Tal Valante was my editor for Counterpoint and Crescendo--absolutely, stunningly brilliant beyond compare. If you enjoyed those titles, I think you'll...moreTal Valante was my editor for Counterpoint and Crescendo--absolutely, stunningly brilliant beyond compare. If you enjoyed those titles, I think you'll really love her first piece :)(less)
There are not words for how much I love this book. Full disclosure: I was a beta, and it's also set in my sandbox (this story is written in the same w...moreThere are not words for how much I love this book. Full disclosure: I was a beta, and it's also set in my sandbox (this story is written in the same world as Anchored and Where He Belongs). That said, Aleks wrote such a beautiful novel I'm downright jealous of how well he handled my sandbox; he built a much prettier castle than I ever did ;-p
This is classic Voinov at his finest: dark, gritty, morally ambiguous, dangerous, violent, and sexy as hell. All that plus a genuine romance! If you are a fan of any of these things, I cannot recommend this book strongly enough. Also, it's sooooooooooooooper cheap on pre-sale at SMP, so go--pick it up, and get to read it two days before everyone else. (Well, almost everyone else ;-p) And when you're done, you'll want to read it again, and again, and again. Pure love.(less)
It's pretty well written, though the prose is a bit on the pedestrian side. The cruelty got repetitive even for me--and that's saying a lot ;...more3.5 stars
It's pretty well written, though the prose is a bit on the pedestrian side. The cruelty got repetitive even for me--and that's saying a lot ;-p The villains kind of spent the whole story twirling their mustaches. The ending was so abrupt I was trying to flip the page on my Kindle and couldn't figure out why it wasn't working.
I realize those are all negative things, but I actually did rather enjoy this story. Plus, it's free, which is great. God knows it pushed all my kinkarific buttons and pushed them hard :D And once the Neko was free, the story got really compelling really fast. His traveling companion was by far the most fleshed-out and interesting character in the whole book. I'd love to read more about them as a couple.(less)
Full disclosure: I did a beta read on this one. I loved it then and I love it now. The whole concept of the Scorpions is creative and alluring. The ma...moreFull disclosure: I did a beta read on this one. I loved it then and I love it now. The whole concept of the Scorpions is creative and alluring. The main characters--and there are many, because really, this is an ensemble cast orbiting around the bright star that is Kendras--are all vivid, unique individuals, and Aleks creates the sense that he knows the history and mythology for each of them down to how they lost their first baby tooth (without inundating us with details; it's all spare subtle brush strokes, well placed). Kendras is a wonderfully sympathetic character, tough as nails, mercilessly pragmatic, and in so far over his head at some points you can't help but want to gather all your friends around to cheer him on.
If you love fantasy, history, or even a good military novel--or, of course, Aleks himself :D--then you'll want to move this one to the top of your TBR pile. (less)
Disclaimer: I only read 75% of the story. Put it down and never picked it up again. It's not that I don't like the subject matter--in fact, the only r...moreDisclaimer: I only read 75% of the story. Put it down and never picked it up again. It's not that I don't like the subject matter--in fact, the only reason I got through 75% of it was because this sort of stuff pushes all my buttons and so few people write material of this nature. What I didn't like was the way it was handled.
The story is full of grossly implausible situations and behaviors, even within the context of the world it created. Everything was explained and narrated to within an inch of its life (and sometimes well beyond). I liked the way in which the society spiraled so out of control--I thought that was an excellent mirror to hold up to just about any abuse of power, though it read more like a soapbox than a novel--but the author didn't even bother attempting to weave that information in naturally; instead there was just a giant expository info dump at the beginning of the book. Which pretty much sets the tone for the whole thing: one giant expository info dump after another, and worse, they meander all over the place. The story goes off into tangent after tangent. Even the places where the material is actually relevant to plot and character lack focus and wander all over the page.
It's sad because this author is certainly capable of crafting a sentence, and the idea of the world he's created is a fascinating one. Alas, everything was handled with a bludgeon rather than a scalpel, and with a degree of either laziness or utter lack of editorial direction (or both) that made the book suffer deeply--frankly, to and past the point of failure.
I know a lot of people raved about this book, but I can't help but think they were raving about the idea of it rather than the execution of it, which fell so flat I felt nothing pretty much the entire way through--even at the parts where clearly I was supposed to be moved and horrified and full of pity. (Of course, YMMV.) I wish this author had had a strong enough editor and the three or four months of reworking and rewriting it would have taken to kick the book into shape. I do suspect the talent's there, and certainly the creativity. But none of it was realized in this story.(less)
I feel like this story held a lot of potential that was almost entirely sacrificed to length. Essentially, this read like an outline. Conceptually int...moreI feel like this story held a lot of potential that was almost entirely sacrificed to length. Essentially, this read like an outline. Conceptually interesting, but far too much telling and not nearly enough showing. This made forming emotional connections to the characters very hard, as did the hugely insufficient reason for Jinsu to leave behind all he's ever known and loved--with no way to get back--for something he'd only dreamed of. It was a hard sell, and not set up well enough for me to buy (which is a good example, btw, of where I think taking real time and space with the story rather than cramming it into a short might have made a significant difference in quality and believability). I was also kind of blindsided by twincest, of which no mention is made in the blurb. I'll grant you it's not a big part of the story, but it's very much not my kink and some warning would have been nice ;-)
On the plus side, the writing on the sentence level is decent. There were very occasional bursts of absolute brilliance. (My favorite? "Jesus fucking Christ. You're still here? You're really here?" "I am." Jinsu had no idea who Jesus and Christ were, or why it mattered that they were fucking.) There were sadly less occasional bursts of painful cliche, and some language in the sex scenes that put me off completely (". . . his cock pumping sticky creamy juice," for example). The premise is quite interesting. The way that Jinsu reacted to the strangeness of the world around him when he first crossed over was one of my favorite parts of the story. But it was sketched through so quickly that the writer was almost forced into cliche to convey his thoughts because he left himself no room for actual scenes and emotional development. I'd have loved to have seen this as a novella, but as a short story it simply falls flat.(less)
Duck! is, hands down, one of the sweetest and most insightful explorations of 24/7 total power exchange that I have ever read. It's also one of the mo...moreDuck! is, hands down, one of the sweetest and most insightful explorations of 24/7 total power exchange that I have ever read. It's also one of the most highly recommended books I've ever read, and though I didn't quite understand why at the beginning, it was perfectly clear by the end.
There are a lot of amazing things about this book. First and foremost is the way the TPE relationship is handled--how it begins, how it develops, how it ends, and most especially the thought processes of both the Dom and the sub. The two POVs complimented each other to perfection in this book, soothing any--ahem--ruffled feathers the reader might ever have about their situation. Not, mind you, that I think that will come up often; Dare sets the stage with so much patience and reflection that even an uninitiated reader with no understanding of what drives Doms and subs would likely find themselves nodding their heads and saying, "Ooooh, I get it now." That's quite the accomplishment.
Another tick in the "quite the accomplishment" column was Dare's concept of avian shifters. Truly creative, and the hierarchy amongst them felt natural, borrowed neatly as it was from real life. There was some uneasiness about this in the beginning when poor Ori is still in the Nest, before he's discovered by his new master, but once he's in his master's hands, the picture of the world Dare painted becomes clear and even kind of reassuring.
So, why not five stars? Two big things. First, the writing's a little rough. Tons of misplaced commas--and not so much proofing errors as grammar errors--that often threw off the rhythm of a sentence or a scene. Also an absolutely endless use of epithets ("the younger man," "the older man," "the bigger man," "the smaller man," "the hawk," "the duckling," "the submissive," and on and on and ON), a dozen or more on the average page, sometimes two or three in a single sentence! My guess is that this stemmed from the author either worrying about repeating the characters' names too often (which is silly, names are as invisible on the page as "said"), and/or from her being unsure of how to handle pronouns in an M/M story without confusing the reader (which is admittedly not easy but still something I expect a published author to manage). One or two epithets a paragraph is usually enough to make my eye twitch, so this was pretty tough for me to get over and definitely took away from my enjoyment of the story.
The other issue was the pacing in the middle third of the book. The first third of the book had a strong hook, drew me right in, made me care intensely about Ori and his master and want to know everything I possibly could about the brilliant world Dare created. The last third was heartbreaking, sad, sweet, beautiful, engrossing . . . I seriously lack the adjectives to describe how compelling and wonderful and emotional the last third of this book was, or how satisfying the ending was. But the middle third (after Ori had settled into his master's home but before he completes his full shift) really began to drag, enough that I began to think about not finishing. If you find yourself in the same position--STICK IT OUT! The last third of the book will carry you away, keep you up half the night, and you'll be glad for every second of lost sleep because it meant you got to read act 3.
So, this one's a definite "recommend" for me--READ IT!--and I'm looking forward to picking up the next Kim Dare book in my TBR :) (less)
This is one of the best M/M books I've read. The beginning is powerful and haunting, the end profoundly satisfying, and the whol...more4.5 stars, rounded up.
This is one of the best M/M books I've read. The beginning is powerful and haunting, the end profoundly satisfying, and the whole of the journey in between emotionally resonant and SCORCHING hot. I mean, seriously. HOT. The first time Micah and Eli made love, I was such a quivering puddle I could barely hold my Kindle.
Kari's prose is careful and evocative, her attention to detail superb. I mentioned in one of my status updates how Micah, after ten years of near-starvation, burns his mouth in his haste to gulp down a tasty beef broth. Those kinds of details are everywhere in this book, so real and grounding and concrete, and they make Kari's world a rich sensory experience that sucks you right in. Her word choice does the same--particularly in the sex scenes, her language has a slightly antiquated feel that lends authenticity to the historical setting without bogging you down or tripping you up. As a writer of M/M myself, I know how hard it can be to make certain parts of the male anatomy sound sexy, especially without getting repetitive, and I consider it a talent of the highest order that Kari was able to do so over and over again.
There were only two things about this book that detracted from the experience for me, one minor and the other even more minor. The minor one is Kari's habit of making a huge number of sentences their own paragraph. This is a stylistic choice, no doubt, and sometimes lends just the right pitch, emphasis, and cadence to a particular line. Most of the time, though, I found it to be a little jarring, breaking up the flow of the story and emphasizing lines that did not need or deserve it. I also thought there was exactly one too many sex scenes--the one that occurs about three quarters of the way through, the night Micah and Eli reach their homeland. While still scorching hot, it was the only sex scene in the book that--to me, anyway--did nothing to advance the characters or the plot. And since I was so eager to see how both would advance, I found myself wishing that one scene hadn't bee there. Those two minor quibbles are the only reason this one's a 4.5 read for me instead of a 5, and I still loved it so much that I rounded up instead of down.
After reading Spoils of War, I can comfortably say that anything Kari Gregg ever writes will definitely zoom right to the top of my TBR pile from now on. Spoils of War should zoom right to the top of yours, too. It was THAT good, THAT hot, THAT satisfying in all the right ways.(less)
Romance? Absolutely not. Erotica? Definitely. BDSM? Also absolutely not; no, this is dubcon at best, abuse, and a slave in an absolutely unvarnished w...moreRomance? Absolutely not. Erotica? Definitely. BDSM? Also absolutely not; no, this is dubcon at best, abuse, and a slave in an absolutely unvarnished world (good for the author for not painting real slavery with a pretty brush) grabbing on to the slightest hint of happiness he can cling to--violent and callous as it often was--and calling it love. That being said, it was also hot and remarkably well written. The prose is artful, the worldbuilding was brilliant, the plot secondary to the characters but still entertaining. I was left feeling kind of oily and unpleasant at the very end--you'll almost certainly know why when you get there--and reminded of how awful the whole situation really is despite the prot's claim to happiness, but I was also left wishing it hadn't ended quite so soon. I'll be picking up the next book in the series for sure.(less)
**spoiler alert** This was a reasonably well-written book that pushes a lot of my happy buttons, and the author has some real raw talent that needs a...more**spoiler alert** This was a reasonably well-written book that pushes a lot of my happy buttons, and the author has some real raw talent that needs a few years and a good editor to polish up to five-star material, but I do think she (he?) will get there at some point.
A big part of my problem with this book was the lack of worldbuilding--and the inconsistency of what little worldbuilding there was. For instance, they had cars and telephones but wore tunics and wrote letters to invite people to dinner. I couldn't reconcile the touches of technology with the touches of medievalism, and the author took no time to explain it or almost anything else that happened outside the four walls in which the protagonist spent most of his time. I also wondered about the book's central conceit, which is that children of poor peasants can be sold into slavery at the age of 15. By the time you're 15, you can leave home and live on your own; why would you permit yourself to be enslaved, especially if there's no love lost for your family? The author did make an attempt to show slavery as an often-good thing for the slave, and maybe this world and its culture is set up to propagate that concept for the to-be-enslaved, but because of said lack of worldbuilding, there was no way to tell and thus the whole thing was very hard to swallow.
I also found Bran's initial fear/thought processes overdone and a bit forced to serve the needs of the plot, though the love story the book turned into felt very organic and worked very well. What made less sense for me, though, was why the daughter of Bran's master, who is also the daughter of a slave, would be so eager to have a slave of her own. She's seen the destructive power of slavery--as have Bran's master and mistress--so to choose to propagate a system they know firsthand can be so destructive fell a little flat to me. Some of the language fell flat to me too: the casual cursing in the oddest places, the random and sudden use of "sweetheart" from the master's mouth, and the way that far too many of the characters all shared the exact same voice in dialog.
All that being said, I did enjoy the book enough consider reading further into the series. For a short novel, it took a very long time for anything to really happen plot-wise, but once it did it got pretty interesting. The author did a great job of showing a VERY difficult-to-swallow concept--that of the slave genuinely falling in love with his master--though I got the impression, as Bran's master so often said, that he was simply in love with the firs person to be kind to him. It's not quite romance, but it did feel good :)(less)
Beauty is a re-imagining of the classic Sleeping Beauty tale, except with a lot of spanking, dubiously consensual sex (cast in the best light; in the...moreBeauty is a re-imagining of the classic Sleeping Beauty tale, except with a lot of spanking, dubiously consensual sex (cast in the best light; in the worst, it's serial rape), and hardcore D/s total power exchange.
I'm very apathetic about this series. On the one hand, it certainly has its share of titillation for those who enjoy BDSM fantasies, and there's both a fair amount of creativity and a fair amount of truth in Rice's exploration of it. I'd go so far as to venture that Rice had firsthand experience in the scene before she wrote this . . . though not very much.
On the other (much larger) hand, the two egregious issues with this book are a total lack of believable setup and a near-total lack of believable character development/motivation.
The setup issue comes down to how flimsy the excuse was for getting the princes and princesses into their servitude. I won't spoil it for you, but trust me, it's ridiculous.
The development/motivation issue is a significant problem that consistently pulled me from the narrative, most especially at the end of the book. There were some moments that really hit the nail on the head, such as the breaking point of Beauty's secondary love interest (an enslaved prince). But most of it felt artificial, railroaded, as if Rice was familiar with the motions of BDSM but not the *e*motions or thought processes of a submissive. This led to a lot of eye-rolling on my part, because I felt like she was writing a self-indulgent fantasy rather than a realistic one that I could buy into and enjoy along with her.
Conclusion? Read them if you're bored. Borrow or swap for them; don't buy them. They're moderately entertaining, despite the flaws, but I suspect much of the enjoyment comes out of the way she twists a beloved childhood story into something naughty.(less)