I very much enjoyed this book. It is my second Aedin (the first was Paper Planes) and I'm beginning to think I could make her a regular go-to author....moreI very much enjoyed this book. It is my second Aedin (the first was Paper Planes) and I'm beginning to think I could make her a regular go-to author. Her writing is solid, her characters are three-dimensional and they behave in ways that make them very human and believable to me. I also think she is quite good at weaving story elements together.
I nearly didn't read this because the reviews to date warned me off. I'm glad I took a chance. Because with absolute respect to other reviewers, I felt as though we read slightly different books. To me, this was a better read than Paper Planes (PP didn't give me enough conflict, but then I freely admit to being a conflict-slut in my reading choices).
I don't like to necessarily write reaction reviews (reacting to other reviews) since I absolutely without question believe that my review is worth no more than anyone else's; at the same time, I feel as though this book is getting short shrift so far, so wanted to give my thoughts as a balance. Not for the author's sake -- I don't know her from Adam, but because, hey. I think this is a great book!
First off, yes, the book is hot, with some pretty steamy sex scenes. I enjoyed all of the characters very much, they were all nuanced and real to me. I especially appreciated how Aedin was able to write a scene that in other hands might have turned me off (the "Daddy" scene), but this one said so much about the characters involved that I devoured it. An excellent example of a sex scene that is so much more than it appears.
Where I disagree with other reviews is on two points (some light spoilery head, though I've tried to tone it down):
1. I thought that the so-called 'stalker' subplot (I'm not sure I'd call it a full-blown stalker subplot so much as some disturbing text messages) was well-integrated and necessary to the story. It did not stand alone, it was part and parcel of another aspect of the plot that was important to the story--to wit: the fact that Adam and Keith were all of a sudden getting their names splashed on front pages, and someone seemed to be driving that. More specifically, (view spoiler)[the texts explained *why* Cameron was calling the press, why he was trying to sabotage Keith and break up the couple. Without the texts, I would want to know why Cameron had a case of the ass for Keith, and without Cameron wanting to break Adam and Keith up, there is little story. (hide spoiler)]. Clearly Aedin didn't entirely get this across since so many reviewers feel the text-story stuck out -- but for me, it worked seamlessly and was required. The texts played another role in the story as well: they served as a flashpoint for Keith: in recognizing the damage that mental-illness can cause. It was a literary echo of that theme. I thought it all worked very nicely.
2. The ending was exactly right. This is totally a matter of opinion, but to me, there is a tendency in m/m (maybe for all romance, though I can't say for sure since I don't read it) to drag endings out for far too long. God help me, I think 95% of all epilogues should be axed. By the end, all of the major tensions had been resolved (and with what I thought was good pacing). The trio has decided to give it a shot. We know that Baz is already thinking to move. Keith has agreed to get help. For me, to give another chapter or two showing us each of these resolutions in detail would bore me. The conflict is resolved; the story is over.
I had minor niggles. Things like, the colors got a little heavy-handed for my tastes. All characters were a little bit too reasonable for my tastes (you can see I have odd tastes). But overall, I think this was a very well-constructed story, and I find Aedin's prose a pleasure to read.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Excellent example of just how good internet m/m can be. A short story, but excellent complexity and character building with so few words. And fun. Heh...moreExcellent example of just how good internet m/m can be. A short story, but excellent complexity and character building with so few words. And fun. Heh.(less)
note: this is not "m/m romance," though there are 'romantic' elements. If you are interested primarily in romances, might as well back-arrow out now....morenote: this is not "m/m romance," though there are 'romantic' elements. If you are interested primarily in romances, might as well back-arrow out now. Having said that:
Whoa. I'm really digging this author. His voice is strong, his writing of a style that just sucks me in, gives me a good shake, and doesn't let me go. This is the second of his books that I've read, and after a short breather (one needs one, to give the dust time to settle, and to think over some of what you've just read), I'm ready for the second part of this title (separate story arc; this one is complete).
This book, like his other, is narrated in 1st person, tight and close. The protagonist, Antony, is a short-fused, chip-on-his-shoulder, mean mother-fucker out and proud gay man in red Texas. His lover is brutally gang-raped and murdered while overnight in a jail on trumped-up charges of rape of a minor. Antony vows to get even and we follow his rage through some pretty ugly shit as he uncovers the extent of what happened. Antony is a hero, but he's a muddy one, maybe a little bit crazy, resulting in a story that is chilling, intelligent, and thoughtful.
To my mind, this wasn't quite as powerful as How to Rape a Straight Guy, but it comes close. I still give it five stars. There were some editorial issues--lead instead of led was prevalent, some others popped up here and there, but they didn't reach critical mass for me. In some respects, the setup was a touch far-fetched for me to summon up a full steam of outrage--but only a touch.
In sum--excellent, especially for those who enjoy strong characterization and moral ambiguity in protags. Dark, but not gratuitously so (IMO--though YMMV). Will certainly keep an eye on this author.(less)
First off: this is not m/m. I have it categorized this way in my lists, but only because I don't want to make a category for one or two books. Gay fic...moreFirst off: this is not m/m. I have it categorized this way in my lists, but only because I don't want to make a category for one or two books. Gay fiction, yes. M/m, no.
Expect minor spoilery below -- if you are a stickler for no hints and complete freshness, you should probably not read this review:
This is a powerful read. Yeah, it's 'smutty', it's explicit, and it is essentially about what the title says. But it is an uncomfortable read (in the best of ways) and the explicit scenes are difficult to get through, combining a titillation of one's most base senses with a profound horror at what is actually happening. To me, one reads this and is horrified with oneself for being able to get through it and empathize with the protagonist, much less find it sexually compelling. It teaches me something about myself...in a cautionary tale sort of way. Exposing the darkness within, that sort of thing. Because although Curt is extreme and majorly fucked up, he is also intelligent and willing to examine himself and accept what he has done. And this invites me to, as well.
At it's heart, this is a 'coming of age' story, where we follow Curt through a process of growth and understanding that some might say comes too late. Or perhaps not. The ending is neither tragic nor happy, but it is satisfying and hopeful and only makes sense.
Not sure all of that makes sense. The short of it: this book is not for everyone. It's not a feel-good story, but it is highly intelligent and brutally honest and emotional. Curt is a marvelously complex and embattled protag. A little work of genius, in my estimation.
I've stopped rating m/m stories just as a matter of policy, but since this book doesn't fall within the 'rating my peers' problem, I'm happy to give it my five-star mark.(less)
I just love this series. Urban fantasy, and right up my alley, dark and gritty but with just enough 'awww' to keep me happy (which is to say, a sprink...moreI just love this series. Urban fantasy, and right up my alley, dark and gritty but with just enough 'awww' to keep me happy (which is to say, a sprinkling). I can't say it's great literature, I can't say it is a standout at any one skill in the authorial repertoire, just good in all aspects, enough that the skill is invisible and the tale takes over. Solid, capable, intelligent writing and story-telling that scratches exactly the bone that I often want (need?) scratched.
Pure, sweet, escapism. No hard thinking or heavy messages (which, I love those, but sometimes...). *lolls happily*
I wish Vaughn would write more in this vein (the m/m vein, in particular).(less)
So far, Thom Lane's books come in one of two flavors. One, his 'xxx-heart' series is slavefic with heavy notes of D/s. Pure kink-candy for aficionados...moreSo far, Thom Lane's books come in one of two flavors. One, his 'xxx-heart' series is slavefic with heavy notes of D/s. Pure kink-candy for aficionados of the (sub)genre.
This is of his other flavor, which couldn't be more different. Pure romance, nearly to the point of sappiness, no hint of any but vanilla in bed.
I love both of them, they feed different parts of me, and this book is no exception.
I think what I like best about Lane's writing is his prose and description, I can just bathe in it, skimming along in reading him, enjoying the ride, not terribly concerned with how the story ends (because he doesn't write his romances to have you gnawing fingernails in worry for the protags) but in tasting the flavors along the way. That wonderful world-building seems to shine through in whatever he writes, and I really quite love it.
This book isn't spectacular, in the sense that it doesn't grip you and shake you with angst, action, despair or glee. But it is such a lovely read. :) In fact, I'm inclined to go back and re-enjoy his first of these now.
There was one detraction for me -- early on we learn the general plot, that Jeff, having been burned by a cheating lover a few months back, has forsworn relationships. And he keeps reminding himself of that as he begins to fall for this bright young man. I think Lane could have used a lighter touch in this -- as if he thought the reader wouldn't get the point the first ten times Jeff reminded himself of this. The repetition did pull me out of the flow a few times, but not enough to keep me from putting this one on my shelf of personal favorites with the rest of his.
Pepper Espinoza can usually be counted on to spin a solid, enjoyable tale. Funny that this one hit all my buttons, since I don't usually like such 'sw...morePepper Espinoza can usually be counted on to spin a solid, enjoyable tale. Funny that this one hit all my buttons, since I don't usually like such 'sweet' stories that are so fairy tale-ish. But this was done so nicely, both men being so strong, yet with a compelling and believable vulnerability. So nicely done. Wish it'd been a little bit longer (not novel, I don't think, but a little more).(less)
Whoa. I like almost anything Z.A. Maxfield writes, but this one blew me away, and though sometimes impressions fade with time, my thought is that this...moreWhoa. I like almost anything Z.A. Maxfield writes, but this one blew me away, and though sometimes impressions fade with time, my thought is that this one will sit solidly in my top 5 m/m of all time.
I'm not surprised that so far, this book has had a wide range of responses -- I expect it will be deemed the worst of hers by some readers, the best by others (put me in the column of 'the best'). It is not a feel-good story, it is dark, a morally ambiguous story where the heroes are flawed, the primary villain is both horrifically villainous and, if not sympathetic, then nice at the worst of times (when you want to hate him). The end is not a triumph (though it is 'HEA'), but more sour/sweet, something that may not sit well with all readers. Even with Dylan, who is presented as a nearly angelic character -- how does a man live for over a decade pretending not to see what his lover does for a living? Yet all of these are reasons that I absolutely loved this story. It moved me deeply.
I think it was a risky book; it is hard to like any of the characters entirely, but in that, I was drawn to all of them very strongly. William was an excellent character; he is latino, brought up in poor urban latino culture. He behaves latino, his speech patterns are latino (I'm speaking culturally, btw), but at the same time, he is a fully realized character who is looking for a way out of his 'gang family' upbringing in a way that is entirely believable and consistent (doesn't approach fairy-tale, 'youcandoanything' proportions). I can close my eyes and see him, hear him, feel as if I know him.
The plot is tightly woven with no stray threads/loose ends (though there are deliberate unresolved issues). I'm always impressed by an author that can breathe realism into a story that is, by its nature, fantastical (speaking of this genre of mob boss high crime adventure drama).
One thing I wonder about. Maxfield did a wonderful thing with the second in the St. Nacho's series. She took a despicable character from the first and made us care about him. I'm wondering if she can do the same with Peter (I'm not sure but that Peter may be more difficult to redeem than the St. Nacho's protag was, though ^^).
AMR is an autobuy for me, so it's no surprise that this makes my 'personal faves' shelf. However even among her own work, this one ranks high. Others...moreAMR is an autobuy for me, so it's no surprise that this makes my 'personal faves' shelf. However even among her own work, this one ranks high. Others have given wonderful synopses, so I'll not do that here.
The one gripe I have is that I wish something in the title or frontispiece or blurb had made clear that this was a sequel (of sorts) to Amor En Retrogrado. As I read, I kept thinking, 'damn, Bill and Kate sound familiar', but I was halfway through the book before I realized why. Since I read Amor well over a year ago, I'd've enjoyed this story a little more if I'd first skimmed to remind myself of Bill's story and where we'd left him.
One of the things I love most about Riley's writing is that her characters are flawed. Both protags behave pretty stupidly at times, enough that I wince, but their 'idiocy' is entirely in keeping with their character so it adds depth to the story. I loved the progression of Jeremy and Beckett's relationship: stormy, difficult, not always healthy, frankly, but very real for all that. Like in the ending of Amor, I'm left with the sense that the protags still have some work ahead of them, that all is not smooth sailing, but they'll make it. As if the end of this story is the beginning of another, full of its own conflict and angst, but with its own HEA. I kind of like that.
Among all of Riley's work, I think that this series is my favorite, and I'm glad to now see that she has a couple more in the works.(less)
Excellent book. Smart, serious, but fun, too. The people were so well-drawn, from the protags through the minor characters, teenagers and 'villains'....moreExcellent book. Smart, serious, but fun, too. The people were so well-drawn, from the protags through the minor characters, teenagers and 'villains'. Others have reviewed this well, so I won't try to repeat, but will mention a couple of things that stood out to me.
One, that Sinclair never took the obvious approach when drawing a character. To me, this is most clear in her portrayal of the teenagers, particularly Robbie. Robbie, though gay in a distinctly 'swishy' way, knows who he is, and though victimized, is no victim. The other teens in this west Texas high school are similarly not typecast into the behavior we expect from jocks/rednecks/ what have you.
Two, oh Lord, Sinclair, thank you thank you for writing about a country and people that are so near and dear to me. As someone who has spent more than one night in Marathon, who has family that could hail from this story's Gunning, who knows and loves Big Bend and the hill country, the grasslands, east and west Texas both, oh MAN it was lovely seeing it in a story so well written. With a love and respect for even the worst of the people in small Texas towns.
The only aspect of this book that I might crit is that I thought that Tom's introspection could have been tightened up. It got lengthy, I thought, and often I found myself thinking, 'yeah, I get it, now what happens next?'. Honestly though, it wasn't far too much for my taste, and the author could easily have gone the other direction -- which I would have like less. Because it was the in-depth understanding of what Tom was going through that really made this book.
Wow. That's two wonderful books in one week. How lucky am I?(less)
I was eager to pick up this book because I've read Thom Lane's others and enjoyed all of them. I love rich, flowing prose, enjoy submissive kink, and...moreI was eager to pick up this book because I've read Thom Lane's others and enjoyed all of them. I love rich, flowing prose, enjoy submissive kink, and am partial to a certain style of 'gritty' fantasy (as opposed to 'pretty' fantasy). Thom Lane's Tales of Amaranth (this is the 3rd in the series) combines all three of these beautifully, so he's really become an auto-buy for me.
The third of the series is different from the first two, with characters and personalities that are easily distinguished and a storyline that is fresh. I frankly loved both of the first two; the second, to me, was actually a more interesting story than the first, with more complex and ambiguous characters. Having said that, those who preferred the first of the three (most readers, I think) will probably feel that Lane got back with the program with this one. Captain Zander, while not as cold and hard as Lukas, is certainly a much more...erm...confident owner than Coryn was. And Tiffin is quite the sweet submissive.
One of the big questions in the story was left unanswered at the end (by design, not negligence), and like another reviewer, I was disappointed by this. Not a major issue for me, but a niggling one.