I love it just as much as the first time. Even though I told myself I'd just read a bit here and there, because on WeSecond Read - 5/15/13 - 5/18/13
I love it just as much as the first time. Even though I told myself I'd just read a bit here and there, because on Wednesday when I started this I really needed a comfort read, I couldn't help but putting everything else aside and reading this first book straight through. I have another full week of reviews coming up that I still need to finish some of them and finalize and format the rest of them, but I don't think I'll be able to stop myself from opening now and reading it as well! Hopefully I can take it slower though :) Maybe...
First of all, I really want to thank Jen for pointing this online serial out to me (don't worry, this book is complete), and by proxy Orannia. It is a pretty long book, especially when you realize that the rest of the series is just about as long, but it really is worth reading.
The basis of the story is a working ranch in Wyoming that runs an exclusive program designed to help overworked and overstressed executives and CEOs rejuvenate. It may seem like rehab, and it is -- without the negative white-washed wall and formica tabletop and stale coffee associations. It is a place where people can come and help work the ranch (one at a time) and get some perspective and help with their problems.
Dale is sent to Falls Chance Ranch by his company after he has a breakdown at the office. A lifetime of bad habits and obsessive behavior have gotten him the reputation as somewhat of a whiz kid in financial circles, but at the failing of his health. Not eating and not sleeping and working around the clock simply will not work for him anymore. He's not given much of a choice, something he really despises, but the ranch and the people who live there quickly get under his skin. He starts to feel a part of something he never even knew could exist and starts to understand himself for the first time in his life.
I swear at least one of the authors of this MUST be a psychologist. I just don't know if I could believe that such a character intensive story could be written, especially in the setting of mental heath issues, without that knowledge and background. Because it doesn't just sound like Dale has an internet diagnosis and the plot flows from a breakdown of Wikipedia neurotic disorders, but the story is deeply ingrained in how people see the world and react to one another, both from a social perspective, and from a deeply internalized one. The slow pace and long length allow the authors to really dig deep in the characters, take their time, and let the plot unfold.
I think that a very strong case could be made for shortening some of this. And if this were published and professionally edited (it is remarkably free of mistakes and errors, to me anyway :D), it would no doubt lose quite a lot of length. But a lot of the charm and reason that the characters sunk so deep in my bones and I could feel them like best friends, was because of the time spent with them. Enough time that the pace is much more akin to real life, more than most written works.
Perhaps what is strongest here though, besides how wonderful the characters are and the relationships between them, is the place of Falls Chance Ranch. The whole premise of the rehabilitation of clients, even though it is never called that, is the return to idyllic nature. The meaning of working land and passing it on. Of a place as character, seen through the constant stories of David and Phillip, now long since died in the story, but present characters because of interchangeability of them and the land they became. Seen from the perspective of a man who has become battered by everything artificial in the world, the land, the story and characters, and therefore the book become a similar experience for the reader as the situation is for Dale. It seems like so many of the reviews I've seen of this story have mentioned how people felt so connected to Dale, and that's because when his problems are laid bare, really bare, we can each find a way to connect to them.
I'm completely addicted to this story, and it probably isn't for everyone. There's no sex, which definitely upset me sometimes because the connections are so strong I wanted to see that. In her post, Jen talked about seeing a group of 5 guys work together, and that was simply wonderful. I've never seen such a polyamorous family work in fiction this way. It is very long and has a slow pace. So it might be tedious for some to read. But if you really like digging into stories that won't leave you for a long time and will take you a while to enjoy, then this is definitely for you. I simply cannot wait to read the rest of this series, no matter how much further it will destroy my very detailed reading schedule I had laid out. Who cares? I'll read all those books next week! This week, I want to finish Falls Chance Ranch.
**Note: While technically this is BDSM, the lack of sex and therefore BDSM sexual play really breaks down to the core of dominance and submission and the transference of power.Three Traders...more
A Christmas story in July, Laura Baumbach's latest paranormal short story is at once contemporary and historical,Review posted at The Armchair Reader.
A Christmas story in July, Laura Baumbach's latest paranormal short story is at once contemporary and historical, recounting the beginning of the relationship between Ian, a vampire and lover of the theater, and Trevor, an actor in a stage adaptation of Frankenstein in London in the early 1800s. Told through one long flashback and bracketed by their present time relationship, Ian and Trevor both have emotions and guilt that they've not completely worked through over the centuries they've been together. These issues come to a head every Christmas, keeping them apart until they can hopefully overcome them.
The blurb pretty much tells the story here, and I wondered after I started reading and realized how central the theme of Christmas is to the story if it were published now so as not to fall into the masses of Christmas stories later this year. Possibly, it definitely stands out more this way, and the theme of Christmas, of the savior and the will of good to all that are so central to these characters stand out thematically instead of as a prerequisite backdrop to the events in the story.
Overall, this is pretty typical vampire fare. There isn't anything new, but it is still solidly well written, like the rest of this author's writing. Much of the relationship is shown through Ian and Trevor's passionate sexual connection, most especially in the historical section of the story. Whatever the reason for this is, be it the short length, or the combination of the newness of their relationship at the time (and therefore highly sexual as they are) and the dichotomous contemporary scenes where their relationship has matured, I would have been a bit happier with more of the growing relationship, especially in relation to the climatic scene where Ian must make the choice to save or not save Trevor from death. The way this middle section is give to us is with little narration bridging the scenes of them together, and with many of those scenes being sexual, it left less room for other relationship growth.
I had no qualms with the historical detail in the story. It is certainly underplayed, but is still sparks subtly against the modern portrayal of London. The back alleys of London which set the scene for two of the critical pieces of the story both contrast and compare in subtle but important ways that neither distract from the story, but also differentiate.
This wasn't a story that really wowed me, but then I can see it isn't meant to. The story works nicely and is written well on the vampire lore we are already familiar with, making this a story that is great for readers who are looking for something simple, and perhaps a little bit of Christmas during the dog days of summer....more
This is a story of two halves and as such, I'm of two minds about it. On the one hand, the first half was a wondeReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
This is a story of two halves and as such, I'm of two minds about it. On the one hand, the first half was a wonderful fish out of water story. On the other, the turn towards sudden romance then no follow up and sudden ending left me disappointed.
We meet Francis on the doorstep of his very good friend Sir Desmond Rivest, a gentleman adventurer of Edwardian London. He is dying and Francis is only barely able to see him one last time, barred from the home by the Lady Rivest, Desmond's wife. As they say goodbye, Desmond gifts Francis with a strange watch and speaks of how brave and fearless Francis really is. It is the beginning of a new kind of adventure that Francis must take alone.
What is wonderful about this story is Francis' forward shift in time. It works so well with the fish out of water theme. We see him totally baffled by the little boxes with lights and buttons that people pay an inordinate amount of time paying attention to. He has some poignant thoughts, as only an objective viewer could, about how reliant people are upon technology. I liked how rude people were to him in the beginning, walking on the street in strange clothes. It's honestly true, and contrasted nicely to Pam and Simon when they take him in and care for him, even though they think he's a bit crazy. Or on drugs. We get to see a lot of Pam here, who I did find a little annoying, but not overly so. She's a bit of a modern twist on a Dickensian meddling busybody, but she means well and that comes across the more you read in the story. Simon has a bit of his own story here as well. He was engaged to a rather smarmy character named Andrew, though no longer. It was interesting to see Francis react to current gay rights when only a week prior he had to worry about being arrested for being with another man.
All of that was wonderful. We get the delightful fish out of water theme, a bit of a connect the dots mystery of a painting of Francis and his connection to the descendants of Desmond. The problem is that suddenly everything stopped. For most of the story, there's only even a tiny fraction of interest between Simon and Francis -- the story is really focused on the time travel theme. Then, it is 3 years in the future and they're together…. Where was the relationship? I was a bit sad that we missed that, because I thought that the two had the beginnings of a connection. Not to see that come to fruition seemed like a bit of a tease to me, and left me with a disappointing feeling in the end. It felt a bit like the story had to stop to meet a short length, and the story definitely wasn't finished being told.
This is the first story that I've read by GS Wiley and I've heard wonderful things in the past. I'm a bit at odds with how I feel about the story because it seemed to so suddenly change, but because I did really enjoy most of the story, I'll definitely be reading more of this author's past work and I'll give this a So So....more
This dark and finely crafted mini mystery had me falling for everything I was set up to, and then marvelReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
This dark and finely crafted mini mystery had me falling for everything I was set up to, and then marveling at the turn the story took and the way it artfully came together.
The story opens as Tyler studies the different variety of guns available at a shop in Anchorage, Alaska. He's looking for a gift for his brother, soon to come home from Iraq. He himself is new to the area; six months previously he was shot in the line of work as a NYC police officer. Now he's a weak and atrophied version of himself, grieving his past life and working behind the desk for the local force. Tyler is intrigued by a new looking Browning pistol that is shelved among the cheaper guns and rifles. It stands out as a nice gun and a pistol and when he expresses interest in buying it, the man behind the counter tries to talk him out of it by telling him that every owner of the gun has committed suicide. Tyler doesn't believe it and buys the gun anyway, but when he starts to lose his mind and become strangely attached to it, he finally realizes there might be something true to the unbelievable story.
There are two parts of this story that really stand out because they work so well. The first is that this story is in effect a mystery. This is one of the very few short stories that I think has pulled a mystery off in such short time. It is true that there's little time to parse out the details, but it isn't an overly complicated plot, and the author is very crafty in putting narration to good use.
The second and most obvious from the beginning of the story is the craft in characterization of Tyler. To him, the gun is a symbol of the life he left behind. He's emasculated by his frail body, at times using a cane. He's lost the power that comes with being a police officer. The gun gives him power. It is quickly also shown in relation to his personal life. He's afraid of his body because he's so embarrassed by his scars and atrophied muscles. He would rather his life remain figuratively impotent then succumb to the safe relationship, something he despises and is represented by the character of Eric.
Tyler didn't do nice guys. The kind of guys he did were far from nice -- nice to look at, yes, but not nice in the sense they would send you cupcakes and listen to your problems. The guys Tyler usually liked were sleek and sexy, emotionally dangerous, sharp as knife blades. They were often young, sculpted, and had exquisite tastes.
He met them in clubs and pulled them over for speeding in fast, expensive cars. They liked to dance and drink and fucked like animals. They tore up his designer sheets or messed up hotel rooms, and some of them liked to feel his handcuffs. More than a few were turned on by his uniform and peeled it off him as part of the sex act. Authority was the oldest aphrodisiac; he knew this and liked what it attracted.
The loss of that power and control is devastating to Tyler, who by implication defined his life and his job together. This is immediately shown to be true when the mysterious Flynn starts to show up in his dreams, a place where he can once again be the confident lover he used to be.
Flynn is the amalgamation of that type of man, dangerously seductive. In essence, he is the gun, the symbol of everything Tyler had and wants to have again. "Every gun had a story, dangerous and thrilling like those young men who came through his bedroom door." Flynn's actions show this well:
This time, he crawled up from the bottom o the bed and slinked over Tyler's bare legs, gloriously naked again…
His lips quirked. "You're a police officer, aren't you?" "I was." No, in the dream he could be whatever he wanted to be. "I am." "At last," Flynn replied. "Good."
Slinking out from under the bed is something we all associate with a nightmare, which immediately raises red flags. These deliberate choices really stand out because I was aware that my emotions and the collective cultural memory was being played on. I appreciated that because it was so deliberately done. Yet, I was again surprised later when everything I had thought had a new, yet equally understandable connotation. The ability for the author to do that impressed me, and left me with a real appreciation for her writing.
The ending of this story is fabulous. Again, not what I would have expected, but appreciated once I had time to consider it. This is a story that won't be for every reader. Anyone sensitive to guns or the violence associated with them might not be able to look at the story objectively, which I understand. Also, this is very unconventionally romantic. I don't think you could really consider it a romance, but I still found it romantic, though some might not. It probably will not satisfy those looking for romance as a priority in their stories and the focus here really is the individual journey of Tyler. I think it was beautifully written just like the gun, dangerously seductive....more
Josh is completely smitten with his downstair neighbors Rai and Evan. It doesn't help that every time he spends tReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
Josh is completely smitten with his downstair neighbors Rai and Evan. It doesn't help that every time he spends time with his best friend Denise (who lives one floor below the men) he can hear them having kinky, noisy sex that pounds the walls. He longs for a piece of what they have -- a great relationship, unspoken communication -- and the daily reminder of the two hot men becomes the focal point of his fantasies after a disappointing relationship history. To his surprise, when he befriends the two and gets to know them better, he can relate to both on difference levels. They become good friends until a rather hilarious accident forces Josh to temporarily live with the two men.
They quickly move on from friendship and find that they have an insanely strong sexual connection and spend the next few weeks exploring each other and the new way they relate to one another. Along the way, Josh finds he has growing feelings for the men, and waiting for them to kick him out of their bed and go back to their regular lives, all the while knowing that he'll be changed person when the other shoe finally drops, leaving him hopelessly in love with two men who already have a future without him.
I think that Josephine Myles made a very important choice with this story, whether it was purposeful or not. There is a lot of supply in the m/m market now, which means that what is different stands out. That leads to a lot of genre mashing and while that can work well for a story and certainly stands out, there is something to be said for character driven stories that really look at and develop one particular issue. In the case of m/m/m menage in particular, most of the ones I read these days aren't really about the relationship between the three men, at least not front and center. But The Hot Floor does focus on those issues in such a relationship that would crop up in the real world -- jealousy, prior history, and the different dynamics of trust among more than a two-person couple -- and that is why it worked so well for me.
Josh is an endearing character and though he doubts it at every turn, I could see why both Evan and Rai were attracted to him and could easily fall for him, even when it goes against their rules. He's completely unaware of what he offers in a relationship or friendship, consistently afraid to trust when anything but a definitive proposal keeps him feeling like the outsider in an already existing relationship. Past relationships as well as family history make it difficult for him to trust, especially to show others his true self. His blush becomes a bit of a trademark he does it so often, when just a thought of talking dirty makes him stammer over his words. The fact that everything he experiences with Evan and Rai is so new makes the experiences more meaningful, and I got the sense that it wasn't simply what he could offer their relationship that made him such a great third (and then more than that) but that they both offer something very special for Josh as well. The added security of being welcomed into an already existing relationship helped him focus on other things (like his trust issues).
The focus of the story is really on Josh's neuroses, in particular those issues of trust and his fear of opening up to another man. The great thing about him falling for Evan and Rai is that the arrangement starts out as friendship and then solely as fun sex. The "rules" the two have in place of not sleeping with a friend or neighbor give Josh structure and boundaries, even though they're eventually broken. I loved that we really get to see the lighter side of their lives, especially with Rai around, who constantly had me cracking up in laughter. It is important for there to be something that the "third" can bring to the relationship and I found that I rather liked the fact that even though Josh had things to bring to the table that made a menage relationship work, the original relationship between Rai and Evan was great and had no need of being "fixed". It wasn't a case of him "saving" their relationship, which when I thought about it, seems to be more often the case in menage.
I was surprised and delighted to see that the story didn't devolve into typical romance plot faults. I kept growing nervous about their faulty building, but was happy to see how the situation resolved. For the most part, however, I simply liked that the story spent time with the three of them, often happy and showing the lighter side of a beginning relationship without getting bogged down in what doesn't work and then fixing it. They simply work well together, and the difficulties involved in their relationship were internal and organic to the characters.
I can't wait to read this again. So far it is my favorite of this author's books, and it was a real delight to read. I can't wait to read what she publishes next!...more
Yay for another novel by JL Merrow!!! She's one of my favorite authors, and as I told a friend recentlyReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
Yay for another novel by JL Merrow!!! She's one of my favorite authors, and as I told a friend recently, I'm almost nervous when I start reading each successively published novel because I've loved them all so much there's bound to be one that disappoints me. Thankfully, that wasn't the case here and I ended really really thoroughly enjoying this latest offering by a really wonderful author.
Tom Paretski is a plumber with a secret -- he's got a knack for finding things. It's a bit like dowsing, he can hone in on hidden things, things that have deep emotion attached to them like guilt or shame. Sadly, lost and hidden things include people, and we meet him as his friend on the force Dave, calls him in to look for a local missing woman. Tom's in for more shock than seeing another dead body, however, when a ghost from his past shows up at the scene as a private investigator hired by the family of the murdered victim.
The last time Tom saw Phil Morrison was when he and his cronies stepped up their high school bullying a bit too far. Tom still lives with the scars of that physical and emotional trauma and seeing the man ten years later dredges all those feelings back up. It doesn't help that he's just as attracted to the man as he was back then and it certainly pisses him off that the man is apparently as big of a homo as he is, and completely out of the closet. Phil has an attitude as well, one that might rival Tom's perpetual snark and their verbal blows start almost immediately. Phil doesn't believe in his gift, but he needs Tom's help anyway. They both have vested interest in making sure the current suspect gets treated fairly and together, they might be able to get the answers they need to find the real killer.
Merrow has a knack for slyly mixing genres that really works for me. This story is for all intents and purposes a contemporary mystery romance, with the exception of Tom's gift. That is perhaps the reason Tom's gift isn't given center stage. Though we first get to know him through his gift, it's often presented as rather unglamorous and second rate to pounding pavement detective work. We get to know Tom as if the gift is just a quirky peccadillo that comes in handy during his plumbing work. Though it does get used, and is central to the plot, the different focus and misdirection worked well to show Tom as an ordinary guy who is rather in over his head in this whole mess.
I really liked Tom. He's a strong character that has a real moral compass amid the corrupt characters that stock the story. In a way, he's retained his innocence beneath his jaded veneer, which contrasts nicely with Phil, who harbors rather a lot of guilt and shame over his past. I appreciated that they both came across as assholes every once and a while, trying to work through their shared history (or at times ignore it).
The mystery worked well for me, though hardcore mystery fans might find the story lighter than they're used to. Much of the story is focused on detective work, but a lot of the focus is on the relationship between Tom and Phil in the midst of it. I was a little disappointed that we didn't hear what happens to a character that showed up early in the story that I felt rather sorry for, and of course, I could have really done with more of the smexxin from these two because they are sizzling together!
So, once again, I loved this offering from one of my favorite authors and as always look forward to whatever she publishes. This one is definitely recommended....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
Holy freaking' .. whatever! This was seriously hot stuff!!
Seriously, if this were a real gay sex instructional, I'd be going out to find my own Liam right now. I kinda want to actually! Okay, but seriously, I just finished this and I'm writing this immediately so I had to get that out of the way.
If there is one thing that I love more than anything, in real life and my romance, it is geeky guys. I swear, give me glasses and a stutter, give me a man obsessed with mathematical equations, I don't care. It's like wanting to sleep with your professor but he's young and hot! Then you dress him up like a hipster? Come on, Skye was perfect -- well.. but we'll get to that later.
Skye McCord is fresh from the hallowed halls and about to take his position with an engineering firm. He's just come out but he doesn't know how to be a gay man. He was always way ahead in school so he was too young to go out with friends, even if he wanted to be away from his mathematical research. He socially awkward at best and figures the best way to understand what having a life in the real world is like is to set out to learn it, just as he has learned and conquered everything else in front of him. So, he hires Liam, an escort in Las Vegas. He's expecting perfectly tanned and toned porn stars but what he gets is naturally sexy throwback in a leather jacket full of alpha fire. The only problem is that there may be too much fire to quench in the month that Liam has agreed to give Skye "lessons." When Skye learns he has a certain aptitude for submission, they have something even more in common.
Well, if you're looking for something hot and steamy, this will definitely fit the bill. If you're more into romance, then this might not be for you. I'm not saying that there's no romance here. It's full of it, but it is also all done through sex, probably 75% of the book. Almost every scene is sexual in some way, usually full on. For me, this works because I liked to read books like these as long as the story is told through the sex, and I thought that Sutherland did this beautifully. Still, it can be a bit much because it is mostly scene after scene. Still, this is a solid novella at 48k words, and I read it in a few hours, so the shorter length might make it okay for some readers who might not prefer so much sex.
The first half of the book had me hooked. Skye is immediately knocked off his feet when he assumes that he's going to be able to "study" what is happening to him in order to recreate it with other men. He doesn't understand passion and the need to let go when he's so solidly in control of his own mind -- precisely why he inexplicably needs and at the same time doesn't understand submission. This first part worked really well for me because Skye is such a great and open character. He isn't too submissive, he has some fire, or bratty qualities that Liam loves. I felt like this changed as the story went forward however. When they really start to have feelings for one another, it's just okay, but then when love comes into the equation and Liam feels the need to step back from the relationship because of his job, I wanted a little more of that fire from Skye earlier in the story. That's when I felt like it really started getting good, when Skye starts sticking up for himself, and I was sad that that happened very near the end. The 60% to 85% range of the story could have been significantly shorter for me. Or, Skye could have stuck up for himself and the story could have taken a bit of a different turn. I just felt like that part got just a bit stagnate in that they weren't progressing forward emotionally, and I would have preferred more back and forth.
It makes sense for Skye to act the way he does, it just wasn't very enjoyable for me to read. I think it might have been a bit more palatable if we got to see the characters away from each other a little bit, doing what they do in their daily lives instead of jumping from "date" to "date." After all, Skye might not feel much control and feel a lot of confusion during the dates, but scientifically he's the top of his game and incredibly confident. Seeing some of that (besides one brief point with Liam at a construction site) might have helped separate the two a little, as well as give some readers who might be daunted with so much back to back sex a little breather. Liam, in turn, was less accessible to me as a reader. We get his POV, maybe slightly less often than Skye's, but he's so focused on what is best for Skye, that we really don't know a whole lot about him. There's a mention later in the book that he might have some family, but apart from a brief story about why he became an escort, there's not much about him. I would have preferred a bit more.
Personally, this story could have been better for me with some different choices, but I won't hold them against the author because she didn't write this for me. And I did like the story. As long as you enjoy lots of sex (though VERY steamy and a great connection between the characters), I think this would be for you. If you're unsure about so much sex, then maybe take this a few chapters at a time with breaks in-between. I do, however, know that a lot of readers don't prefer so much, so to those of you I'd say you should probably stay away from this one. This one gets a Pretty Good :) And a HELL YES for burning up the sheets!...more
More than any other author who writes "gay" books or stories, I think that Victor Banis has come to be my favoritReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
More than any other author who writes "gay" books or stories, I think that Victor Banis has come to be my favorite with his short stories. There is so much craft needed to make a short story really great and I think, a lot of restraint. This story is so touching and heart-warming, combining tone (like a tired body before a nap) and the voice of Mike, solid man of the earth, nearing the end of his life… with just a bit of southern drawl and geriatric snark.
It has only been three days since Mike's longtime partner Adam died at the beginning of the story. His kids and Adam's kids, now all brothers and sisters for a long time, are on a constant rotation watching out for him. It isn't a secret, even though none of them want to give him a hard time about not eating or sleeping, sneaking a drink here and there, and worst of all, succumbing to delusions. He's heartbroken in the quiet, private way an old man is when faced with the loss of his other half. He carries on going into town and getting up and around the house so that his kids won't worry even more about him -- then breaking down in private. The only solace in his grief, apart from the love he has for his kids and they for him as they hover around him, is a hawk that continues to visit him, acting strange for a hawk and giving signs that have a very clear meaning to Mike.
This is a bittersweet story, and though that means there isn't a traditional HEA, I felt like the story did end happily. It is all presented, of course, in a way different readers could conflict upon the point, but when the story ended after it's inevitable course, I felt lighter and a bit happier than when I started it. It is foremost a love story, and though one character has passed and there is only a brief flashback, the love between the two of them came through really strongly, shown by the way that Mike's ingrained habit of operating as half of a whole is still so obvious. All of the secondary characters have distinct voices, difficult to achieve with such limited page time for each one. But what sets the story apart is the voice of Mike:
All of a sudden, I wanted to see the creek again, the place where Adam and I had first made love. Seemed like I hadn't been there in ages. If I’d known he was going to leave me the way he did, all of a sudden without any warning, his big ole heart just quitting on him, I’d have talked him into going down there with me a time or two, for old-time’s sake. A mattress and clean sheets weren’t all there was to lovemaking, in case you didn’t know. Front seat of a truck works just fine too. I could give you a whole list of places, if you wanted to know. Adam was a man of strong appetites, and he wasn’t shy, either.
This is a story that I'd love to keep around and read when I felt like I needed to. The reach of such a settled and still completely in love couple is much further than any sadness that might happen as consequence of the two growing old together. Not only are those things unavoidable in life, but in this story they serve to contrast and highlight the love that permeates this old, modern family that Mike and Adam created together.
I love Victor Banis' writing, he's such a pro and this short story settles right in when you start reading it, as if it isn't trying at all but still spectacularly succeeding. It is hopeful and beautiful. I would have loved to see the story of the couple together earlier in their lives, but then, that had no place here. This story ended up exactly as it should have done and has the kind of finality about it that you know it couldn't be much improved, and certainly not from me....more
I never read the original story that was then expanded into this book. It was part of last year's Goodreads M/M RReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
I never read the original story that was then expanded into this book. It was part of last year's Goodreads M/M Romance Group's Hot Summer Days, and like many of those stories I missed this one. I'm glad now, because I really loved reading this novella and I can't imagine having read this story and not gotten all I did here, in this expanded edition. There's quite a bit of angst (well, for me -- not really for others probably), but it is very necessary to the relationship.
Kurt is a freshman at NYU and has made the swim team. In actuality, he's very good, with tons of potential, but he can't see it because of his terrible self-confidence and he's also been lagging in his times lately because he came out to his parents and friends only to have everyone reject him. Now, he's convinced they are kicking him off the team. James Theard, the team's captain is his saving grace. He's given the task of helping Kurt by the coach, and sure, he can help him get his times up with work on technique. It isn't long though, that he sees that isn't the real problem. Kurt is down on himself constantly, and combined with the blushes on his face in the locker room, he thinks he might know why that is. After all, he went through something similar and thinks that might be why the coach told him to work with Kurt.
The problem is that Kurt has dealt with some other issues, deeper issues. Those things are what first obliterated his confidence and self-worth and being abandoned by his parents and friends was just the final straw that told him he was really worthless. When James starts to fall for Kurt, and vice versa, it isn't just about swimming anymore, but James wanting Kurt to be the best man that he can be, and for them to have the possibility of a real relationship.
This is the first book that I've read in quite a while that I felt really hit the college mark. It isn't just about getting in college parties and classes and details right, but it is really about getting the characters right. College, for most people, is such a pivotal part of growing up that is all about emotional growth, especially for a freshman. Kurt was written really, really well, I thought, and I liked that as he progressed under James' tutelage that those details were covered as well, friends, roommates. It isn't easy going for these guys either. The author gives both characters' points of view in a way that works to show their different levels of maturity. Even though James is constantly in the shadow of Kurt's problems, it also shows that he's subtly facing problems himself. First off, how to control his raging libido and not hurt Kurt. How to deal with the real possibility that he could so easily manipulate him, and how hard it can be not the let the first overshadow the second.
It has got to be difficult to write a story like this and make James a supportive boyfriend without coming across as too perfect, and while I worried about that while I was reading, I never really felt like he was too perfect. He did just what he needed to do for Kurt while also looking out for himself, and I appreciated that. It helped keep the balance in a relationship that is often outlined by their imbalance in power and emotional maturity. I don't really want to go into the issues he faces, because the details themselves aren't really important, other than as an obstacle in their growing relationship. Still, no one should fear having any problems with them, they're off page.
Having spend so much time around NYU, I really would have loved more little details, even more of the little NYC details that I picked up in the story, but I did find some and I appreciated that. This story, while it isn't something that I would usually pick up was written very well with a lot of care for real issues. It walked a very fine edge for me. It could have spectacularly failed in several ways, but I think this author really pulled it off and I ended up really liking it. It definitely captured parts of the college experience that I haven't read in this genre with authenticity to a city school, and NYC is different than any city :)...more
I was excited to read this story after having reviewed and enjoyed this author's recent novel release, Rules AreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
I was excited to read this story after having reviewed and enjoyed this author's recent novel release, Rules Are Meant to be Broken (reviewed here). Instead, I didn't connect with this story, which was a bit of a disappointment for me.
The story starts with Riley being kicked out of a car with his infant son Kai into the pouring rain. Riley doesn't know where he is, other than in the middle of nowhere, the baby is crying and hungry and wet and cold. All Riley can think about, besides how to take care of Kai, are the hateful words his brother in law, and once a friend, directed at him as he abandoned them. He's alone now with a baby to care for a no money -- and he's getting sick. The only family he had in the US was his wife's family, but when she died and inadvertently outed him in the doing, the family wrote him off, taking his and the baby's possessions.
The night's respite comes in the form of a ranch. Riley stops in the barn and crawls into the hayloft to get his son out of the rain, hoping to be back on his way before light. He's too sick, though, and might not make it too much further. Noah finds the young guy and baby sleeping in his barn and takes them in. Soon their attraction for each other, as well as the small-town gossip of Riley's ex-in-laws puts them at odds with the town.
Several things got in the way of my enjoyment of this story, and though some were nitpicky details (saying Chase, an easily influenced character, was "mildly retarded") that probably only bothered me and not other readers, I did feel like there were some choices made in the writing that negatively affected the story as a whole. First, for the length of the story, just barely more than a short story at 25k words, there were negative external influences from several directions instead of a focused antagonist. The two MCs had to deal with hatred from the town as a whole, from a ranch hand, from the Goldings family (the family that threw Riley and the baby out when they learned he was gay), as well as a specific person in town. It was a lot of problems from different directions. Not only does that leave almost no time for the exploration of the central relationship between Noah and Riley, but there really isn't much time to explore the dynamics of the town where all this hatred is coming from. Because of that, I really missed the connection between the two men and even though time passes as Riley stays with Noah and they apparently get to know one another, it still felt like Insta-Love.
I did have quite a bit of trouble with some of the writing in this book -- mostly the dialogue. It sometimes felt a bit unnatural. I realized when I was reading that it seemed as if these characters were playing roles themselves -- those of a small town western. They seemed more like archetypes of Texans, even Noah at times. Gun-toting vigilanteism…that type of thing. I can deal with that I suppose, since that really is supposed to be what this town is like. It was stranger to me when it ended up coming through their dialogue:
(Officer Brady)"Look, if that was my fella in there I would keep him close to home for a while, just until we can work out just who the hell this is and which one of you he or she [is] trying to hurt," Grady said quietly.
(Noah)"I will, but be warned! I will do anything to keep my family safe, and my guns are fully loaded."
It just seems a bit too melodramatic and took a little too much suspension of disbelief for me to accept the way things fall into line from seemingly nowhere. I find it strange, because this story seems out of keeping with what I know of this author's writing. And while I haven't read a wide range of her work, I thought the writing in her novel was excellent. Maybe this was written a while ago and her writing has improved? Maybe… writing about Texans was more difficult for her than the characters and setting of the novel, which was in Australia. Then again, maybe it is just me and for some reason I really didn't click with this one. Whatever it is, I'll definitely keep reading this author's work, even though I can't recommend this novella....more
I'm a bit fan of Neil Plakcy's writing. I first loved his writing when I read the Have Body, Will Guard series anReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
I'm a bit fan of Neil Plakcy's writing. I first loved his writing when I read the Have Body, Will Guard series and then the South Beach novels and some of the stories set in South Beach. Though not a proper series, this is another story set in South Beach and a lot of the same themes came through -- pretty muscular boys, a fair bit of vanity, lots of outdoor time and sun at the beach. Though I did find Gabe a bit shallow at first, I would say that he definitely isn't the beach muscle boy stereotype that this author has purposely written in the past. In fact, he's pretty reminiscent of a guy that has still yet to really grow up, but finding he might be on the cusp of that change.
The story is really pretty simple. Gabe meets Richie and his two boys at the beach when one of the kids kicks a soccer ball to his head. Richie apologizes by taking him out for a drink with the boys, then later they get to know each other over a new date. I suppose the biggest problem I had was that I didn't feel much connection between Gabe and Richie. This might be purposeful, actually, because I feel as if Gabe operates in tunnel vision with a bit of a selfish POV other than typical first date questions and then trying to get in Richie's pants afterward. Maybe purposeful, because the feel of the narration felt a bit like a vain and selfish young guy, not purposefully, but naturally because of age. So whether that was intentional or not, it still meant that when the story ended I felt like they were hanging onto an HFN by the skin of their fingers. As an encounter-type story, it worked very well, but wondering if they'd be together in a few month's time? I'm not sure… maybe, but then again, maybe not.
The kids don't show up much, though they are quite a big part of the story -- both in a very big statement about who Richie really is in relation to his asshole ex-boyfriend, and also to show the differences between Richie and Gabe, who has never really pictured himself as a father. So, even though I really like the kids part of these stories and would have loved to have more time with them, I thought their amount of involvement in the story worked well.
In this case I honestly do believe that the story should have been longer and that I would have preferred more. I think that Gabe really became interesting to me once he got to know Richie a little bit and decided that it might be possible that he could envision being a father someday. He's still quite a long way away from becoming a father himself, but that change from a childlike existence where he has very little responsibilities to becoming a real adult is, I think the most important part of his character, and we never really get to see that.
So, in all, I'd say that this story is just okay for me. Though, I'll continue to read Mr. Plakcy's books and stories!...more
The Good Life is the first of the MLR Father's Day stories (with the eReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
What a completely charming story!
The Good Life is the first of the MLR Father's Day stories (with the exception of one I've not read) that really bring the baby into the story and the center of the relationship. While many of the stories were still wonderful, this story was really what I was looking for when these came out. I love stories about families and I like to read about the children being central to the story and how that factors into creating a really modern gay family. This novella gave me everything I was looking for and did it in a way that really pleased me.
The story starts with Chad making a frantic phone call to Sonny, his straight best friend. Chad has gotten into another bout of trouble and needs Sonny to bail him out, only this time things are different, it ins't some foolish and juvenile misadventure. Chad's friend Elizabeth, who he secretly donated sperm to, has died, leaving their baby in his sole care. As a gay man, Chad never really thought about children. His life isn't really made for one, but the choice of keeping her or sending her into the foster system, along with the calmer and wiser Sonny's guidance, makes the choice easy as soon as he looks into baby Annalee's eyes and spends a little time with her. Soon the best friends find themselves consolidating to help Annalee out, Sonny ever faithfully by Chad's side, until a night out for Chad getting a little taste of his past life intersects with trouble.
I think that is great about this story, and something that I think a lot of readers will love is that it deals with a story that is pretty sweet and tame, but flows outward organically. It really does feel as if the author started this story with the beginning scene and then just let the characters run where they would. The natural progression makes sense, and combined with the natural chemistry that Chad and Sonny have together, makes the story work. The story always stays close to Annalee, the central thread in bringing the relationship together, which I liked, but also felt right for the story. To have relegated the baby to the background would have been a disservice to the relationship and I'm glad that that didn't happen. It was also nice to see lots of secondary characters brought in, two that I'd love to see a book written about.
I do wonder what happened to the mother. She was pretty present in the beginning of the story but not so much later on. I suppose that with the creation of the relationship and of the central nuclear family she wasn't really needed in the role she originally occupied, but it still would have been nice to get her take on the relationship. I kept wondering what she would have thought of it.
I loved Sonny. Their POV changes throughout the story, often switching by a break in the prose or a chapter break during a particularly importance scene to allow both characters to divulge their inner thoughts. I don't particularly mind that technique one way or the other, but I did think that it worked okay here, and that having Sonny's point of view seemed necessary. They're also pretty different guys, with different personalities and outlooks on life. Chad only really grows up when his daughter is deposited in his hands, and it still takes him a while to settle into the transition, but Sonny seems like an old soul, a naturally wise man with a heart of gold. He seems a bit too good to be true, in that he doesn't really have any faults, but that isn't something that usually overly bothers me, unless it is completely overdone.
The sex and private moments in their relationship are rather tame, but still quite sexy in a lovable way. This story is definitely about the triumph of love and happily ever after, which I like reading just as much as sex romps. The decision made to limit the sex scenes by cutting some parts out and fading to black was well done -- it allowed the author to show their insatiable desire for one another in a new relationship without inundating the story with sex, and too much sex wouldn't have worked with this sweet story.
I think this might be my favorite story by Diana DeRicci, and I've really liked several of hers. I'm definitely glad that one of the MLR Father's Day stories was really geared towards what I was looking for -- I'm now satisfied :)