.com
Genre: Contemporary M/M
Length: Novella (37K words)
Rating: 5+ stars out of 5; DIK

A guest review by Leslie



THE BLURB

Aaron has no idea what he’s walking into when he shows up to pose for a famous—and famously bad-tempered—photographer. He certainly doesn’t expect to end up working as Jake’s assistant for five frustrating, thrilling, and crazy years instead of in front of the camera.

It all works until Jake realizes Aaron has become the focus of his life, a life that’s threatened when Aaron actually leaves him to start a relationship with someone else. Though it breaks his heart, Jake realizes he has to set his beloved muse free to have any chance of winning Aaron back.

Reprint: This short story was originally published in the Dreamspinner Press anthology Size Still Matters.

THE REVIEW

Thank you, Wave, for giving me this book to read and review. I will be forever grateful. It will be on my Top Ten List for 2010, of that I am sure. I can’t imagine reading ten better books in the next nine months. It may be on my lifetime Top Ten List, right up there with Almost Like Being in Love and Watership Down. Yes, I loved it that much.

Once again, it is a book where the blurb does not do it justice. After reading a string of mediocre-to-lousy books, I wasn’t expecting much when I cracked this one open. Three hours later, I was an emotional wreck, crying from happiness at the perfect ending, crying from unhappiness that the story was over, and howling in frustration because it appears that this is the only book that Giselle Ellis has had published. I note that this had previously been included in an anthology published in 2007. I am hoping that Dreamspinner has re-released this in anticipation of another book to be published by this author—or maybe to inspire her to pick up her pen again.

Anyway, to the story at hand. Aaron and Jacob (Jake) are two men who are so achingly, heart-breakingly in love that it almost hurts to read about it. Everyone around them knows it, but neither of them can admit it because they are desperately afraid of losing each other. Isn’t it better to be friends who are together than to be lovers who might drive each other apart? But the passion that is between them cannot be denied and after five years, things are reaching a boiling point, even though they don’t realize it.

Jake is a photographer and Aaron’s his assistant, but in name only. Actually, he’s a potter and the two of them work together in Jake’s large and airy studio on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. They are both talented and creative and a little bit insane, talking in a wild Aaron/Jake-speak (or Flip/Moz-speak, their nicknames for each other) that the author captured so well, I could hear them as if they were standing in the room with me. I desperately wished I could meet them but I know if I did/could I wouldn’t meet the characters on the page, because they existed in their own world, communicating in a private and secret way. At one point their connection was described like this by their friend, Alyson:

Neither one was paying the slightest bit of attention to the other, but Alyson was certain she could see a string of nearly invisible light connecting them. She stared at them and thought that if she had a pair of those giant novelty scissors they used to cut red ribbons at the openings of new businesses, she could walk over and sever that connection with one snap of her shears and Jake and Aaron would crash to the floor like puppets shorn of their strings. Both would falter and fall without that rope of support holding them up.

And in a way, that’s exactly what happens. Alyson doesn’t cut the string, Aaron does, and not intentionally, but the damage is done nonetheless. At one point, in anger, Aaron takes a baseball bat and smashes one of his pots into smithereens and it’s an apt metaphor for what faces them as friends—picking up the pieces of their shattered lives and attempting to put it all back together.

I sobbed through the middle third of the book but rest assured, the payoff is worth it. I wouldn’t give a DIK designation to a book that left me crying at the end for the wrong reasons. Getting to that point, however, is an emotional rollercoaster but hey, isn’t that what makes a book completely unforgettable? And re-readable?

The writing is fresh, funny, and insightful. At 37K words, this is a short novella. I wished it could be longer because I wanted more story, but it really is the perfect length. Every word worked. There wasn’t any extra padding or gratuitous sex scenes. It was right where it needed to be, just like Jake and Aaron were right where they needed to be, especially at the end.

I don’t read many books that I picture as a movie, but with Take My Picture, I did. It would be terrific on film with its Manhattan locales and the charismatic (and gorgeous!) characters of Jake and Aaron. In the hands of someone like Ang Lee? Hmm….In fact, this story brought to mind the old John Cusack film, Say Anything (I am probably dating myself here!). Read this story and tell me if you don’t think of Lloyd Dobler, his boombox, and the song, In Your Eyes by Peter Gabriel.

When I’ve read a really good book, I often have an emotional letdown afterwards—sort of an irrational feeling that I’ll never read another book quite as good—I’ve just experienced the best it will ever be. It’s not true, of course, because I do go on and find other great books, but in the immediate aftermath, I am left with a sense of melancholy. With Take My Picture, it lasted for two days, which is a measure of just how much it affected me.

Buy this book. Read it. And Giselle Ellis, if you are somewhere out there in the world, write another book, please? I want to know what Flip and Moz are up to. I need them in my life.

40 comments

  • Hi Leslie, I read this book a few weeks ago and wanted to check out if there was a review here. To say that I cried would be an understatement – I had a box of tissues on my nightstand and a trashcan right beside my bed. I’m sure that I’m going to be reading this book again, but not anytime soon because I’m still in a state of emotional turmoil because of this.

    Also, I sent an email to DSP and politely asked them to forward it to Giselle Ellis’s email, since there wasn’t any given contact info in her bio. They did forward it but so far no response. I do hope she’s still writing…

    • Hi Beatrice (and Patricia and Becky), Thanks for checking in about this book. This is a good reminder to go read it again. LOL. I love this now as much as I did 18 months. As for Giselle Ellis, I did hear somewhere that she’s writing fanfic, but that’s about it. I would so love to read more about Aaron and Jake…sigh…

      L

  • The best book I have read to date. Jake and Aaron are great, I just love them, I wanted to be their friend and I wanted to help them through their pain, I wanted to sit with Jake at the bench and look at Aaron and I wanted to go into the apartment hug Aaron and beg him go down and tell Jake how he felt.
    And the love between them, OMG!! This is the type of love we all aspire but know we will never find.

    Thanks Giselle for allowing the rest of us to read such a masterpiece!!

  • I don’t normally seek out reviews AFTER i have read a book but I just wanted to know that others loved it as much as I did and I see that they do!

    Please tell me she has written more!

  • I finally got a chance to read Take My Picture last night…and OMG! It SO did not disappoint. It is absolutely worth the 5+ DIK rating. Awesome dialogue, and SO worth the few tissues lol! It really was a great love story and I am going to read it again and again and again. This book is absolutely going into my RE-READ file. *sigh* I seriously can’t gush enough about this book…..awesome is about the only word that works. It has left me wanting more from Giselle Ellis.

  • Leslie
    I read this book last night and it’s just as good as you said it would be. I LOVED it. The writing is fresh and the characters really got to me.
    I checked with DSP – the author doesn’t have a website.

    • Glad to hear you loved it, Wave! I hope Giselle Ellis is inspired to write another book. I would definitely like to read more from this author.

      L

  • I loved this it was just brilliant writing. Never have I read dialogue like this. I wish I could find the author’s site or email to let her know how great this book is. I would read anything by her now!!!!

    • Hi Arlene…I agree about the dialog. I have so many lines running through my head. I’d quote them but they probably wouldn’t be funny or make sense out of context so I’ll just leave it for everyone here to discover on their own.

      So glad you enjoyed the book.

      L

  • yes. seldom do i get the emotion w/o overwroughtness and dishrag men. but this was an awesome little dish of a story.
    -kkm

    • Yes, isn’t it a lovely story? So glad to hear you enjoyed it. I woke up this morning thinking about Jake and Aaron. I haven’t had that happen for a *long* time.

      L

    • Yes, Winn, a DIK. Wave sent me a review copy but I actually have bought the book so I can keep it in my Amazon archive and be able to put it on my iPhone, PC, and (God help me if I breakdown and buy one) iPad. I know, I am so pathetic. Gotta be ready for the island. LOL!

      L

  • This is in my TBR file…and it now moves to my READ RIGHT NOW file…thanks for the great review, I can’t wait to read it!

    • Like I said to the others, Elaine, I think you are in for a treat. Enjoy and report back and let us know what you think.

      L

      • I got this book late this morning after reading your review and have spent the last couple of hours reading it and WOW. It has left such a smile on my face it really is a perfect book. I’m in awe how in such a short story the author is able to make you feel so much for these characters. And make them feel so much.
        It joins Zero at the Bone and Shades of Gray as my favortite MM books even though it is nothing like the other 2 and has a totally different feel. I wish the author had other works out there, she is a brilliant writer. Thanks so much for this review, I would never have ordered this book based on the blurb and I would have missed out on a treasure.

        • Oh Melissa, thanks for your comment. I am so glad you loved the book! Giving a 5+ star review is a little nerve wracking–more nerve wracking than a bad review, actually, because I am asking you to trust me and spend your money. But I wrote what I believe and I think it is a worthwhile investment. So glad to hear you agree!

          L

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