No matter how much I've wanted to read Jacob Flores' prior books, this is the first one that I really had the timReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
No matter how much I've wanted to read Jacob Flores' prior books, this is the first one that I really had the time to read. And I'm so glad that I did. More than anything, more than the fact that I found some parts of this book less to my liking than others and I didn't think it was perfect, it intrigued me. I immediately put back all of the books I have of Jacob's back onto my Kindle and I only hope that I have the time to read them soon.
Prepare for a LONG summary. Sorry about that, but I think it's worth reading ;)
Zach has always done what everyone told him too. Submissive to almost an extreme in his life (though not in the bedroom), he first allowed his father to dictate his life and self-understanding and later his partner of three years, Ben. The start of When Love Takes Over sees Ben unceremoniously dumped by Ben -- with no reason or explanation -- simply a get out. Zach is tired of being shuffled around and taking it, doing everything he can to change himself into the man that Ben wants. So he does the most impulsive thing he's done in his life. He takes the small bag he left with from Houston and jumps a plane to P-Town.
Zach has never been to Provincetown and the place dazzles him. There are men everywhere, half naked in the streets, holding hands and kissing. The place seems like freedom personified and there's no better introduction to the wonders of P-Town than the owner of the condo he's renting for the week, Gary. Gary and his partner Quinn convince Zach to take advantage of all P-Town has to offer, not to stay in his room and try to work on his novel. Zach still doesn't understand how his life took such a strange turn, but his writing seems to have suffered in relative fashion. Perhaps a change will be good for him.
Van is also at a crossroads. He's had a bad time in relationships and it seems like every time he gives away his heart, which always seems to easy for him to do, it gets pummeled and thrown back at him, damaged more and more every time. After his last relationship with a man named Jason who drove him into a terrible dehumanizing spiral of sex and pain, Van took it upon himself to never face that kind of damage again. That is how Hart Throb was born. Being Hart Throb on screen for thousands of horny gay men gives Van a rush and a self-esteem boost that he needs. He can do porn and still enjoy sex, even being pounded by multiple men, without the emotions that ended up crushing him before. As a power bottom that has quickly amassed a huge fan following, he has the power to call more shots and he's the one in control, not the men on top of him.
It's almost enough to convince him that he doesn't need an emotional connection at all. The pain of the past and his creation of his more powerful alter-ego have slowly started to shift his two identities and Hart Throb looks to be taking over. When Van runs into a geeky, shy and pale ginger beauty named Zach in a leather store, his previous conviction falls to pieces. Something about Zach -- perhaps his bumbling and sweet nature with mismatched clothes and messed up hair, or his personality which seems to be completely free of artifice in a town where looks and sex are all that matters -- appeals to Van. Even though their meeting is short, he can't get Zach out of his head and his feelings about someone that he doesn't even know only highlight that Hart Throb can't fully sustain him.
A makeover on the outside from an excited Gary and female friend Tara prove to Zach that he does have worth. He believe that it just might be possible to break out of his shell, leave the old, boring doormat he was behind and embrace P-Town. That's what everyone keeps telling him to do, after all. Embrace P-Town, because it will change you. And now that he's seeing other men, hot men checking him out and finding him very worthy of their attention, the sexually adventurous nature he always repressed starts to peek out. But no matter how much he embraces the sex in the air (with some very public and exciting naughtiness!) what he really wants is to find Van again. But will Van even recognize him? Or did P-Town get to Zach before Van could, changing him in ways that ultimately aren't good for him?
Whew! First of all, if you made it through that -- thank you! You deserve a chocolate or something :) Second, you saw just how long that summary was. I'd say that even though I did a bit of a character introduction to you as well, that summary probably only covers the first 1/4 of the book. The pace in this story moves rather quickly. I like that this author makes decisive choices for his characters. They don't dawdle, but the story moves along without pause. I appreciate that because no matter how you feel about those decisions, there's nothing worse than an author refusing to make them and then the characters stall. Van and Zach go through quite a lot to get their HEA, and it's hard-won, that's for damn sure! You can see just from the summary I wrote that the angst is already building. Wherever both Van and Zach go in this story they always seem to be looking for one another but at the same time moving in opposite directions, like passing ships in the night ;) When Van looks for the geeky guy he had a moment with in the leather store he finds just another shallow guy tricking. When Zach continues to look for Van, he finds what he thinks is a guy with a boyfriend. And no matter how annoying that was at the time, because I wanted to smack them both and tell them to actually communicate with each other, this author ultimately brings the story around so that their actions and thoughts make sense to the character.
I really liked both Van and Zach. Zach is someone who I felt like I could understand on a personal level:
He found it almost impossible to simply be who he was. He always felt the need to apologize for himself and change whatever people didn't like about him until he'd become whatever they might need.
The thought that he devoted three years of his life trying to conform to an impossible ideal for Ben haunts him, especially considering that Ben seems to have no appreciation of that fact. P-Town is important to him. His outside makeover soon starts to make him over inside and having men look at him as if they'd be lucky to have him is something that he's never really felt. This is why this book worked for me on this level. We have a tendency in the romance genre to equate the characters and their choices with the quality of the book. But, it's important for a character to grow and Zach needs to embrace his slutty and hedonistic side, no matter how shallow it makes him or that he becomes a bit of an asshole for a while, and he needs to fuck things up so that he can learn to be an active participant in a relationship. By definition, the end goal in romance is the HEA. The direction is important, but honestly, the journey there is the real point. This book is a good example for characters that you might not like at certain points in the book, but which (to me, at least) should have no bearing on the rating of it.
I think the real reason that I was intrigued about this author's writing from reading this book is the tone and mood of the story. The mood is festive and reflective of the setting, but the tone of the writing often seemed just a little bit campy. The tone seemed campy, mind you, not the plot or characters (except for Gary! and Penny :D). This gives the story a lift. Right away it draws you in. No matter the subject matter there's always a glass half-full feeling that carries through the story. It's a hopeful tone. I felt like that little bit of campiness was so right on to how I've felt before in settings with lots of gay men and a party atmosphere. Sadly, I've yet to visit P-Town, but the setting and tone gave off a sense of inclusion and freedom and that thread ran throughout the story, the tone affecting all of the book in subtle ways.
Originally, I gave this book a Pretty Good rating. I had some trouble with the ending, specifically the part from the ending of Zach's novel to the upstairs of the porn set setting. That conversation between the two was the culmination of the previous chapter or two where Zach starts to think in a kind of writer affectation. Everything became a bit melodramatic and I wasn't quite sure how to take it. Seriously? Or, as a subtle importation of his writer's mind? With an added day or two of reflection, I found those parts less important in my memory than the whole. I don't think this book is perfect by any means, but I cared less about those trouble spots for me and more about the overall story. And that is of two characters that I felt were explored rather well and of writing by this author that I grew increasingly fond of while reading. I can't wait until he writes something new. Or until I can get off my ass and read something off of his backlist. Recommended....more
It has been a while since I read and reviewed one of Karenna Colcroft's short stories -- that last oneReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
It has been a while since I read and reviewed one of Karenna Colcroft's short stories -- that last one being Chance Met, which I gave a So So rating -- but I was excited to read this one because of the rocker theme. And I'm glad that I did, because this story did what a short romance does well. It doesn't try to pack a whole romance into a short format but it gives us a glimpse into the life of the characters and their romance.
Kieran is a forceful presence, a musical star combining country and rock with a solid fan base, and publicly gay after coming out over a year before this story starts. But he also has a secret life that he's held in check, mostly at the urging of his manager and boyfriend, who just wants to support his career and not jeopardize it. Kieran is a forceful presence, yes. He knows what he wants and he takes it, which makes him successful. But he also likes to carry that power into the bedroom, and he has a permanent partner there who likes to submit to him. Secretly, Kieran has been dating the man who works at his right hand, doing much of the behind-the-scenes work for his music and on his tours. Deacon is known to most as his best friend, but they've been lovers in a part-time BDSM relationship for a year now.
But Kieran is tired of hiding. He finally made the leap and convinced his management and studio that he should come out. But so far they've convinced him not to admit to his relationship with Deke, hoping to continue to play on Kieran's heartthrob status and unsure if the same people who supported him coming out as gay would feel similarly about him as a gay man in a relationship. For Kieran, however, it is past time. When a man from the studio tells him to record a cover on his next album of the song "When I See You Smile" from the 80s, it serves as a catalyst for Kieran to stick it to the man. Kieran West doesn't do covers, and he sure as hell isn't going to keep Deke a secret any longer. But will Deke agree?
As I mentioned at the beginning of the review, this story works as a glimpse into the lives of our characters at an important moment in their relationship, without using conflict to drive the plot. Of course, there is a little bit of conflict. The people around Kieran are pretty adamantly against his decision to go public about Deke, but there's no real conflict because Kieran has already made up his mind, and like I said, he's a strong personality. His resolve only serves to make us closer to him because we always respect people/characters who are steadfast and self-aware, especially in defense of their partner. And Kiernan's decision to go public is really about honoring Deke, who deserves to stand up as his boyfriend as much as Kiernan wants to stand by his side. The BDSM flows outwardly from that, in the sense that it's an extension of their personalities, but also that their sexual lives take a backseat to their romantic lives and their public lives. There is a touch of BDSM in the story, but it isn't the focus.
The removal of real conflict works here if you're looking for a light and sweet story, and it isn't really needed to push the plot forward at 16k words. The story is short enough to keep a steady pace just from getting to know Kiernan and Deke, and the little bit of conflict that propels the story in the beginning as we start to see the dynamic in their relationship and how it changes when they move out of bed and return as equal partners. Deke remained a bit of a mystery for me, and to rate this story higher I would have liked to get to know more about him. The story reads well as it stands, however, and is definitely good for you if you're in the mood for something sweet and heartwarming. And of course, rocker characters always draw attention and Kiernan does well playing the bad boy with a heart of gold....more
So that's how I feel now, just having finished this. In the words of Fake Joy Behar Fred ArReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
So that's how I feel now, just having finished this. In the words of Fake Joy Behar Fred Armison, So What? Who Cares? This might not be the perfectly executed book, but it wins on more than one account, most importantly rating high on the Swoon Meter!
It took a late blooming start for Ryan Betancourt to play in the big leagues, against his childhood idols and masters of tennis, but in the past year something clicked for him. His maybe late but now meteoric rise from the Futures and Challengers tournaments won him a wild card place in the US Open, and his new more confident playing gave him the points the enter the top tier of international men's singles and entrance into the most celebrated top tournaments worldwide. Sincerely optimistic without fault, Ryan starts the season in awe of the his new contemporaries, many who used to grace his teenage walls. One, more than any other, however, has always been his idol. Perfectly poised in tennis and life, Josh Andrews is the wunderkind of tennis on his comeback after a torn ACL and several year absence from the circuit. Meeting his inordinately beautiful and talented hero in real life… well, that's a big disappointment.
Ryan's personal life seems to progress with his success at the game, and the more time he spends as a part of the famous and elite players, the more he realizes he deserves to be among them. In correlation, his confidence in his own performance shines. It seems that everyone has undervalued him, but that's only because his successful rise is climbing faster than their expectations. He soon finds that he has friends and a place among the top tennis world.
Ryan is eternally optimistic, but with that comes a tenacity and perseverance. When he still can't get his mind off of Josh Andrews, even when everyone else seems to have a conflicting observation about the man, Ryan decides to speak to him himself. Soon after, their paths continue to cross and the two become friends. But what Ryan expected to find in Josh Andrews is rather different than what he finds -- a conflicted, somewhat broken man only held together by the determination to win.
The biggest part of what made this book so satisfying was in the creation of Chase MItchell, the antagonist. Granger is pretty crafty in the trajectory of Mitch's character, though I have to tell you that while I couldn't have said just what direction the book ultimately took, I didn't warm up to him at all. (Pardon me while I go off on a tangent you might not understand unless you've read the book! Under the tag...) (view spoiler)[When we first meet him he comes off with just the right amount of cultured charm, which (probably intentionally) slightly rubs the reader. He seems like the kind of guy with ulterior motives, but he's handsome, charming and doesn't really display any kind of negative behavior -- at least to Ryan. It's was also pretty clear to me that he had some secrets by his few mentions of Josh to Ryan and the fact that Ryan is never in the same room as both of them. By the time the story is set up to reveal the real Mitch, he goes from confidante and friend to Ryan yet coming betwixt the two of them to the absolutely perfect target and one of the reasons to bring Ryan and Josh together for a final time. And when you finally hear about all of his past deeds and crimes and realize just how despicable of a man he really is, then he's the perfect antagonist, and a perfect opportunity for Josh to get his comeback. And through Josh, Ryan as well. (hide spoiler)](Okay, tangent over.)
What originally drew me to this book was the tennis aspect. I took tennis lessons from age 5 to 14 and was pretty good, actually. I never would have gone anywhere -- I just don't have the drive for it and I'm the least competitive person. I like to read about athletes that push themselves because that was never me. This definitely gave me what I wanted, but I was drawn into the story immediately by Ryan, who is an enigmatic narrator. He's driven yes, but without many of the faults of exceedingly talented athletes -- like ego, aggression and other stereotypical Type A behavior. And of course, he's the underdog. We naturally want to cheer him on.
All I can really say is that analysis aside, this was just a really enjoyable book to read. Part of that is the action, which cut into the drama nicely. Also, that creation of such a satisfying antagonist in Mitch. There's quite a bit of detail about tennis and some jargon about the game that some reader's might not quite understand. I found the detail about the whole system much more intriguing, and though I know very little about the real life tennis world to compare, the story came off as authentically set in the real world and not an idealistic one. But mostly, it read like a novel masquerading as a novella, meaning that the reading experience passed by in no time because of my enjoyment of the story and becoming immersed in the characters. There's no deep analysis of them or a really intricate plot in the narration, but instead a light tone and satisfying finish that made me a fan of Sarah Granger. Now, I need to go back and read her other story published earlier this year -- The Long Road Home....more
I had to request this for review as soon as I could because, hello.. rocker book! I, like many of you, just can'tReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
I had to request this for review as soon as I could because, hello.. rocker book! I, like many of you, just can't get enough of them and it seems like there's one every month or so that comes out (sometimes fewer, actually) and it just enough to curb my appetite until another is released. So, I started reading this as soon as I got it and it did it's job in getting me to next month's (hopeful) fix. I didn't, however, love it -- and the reasons are purely subjective. I'll outline those, because in this instance I'm sure that what I don't like about the book is something that some others will.
This story is split into two major parts. The first half of the book takes place in the 90s and covers the genesis of the band King Phoenix and the relationship between Scott and Ash. The second half of the book details their rise from ashes, not necessarily professionally, but personally. I was worried at first, because the book starts with a prologue in the present day and then jumps back to the beginning of their story (the 90s) in the first chapter, and I'm really not a fan of flashbacks. I always get nervous when I feel one coming because it takes a very talented author to juggle the art of jumping back and forth in time and lose the momentum of the story. Thankfully, this dodged that by cleanly breaking the book into two halves, which mostly worked for me, but wasn't without adding to another difficulty I had with the story.
I felt at odds much of reading the first half. The story covers several years in the rise of the band, from their initial formation, through their bar playing days and then into superstardom and world tours. That is a large chunk of time and much of it was glossed over. I felt a bit like I was stuck between a rock and a hard place, unable to decide if I wanted more or not. Because so much time as glossed over, much of this was exposition -- the author detailing what has happened since the last shift forward a few months or a year ago and then a swift narration of where things stand. More often than not there was a summary of events rather than a scene in present time. That frustrated me, because I never felt like I really got to know Scott and Ash as a couple. However, I was also thankful in a way, because they were both so.messed.up that I was reluctant for the story to completely drop into their lives. By the time of their real success their relationship has become a casualty of the rock and roll lifestyle and fears of band breakup, and I just couldn't decide whether I could have dealt with the real angst of that situation. As it is, we see it, but because we're somewhat removed from the situation -- only getting pieces of them here and there over months and years -- it isn't nearly as intense as it could have been.
So I was happy, in a sense, when time jumped forward to the present around the halfway mark in the book. The situation the band was in, like a pressure cooker growing more dense and dangerous, was ready to explode. And I was happy I didn't have to read the direct fallout of that. That meant, however, that the characters went their separate ways, which saved all that hurt that was never dealt with for another time. And those feelings just fester over the years. I think that this was what I had a hard time reading the most. While the author doesn't create a classic Big Mis situation, it does have many of those hallmarks, which was frustrating for me. The Big Mis(understanding) is, of course, where characters have a falling out for lack of a better term over a miscommunication, or misunderstanding and only deal with it later, realizing how stupid they were (along with us realizing how stupid they were). And I felt like though this were a real situation, not something stupid which is where the term The Big Mis is usually awarded, it hinges on a technicality, a decision made by a few very secondary characters. I don't think this will actually bother many readers as much as it did me, and many might not consider it a Big Mis situation at all. But the effect of those decisions by the characters and the author in how the book is paced and structured directly correlated to the amount of angst, which is my hot button.
So, that's why this was a difficult read for me. There are parts that I certainly liked. The last bit of the book was a nice read for me, one a lot of the issues between Scott and Ash were worked out, but I never quite settled into the book and I never really warmed up to the characters. So, if you like your rocker books with a bit of angst, and maybe a tale of second chances and characters making up for past mistakes, then I'd say give this a try. And try not to gauge my feelings about the amount of angst in a book against yours, I'm probably way more sensitive than you ;)...more
This will be a fairly short review because most of what I have to way has been said myriad times by now from otheReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
This will be a fairly short review because most of what I have to way has been said myriad times by now from other reviewers, all of which you'll find on the book page at GR.
I really adored this book in the way that makes ZAM one of my very favorite authors. A few of her recent books just haven't affected me the way the earlier ones did, like Crossing Borders, which still remains one of my top favorite books in this genre. Still, there are quite a few inconsistencies and what seem like mistakes. Most of these are fine to overlook in that they are very noticeable but don't really affect the story. The biggest one of those was the fact that we never learn about the baby what happened to him.
On the other hand, there were a couple of things that did bother me, that affected my feelings about the book and characters and ended up costing this book a Love it rating. The first is that we are left with a very open ending. This is a personal preference, that it seemed as if the story ending just a page short, maybe even less! It frustrated me that we didn't know at least the direction their relationship was headed other than that they're together. I'm find with HFN endings, but I like to have some knowledge of what is in their immediate future.
The second thing that affected my enjoyment was the sister Dee. I felt horrible for Jeff by the way his family treated him, by the way everyone treated him in his relationship with Dee. It was very frustrating for me the whole time, and while I understood on some level that this formed some of the distance he felt towards his family and therefore had a use in the story, it seemed greatly exaggerated to me and most of the time the strange relationship and terrible treatment of him from his family and Dee just didn't jibe with their situation and the way they talked about each other. There was a disconnect there that just seemed glaring to me. I had a hard time getting over it.
With those two things and still a rating of Really Liked it, the rest of the book had to have been incredible, and it was. The pacing, the way that the relationship progressed between Jeff and Nigel throughout the story and especially in the early days. The character development of Nigel was brilliant, constantly revealing a new aspect of his personality as the story plodded along and then, in the end, feeling like everything came together.
I absolutely adored it, and will most likely be reading it again sometime! This is a book that I'll recommend to everyone because it showcases the best of this author and what I love about her work so much. I haven't stopped thinking about this book for days. Most definitely recommended!...more
I've learned that reading Mary Calmes' books are the ultimate in guilty pleasures. Not because you shoulReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
I've learned that reading Mary Calmes' books are the ultimate in guilty pleasures. Not because you should be ashamed to read them, oh no, simply that they're decadent in romance in a way that not many other books are. There's something about them that really hits the spot when you're in the mood for a sweet, adorable, whirlwind romance (most of them, anyway), and Steamroller definitely fits the mold. Lately, this author has been releasing a lot of novellas similar to this and I've really come to enjoy them. While this one wasn't my favorite, it was definitely a nice way to spend an afternoon.
Wade, who seems to go by several names with different people, is different from most of the other students at his college. He was kicked out during senior year of high school when he came out to his parents, and was taken in by his friend's family. Now, he's one of the kids and like brothers with Mike, even though they're on the rocks since for the past year Mike has pretty much dumped him for his trashy girlfriend Barbara and left him to pay the steep rent of a shoebox apartment alone. Now he has to work twice as much on top of school to keep up both halves of the rent. He meets Carson one night just as the copy store is about to close. As manager (and a self-admitted prickly asshole at time), he can't help but get pissed off at Carson and his friend who want special favors to get their copies made before closing. The interaction with Carson, whom he doesn't know the real identity of yet, leads to a friendship and a secret romance that seems to him to have no future. But, Carson is determined…
Fans of Mary Calmes will definitely like this one. Of course, Mary has a distinct style that sometimes shows more than at other times. This story came a little close to insta-love for my tastes, perhaps because there isn't much time for them to really get to know each other for an HEA. It was held off from becoming insta-love completely by the feelings that Carson has had for Vin for some time, so while it didn't bother me much in the end, I still wished that there had been more (but that's every reader's dream!).
The dialogue in this novella is really snappy and quick witted. This is a style that some will like and others won't. I'm not honestly sure how I felt about it. At first, it bothered me. I felt like the characters were talking a lot and not saying much, which the majority of the words on the page in dialogue. As the story progressed, however, that changed a bit. Whether I started to get into the flow of the characters' words or the dialogue changed as they moved forward in their relationship, I'm not sure. In the end I seemed to find it more charming and funny.
This one will probably come down the lines that this author's book usually fall under -- the readers that will like this are the ones who usually like this author. I usually do, so I was really excited to read this. I love a sports book and even though there was little about football here other than some college jocks, I enjoyed this one and thought it was really cute....more
I'm very hit and miss with Sean Michael's books. I suppose it depends on my mood, but then I do find that this auReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
I'm very hit and miss with Sean Michael's books. I suppose it depends on my mood, but then I do find that this author, though in general heavy on sex, has a few different styles. This book is in probably the typical style that people expect from this author and I think I've read enough by now that I'm just over it. I don't mind sex heavy books. But without intimacy, which is based with information and getting to know the characters individually and together, then the sex is boring and flat. When the whole book is full of that kind of sex, I just about had to make myself read instead of skim.
This book is the first of a spinoff series of the couple (Matt and Adam) from Sold, in the Hammer series. I haven't read all of those books, including Sold, because I couldn't really get into them, but I was intrigued by the setup of this series. Matt and Adam have bought, built up and renovated an old house and made it into a BDSM Bed and Breakfast. They're nervous, but solid in their relationship and hoping to help other couples learn, discover or offer a safe space to explore their desires and relationships.
Their first couple is Burger and Jackson. Jackson is a superstar musician who has developed nodes on his vocal cords. He needs to preserve the voice that he's damaged by a hedonistic lifestyle. That lifestyle has grown out of control lately, seems to grow out of control cyclically in coordination with his on and off again relationship with Burger, his manager. They've known each other forever and fight like crazy. But, Burger has had enough and decides that Jackson really needs him this time, and they needs to find a way to create a permanent balance.
All of the problems I had with this book and in the relationship between Jackson and Burger in particular stem from the fact that we never get to know either one of them. What we do know is what I've written in summary above. Further than that, only a few things. We don't know why Burger is called Burger, which surprised me. We know very little about the history of their relationship. We don't know much about the situation Burger is rescuing Jackson from. More than that, they rarely communicate. I say communicate specifically because I don't want to confuse the issue with talking. The basis of the story is that Jackson can't talk, because of his damaged vocal cords. He does it anyway, I think probably as a way of pushing Burger's buttons, but the level of actual communication, the sharing of feelings, ideas or building a new way of understanding each other is almost nil. Because of that I had a hard time sensing any chemistry between them. I think this is important because it only has to do with the level of sex in the sense that the sex keeps them from those things. That is frustrating for me as a reader because true intimacy, which breeds the sexual chemistry that is so important in a romance, comes from some form of communication. It falls flat for me when the sex works against intimacy, and therefore feels forced and fake.
So I couldn't get into this. The other problem for me was the established relationship, but I suspect that comes mostly from the fact that I didn't read their original book. If I had, I might have made it through their scenes (which are roughly 50% of the book) happy to see them again. I didn't know them, so the fact that they didn't have any conflict or progression of plot other than the day to day runnings of a new B&B (which we don't see much about either), made me completely uninterested in them.
Aside from that, there isn't much to tell. There are two fisting scenes, one for each relationship. One of these is fine, but one squicked me out just a little because it was on the fly with little preparation. I hate to sound crass, or really mention this at all since it … well ugh, but there was no cleaning involved prior and I could not stop thinking about gross things better left unsaid… *shudder*
So I think it is safe to say that I couldn't get into this at all. I'm still a fan of this author but I think for the most part I'll avoid her BDSM titles, at least for a while. I never seem to learn my lesson!...more
New York City Detective Gregory (or the artfully named Artemis) is woken in the nReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
A Good and Interesting 3.5 stars
New York City Detective Gregory (or the artfully named Artemis) is woken in the night to the news that another young gay man has been found dead, with no easily seen cause of death and mysterious scratches on his legs. Like some of the others they've found, intriguingly on the full moon every month, this victim has a tattoo of a phoenix, which the detective and his partner Rachel soon learn is artwork tied to a band that is newly popular in the United States and planning to play that week in the city. The first interview with Talis, the charismatic lead singer brings extreme lust and confusion for Artemis, and the feeling that while he can't keep his mind off of the sexy, enigmatic rock star, he's also most likely the killer.
I admit that the early part of this novella gave me pause because most of the "secret" information (who Talis really is and who the killer is) is revealed within about the first ten percent of the story. I wondered where the author would take this story that suddenly seemed to be about something very different than I thought it was. Ultimately, I was mostly pleased with that direction. I think that some readers should be cautioned though, that you aren't getting a mystery or police procedural, or anything to that affect. While there might be a bit of detective work in the very beginning, the story then suddenly takes a different turn. Later, this all makes complete sense, but I would probably be disappointed had that been what I was looking for, a paranormal police story, which was something that I had gleaned might be the focus from the blurb.
The real character that comes across is Artemis. Sure, Talis immediately grabs you when he's on the page, but he's flashy like that. Everyone loves him, he has a inward power that attracts people and subtly manipulates him -- something that Artemis seems to understand from the moment he meets him. I liked this about Artemis the most. He's very obviously one of the most affected by Talis, because all of the singer's attention is focused onto the detective, but at the same him, he's allowed himself to compartmentalize his life and emotions over the years. Artemis isn't broken, but he's become numb. His passion is in finding justice, which he's pursued through becoming a cop and detective, but that profession has also hollowed him out from the inside. The cycle continues, like self-flagellation and as an escape at the same time. When you add a previous broken heart to the mix, Artemis is a shadow of himself, all seen in how he reacts, over time, to the presence and vitality of Talin. I won't tell you much about Talin himself. Even though a few things were obvious from the beginning, I still liked seeing this for myself. Still, Talin's character is best described and understood through the reactions and feelings of those around him, especially Artemis.
The name Artemis immediately had me fitting connections together in my mind with the mythical Greek goddess, but I never really found much specific connection, so that may not have been the author's intent -- though I did wonder who named him in this novella, since he's adopted.
I think that suspension of disbelief is important here. I don't normally have a problem with that in a story that is either fantasy or paranormal, but there are then another set of parameters that must be worked in, and I fluctuated a few times about this, especially near the end where some of the behavior of the cops didn't seem very authentic to me. It seemed as if the story ended a bit too nicely for my taste. Still, it ultimately works within the rules the story has created and the tone is similar throughout, so that if I had been granted the behavior from those cops that I had wanted, it wouldn't have fit into the story. So while the ending may have been a bit nice and easy for me, I was okay with it and I can't fault the author -- it is simply a different style, one that I'm sure many readers will like.
I'm actually really interested in what is in the future for this couple, but I doubt there is a sequel in order here. While I can't ever speak for the author, a sequel would be a completely different story. That doesn't stop me from wondering though, and a darker, or more involved and longer novel after this would be fascinating to me. This is an author that I like and am always eager to read when he releases new books and I definitely enjoyed this one. I'll give it a Pretty Good rating....more
This was an all-around heartwarming read that I really enjoyed!
Anthony is an A-List Hollywood actor who wakes up on the day of his 50th birthday alone and regretful. He has everything now that he thought he wanted -- he has a brilliant career that he got by sacrificing everything that would now make him happy as his career naturally declines with his aging looks. He spends that evening at a fundraiser for Berkeley, his alma mater as a guest of honor and runs into his old flame. Well, Rob is the only man that Anthony ever really felt he could come to love, and they never even got to have their first date. All those year ago in college, he finally wore Rob down until he agreed to a date, then stood Rob up for an audition that turned out to be the big start of his career. But seeing Rob again brings up all those old feelings, especially seeing Rob on the arm of another man. He wishes he could go back and change everything, now that he's realized that having Rob would have meant so much more than fame, fortune and adoration by millions.
This second chance story is a very, very common plot, but one that is sort of tried and true. It seems like every other year another movie comes out with this same plotline. I think that these authors (who this is their first published story, by the way) could have easily changed this plot to make it new and exciting but I'm glad they stuck with the simplicity of it. The writing is solid and very easy flowing and the story works because since we've already seen this plot over and over, the story becomes about the characters, and I really liked them.
Anthony is the one that gets a second chance here. He's our narrator and as the story moves through time we get to see him at different points of his life. From, at 50, almost tired and in a since finally grown up, but way too late -- to back in his college days, where we get memories of how shallow and driven he is towards his career, then shown through the light of his newfound understanding after having gone back in time. This is shown well through the first meeting after the time shift. Rob is Anthony's Shakespeare tutor and even while Anthony has been trying to wear Rob down and get him to date him, he's also been shallow and he doesn't care at all about Shakespeare, preferring new, modern words and roles to play. He doesn't understand Shakespeare at all, nor try to. Seeing him then, after he's in effect finally matured to Rob's level (now being a 50 year old in his young body), he understands and uses Shakespeare to show Rob that he's really serious about life and getting to know Rob. That was one of my favorite scenes, which worked well as one of the scenes where the character is shown just a bit out of place and time.
I'll definitely be reading anything this duo publishes in the future. LIke I said, I really enjoyed this story because it didn't try to mess with such a solid and well-known plot. Other's might disagree, because this is a story that we've read and seen in movies before. Still, the characters here make this story original, and I really enjoyed them. I don't really have any complaints and I'm happy to give this story an A- rating!...more
I think that should just be my review. Well, I'll say this:
I thought OMFG every time I turned a new page reading this. Like, half the time it wO.M.F.G
I think that should just be my review. Well, I'll say this:
I thought OMFG every time I turned a new page reading this. Like, half the time it was serious, and the other half it was totally fucking wacky and hilarious. For the first half I was kinda taking it seriously, even the part where (view spoiler)[he sleeps with the 80 year old woman... AGAIN (hide spoiler)], but then I just kept laughing out loud over and over again as this story took turn after turn that I never ever expected. It's obviously just for fun, because even though its a sweet and serious story at it's core, the characters and their actions are just so fucking wacky.. I couldn't believe it, so I just didn't. I ran with it and laughed it up. I think this is the first book I've ever read where the characters really annoyed me half the time but I just didn't care! The ending was PRICELESS!
I love Dylan near the end where Sean has to get it up for a scene and Dylan is like FLUFFER! Fluffer here! Fluffer coming through! I'm his fluffer now everyone! practically busting up knees to get to kneel fast enough... hilarious!
The only thing I found disturbing (well EXTRA EXTRA EXTRA disturbing, lol) was the way everyone talked to Ms. Rosy like she had no life left and nothing to look forward to but them "generously" offering her their dicks.
So, I'd say read it, but don't expect a whole lot going in, just try to roll with it and have fun :D...more
A sweet and mostly uncomplicated story about a Mexican immigrant and housekeeper/cook who gets a job for a famous actor and then falls in lov3.5 stars
A sweet and mostly uncomplicated story about a Mexican immigrant and housekeeper/cook who gets a job for a famous actor and then falls in love with him. I kept expecting this story to take a bad turn, probably because the voice in this story (by Jaime, the housekeeper/cook/all around sweet, honest man) was very strong and he was quite self-depricating in many ways, from knowing that he was a poor immigrant seeing a wealthy and famous man, to events in the past that caused him to move to the US in the first place. I think that what I enjoyed most, though, about the story is that I really felt like Theo Fenraven probably accomplished exactly what was meant for this story, and that felt satisfying. I can't adequately describe what I mean by that, but I felt like the story was really, truly seen through the POV of Jaime, which made the story different and completely unique. So for that alone, I enjoyed it....more
Recommended to readers who enjoy a slow, unfolding pace and a slow buildup of romance and sex. Light on the smut, heavy on the w3.5 stars (rounded up)
Recommended to readers who enjoy a slow, unfolding pace and a slow buildup of romance and sex. Light on the smut, heavy on the witty banter and strong (British!) voice. Definitely an enjoyable and nice, fairly short read....more
I'll be completely honest with you. This is one of Kate's earlier books, but I reReview posted at The Armchair Reader for Kate McMurray Week!
I'll be completely honest with you. This is one of Kate's earlier books, but I really didn't know what to expect from it. Part of it is that the secret relationship scenario is very hard to pull of, and then combined with the politics -- I wasn't sure how I'd feel about it. To my surprise, I actually found that I enjoyed the story (mostly because the character of Drew was so fabulous he pulled it all off!), but I also found this book to have some of the best writing I've seen from Kate. The prose is often times lyrical, which all really comes from Drew's voice. He's fabulous and campy at times, yet at times heartbreakingly vulnerable with a solid core of admirable strength, and in that combination when the story really needs it, his voice rang completely clear for me. It was almost harmonious in it's poignancy.
Drew tells this story as a man out and proud and quite perceptive of the world around him. He's a fierce friend and honest man, at times too honest and righteously indignant on behalf of himself and those he loves that he can hurt other people. He's well meaning and finds fault with himself before others. And self-sacrificing.
A columnist for a leftist rag, in which he mostly expounds gay gossip and rails on prominent conservative Kansas Senator Richard Granger for his anti-gay speeches, Drew finds himself in a coincidental bind. Richard Granger is his best friend's uncle. Rey, his straight best friend from childhood is now a major movie star, is willing to introduce him to his cousin Jonathan, even though Drew's boss wants him to do a feature on the young man, now teaching at a NYC magnet school. An anonymous source has come forward to say that the senator's son is gay and Drew is suppose to get the scoop.
It's a nightmare of epic proportions when Drew meets Jonathan and realizes how attracted to him he is. He already feels uncomfortable with the idea of outing anyone, and meeting Jonathan and becoming involved with him could mess up his best friendship, as well as make him start to see the senior Granger as a real person. Soon, Drew is being pulled every which way, and when reporters start looking for their own scoops, it puts their relationship to a real test. Have they just been playing at a real relationship? Or, is Jonathan too messed up by his father's expectations and guilt to ever be out and free to have something real? Should Drew just abandon the whole thing before it blows up in his face?
As you may have gathered, I really connected with Drew. Not only did I find him engaging, but I really admired him, and I don't think the story could have played out in any different way. Drew is at the same time pragmatic and a dreamer, two parts of him which battle in his attraction and love for Jonathan. Is it better for him to sacrifice his happiness now for a better possible future? Drew is really tormented in this story, not only with Jonathan, who at time he loves and hates for his weaknesses, but with himself.
The real relationship of value in this story is actually with Drew and his best friend Rey. The story starts with them, and in a way, they're the central relationship in this story. I can't help but fall in love when an author gives me this -- a real, solid, brotherly friendship between a gay man and a straight man. Maybe it's because I never thought it was possible when I was growing up. I had a hard time with my own straight guy friends in high school. No matter how much they accepted me, in ways they didn't, and probably couldn't at that age. None of us were mature enough. But college turned everything around with me, and I made one particular friendship with another guy that was indeed brotherly and somewhat like Drew and Rey. Madison Parker wrote a similar friendship into her YA book Play Me, I'm Yours. Honestly, that's the way to my heart authors, and I adored Rey for that very reason.
The only disappointment I had with this story was the ending, which felt a little rushed to me and seemed to cut off just a tad too early. But it was a small disappointment and didn't spoil my enjoyment of the rest of the book at all. So even though I officially rate this book Really Liked It, I loved this book and I loved reading it :)...more
I have intended to read and review this book over a year now and after finishing this author's latest book -- EtReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
I have intended to read and review this book over a year now and after finishing this author's latest book -- Ethan, Who Loved Carter -- last week and absolutely loving it, I decided that it was time to read more of this author's work. Sadly, I just couldn't understand this book. Well, I couldn't understand the characters. But, more on that in just a bit.
This novel is told by Andrew, who is part of a songwriting team with his best friend Michael. They're hugely successful, and in 1999 at the end of a decade of boy bands, they find themselves once again writing for Icon, an Irish boy band they'd previously worked with. Only this time, they're writing for Paeder, the lead man who is going solo. He's a bit of an arrogant, pushy ass, and Andrew hates thinking that he'll have to work with him alone. But that is how it has worked out -- a four day jog to New York City and a convergence of a motley crew of musicians and their entourages. The fact that NYC holds terrible memories of the breakup of his marriage two years before only sets the tone for what turns into a week of infighting, enmity amongst friends and lovers, and feelings that Andrew has both ignored and yet to acknowledge.
First of all, I really like this author and I'm glad that I read Ethan, Who Loved Carter before I read this, because after that book I'll never fail to read a book by this author, even after a book such as this, which I didn't really enjoy. If the books had been reversed, I might have missed some of this author's work, and I'd never want that.
I think that the problems I had with this book are incredibly fundamental. First, that I approached this as a romance when if I had approached it as gay literature I probably wouldn't have minded some the many things I read that bothered me. Second, the thing I enjoy reading the least is needless angst. There is a lot of angst here, to be sure, but the problem for me was I felt like I couldn't understand any of the characters or their actions, much less sympathize with them (overall, not for specific actions). At first I wondered if it was because I didn't know the characters well. But, their history slowly unfolds over the story, so that wasn't the case considering I felt the same about them at the end as I did in the beginning. I think that what didn't work for me is I didn't see the characters growing. They progress, but towards codependent relationships, and not real healing in any way. That frustrated me because even though I would love for the king of all screwed up guys (James) to find some healing here, the person I really wanted to see grow and change was Andrew. We learn through paced memories how his marriage failed, and it sets up a pattern of self deprecation and an overwhelming desire to be needed and to please others. His relationship with James only perpetuates this cycle. Every time he was poised to break it, he disappointed me, until it was finally too much.
The dynamic of the group is so insular that each character's problems build on the other's, with Andrew in the middle like a sponge trying to solve everyone's problems. I wanted to yank him out and shake him and make him smell the fresh air and show him that it all wasn't so dire! He needed some perspective. That's what I mean by needless angst. It isn't to say that they don't all have real problems -- boy to they ever. And it isn't to say that their problems don't stem from real past trauma (though maybe not all of them, some are just assholes, I think, lol). But the atmosphere of all those things ricocheting around and building and building… it was just a little too much for me to handle.
Part of that is up to each reader's acceptable level of angst, and mine is admittedly pretty low. But, you still gotta like the characters, feel invested in them and want to root for them. I wanted the latter and at times was invested, but I didn't really like any of them, except maybe Michael and sadly he was mostly on the periphery.
So, I can't recommend this one. I'm looking forward to reading more of this author's work. I've been wanting to read Offside and The Forgotten Man for a while, so I'll get to those next :)...more
In many ways this was a much more difficult book for me to read, even than the previous book. Evolution dealt with quite a bit of turbulent teenageIn many ways this was a much more difficult book for me to read, even than the previous book. Evolution dealt with quite a bit of turbulent teenage emotion shown in an almost melodramatic way even though it is completely and universally relatable. Where in that book the difficult emotion is brought forth from Eric like a fiery burst of angry passion and anger, this sequel shows us an Eric that has in many ways lost his fight and is constantly shifting his identity. In Ordinary Champions, Eric is in a situation that is compounded many times over from what he had to deal with in the second book, but the stagnancy, loneliness and at times hopelessness from Eric was much more difficult for me to read. That said, I think that the choices Hayden Thorne made for Eric in the end of this first trilogy were the right ones, no matter the misery it takes for Eric to get through them.
The choice that the story demands yet is most difficult for me to accept is the lack of time between Eric and Peter. The second book had them splitting apart, and here they are apart, whatever relationship they might have completely up in the air. That was difficult for me, because I felt like so much of Eric's motivation was in Peter, and that distance from him was hurting him so much. It's also difficult for me after reading the second book to not have any of Peter's POV in this book. And with the two separated, we can't even get much about him through Eric's observations. When I felt like I desperately needed validation from Peter that he regretted his actions from Evolution, I was only able to hold on and hope. These little strategic moves that Hayden Thorne makes are the tools she uses to manipulate emotion, and with my emotions so thoroughly enmeshed in Eric's, it brought me closer to the book and the characters.
I'm off to read Curse of Arachnaman next, though I've given myself a break of a day or so since I read all three of the first books back to back. It looks like Eric and Peter are going back to the roots of their relationship and maybe trying to start over, hopefully with a little more hard-won maturity this time, and I'm excited to get back to the story. Hopefully they'll find a way to work together more often, because as much as Eric's story needed to diverge from the relationship for a while, I enjoy a happyily cozy Eric and Peter much more than when they're at war....more
Well, what an interesting way for this series to go! I kinda had a feeling, but seeing it happen and all the turmoil that comes along with it4.5 stars
Well, what an interesting way for this series to go! I kinda had a feeling, but seeing it happen and all the turmoil that comes along with it just about broke my heart at times. Sure, Eric is pretty emo, but come on, he's a 16 year old gay kid that's pretty dramatic anyway. I totally understood what he was going through, and even though I did feel like he contributed in his own way, I wanted to punch Peter (and even occasionally Althea, my favorite girl best friend ever) because they were so insensitive went through the whole ordeal with blinders on.
This is definitely a difficult place in Eric's like, and it works well as a middle book in a trilogy. It's a time of a whole lot of change, while their circumstances are pulling Eric and Peter apart. I hated to see that happen, but all I could do was hope for a resolution eventually that wouldn't tug on my emotions TOO much! There's definitely a lot of that here, and I devoured, devoured this book in the middle of the night instead of going to bed after I finished the first book. I couldn't put it down once that force got between them and started to work on Eric. Man, poor guys, the put up with a lot of shit in this book!
Still, I'm satisfied and had a blast traveling further along with this wonderful cast of characters!...more
I should have never put off reading this series so long. There are two things I love about Hayden Thorne's writing that is abundant here: hWonderful!!
I should have never put off reading this series so long. There are two things I love about Hayden Thorne's writing that is abundant here: her completely unique and wonderful characters and her her dry humor, usually given through said wonderful and unique character. Here, that is Eric, and he is a delight to see the completely fantastical and original town of Vintage City through.
This story is at the same time a passion-, lust-, and angst-filled gay teen's manic day to day life and a comic satire. I'm excited about the depth of the story and how much room for expansion there is. Not only can I not wait to keep reading about Eric and Peter, but with so many possibilities it is even more exciting.