This pair of authors are well known for their unusual, macabre or even downright disturbing twists to their stories and this one was no exception. The...moreThis pair of authors are well known for their unusual, macabre or even downright disturbing twists to their stories and this one was no exception. The book is set in the world of their Zombie Gentlemen series. I haven't read any of the other books and found that I could follow the story quite easily, so it's not necessary to have read any of the other books in the series.
The story follows Victor. He's a singer who, after a serious misjudgment when dealing with a mob boss, finds himself shipped off to a punishment camp where he's forced to work for the Dal family as a slave. On his first day he meets Crunch, one of the guards. Crunch shows him some kindness and so Victor helps to repay him by acting on their mutual attraction. The sparks may fly between them and the sex may be hot, but both of them keep secrets from each other which could prove harmful.
Stung is set in a world where a virus has created zombies. In this story the zombie element is mostly just a backdrop, or a constant hidden danger. The camp where Victor is held is surrounded by a zombie infested forest, making it almost impossible for any prisoner to escape alive. The zombies are mostly ignored except for the occasional reminder in the form of a story told between the guards or in a couple of tense moments when both Crunch and Victor are in danger from the zombies. I thought this was an interesting way of using the zombie plot. They were there, they were dangerous, but they didn't form the main part of the story, unlike many other zombie books. The zombies were also used in a most macabre way which I don't want to go into here because it would be a spoiler, but that unusual use of the zombies in a couple of scenes may not be for the faint of heart, so be warned!
The main part of the story follows the relationship between Victor and Crunch. This part surprised me because I was expecting something much harsher and grittier, but what I got was a sweet and on the whole straightforward love story - well, as straightforward as you can get between a guard and prisoner! Crunch protects Victor as much as he can within the limitations of their dynamic, falling hard and fast for Victor. Even though Victor is the soft city boy, it's Victor who comes across as the harder character as he schemes his way into Crunch's heart, using manipulation to get what he wants whilst being entirely satisfied with the sex between them and the tenderness that Crunch shows Victor. I rather liked that my expectations were inverted with the big, rough guard turning out to be a completely softie. It made for a more interesting read overall. The prisoner/guard dynamic led to some very minor BDSM play in the sex scenes but that shouldn't put anyone off. There's a dub-con warning for the book, but again that was only due to the guard/prisoner dynamic and since Victor is a very willing participant - and indeed manipulates Crunch just as much as Crunch uses Victor - don't let that element put you off the book either.
The story has quite a slow build up. We are told early on about events which are going to happen later in the book and so much of the middle of the story is a waiting game to these anticipated events. Unfortunately, this led to some of the middle parts of the book feeling a little too slow and my interest drifted during those parts. Fortunately, it wasn't long before the pacing picked up and my interest was regained.
Before I finish, I feel I ought to mention that cover. It's certainly very striking! I have to be honest and say it didn't work for me, mainly because I have a bit of a thing about food play - I find it off-putting rather than sexy. The cover certainly fits the honey/zombie theme of the book but I'm not sure I would have bought the book based on that cover. However, I am just one opinion and I've seen a few comments from people who like the cover a great deal.
Despite that slight niggle with the plotting and the cover, Stung was a very unusual and entertaining read. The characters are well written, rounded and sympathetic. The horror elements will not be to everyone's taste but I liked the twists and turns to the story and the way it took the zombie theme and did something different with it. If you like horror and are looking for a story which will surprise you, then this will be the book for you and I would recommend it.(less)
Well written spooky horror story about 5 people (a psychic, a scientist, a paranormal investigator, a witch & a priest) who venture into a haunted...moreWell written spooky horror story about 5 people (a psychic, a scientist, a paranormal investigator, a witch & a priest) who venture into a haunted house after being hired to exorcise the ghost and end up with more than they bargained for. Great atmosphere and plenty of action/heart-in-your-mouth moments, coupled with a decent romance. I liked that most of the characters were written sympathetically. Would recommend to those who want something a bit chilling for Halloween next week.(less)
Interesting romance set in a zombie apocalypse. I really liked the character of Mason but felt like I hardly knew Kyle and that m...more3.5 stars rounded up.
Interesting romance set in a zombie apocalypse. I really liked the character of Mason but felt like I hardly knew Kyle and that much of his growth/healing was done off page or told to us as something he needs to sort through in the future. The scenes where Mason struggles with his grief were touching and there was plenty of action/excitement packed into a few pages. I also liked the dynamics between the people Mason has settled amongst and the way in which some of them gradually get under Mason's skin, gaining mutual respect and a growing affection.
However, mostly I wanted more: More examination of the world-building; more character development and more of the romance. In the end, the story felt cramped and I wished for a more wider-sweeping and expansive story than I got. So, whilst this was a nicely written science-fiction/horror which passed an evening rather enjoyably, I couldn't help but feel slightly disappointed.(less)
There are many different types of stories in the horror genre, but most of them can be put into one of two camps. There are those which end badly for...moreThere are many different types of stories in the horror genre, but most of them can be put into one of two camps. There are those which end badly for all concerned and those which end up with the hero/ine living to fight another day. The secret of a good horror anthology for me is to have a good balance between the two types of stories. If they all end badly, I'm left feeling rather dispirited; if they all end well, and I feel cheated of a good spine tingling thrill. This anthology did well to balance the horrific and macabre with some romance. There was plenty there for fans of gore, but the erotic romance twist was satisfying too.
The first story is Reading Arteries by Erin Sneath. A new, untested drug, Epoxy, is released onto the market. It's taken in two parts, one part is taken by a person who then gives the second part to another person who suddenly feels an overwhelming desire for the first person. At first it's a bit of fun but after a while alarming side effects are discovered. Stuart has been in love with his best friend Andy for a long time but Andy is straight and doesn't have sexual feelings for Stuart at all. They decide to try Epoxy and their love for each other blossoms but how long can they continue to take the drug when the side effects are so bad? I liked the initial idea of this story, especially the opening. After that though the story worked less well for me, mainly because I found it hard to connect to the main characters for some reason. Having said that, the horror aspect is handled very well and I would advise you not to read this story whilst eating as the last couple of pages turned my stomach. A good opener which sets the tone of the anthology but not my favourite story.
The second story, The Possession of Lawrence Eugene Davis by EE Ottoman was my favourite of the anthology. Set during the 1930's, Lawrence returns to the family home after the death of his father who had driven the family away with his violent behaviour. Lawrence has been in the house only a day when he begins to feel very ill, calling out in his panic when he has hallucinations that something is inside his body. His calls are answered by Elijah, but his help comes at a cost. This is less of a romance than a horror, although there are strong romantic elements. What worked for me was the character of Lawrence who was badly injured in the first world war and is in almost constant pain. His irritation with his injury mixes with the generally creepy goings on in the house and gives a great atmosphere to the story. I also liked how strong Lawrence was and how he (mostly) didn't panic at the things that happened to him. He was frightened and bewildered but was able to pragmatically see a solution with Elijah. My one complaint is that the story ended rather suddenly with a loose end and I wished I'd seen how Lawrence was going to work things through with Elijah.
The next story is The Dark Revelation by Zach Sweets. Derek is half human/half demon but manages to keep his demon side locked away for most of the time. The demon is a violent incubus who uses Derek to attract men and then breaks free from Derek's control to rape and torture the victim, consuming his soul as he dies of his injuries. After the demon kills someone that Derek cares about a great deal, he goes into hiding at a remote cabin, not knowing that two young men will stumble upon his house when they get lost in the woods. As you can see from my description, this story contains scenes of graphic rape and violence and is not for the faint-hearted. This is then contrasted by a very sweet friends to lovers romance between the two young men in the woods which I felt sat a little uneasily with the violence which was really bloody and quite disturbing. Having said that, this was a classic horror - evil creature who preys on the innocent young men - and so fits well as the middle story to this anthology. Personally, I found the sweetness and the happy ending a little jarring after the violence at the beginning but I can see how it will appeal to many readers.
Story four is The Pain Cycle by Ariel Graham. It tells of Luke, whose lover just upped and disappeared on him one day. Part of him understands that this sometimes happens to gay men, but another part felt that it went against Jesse's nature to leave without saying a word. It's also strange that this has happened to another couple that Luke knows, Ben and Jonathan. He's walking to his car through deserted city streets when he sees the missing man, Ben, in a building site being dragged into the building by three creatures. He gives chase and finds himself in an underground room filled with creatures who kidnap young gay men and keep them prisoner. This was by far the most action filled story in the anthology. We jump almost straight into the action as Luke attempts to battle the creatures and rescue the imprisoned gay men. My problem was that I found it almost impossible to picture what was happening on the page. There are different types of creatures who have different purposes but I couldn't keep them straight in my head as to what creature was what. I also couldn't picture what was happening during the fight scenes. I even tried re-reading over the scenes but they still didn't make sense. In the end I found myself just reading the words, which gave a feeling of danger and excitement, but I think I would have liked this more if the imagery hadn't been so jumbled.
The final story was Martin Powers Lives! by KA Merikan. I often like the stories by this pair because they manage to combine the macabre with a lightness to the narrative. This story has Matt who is a newbie porn star. His first shoot is in an old mental hospital where someone digs out a straitjacket for him to wear. Before they can start filming spooky goings on scares everyone and they run out, leaving poor Matt trussed up and disorientated. He wanders the corridors trying to find a way out but instead comes across the frightened ghost of a past inmate. I really liked this story because it mixed spooky and bloody goings on with a story of redemption. The first part was genuinely scary and reminded me a little of The Shining - endless corridors, cold spots, unpredictable feelings of terror, scares and a ghost who is trying to reach out in his pain and confusion. I was enjoying myself immensely. The ending is satisfying and mixes sadness and relief. A perfect end to the anthology!
Overall this was a mixed anthology but I enjoyed nearly all the stories. If you're a fan of romantic horror then this will be an great book to pick up, just don't expect all the stories to end well. (less)
I've got a bit behind in my reviews of this series. This is episode three and at the end of the last book - reviewed here - Gabriel had taken part in...moreI've got a bit behind in my reviews of this series. This is episode three and at the end of the last book - reviewed here - Gabriel had taken part in one of Dorian's parties, drinking, taking drugs and having sex. Whilst passed out Gabriel dreams of Dorian and a young man, Joshua, but the dream dissipates when Gabriel awakes. Michael is furious with Gabriel for being so reckless at the party and even more furious at Dorian so he possesses Gabriel to give Dorian a piece of his mind only to find that Dorian is more than just a rich profligate.
The story is really starting to gain some momentum here and one of the things I really liked about this episode is that it gives us more of an insight into Michael and Gabriel We learn the circumstances of Michael's death, and how the pair got onto the path of paranormal investigators. We also learn more about Dorian and discover that he too has powers. I also liked seeing the changes in the relationship between Dorian and Gabriel. There's still attraction but there's a developing fascination for each other too. Gabriel learns more of the paranormal world through Dorian and is determined to stick around to find out more and Dorian interest is piqued by Gabriel and Michael's relationship.
The devil/angel dynamic continues to build with Dorian being completely unapologetic about his behaviour at the party, putting all the blame onto Gabriel for allowing it to happen. I must admit I was in great sympathy with Michael about this who finds Dorian annoying and smug, and could cheerfully have punched Dorian. Gabriel is beginning to stand up to Dorian, seeing through the manipulation, but he's still rather at the mercy of Dorian's charm and seductive ways. He radiates innocence even knowing that Dorian is not good for him and I felt all of Michael's frustration about that too! It will be fascinating to see how this aspect continues to change as the story progresses.
There was only one part which didn't work too well for me and that was a flashback scene between Dorian and a female mage. Whilst I could understand the necessity of this scene getting over a lot of information in a short space of time, I found it a little clunky as it broke into the present day narrative. I had to stop myself from skimming the scene in my impatience to get back to the main characters because I recognised that there may be things in the flashback that I would need to know, but it was still irksome to read.
However, this was only a minor irritation in what was on the whole a fascinating episode in this serial. The characters are really coming on and I liked that the focus here was less on sex and more on character development. I'm looking forward to part 4: the characters are in place and the background established so we must soon be coming towards the complication in the story which promises to be rather exciting.(less)
It's been ages since I read a book by the author and since the blurb appealed I picked this one up for review. It turned out to be a smashing...more4.5 stars
It's been ages since I read a book by the author and since the blurb appealed I picked this one up for review. It turned out to be a smashing tale of ghostly goings on, all set in an atmospheric bar with a pair of very likable heroes.
Wyatt is the head curator of a history museum in Richmond, Virginia. His friend, Noah, persuades Wyatt to come along to a great bar called The Gravedigger's Tavern, where Wyatt meets bartender Ash. The pair hit it off straightaway and engage in a very satisfying night of passion. Unfortunately, Wyatt panics and leaves Ash sleeping. The next day Wyatt regrets sneaking off but he's hurt Ash's feelings and it's going to take more than a 'sorry' to make up to Ash. Whilst all the relationship drama is taking place, Ash is hit in the head and suddenly he's seeing a ghostly figure who seems to want something from Ash. There are also lots of strange things happening at the bar with bumps overhead, electrical faults in the wiring and strange music. Wyatt is determined to help by researching the origins of the bar, and discovers some horrifying history of the place.
Sounds scary doesn't it? In fact parts of the book were genuinely spooky and creepy and at one point I was regretting reading in bed late at night! The horror story line manages to tread a fine line between giving some scary thrills, and yet also balanced out by some lighthearted elements - such as when the bar owner brings in some wiccans to cleanse the bar of evil spirits - and some parts where there are perfectly good reasons for the things that are happening (or so it seems at the time). This meant that the book has a nice balance in all the elements. those who don't like a lot of horror will still find this a good read because the focus shifts about enough between the romance, ghost plot and other aspects so that nothing overwhelms the story.
The first part of the book is more focused on the building romance between Ash and Wyatt. I really liked both characters and thought the outgoing and charismatic Ash matched perfectly with the studious and shy Wyatt. Ash is quite laid back as a character - until the ghosts start appearing and then he was suitably confused and terrified - whereas Wyatt is a bit of a worrier, which is what lands him in hot water with Ash when he worries his way out of his house in the middle of the night! Their relationship builds well and I enjoyed seeing Wyatt desperately trying to make amends, and Ash fighting his attraction because he didn't want to be hurt again. I was occasionally frustrated by the way Ash pushes Wyatt away, but it all worked out nicely in the end, so I forgave him for that.
The second half of the book starts to build the ghost story aspect and I enjoyed reading the blend history - as discovered by Wyatt - and the chills and thrills as the ghost draws nearer to Ash. I was on the edge of my seat at times, as Ash begins to doubt his own sanity and his friends try and help him as much as they can. The final showdown was scary and full of tense action but also the way it was portrayed made it a little bit amusing too. I can't say any more about that, but I'm sure you'll understand what I mean when you read it!
There were other parts which worked for me, especially in the friendship between the group of bartenders - and their shared love of 'gaslight', and with Wyatt and Noah. There was a nicely done romantic subplot with Noah that made me smile. Wyatt's problems as head curator of the museum allowed us to see him as more than just a bumbling historian, and added some real-life (as opposed to ghostly) tension to the story. Finally I liked the way that the author managed to combine real history with fiction to create at atmospheric and spooky backdrop to the story.
Overall, if you're looking for a nicely written ghost story with a great romance this Halloween week, you can't go too far wrong with this one. Sometimes it's played for laughs, but there's some genuine scary thrills too. I enjoyed it a great deal and would recommend it.(less)
Completely over the top and silly but I was sucked in and couldn't put it down. Perfect for a bit of light relief, with a horror/ serial killer twist...moreCompletely over the top and silly but I was sucked in and couldn't put it down. Perfect for a bit of light relief, with a horror/ serial killer twist as an antidote to all the angst I've been reading recently. Don't expect realism but it's still a great escapism read.(less)
I'm rather struggling to set down in words my feelings for this book. At times the story was like a slippery fish; difficult to keep hold of because t...moreI'm rather struggling to set down in words my feelings for this book. At times the story was like a slippery fish; difficult to keep hold of because there's a constant subtext which draws you away from the main events happening on the page. I shall do my best to write a coherent review and we'll see how well I succeed!
This story isn't a romance, although in many ways love, sex and desire are at the heart of the story. It's classified as a horror by the publishers, but don't let that put you off as there's very little of the blood and gore which some people might associate with the word horror. Instead this is a psychological horror, where we look into the minds of the characters and how they are adversely affected by the events in the book. If I were to set out a summary, it would be to call the book a study in fear and a sort of mass hysteria among the gay population of San Francisco, which touches on the themes of insecurity, desirability, fitting in, being special but also alienation, peer pressure and self-hatred.
The book is set in the not too distant future and deals with a crime, or a series of crimes. Someone is targeting gay men by drugging them and then cutting off the tip of their little finger. This sends the gay community into hiding as fear sweeps through them. Like many horrors there's a bogeyman in the form of 'Cutter' who sets the scene and infuses the book with a growing sense of unease but who, in this case, is ultimately sidelined for something more chilling. In the end the book is not about Cutter at all as he becomes a mere catalyst for the events of the book.
The story circles around, weaving between characters with some aspects resolved and some not, with very little being as it first seems. At the heart of the story are four main characters: Fanning, who is a sort of freelance police officer charged with catching the man responsible for the mutilations; Varner, a journalist who was the first victim; Taylor, an victim of a botched copy cat crime who becomes deeply agoraphobic as a result; and Dibney, who may or may not be Cutter. As well as these four, the story dips in and out of other characters and as such there is a wide list of characters and situations, some of which are shown as mere snapshots through a variety of means. Story and action is intermingled with sections from internet chat rooms, emails, website articles, snatches of conversations, and scenes in clubs and bars. Most of these minor characters are only given names (or some not at all) and appear briefly for a few pages before disappearing, never to be seen again. The effect of this was that it built up a picture of a collective consciousness of gay men which added to the pervasive chill which permeates the story but is also frustratingly fragmented for the reader.
In many ways this book is an ironic satire on the gay community in SF. Most of the men are portrayed as shallow individuals looking for the next hedonistic experience. There's an ongoing theme of men who are bored with "sucking and fucking", and who are wanting more, something which makes them unique, even whilst conversely they strive to fit in with the crowd. Even the men in happy, stable relationships are affected by the events in the book, being shown as essentially unfulfilled with love not being enough to satisfy them. It was a rather biting indictment of the gay community as a whole as they get caught up in the 'next big thing'.
The reader is treated to a story full of smoke and mirrors, lies and deceits. Just when I thought I had a handle on a character, things would change and all that I thought I knew was suddenly different, or just wrong. It kept me on my toes as a reader, made me think. It was very, very clever and I admired the skill of the author a number of times as I read.
There were some negatives about the story. I didn't find the book to be a page turner, mainly because it was the sort of book I had to work at. I often had to stop and think things through about the story and there wasn't the drive or compulsion that I feel with some books to go back to it. It wasn't an easy book to get into because of the fragmented narrative, which added to my problems, but I did feel that the pace picked up towards the end and I finished the final third quite quickly. Another problem with the narrative was that it was difficult to become wholly immersed in the story and characters because just as I settled into a scene of character it was snatched away and the story moved to someone different. Finally some of the stylistic features used in the book were a little self-indulgent and I found them irritating. However, I can imagine some readers may find them clever.
This was rather a difficult story to grade. I thought it challenging reading for someone like me who doesn't often have their mind stretched and as such it may not appeal to some readers. It was a thoughtful, intellectual book with many layers which I fun sorting through. The tone was varies, at times being very tongue in cheek and other times sad, morose and tragic. However, the fact that it didn't wholly grab my attention, and that if I hadn't had it for review I possibly wouldn't have got past the first 30 pages makes me give this book a grade of four stars. Readers who love post-modernist fiction will like this one, as did I for the opportunity for a change of pace and genre.(less)
This Halloween themed story is taken from the point of view of college student Jacob. He’s at...moreThis review can also be found at Brief Encounters Reviews
This Halloween themed story is taken from the point of view of college student Jacob. He’s at a Halloween party and feeling a little like a fish out of water. Before he can sneak out and head back to his room he gets into an awkward conversation with Bobby, a hot guy he’s been crushing on for a while now. Bobby’s friends turn up and before he knows it, Jacob is accompanying them into the wilds of New Jersey where the Jersey devil is supposed to haunt the woods.
The strength of the story is in the character of Jacob who’s a complete sweetheart. He’s well aware of his own shortcomings and his humourous, self-deprecatory narrative was endearing. For example:
Guys like him bounce through life from party to party and guys like me write depressing poems about why we don’t get laid.
He spends most of the story in wide-eyed wonder at Bobby’s attempts to seduce him, made all the more amusing by the fact that Jacob’s can’t believe he’s serious and it makes everything a bit clumsy. Just like real life, I suppose! This first part of the story is quite cute and sweet as Jacob heads off with Bobby and his friends into the wilds, followed by a hot session in the woods whilst the other two could take the car. I really liked how well the author had managed to capture the slightly awkward nature of Jacob’s innocence. Bobby is the more experienced one and I liked how he was gentle and patient with Jacob.
I also liked how the character of Amber was portrayed. She could have been off-putting but the fact that we see her from Jacob’s eyes, and that he looks at her with a certain amount of good-humoured amused disdain, meant that, at least by the end, she had redeemed herself and was more than a one dimensional character, unlike her boyfriend (and Bobby’s room mate) Ryan who barely features at all.
This wouldn’t be a Halloween story without a bit of a scare at the end and this was effectively done whilst also retaining a highly romantic ending. It’s a great story for those looking for a bit of a Halloween thrill but want a sweet romance with a great character in Jacob.(less)
Sometimes Twitter can be a marvellous thing. If the author hadn’t flagged up on Twitter that...moreThis review can also be found at Brief Encounters Reviews.
Sometimes Twitter can be a marvellous thing. If the author hadn’t flagged up on Twitter that she’d published this short at ARe, I would have missed this absolute gem completely. The story is set during The Great Depression of the 1930′s in New York and follows Whit who, unlike many men, has a job. He’s a freelance reporter for the NY Times but has lost his heart for journalism in the face of all the horrors he sees daily. After borrowing a dollar from his boss, Whit has enough money to bypass the bread lines and buy a meal and a night in a flop house where he meets Peter. Peter’s not destitute, but is about to lose everything. Whit gives Peter a new lease of life in helping those who have nothing, to gain some pride, and Peter helps Whit to rediscover his talent for journalism.
There’s so much I liked about this story that I doubt I will be able to fit it all into this review! Firstly the setting is poignant and realistic. We see it through Whit’s jaded, almost dispassionate, eyes and in some ways that makes it all the more heartbreaking as Whit shrugs off the sights of men crying in the streets and the huge lines for food. The oppressive atmosphere has affected Whit so much that he is suffering from a form of writer’s block and so he has lost everything and is trapped in a spiral of destitution he has no hope of getting out of. When he meets Peter, he’s jolted out of that spiral as he firstly sees how tragedy has affected Peter, then how Peter’s generous heart can bring hope to men without means to help themselves.
The fact that the main message in this story is that of hope means that what could have been a maudlin or bleak story is lifted into something much less heavy. It was proof of the skill of the author that she was able to tell the tale of The Great Depression whilst also providing a realistic romance and a happy ending for our heroes. The romantic feeling between the heroes was achingly tender and some of the best parts of the story were where the men were muddling through their feelings for each other. The historical setting was flawless, not just in the descriptions of 1930′s NY but also in the way the men spoke and acted towards each other. I was immersed.
I finished the story completely wowed by the intelligent writing, vivid setting and strong characterisation. As a short story this was absolutely perfect and I couldn’t recommend it highly enough. This story is free at All Romance Ebooks (although I would happily have paid money for it) so there’s no excuse not to download it!(less)
This short was first published as Possession in the Masquerade anthology and is an eerie horr...moreThis review can also be found at Brief Encounters Reviews
This short was first published as Possession in the Masquerade anthology and is an eerie horror story set in the Victorian period. Lucas is the young owner of a family business which deals with antiquities. As the story begins, Lucas is in financial difficulties and is worried that he may have to close his business. Help comes in the form of the mysterious Gideon who wishes to sell some precious rubies, but only on the condition that he deals with Lucas directly. Whilst this is happening, Lucas is plagued by erotic dreams which frustrate and exhaust him.
The story is told in an interesting way. The scenes where Lucas dreams are told in the third person and are highly evocative and erotic, yet also rather disturbing. Lucas is visited each night by a dream man whose words forces Lucas to masturbate and it is is this aspect which sends a cold shiver down the spine. That, mixed with the eroticism of the scene sends an unsettling message through the story which then bleeds into the daytime story, told in the first person by Lucas. As the story continues, Lucas becomes more and more worn out by these dreams, leading to scenes during the day where he is overwhelmed and emotional. This then warred with the image Lucas is trying to portray of a competent, morally upstanding member of society. The scenes where he meets Gideon and is shocked by his impropriety fitted well with the expectations of the time period, as did Lucas’ attempt to suppress his desire for his assistant, Valentine.
Because the main focus of the story is Lucas, then the other characters, even Valentine, aren’t as wholly fleshed out as they could be. I was often confused as to the motivations of Valentine and Gideon and even the shocking ending wasn’t enough to answer many of the questions I had about the events of the book. On the subject of the ending: it’s not a HEA or even a HFN but rather a surprising climax which leaves the reader hungry for more – which is in keeping with the horror genre, but may not be to the taste of all romance readers. I’m hoping that a sequel will help to clear up any questions and build on the tension between the characters.
Overall, this story is perfect for when you’re looking for something dark and sinister to counteract the sweetness of some romance stories. I enjoyed it a great deal and would recommend especially to horror fans who will think this story a treat.(less)
Really liked this short which had JL Merrow's customary wit to the dialogue added to quite a gory story of a ghoul (think failed vampire with a compul...moreReally liked this short which had JL Merrow's customary wit to the dialogue added to quite a gory story of a ghoul (think failed vampire with a compulsion to eat dead flesh) who, despite himself, falls for a young, twinky Vampire slayer.
If you have a weak stomach then you probably wouldn't enjoy this as Niall has a weariness and macabre sense of humour about what he eats. For example, one of my favourite lines:
Damn that kid. It's been years since Niall had to resort to chewing on his own arm.
Other descriptions of what he eats are also rather gruesome, so be warned!
Jamie is a little less rounded, but full of enough righteous anger and bravado to pull of the whole twinky vamp slayer thing with aplomb, whilst also being confused enough about Niall to want to get to know him more, even as Niall tries to push him away.
Those with a strong constitution and a love of Halloween stories are going to enjoy this one a great deal. I did.(less)
I have to admit, I'm a bit of a sucker for post-apocalyptic sci-fi books, especially those which chart the disintegration of society. It gives me a sh...moreI have to admit, I'm a bit of a sucker for post-apocalyptic sci-fi books, especially those which chart the disintegration of society. It gives me a shiver down the spine to read about just how close society is to total melt-down. When I was a teen I loved John Wyndam's books, especially Day of the Triffids and other post-apocalyptic books such as Death of Grass by John Christopher. Why am I telling you all this, you may ask? Well, just that this novella by one of my favourite m/m authors fits exactly into that 'recovery and survival in the face of disaster' mould that can be found in books by John Wyndam. Unsurprisingly, I loved this book.
I Fell in Love with a Zombie begins with our hero and first person narrator, Jay, coping with the aftermath of a swine flu virus which has wiped out most of the world, including his lover, Mike. Not only that, but some people who have supposedly died of the flu come back to life after a couple of days. These 'zombies' have limited speech and motor skills, but most horrifying of all, for no reason they attack humans with a lightening speed and superhuman strength. Jay battles with grief over Mike and the unknown fate of his family as well as surviving in a world littered with dead bodies and zombies who want to kill him. In desperation, Jay decides to leave the city in search of other humans. On the way he encounters many dangerous situations, not all due to zombies, and finds love in an unexpected place.
As I said earlier, I loved this book. It contains many classic elements which can be found in post-apocalyptic survival books and I was delighted every time I came across one of these well loved parts in the story. Firstly, there was the theme of survival with Jay having to do things that he would never have done otherwise. At the beginning of the book Jay recounts the first time he had to kill a zombie who was attacking him. At the end of the account he says:
Was this what my life was going to be from now on? It was enough to make me wish I had died with everybody else.
It's not only rampaging zombies, Jay also has to cope with other survivors, never knowing who to trust, and yet desperate for some contact to ease his loneliness. In some ways these scenes were the hardest to read as Jay is treated badly by those with whom he hopes to find some companionship. It was heartbreaking. Jay's loneliness is a constant presence throughout the first part of the book as he tries to come to terms with the fact that his life has been overturned in less than a month.
Another theme which I enjoyed is that of the journey that the hero has to take to find some semblance of peace. Jay travels from town to town by taking a discarded car and driving it until the petrol runs out. On the way he encounters different situations before finding someone with whom he can settle. Even then life isn't easy for Jay and Dave, and it isn't long before they have to continue their journey. This gave the book a pacey feel as the setting moves from place to place with our heroes. It also meant that there was a lot of action in the book which counterbalanced the slower parts as Jay muses on what has happened to him, and the section where he and Dave meet and begin to fall in love.
Given what I've written above you might think that this would be a maudlin and slightly depressing read. Whilst parts of it were undoubtedly sad, as Jay copes with his grief and life alone, Jay is actually quite an optimistic character, with a strong sense of purpose. This injected the story with a bright shaft of hopefulness as Jay moves on from each difficult situation in the hope that the next situation will have a more positive outcome. I liked Jay a great deal, liked his willingness to see the best in others, even when they treated him badly and his pragmatism that life must go on, so make the best of what you have. As narrators go, Jay is incredibly sympathetic and likeable and this went a long way towards my great enjoyment of the book.
One word of warning for those of a slightly squeamish nature. There are several gruesome parts in the story, especially those involving Jay and the zombies. Personally, I felt this fit well with the genre of the book and I'm not particularly squeamish and so those bits didn't bother me at all. I liked that the author hadn't chosen to wash over some of the more unpleasant aspects of life within a time of chaos, such as the stench of rotting bodies or the sorrow that whole families lay unburied. I also liked the depiction of the zombies, that they were disgusting and brutal, but also that, for some at least, there was a trace of humanity.
Whilst reading this book I experienced a whole wealth of emotion. At some points I felt genuinely frightened, at other points angry. I felt joy and happiness for Jay and Dave, but also sadness for them - even crying at one point. I completed the book feeling overwhelmed, knowing that I'd read something extremely well written, that moved me. If you like sci-fi, horror and stories set in a post apocalyptic future, then this book is an absolute must. I thought it was bloody brilliant.(less)
The beginning of The Blue Moon Cafe throws us straight into horror territory as we are taken into the mind of a killer. The killer is stalking the str...moreThe beginning of The Blue Moon Cafe throws us straight into horror territory as we are taken into the mind of a killer. The killer is stalking the streets of Seattle's gay district looking for young gay men to kill. He finds one and we leave his mind just as he begins to tear the man apart. We then move onto our hero Thad. Recently unemployed, Thad is finding the formless days and close confines of his apartment difficult to cope with so he decides to treat himself to a meal at a new Italian restaurant - The Blue Moon Cafe. Whilst there, Thad meets Sam, the owner of the cafe and they hit it off, leading to a single night of passion. Later Thad meets Jared, which leaves him confused. He still has feelings for Sam, but there's also a spark with Jared, and what is the secret that Sam is hiding?
There are two story lines which run through this book and intermingle. The first is that of Thad and his love-life. When Thad meets Sam, he feels that he's met his perfect match. Sam is Sicilian, openly emotional and gregarious, and best of all, older than Thad and very hairy, something which presses all of Thad's hot buttons. The sex is out of this world and Thad finds himself falling for Sam very quickly. Sam also confesses that he has growing feelings for Thad, but when Sam constantly pushes Thad away, Thad is confused: One minute he's meeting Sam's family, the next Sam is disappearing for the weekend and being cagey about where he's been. I thought this part of the book was handled well, as we join with Thad and his growing sense of unease about Sam and who he really is.
Things are further complicated by the arrival of Jared, who is almost the opposite of Sam in that he's of Norwegian descent, blond and slender and not at all hairy. He's friendly, easygoing and open about his life in a way that Sam is not. Thad likes him a great deal and finds Jared attractive, but there's not the grand passion that he gets with Sam. Throughout the book, Thad veers in his feelings between the two men. Jared is a good friend and it feels right to have him around. They also share a number of tense, emotional moments which strengthen their friendship. In contrast Thad is overwhelmed by Sam and his sheer magnetism draws Thad to Sam, but also makes him too much of a good thing. The way that this part of the book was constructed was compelling and emotionally satisfying as I read anxiously to discover which of the two men Thad would choose, or if he would choose at all. I had my favourite - but I shall leave you to decide who your favourite might be and what Thad's final decision was.
The second storyline of the book was in the horror story of the creature who is killing the gay men of Seattle. Those of you who aren't too keen on blood, guts and gore don't need to worry too much about that with this book. There are a couple of tastefully gory scenes, but much of the horror is psychological. I was sitting on the edge of my seats a few times riddled with tension as I waited to see what was going to happen. As a big horror fan, this was just ideal for me. I also liked the portrayal of the creatures, and it was particularly effective when we were taken into the mind of the creature. Those readers used to reading shifter books where the shifters are fluffy and cuddly, are going to get a bit of a shock here as these are not cute doggies. I loved it though and it made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up whenever the killer was on the prowl. Marvellous.
There were a couple of little niggles, one of which is very minor. At the beginning of the book, much is made of Thad's unemployed status and I thought that this was going to be important later in the book, but it wasn't which seemed a bit strange. Secondly, there's a character who appears in the latter half of the book who has an important role to play in the story and then disappears again. I did wonder whether there is to be a sequel to the story which features this character, in which case I can understand his appearance, but if not then his appearance was far too convenient, and seemed a sloppy way to resolve a situation. As far as I'm aware Rick R Reed doesn't usually do sloppy, so I shall be interested to see if the enigmatic stranger who left lots of questions behind him, will appear in a future book by this author.
One final thing to say, which also hints at a sequel, is that there are a few loose ends left at the end of the book. Things are sort-of resolved, but much is left up to the reader. This isn't necessarily a bad thing for me as I don't need my endings to be tied up in a huge bow, but some readers do, and may not be wholly satisfied with how the book concludes.
Overall, if you like horror and want to read a strong, well written, character based book chock full of suspense, romance and tension, then this book is for you. I enjoyed The Blue Moon Cafe a great deal and highly recommend it(less)
I’ve not read a book by this author before, although I have heard lots of good things about his other books. When I saw Liquid Glass at TQ I was intri...moreI’ve not read a book by this author before, although I have heard lots of good things about his other books. When I saw Liquid Glass at TQ I was intrigued by the blurb and decided that the ghost story element sounded interesting. In the end I was pleased to have read the book which contained a wildly romantic plot tempered with unsettling horror and paranormal ideas.
The story follows three sets of characters which interlink with one another in two different periods of history. There is a pair of previously married parapsychologists – Trudy and Malcolm – who have worked for many years to set up a reputable paranormal institute. Malcolm is obsessed with a Victorian house situated on the edge of Hamstead Heath, Lillyport House, which is said to be haunted by the soul of Victorian poet Eldon Davenport who committed suicide after being found in bed with a stable boy. Then there is Cameron MacKensie, a reclusive painter who buys Lilyport. On his first night in the house he sets of a chain of events which resurrects Eldon from the dead. In a panic Cameron calls Trudy who through her psychic powers determines that Cameron and Eldon are soul-mates and that Eldon’s life-force is bound to Cameron. Finally the story takes us back to the mid-1800s and the events leading up to Eldon’s suicide and beyond.
As you can tell from the above this book was quite dense in terms of story and characters. Although the sections set in the modern day follow only the four characters of Malcolm, Trudy, Cameron and Eldon, and one secondary character, the section in the 1800s follows several other characters including Eldon’s parents, his friend, Genevieve, the stable-boy, Albert, Albert’s aunt, Eldon’s nurse as well as a few incidental servants. Add this to a rather complex plot involving ghosts, past lives and fated love, and at times I felt a little overwhelmed. Having said that, whilst I struggled a little, especially towards the end, with the complexity of the plot and who was a reincarnation of who, as well as trying to get my head around how characters in the past can influence what happens in the future, I could still see that this was actually a very unusual story and carefully thought out in terms of how it worked logistically. So despite my confusion at times I was impressed overall with the plotting.
There were parts that I liked a great deal about the book. One of which was the character of Eldon who added some much needed lightness to the story on occasion. He’s an impulsive man who throws himself wholeheartedly into everything and has a sense of joy about life and especially his love for Cameron. I’m not usually a fan of ‘fated love’ stories but Eldon’s nature made it easy for me to believe that he would fall in love so quickly with a man he has only met in his dreams and that his strong personality would pull Cameron to that love. I also liked Trudy and her motherly influence on Eldon and Cameron. Another part I felt worked well was in the sections set in the past with its theme of sober behaviour, duty and societal standing which didn’t sit well with the flamboyant and emotive Eldon, leading to clashes with his father which made a nice contrast to the weirder goings on in the modern day plot.
The parts that didn’t work so well was in some of the more complex reincarnation theories. Much of this is theorised by Trudy who, as a psychic, can read the past through a building and access past lives. To be honest some of this stretched my incredulity a bit – possibly because I’m rather a sceptic about such things – and I also found it convenient that Trudy had all these ‘insights’ into what was happening. However, all the different strands of the plot were tied up satisfactorily and I finished the book happy that the past, present and future had now all been accounted for. There were also some parts of the book that were genuinely creepy and some graphic horror moments so those with a weak stomach for such things may wish to skip those bits.
Overall though, despite some reservations about the ‘past lives’ aspect of the book. I would recommend, Liquid Glass. It certainly kept me turning the pages with its faced paced, emotion laden plot and set of interesting characters. If you like horror or ghost stories then I think you’ll enjoy this book. I did.(less)
This Halloween short is very different from the normal type of story because it's structured like a monologue, with one (unnamed) character taking to...moreThis Halloween short is very different from the normal type of story because it's structured like a monologue, with one (unnamed) character taking to another (unnamed) character who either won't or can't speak back to him. The two men are waiting for a third to arrive and during the course of their time together the first man relates how he met and came to know the third man. It's difficult to say too much more about this without giving away major spoilers, but the whole creeping atmosphere of the story was deliciously chilling. I also loved the way that the character of the first man comes across strongly in his accent and the way he phrases his disturbing story. My favourite line out of the whole thing has to be: "We ended up in a rent-by-the-hour place, because, well, he was buying and I wasn't near as classy then as I am now, you know?". A perfect story for Halloween or for anyone fond of unsettling psychological horror stories. (less)
After Bill designs a tattoo for him, Michael tries to get Bill to talk about his artwork, which Bill feels is a lost cause now. In an attempt to show...moreAfter Bill designs a tattoo for him, Michael tries to get Bill to talk about his artwork, which Bill feels is a lost cause now. In an attempt to show Michael a mural he painted shortly before he was turned, Bill takes Michael to the cellar of an abandoned building where they encounter a nest of vampires who claim to be pacifists but look at Michael as though he were fresh meat.
This was one of the more bizarre stories in the Channelling Morpheus/SO series. It's full of terrible tension as the two heroes negotiate with two separate vamp tattoo artists as well as the nest of so-called friendly vamps. Told from Michael's POV, I got a sense of how deeply he is starting to care for Bill as, for once, his feelings are less about himself and more a concern for Bill and his artistic talents. In many ways this story is a set-up for the final story in the series but I still enjoyed it a great deal.(less)
The pacifist vamps from the previous book, Swarm, have taken a turn for the nasty as they attempt to run Bill and Michael out of town. Our heroes are...moreThe pacifist vamps from the previous book, Swarm, have taken a turn for the nasty as they attempt to run Bill and Michael out of town. Our heroes are just fine about this but when Michael gets sick Bill finds himself having to ask for help from the creepy Dr Harmon or run the risk of losing Michael.
This story is told by interweaving present and past. In the present Michael and Bill are having sex and that is then broken up with the main story of what happened to Bill and Michael when they discover that Michael is gravely ill and could either die or lose his arm. The tension was turned up high as I anxiously followed the story to see how it was all going to turn out. There were a few interesting things that I particularly liked about the story which is told from Bill's POV. I liked that the vamps from the nest were an assortment of different ages, each defined by the clothes they wear as to when they were turned. I liked Bill's increasing frustration over the limits of his vamp state as he tries to help Michael. I also liked that Bill (and we) see a different side to Dr Harmon which redeems him slightly for his previous actions in other books. Overall a great end to the series - although I do get the impression that Bill and Michael's story could continue, should JCP get the bug to write some more about these guys.(less)