I love the cover for The White City (December 31, 2010). This was the first of the three stories in the New Amsterdam series that I purchased becauseI love the cover for The White City (December 31, 2010). This was the first of the three stories in the New Amsterdam series that I purchased because it called to me. I read the series in chronological order of events and read this book after I finished New Amsterdam. The series really flows better that way in my opinion.
The White City is set in Moscow and believe me the setting is gorgeous! After the events that chased Sebastien and his court from New Amsterdam and the terrible loss experienced in Paris, he decides to move on to Moscow to bring an old acquaintance some sad news. Instead what he finds when he arrives at Irina Stephanova's studio is a murder. Soon, Sebastien, Abby Irene and Phoebe are embroiled in a crime investigation. But quickly Sebastien realizes that this murder is somehow connected to another murder that took place the last time he and Jack were in Moscow, a murder that also involved Irina Stephanova.
I loved New Amsterdam, but this has to be my favorite of the three books. It features two parallel mystery murder investigations and/or stories, one led by Jack and Sebastien, and the other by Sebastien and Abby Irene, both beautifully worked and weaved into one by the end. The characters, setting and atmosphere in this story are rich and well.. gorgeous. I loved the mood, the revelations that came from and about all the characters, and particularly about the wampier culture. The White City made me want more stories about Don Sebastien de Ulloa and more of Elizabeth Bear's writing. Highly recommended. ...more
Dirty is narrated by Elle and it begins when she meets Dan at an adult candy store. She's a brilliant woman with an excellent position, her own home aDirty is narrated by Elle and it begins when she meets Dan at an adult candy store. She's a brilliant woman with an excellent position, her own home and what on the surface could be a satisfactory life for anyone. But it is almost immediately apparent that inside Elle is broken, and in the past her way of fixing that empty broken space has been through mindless sex with strangers and the consumption of alcohol. She is a "black and white" woman, leading a colorless life and hiding behind a mask by wearing conservative clothes and displaying a distant, detached and bland personality in public, but we know that Elle is a very different woman.
Angel? Demon? Ghost? What is she? Who is she? That is what Dan wants to know once the two of them meet again and following his instructions, as well as inciting the moment, Elle more or less has public sex with Dan on a dance floor. However, Dan soon finds out that although Elle enjoys following directions during a sexual haze, she is not willing to do so when it comes to her personal life. There is no room for intimacy in Elle's broken life. She won't allow it, at least not until Dan slowly manipulates and begins to coax personal information out of her, talking her into seeing him again and again.
I was absolutely taken with the story and characters. There are some very exciting, erotic and sexually charged moments in this book, all beautifully rendered by Ms. Hart. But frankly, Elle's intense, sensual, personal and somewhat frustrating narration kept me reading, and I wanted to know how or if she would overcome her fear of intimacy, and more importantly the dysfunctional family situation plaguing her.
And Dan? He's one sexy man! Dan can get any woman's blood pressure up in less than one minute. But, he's also hmm. . . perfect for the circumstances -- willing to unravel the mystery that is Elle without judging her. I loved Hart's characterization of Dan.
One of the factors that impressed me about this story is that although Dan and Elle's relationship began as one based on sex, and sex continued to be central, it also turned the key to an emotional connection for both characters -- real emotion felt by the reader. Hart uses Dan and those emotions to reveal the broken woman Elle has become. That emotional connection felt between the characters (and the reader) makes a huge difference because without it, Dirty would have been just another erotic piece. That and the depth that went into plotting, as well as in developing Elle's character.
Dirty is and is not an erotic romance, nor is it your typical fluffy erotica read. It is tough to categorize so I'm not going to try to pin it down for you, except to tell you that it is a definitely darker erotica with a deeper plot than I expected, intriguing characters and excellent writing. There's a good balance between the erotic moments and the deeper plot that involves Elle's life, all interwoven of course. I'm hooked and don't know why I waited so long to read this book. I'm planning on reading "Broken" next. ...more
I'm a fan of bear erotica and bearish romances when I find them, so Bear Like Me by Jonathan Cohen, an amusing, light tale about a man who becomes parI'm a fan of bear erotica and bearish romances when I find them, so Bear Like Me by Jonathan Cohen, an amusing, light tale about a man who becomes part of the bear community, through let's say the back door, is right up my alley.
Cohen weaves this bearish story around Peter Mallory, a journalist and self-proclaimed twink who becomes obsessed with getting revenge after he's fired from his job at Phag magazine. In the meantime he needs to make a living and at his friend Mac's suggestion Peter decides to write a novel about the bear community. Unfortunately, he is clueless. Problem? He's part of the mainstream gay community and lives in what he refers to as the "gay ghetto," but Peter doesn't even know what a bear is!
Mac suggests Peter go undercover to research his novel. To blend in he grows a beard, stops waxing his body hair, and gains heft by eating like food is going out of style. And in some of the most amusing moments in the story, his wardrobe undergoes a dramatic change as Peter sheds his trendy suits and ties for flannel. Of course there's more to the experience than growing fur, changing wardrobe or gaining weight.
"Becoming a bear, just like coming out of the closet, requires a certain shift in perception. What you find attractive, what you find acceptable, what you deem important, all changes. In a way you become an outsider, but in a way you become part of a small, select private group. Usually this is a long process that accompanies repeated exposure to the bear community. I didn't, however, have the luxury of time."
Peter's partner Danny is not necessarily over the moon about the lack of income, but all the physical and psychological changes that slowly turn Peter into his other self, Dan the bear, take a real toll on the relationship.
Peter/Dan is driven by his obsession to get that revenge against Phag, meanwhile that "shift in perception" slowly takes place within Peter. This takes time, however even as he clings to the belief that inside he is still a twink and that his foray into to bear community is temporary Peter falls for Ben, a big teddy bear of man who sees the bear and other qualities in him that Peter doesn't see in himself. Unfortunately Peter doesn't know when to stop lying and scheming, so that by the time he comes to his senses it might be too late to keep the friends who welcomed him with opened arms, or his man.
There are over-the-top moments (Peter loves and attracts drama like a magnet), and since this book was first published in 2003, a rather dated back story. But I like that through all the mayhem Cohen sneaks in slight critical views of both the mainstream gay and bear communities from an insider and an outsider's point of view. Additionally, the pace of the novel is quick as lightning and it makes this story not only entertaining, but a super fast read.
In Bear Like Me, Cohen presents an overview of the bear community with all its rules and bearish family atmosphere. Peter's second coming out story as a bear is entertaining with an intentionally campy style, outrageous moments, and a surprisingly sweet romance. ...more
3.75/5.0 (B-) Heart of Steel turned out to be a pirate adventure romance, steampunk style. I like that Yasmeen never loses the ruthlessness that makes3.75/5.0 (B-) Heart of Steel turned out to be a pirate adventure romance, steampunk style. I like that Yasmeen never loses the ruthlessness that makes her such a unique character, and that Archimedes Fox admires her for her hard-won heart of steel and cold as ice personality. His charm is deceptive in that it hides a relentless man with a tough and fearless core. A great pair whose romance is well developed, but is somewhat lacking in emotion. The adventure is less than I expected with a disappointing outcome, and although the couple and the romance kept me reading and the steampunk details are again excellent, this second installment does not quite live up to my high expectations of this series. ...more
This is such an interesting historical romance read. It has moments of brilliance, and I love so much about it, yet there's just something to it thatThis is such an interesting historical romance read. It has moments of brilliance, and I love so much about it, yet there's just something to it that turned me off. Well, I know what turned me off. It was Martha's characterization and although I bought the "pregnancy to inherit plot" because lineage was such an important part of life during that time, and widows so hard up if not provided for by dead husbands, unfortunately there were also rather improbable moments that I found in the plotting -- the 21st Century mentality that went into it was a turn off for me.
Martha's characterization? We never really know why Martha is so emotionally unavailable when compared to her siblings. Was it that she was brought up by a strict governess once her mother died? Was it her experience with the dead husband? Was it the combination of the two? What made Martha such a champion of other women in an era when women did not stand up for other women? What made the town stand against a possible titled person to throw their support behind a woman and servants (female servants for that matter) and poor laborers during that period of time? It's all rather wonderful, but also rather improbable. I didn't buy it for a minute.
I actually really enjoyed Theo's character growth as he went from a superficial young man to a man who took his future responsibilities seriously. The lack of character shown when he agreed to Martha's proposition was immense! So yes, wonderful character growth there for Theo, compared the incremental and murkier character growth shown for Martha.
As I said, this was a bit of a mixed bag for me. I loved some of it because it is so different (I like different), but not all of it worked for me. I will read the next book in the series. :)
This novella focuses on an incident that defined the career of (and eventually the man) one of the characters that plays a key role in Leviathan WakesThis novella focuses on an incident that defined the career of (and eventually the man) one of the characters that plays a key role in Leviathan Wakes. Fred Johnson is the leader of the OPA (Outer Planets Alliance) by the time we meet him in Leviathan Wakes. Throughout the book he was referred to as the Butcher of Anderson Station, however that was never explained.
This story goes back in time and focuses on that story, giving the readers and fans of this new series a terrific first person account of exactly what shaped this character. It also gives the reader further insight into how Earth viewed Belters and why Fred eventually turns from hero to traitor. The story feels rather incomplete, though. By the end there's a sense that there's more to Fred, or that there should be more. The political implications are touched upon lightly in this novella, and I'm hoping that the second book of the trilogy will give us more Fred....more
Nominated for a Lambda Literary Award, The Horizontal Poet (Zeitgeist Press, 2011) is Jan Steckel's first full-length poetry collection. I found SteckNominated for a Lambda Literary Award, The Horizontal Poet (Zeitgeist Press, 2011) is Jan Steckel's first full-length poetry collection. I found Steckel's poetry to be personal and quite intimate, and the collection as a whole ambitious in its undertaking.
While reading The Horizontal Poet I found that Jan Steckel is passionate about her poetry, but through her poetry it's obvious that there is more. Steckel is a retired doctor suffering from a disability, an activist for bisexual and disability rights, and a writer. Steckel's personal experiences and interests are reflected in her poetry, and she weaves in medicine, social issues and concerns, as well as personal and relationship experiences, all in a rich, sensual, down to earth style.
I loved that this collection is not divided into sections and that her poems are interwoven. Both the intimacy of Steckel's poetry and the format serve to make that all-important connection between the reader and poet. It's almost as if the reader were looking through a window into the poet's life and thoughts as events take place, life evolves, and her memories come to life. For example, you will find a love poem "The History of Our Love" next to one filled with her social concerns, "The Wind and the Boy," or another where she bears her soul about losing a patient, "Swallowing Flies," alongside a poem where she indulges her love of hanging out in strip joints, "The Naked and the Dread."
Steckel's prose throughout this 57 poetry collection is both lyrical and direct as she uses a mixture of both the narrative form of verse and rich poetic metaphors. While you will find that in some of her poems Steckel uses medical terminology in a rather unique way, it is her compassionate and haunting poems depicting experiences during her medical career -- "Swallowing Flies,""Charity and the Hurricane," and "The Underwater Hospital," and others depicting her own personal, physical pain --""Halloween Wedding,""Nightkeeper"-- that impacted me the most.
There are whole poems in this collection that left an impression, and then there are others where only certain lines stayed with me. I read and re-read this book a few times before reviewing it. The bottom line is that Steckel's poetry is distinctive in that it can be read from her perspective as the bisexual poet, the disabled poet, the medical poet, or for its social content. In The Horizontal Poet you get it all, and in the end I found that reading Jan Steckel's poetry from the woman's perspective as a whole, this collection makes an even stronger statement.
In his first novel, Old Man's War, Scalzi begins by introducing his main character, John Perry and setting up the world building. When John Perry andIn his first novel, Old Man's War, Scalzi begins by introducing his main character, John Perry and setting up the world building. When John Perry and his wife Kathy were 65 years old they signed a letter of intent to join the CDF, however his wife died and on his 75th birthday Perry visits his wife's grave and then goes on to join the army. Perry figures the odds are not so bad, if he's going to die anyway, he might as well die young and doing something worthwhile.
I liked the premise. The first part of the book is the best in my opinion. This is where Scalzi introduces the main character John Perry, the cast of secondary characters that later on become important to him throughout this story, and where you'll find the first blocks for the world building. I loved John Perry's sense of wonder and naivete as he and his new friends take a leap of faith and go on to an unknown future. The sense of freedom and vitality that seems to overcome the geriatric volunteers, combined with excitement and fear as an unknown future looms ahead of them, is intoxicating to them and makes the reader want to know what lies ahead.
The second section of the book is where I began to have problems with the story. After Perry undergoes his transformation, he begins the all important military training and eventually goes on to war. The military training section is brief, lacking in in-depth detail, and I thought it at best quite sketchy. As the action and the story continues, and there is plenty of action, I became torn. It is a fast paced story, with a nice flow and a central character whose actions we follow from beginning to end, but it just seemed to me that although there are plenty of details at the beginning of the book: the skip drive, nano technology, etc., when it comes to developing alien hostile races and secondary characters, true depth is sacrificed to both the action and pace.
I enjoy military science fiction, and that's exactly what Old Men's War is. Of course there's also the moral ambiguity as a central theme. Scalzi doesn't over-philosophize in Old Men's War though, he has an easy-peasy, flowing writing style that is quite reader friendly, and in this first book he gets his point across without beating the drums to a pulp.
The Ghost Brigades is the second book in the Old Man's War series, and although it's set in the same world, very few characters from the first book maThe Ghost Brigades is the second book in the Old Man's War series, and although it's set in the same world, very few characters from the first book make an appearance. This story focuses on the Special Forces soldiers and how they are "produced," how they function and how they feel about their roles as soldiers.
Jared Dirac is made, not born. The difference between him and other Special Forces soldiers is that he is a superhuman hybrid made out of the dead scientist Charles Boutin's DNA and consciousness. The scientist was a traitor to humanity who gave away key information to three hostile alien races who are now allied and planning to attack the Colonial Union. Jared is an experiment and if that experiment works then Boutin's motivations for betraying the Colonial Union will be known; if the experiment doesn't work, then this superhuman hybrid will be given to Special Forces as a soldier. There's no loss for the CDF, right?
The Ghost Brigades begins with plenty of moral ambiguity as you can see by my summary. It actually goes on to become even more so as the story moves along. The experiment doesn't really take at first and Jared Dirac is relegated to Special Forces. The reader goes through the whole process of experiencing life and events for the first time with Jared. That's the focus of the story, Jared's experiences, his loses and where they eventually take him as a "person" and a soldier. The consequences of the experiment and who pays the final price. The question of the individual's rights, choices, and consciousness are all touched upon in the Ghost Brigades. Scalzi gives most of his focus to this subject.
Don't misunderstand me, there's plenty of action in The Ghost Brigades, and as in Old Man's War you'll find battles, war and carnage. Under Jane Sagan's command (Old Man's War), he experiences both loss and pain and eventually Boutin's memories begin to surface. As they battle the aliens to break the alliance, and Jared fights his and someone else's emotions and memories, finding the answer to whose consciousness makes the person becomes the key to this puzzle.
Scalzi has that flowing style that makes a long book go in a flash. My biggest problem with this particular story was the lack of connection I felt with most of the characters, and again the lack of depth and certain background detail that well... just left me wanting more.