Such a wonderful story for my prompt earlier this year, I've been looking forward to it! I just read it, so I'll have my review up on 8/17 at The Armc...moreSuch a wonderful story for my prompt earlier this year, I've been looking forward to it! I just read it, so I'll have my review up on 8/17 at The Armchair Reader.(less)
I'm really happy that Sara Alva asked me to specifically review this short story of hers. Many of you will have r...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
I'm really happy that Sara Alva asked me to specifically review this short story of hers. Many of you will have read it, I know, because it's a free short from the m/m Goodreads Romance Group's LHNB event. I usually keep up a little better with the stories than I have this year and I also try to do a couple mass reviews of some of my favorites. But, I've really missed most of them, just because there have been too many new releases this summer! And way too many of them that I've wanted to review :) Thankfully, Sara did ask me to review this one and I'm really glad she did because it was so cute and a real joy to read.
Simon is with his father, mother and sister on vacation in Costa Rica where his father is in development of vacation homes. It's the few weeks after finals just at the start of the summer and Simon is in a bit of a quandary. His boyfriend back at college, Leo, has pretty much parted his company without much fanfare, giving Simon a "let's see what happens over the summer" goodbye that pretty much means he just wants to fuck whomever he likes until Simon is back to be his bedwarmer throughout the year. Leo is a little bit cruel, but even if he isn't what Simon really wants, he's what he's got and Simon figures that he shouldn't give up on a solid thing himself.
What better for him to do than try to find a summer fling himself? At least so that he doesn't go back to Leo having pined for him all summer. But Simon doesn't really know how to go about catching someone's eye. There are a lot of cute guys at the beach of their resort and it seems so easy for his sister Alyssa to catch a cute guy. It isn't until he stumbles up on the local migration of sea turtles hatching on the beach at night that he meets Juan.
Juan is a local that doesn't show much faith in another American tourist at first, especially when the two get off to such an inauspicious start. But Simon rallies and when he actually shows interest in the turtles, Juan invites him to help with his nightly duties. It doesn't take them long to find a chemistry between them, but even if Simon did start to have feelings for Juan, there's no chance of anything happening when he lives thousands of miles away.
This is such a perfect and sweet vacation fling story and this author does it in a way that sets it apart. There's no easy out that things could continue in the future, that one could stay or the other could follow at the end of their fling. There are real differences between them. But we get to that point by getting to know the two of them in all of their awkwardness and by doing so their relationship has heart where other stories with a similar premise might not. And that's because there are such differences between them. Juan is a local who has had only too many opportunities to get to know different kinds of people, but so many of them through the facade of the resort, bringing him into contact with a type of person that he can't understand might not be rich or spoiled. He's someone who has to work hard for what he has, battle his own family against his sexuality, and then battle the people he comes in contact with every summer to be seen as more than a stupid village boy. Though they come from different worlds, Simon is different. He can't seem to make himself believe that their fling could be no-strings attached. He just doesn't know how. And part of that is because he's the type of person who would find interest in the beauty of the turtles and understand the beauty in what Juan sees everyday.
I don't know Sara Alva well. And this is the first work of hers that I've read -- no matter how many times I've remembered how much I want to read Social Skills. But, I can see from reading this story that she's someone who really cares about what she writes and that she writes because she loves it. I'm not an author, but I can understand that. I want to read Social Skills now more than ever, because I feel into her prose and it was so easy and comforting to get lost in. I'm excited to see what to make of a longer story. It doesn't hurt that I've had so many people tell me to read it by now ;)
If you missed this one in all the crush of the free stories this summer, then definitely go get it. It's sweet and heartfelt and you'll probably find a new author that you like.(less)
Believe it or not (and I can't), this is the first book I've read by Shira Anthony. I have several and...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
Believe it or not (and I can't), this is the first book I've read by Shira Anthony. I have several and there are many of her books that I've really wanted to read, but somehow never found the time to. So when I saw this on the Dreamspinner Coming Soon page I made sure that I made room for it in my schedule. It wouldn't only be a chance to try out this author, but also a book about mermen! Just like unicorns, I'm really an 8 year old little girl who loves the cute and cuddly fantastical creatures. Except, you know, when they have gay sex and aren't as cuddly anymore, except maybe in a post-coital fashion.
I'm glad that I made room for this book, it was quite fun to read. The whole book takes place over a somewhat short amount of time -- about 8 weeks -- but the book starts with Taren at a young age and the first few chapters traverse his teenaged years as he's sold and stolen as a slave and passed through several masters' hands. The journey that Taren takes in this first book of the series is pretty big. He learns quite a bit about his life and goes through many transitions of change before the end.
Taren doesn't know anything about his parents, save that his master told him they gave him away. He longs for the open sea and though he's just a rigger for his master's shipyard, he hopes that one day he'll be able to travel the seas and be a proper sailor. When he's sold to pay off his master's debts, Taren becomes a slave to a man who runs an inn. He's not sure how old he is, though he thinks around 18 or 19. He's been mostly sheltered in his life, so when a handsome captain introduces him to his sexuality in a room full of watching sailors at the inn, he finds himself excited rather than scared and violated. He's submissive and clings to the safety he feels in a man like the captain, whom he later knows as Rider, because of the man's kind, yet firm dominance.
Stolen by the sailors of the ship that night, he wakes to find himself the captain's prisoner and introduced to indentured slavery of the sexual kind. But, for a young man like Taren who has always been a slave, sexual slavery aboard a ship on the open ocean is a kind of freedom that he's never known. Taren revels in it, especially when he comes to be a loving presence in Rider and his lover's bed and allowed to put his knowledge of sailing to use aboard the ship.
But there is so much that Taren doesn't know or understand -- why he has such vivid dreams and the extra-sensory feelings that he has in reading the water and weather at sea. When he's knocked unconscious and lost at sea, he washes up to their rival vessel, captained by Ian Dunaidh. Ian is enamored of Taren immediately and their connection, once he wakes, pushes and pulls between them as they sail to Ian's home island where a shadowy presence called The Council awaits to judge Taren as a spy in their war against a resistance group of their own people who live on the mainland. Living through the hell of their torture, the betrayal between Taren and Ian and the possibility that he might never be free takes everything in him. All he knows to get him through is that he is destined for a higher purpose than this, if it is true that any higher power is guiding them.
I went pretty far in summarizing the story for you, but that is because there is such a long and twisting plot in this story. Taren goes through so many changes, homes, and relationships with other people for only 70k words. It makes me curious how many books this author has planned for this series because I didn't feel as if I started to understand the larger picture until the very end of the book. I have no doubt that that was intended for the reader, that we should pull the pieces together at the very end, but it also meant that I had to wait through the whole book to really understand what was happening. Which, ultimately, meant that I really had to enjoy the story for the present, for what was happening to Taren in the moment without understanding where the story was headed to really enjoy the book. Sometimes I felt as if I was right there with him and Ian and I was really sucked into the present of the story. But, sometimes I wasn't and I felt as if the story lulled, perhaps because the relationship between Taren and Ian is so freaking complicated. For much of the book they're separated, though not for any very long pieces of time. It takes the whole book for them to really reach the same page, relationship-wise, because they each needed this book to progress themselves. Taren is searching for his destiny, a shadowy purpose that we and he knows is there, somewhere, for him to understand one day, and for him to understand his race and his history. Ian is battling his own demons -- regret and guilt -- that stand in the way of his happiness.
So once again I say that while I really enjoyed this book, it's as a first book of a series. I still feel as if I don't know much about where this series is headed. In a way, I like that because it means that this author is doing a fine job of withholding information until the correct (and perhaps most artful) time to release it. On the other hand, I fear not knowing enough to keep me interested in the big picture, and that it makes my reading experience different. So, I'm excited to read the next book and hoping that the ending of this one -- seeing the formation of a more solid relationship between Taren and Ian -- will carry forward through the rest of the series.
**There is a pretty big imbalance in the heat level and sex frequency in this book, as far as trying to rate it goes. The first several chapters are hot and heavy, with m/m/m scenes (spitroasting, exhibitionism) that really raise the heat, and frequent sex in those chapters. The rest of the novel has little to almost no sex at all and what intimacy there is is very romantic and tame (the underwater mermen sex).(less)
No matter how much I've wanted to read Jacob Flores' prior books, this is the first one that I really had the tim...moreReview 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.(less)
I'm always eager to pick up a baseball book and even though I've been interested in several and still plan to rev...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
I'm always eager to pick up a baseball book and even though I've been interested in several and still plan to review a few of them, it has been a while since I've picked up a book from DSP's young adult imprint. From what I gather in the acknowledgements, this is Will Parkinson's debut novel. Sometimes it's a gamble picking books to read by a new author or an author I've never read, but that's another part of reviewing that I like. Reviewing gives me the opportunity to read new authors and it feels like I get to enjoy more of the perks, like finding a surprise that's worth it. Often, it's different though and while I like some of those books I also don't like some of them. I'm afraid to say that this book fell into the latter camp for me. While it wasn't a total disappointment, I just didn't connect with the book.
Taylor is a gay sophomore in a Milwaukee, Wisconsin high school. His best friend Benny is straight and the only person alive who knows his secret. They're best friends and always have been and Benny is a rather special guy that is wise beyond his years, intelligent and loyal. Pitch opens on the day that a new student starts at Taylor's school. Jackson walks into Taylor's homeroom, looking nervous and totally sexy and Taylor immediately wants to draw him. What follows over the next year is an intense unrequited love that just doesn't seem to go away, no matter how hard Taylor tries and Benny cautions. No matter how much Taylor is told that Jackson is disgusted by his little boy crush from Jackson's cheerleader girlfriend, Taylor just can't seem to stay away.
It isn't until he and Benny gain some perspective on their problems during the next summer, camp counseling for abused kids, that Taylor starts to grow up. He still has feelings for Jackson, but he's less likely now to follow him around like a lost puppy. So when a kid from a neighboring school asks him out during their Halloween dance, Taylor decides to take him up on it. He really starts to like Kevin, but he is prey unknowingly walking into Kevin's trap. It takes some extremely tough decisions and way too much heartbreak and drama to realize that much of what he thought before wasn't true, about most of the people he knew.
There are two aspects of this novella that I had a difficult time with. The first are the characters. This, especially, is subjective. Part of what oftentimes makes a young adult novel good are the bad choices of the characters. More often than not young adult stories have a moral and it can walk a fine line in the hands of the author between preachy and poignant. The style of this story went a bit over the top and that just wasn't something that I was really looking for. For high school students, who I freely admit can be some of the cruelest humans on Earth, many of the actions of these characters went beyond immature and foolhardy. I would have appreciated the characters and their decisions (even the bad ones) more if their actions had been more subtle and less ascribed to their particular archetype. Kevin's actions in particular required me to suspend disbelief a few times.
As I said before, those decisions and your own feelings about them are more subjective than usual. My other problem with this story was in the writing. I applaud this author for writing and writing and sharing their work. But like many new authors I think that there were some fundamental writing problems that this author needs to work on. Mostly it will just take continued writing, so even though this book wasn't for me, I sincerely hope that this author keeps up with it. Part of the novice prose problems were dialogue and restraint. In a way, the second has quite a bit to do with the first. This book didn't fall into too bad of a habit of telling rather than showing, but there is importance in letting the characters express themselves in their own ways instead of being a vehicle to express the author's view. I'm not talking about preaching about issues or anything like that here. I simply mean the difference between the characters' observations and personality and the author's. Almost continually there were times while reading this that I stopped and thought that a character wouldn't say or think that. The dialogue, in a similar way, oftentimes sounded familiar for all the characters and didn't seem to represent the individual characters. Restraint is important because readers don't need all the information. It's a partnership, you know? The readers picks up on the clues the author leaves and pieces them together and in that way one small action tells you more about the character than a whole page of narration.
Ultimately, this book just wasn't for me because of the more dramatic plot twists. I have seen a couple of 5-star reviews around so I'll be interested to see if any other readers/reviewers feel the way I do, or if this turns out to be a reader favorite. I've been a part of the more unpopular opinion before!(less)
What a wonderful surprise for me to find another Aidan and Liam book out! For some reason, I thought tha...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
What a wonderful surprise for me to find another Aidan and Liam book out! For some reason, I thought that after book four, Olives for the Stranger that the series was finished, so getting a new book and the possibility of even more after this (it sure seems like it) makes me so happy! Liam and Aidan are a couple that I've kept with since I read their first book Three Wrong Turns in the Desert several years ago. Each book is heavy on action/adventure and a serious dose of hot and heavy macho action. How could I not fall in love? Besides, I've always been drawn to Mr. Plakcy's work. I really enjoy his style.
The fifth installment in this series diverges from the rest right at the start. Though we know Liam and Aiden well in Tunisia where they met and have previously worked as bodyguards, they moved at the end of the fourth book to France and are now living in Nice. Both of them think that they moved to primarily make the other happy, but the truth is that having less freedom is somewhat constricting to them both, because Liam doesn't always like being told what to do and because Aidan usually does what he can to defer to his more senior partner and lover and because he generally ends up trying to please him anyway. This results in it's own set of complications and when Liam and Aidan take on a new case in Corsica protecting a mine owner's family from threats by Corsican nationalists to preserve the island from drilling, they both spend much of their time there working through their own issues about their relationship. Aidan wonders if he's doomed to play the doormat when once again Liam takes the active role in their operation and Aidan feels that he's undervalued. Liam is forced to confront his past when they find that the son in the family they're protecting, Michel, is in the closet and secretly in love with his father's biggest adversary's son. It might be a classic star-crossed lovers tale with a bent twist, but the interactions between scared, closeted and teenaged Michel and his blithely criticizing father force him to confront his own feelings about his past and his development into his only real relationship -- with Aidan. Liam has never considered himself as any kind of commodity, until recently mostly avoiding his sexuality except in the basest of situations, but their friend Louis makes a comment that shows him he just might be attractive to other men. That leads him to consider his relationship with Aidan and his feelings about sleeping with other men.
Their main issue in Corsica, nonetheless, is keeping their client's safe, not angsting about the issues in their relationship.
This book (like the last one) was both an enjoyment to read and a bit of a disappointment. The pure adventure and excitement that I'm used to from the earlier plots in this series seem to have gone away. On the other hand, I think that Plakcy, better than most writers in the m/m romance genre anyway, seem to have a real knack for writing about the issues that crop up in long lasting relationships. They're the everyday issues -- communication, self-esteem in relationship to your partner, jealousy -- and they're handled responsibly. Sure they might cause a bit of angst, but I like the format of this series because the external adventure/mystery plot takes some of the focus away. The plot doesn't need to be built on those internal relationship issues to carry the story, so those real-to-life relationship issues seem to carry the modest weight that is natural. Of course they're important but they aren't life or death issues that need to much focus. I'm not saying that I don't enjoy a classic relationship-centric contemporary romance, but Aidan and Liam feel more real to me because while I might have to occasionally suspend disbelief at their gun-toting, crime-solving antics, the relationship at the center is down to earth and totally believable.
I remain a fan of this series. I probably always will be. But, I think I might need to shift my expectation of the future books. From here on, I'm going to look forward more to the relationship than the external plot. It might bring me some enjoyment, but so far the last few just haven't been nearly as satisfying as the first ones. I will say that I found Liam and Aidan's physical relationship in this book somewhat disappointing. I'm not sure why the author didn't include much sex (hardly any!). One of the draws to this series for me has been the hot and heavy sex between these two men. Maybe the author is trying to shift the overall arc in another direction? Or, perhaps, the plot in this book just didn't fit with the two getting hot and heavy. But I sure hope that when these two come back for book six that they'll be getting it on in all kinds of weird places like they used to!(less)
I believe this is the first book by Madeleine Ribbon that I've read. I was excited about this book because it has...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
I believe this is the first book by Madeleine Ribbon that I've read. I was excited about this book because it has a great premise -- a man cursed by his brother at a young age who repulses everyone and everything around him until a man who excels at breaking curses and has his own natural resistance to others' magic is the first man who can get close enough to him to try to remove it. And indeed, that is what immediately drew me into the story when I picked it up. We first see David as a young boy. He's completely jealous of his older brother Todd (by one year). Todd has more magic than David; David can only do Blessings, not Curses and Charms like Todd and just about everyone else in the magical world. And Todd has friends. When Todd goes away to a magical camp one summer where David cannot follow, David finds that despite what his brother told him, Todd's friends are happy to play with him. But when Todd comes home to see David with his friends he get's jealous, and in a typical move towards his younger brother, he curses him. Only this time David tries to protect himself with a blessing and the combination of the magic creates what will become known among the magical world as the impossible curse, and David as The Impossible Kid.
David feels the curse himself. He's uncomfortable, full of fear and feels the creepy crawly feeling across his whole body. But that doesn't compare to how other people feel in his proximity. The closer they get the more they want to run away, the more they're afraid of him. And because of that impossibility of touch and interaction with all except for his brother Todd who is immune (as the curse caster, and subsequently has devote his life to his care because of his guilt), David has lived a life devoid of physical affection, even from his own parents. Those who take the time to brave their discomfort and get to know David fall in love with him. He's shy and awkward around people because of his curse and his lack of experience relating to others.
David still has his magic and though he feels it's rather lackluster in relation to so many other people's gifts, he admits that he has a real talent for Blessings. It is when he's fulfilling his promise to be in attendance of his brother Todd's wedding (and to bless the cake for the couple) that he meets Vaughn. He's confident, sexy, intelligent and talented and David has no idea what Vaughn sees in him -- other than the challenge of breaking his curse. Nevertheless, Vaughn can't seem to stay away from David. While it started out as a professional interest, Vaughn finds that the man himself is more intriguing than the horrible curse he bears. Getting David, a man who has never received any kind of positive attention from another handsome gay man, to realize that David is worth more than his curse looks to be almost as challenging as finding a counter to the curse itself. But the more time that Vaughn spends getting to know David -- wooing him in baby steps the whole way -- the more important it is to him to find a way to keep David for good.
I liked this novella but I think that it mostly only kept my interest because of it's length. It's short enough that when my initial interest, which covered the first few chapters and maybe the first 25% of the book, started to wane there wasn't a whole lot left to read. I won't say that it turned me off in any way, but I did feel like the book stalled a bit and it never really regained the magic even until the end. The premise of the book is really interesting, but once the initial meeting between David and Vaughn at the wedding finished they went into a long and slow courtship, because of David's fear of forging a connection with someone who he believed would ultimately be turned away by the curse. It made sense for the characters, but it slowed down the pace somewhat. That bulk of the story was really only driven by the internal conflict. And I hate to say it, but for me that really slow courtship which was much more like friendship killed the passion. I'm not sure why I reacted this way because I usually am a big fan of the slow burn. I think that's why I slowly lost some interest in their relationship -- I didn't feel the "burn" in the slow burn.
There is a side plot throughout the story. Over the months of their courtship is a small mystery keeping the two on their toes. Someone, what seems to be a scrawny kid, is trying to break in and steal a blessed plant from magical shops around town and is quite good at escaping capture. The plant in question is only used for suppressing magic, which leads David to believe that someone might be cursed similarly to him and hoping to stop it's effects. Vaughn, who works for the Magical Enforcement department of Arcana, the magical government, is involved with the case. This side plot could have remedied the problems that I had, diverting the focus to something else to drive the plot forward. But, ultimately while the conclusion was interesting in it's own way I didn't feel like it carried the story through those parts.
On the whole I just didn't find many surprises with this story. It is good for what it is despite the few problems that I had with it -- the premise is wonderful and I liked the characters quite a lot. David is cute in his geeky, online gaming and need-to-be-rescued kind of way, while Vaughn is charming and dashing, popular and sexy and loyal and caring. But after the initial introduction to the story and between the characters, I pretty much had the story already figured out.
This would be a good book for those of you looking for something not too involved, that won't take up a whole lot of your day and is a relaxing and light book to read. It's heartwarming in a knight-in-shining-armor kind of way. But if you're looking for something more intense or more exploration of the magical world and a deeper study of the characters, this might not be for you. Though I enjoyed the experience, I fell into the latter camp.(less)
Review for The Melody combined with my review of Ghost in the Closet (Immortal Symphony: Overture #3) at The Armchair Reader.
This excerpt about the Th...moreReview for The Melody combined with my review of Ghost in the Closet (Immortal Symphony: Overture #3) at The Armchair Reader.
This excerpt about the The Melody taken from that review:
Readers who buy the Season Pass (all six Overture season episodes in one) will get an overall discount but also some freebies. The first of those freebies came out with this story in the form of a short story. “The Melody” goes far back in time to an innocent and young Dorian. We get to meet Basil, an artist that young Dorian loves with all the infatuation of a boy and who is also a character importantly referenced to in the first story. While the scene between the two isn’t completely instrumental to the main story (you don’t have to read it), I did really enjoy being able to get to see him and see who he really was to Dorian at that age. Plus, seeing Dorian as positive, hopeful and undamaged gives me a lot of hope that we’ll soon get to see a real change in Dorian in the main story as well.(less)
I got this book for review on a whim, and I am so happy that I did because it completely took over my life yester...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
I got this book for review on a whim, and I am so happy that I did because it completely took over my life yesterday. I started reading it in the early morning and I couldn't put it down -- I read all day. And to be honest I was a little worried after I requested it because I had previously read a book by John Tristan that I DNF'ed and I think it might have been his first book. I just couldn't get into the writing and I kinda liked it but also didn't. So I couldn't believe that I had none of the same issues with this book that I did with that earlier book. And if this author keeps writing books like this then I'll definitely stick around and keep reading!
When his father dies with a multitude of debts, Etan is forced to sell his home and all his belongings and travel to the capital city of Kered to look for work. His only skills are his ability to read and write, and while those are rare abilities for a country boy, with no money to garner an apprenticeship, his only choice is manual labor, something he's unable to do because of a sickness as a child that stunted his growth. He's pale and petite, and saved by a man in a rickshaw when beaten in the street. The man offers to send him to a place to stay, where he learns after a few days is a home for indentured servants. His only option thereafter is to sign away his rights and work for this man in trade for a place to stay and food to eat.
When the man sees Etan without bruises and washes he almost doesn't recognize him, but he has an even better idea of work for him. Etan is introduced to Roberd Tallisk, a tattoo artist whose patron is the head of the Council, run by the Blooded, the ruling class of Kered society who possess magic believed descended from the gods themselves. There, Etan's slave bond is bartered between the two men when Tallisk agrees to take Etan on as his new work of art, an Adorned. The Adorned have always mystified those of the lower classes. They're those of beauty who are tattooed by master tattoo artists with enchanted ink to become living works of art for the pleasure of the Blooded. Their art is not allowed to be seen by those who aren't Blooded or the artist. And no one else but the tattoo artists are allowed to wear ink.
Etan's new life seems wonderful and exciting. He's protected now for life with gifts of riches from patrons and by the ink he wears on his skin. But there is also an aspect of being Adorned that he never expected. He soon learns the hard price to pay when he starts to mingle with the elite of Keren society and exactly what they expect from him. And he finds himself a pawn, a sort of Mata Hari in the political play between two warring factions for the future of the Keren society.
There are two things that I love most about this story and they go behind the tattoo art (which is super cool) and a lot of the other little details that made this story come alive for me. First is the epic quality of the story. We really get to see Etan's life played out over a lot of major changes in his life that also herald major changes for the whole world. We meet Etan when he's young, still living at home with his father and before he's had to completely depend on himself and we get to see how he changes over time. I typically prefer characters who are alive, present and very decisive about their lives in fiction, especially in fantasy worlds. Etan is alive and present, certainly, but he's also like a piece of detritus in a massive current once he makes it to the city. He's buffered on all sides by those making choices for him. I can't see him acting any other way certainly, as someone who has very little choices, but he's also very internal and cautious. I didn't see those parts of his personality changing until much later because it was such a slow change, but Etan grows as the world changes around him and as he needs to take more of his own care for himself.
The second thing I really loved was the cast of characters. We meet a multitude of secondary characters, most of whom are a good sort, and a faction of those who are good people who make some bad choices. As the world in the story changes, it reveals the best and worst of the characters and each of them are made to understand their regrets, in particular Isadel and Lord Haqan Loren. All of them, however, are well rounded characters that we get to know rather well. And this was done sometimes in a rather subtle fashion. The writing requires the reader to be present and active in piecing the world together and in drawing connections, and I can't tell you how often I find myself wishing for writing like that.
You might not find this story to be perfect, or it might not impact you as much as it did me. Part of how you feel about it, in the end, will depend on what you like most in your romance books. The relationship between Etan and Tallisk is very slow to build and it takes almost the full length of the novel for the two to really come together. The bulk of the story is rather Etan's journey and finding himself, someone who still feels like a country boy, realizing that he's a good person with heart amid vultures who would pick at him until there's nothing left. He has to realize what he really wants out of life, if it is security or love and if those things are separate.
I finished the book wanting more, sad that the story ended and hoping there was a way a sequel could be written, lol. I don't think that's really possible. But I know now that I'll definitely keep my eye on book by John Tristan and I hope that it isn't too long from now that I find another book that I get so lost in.(less)
It's been a while since I read a Hayden Thorne novel and now I remember exactly why I always want to re...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
It's been a while since I read a Hayden Thorne novel and now I remember exactly why I always want to read them! She has a particular quirky brain that makes her books unique in a way that always pulls me in. This wasn't my favorite of her books, but it might be hard to top the Masks books anyway. Still, by the end of this book, I liked it and I really liked Noah.
Noah is fifteen and out of school. After a bad situation at his last public school, where some kids bullied him and he fought back, getting suspended, his super awesome single mom Dot went ape-shit on the administration for their blatant disregard of the bullying in their school and pulled Noah out. Since then, he's been staying at home while his mother works two jobs and looks for a new, more inclusive school. Noah and his mom are pretty close, they're their only family and they stick together. Well, Noah does have grandparents (Dot's parents), but they really aren't considered family -- more like righteous stalkers. The calendar by the phone with bloody X's mark the days that they call to harass them about their wicked ways (which include that Noah is gay and that Dot had him out of wedlock). It isn't until his grandmother threatens to set The Soul Warriors on them that they get a little more worried.
When Noah and his mother decide to take a weekend road trip to a B&B to get away from all the phone calls, they find themselves transported to a strange alternate world that seems to be a ridiculous mockery of Hell -- a town called Helleville filled with residents with similar experiences as them, full of banned books like Harry Potter and science textbooks that teach evolution, and weird and strange creatures like ghosts, vampires, zombies and ghouls. The strange thing is that though no one there can really figure out where they are and why they're there (other than the fact that The Soul Warriors are behind everything), it isn't the classic representation of hell that you'd expect. They're well cared for with all the food they want for no money, the kids don't have to take school (although they can sit in a class with Satan as a teacher if they want), and they're surrounded by pristine nature with no need for jobs. The people there have formed a community of sorts with a mayor and everything, but they all have time to relax and enjoy the things that they didn't have time for in life. Dot decides to take up crocheting.
They are, however, haunted by one serious problem. Every so often someone disappears. Soon after Noah and his mother arrive in Helleville, the fourth resident goes missing and no one can ever find them, no matter how many times they organize search parties and a night watch to try to catch anything abnormal. It isn't until Noah makes a friend named John who loves to take pictures that they start to piece together the strange occurrences and what could be behind it all. But before Noah can get too attached to his new hobby of playing Sherlock Holmes he meets Alex, a boy his own age who seems to like him. Alex invites him to hang out with a few of the other teenagers in Helleville and finds that he's not the only one with a crush on the nerdy teen. Matt, a cool seventeen, muscular and gorgeous, highly intelligent and the most popular kid involved in the community has a thing for Alex and he doesn't intend for Noah, who he looks at like a bug under his shoe, to get in his way.
Before all of you m/m romance readers out there get excited, the romance in this story is kept on the back burner. Instead, this story is really Noah's coming of age tale and his road to self-discovery. Helleville and the alternate reality they've been sent to acts as a catalyst to force Noah to grow. Before he was sent there, a lot of his own exploration of himself as a teenager had been stunted because of the bullying he experienced at school. He calls himself an introvert, but he's really afraid to get back out into the world and try again, making friends and even meeting a guy he likes and taking a change. He has a lot of latent social anxiety and Helleville acts as a skewed kind of microcosm of the real world to get him to open up again. In Helleville, Noah can be someone new. He can meet and go on dates with a boy like Alex, he learns that he can have friends. And most importantly he learns that people can rely on him, that he has worth. Alex acts as part of that self-discovery, of course, and their relationship also is a somewhat significant part of the story, but it never progresses very far on page.
The pace and plot mimic Noah's journey in a way. The POV is strictly Noah's, so the first half of the book is quite sedate. I even read one reader's review on Goodreads before I started reading that said that this book was boring. I wouldn't say that, I quite enjoyed it. But there were a few times in the first half of the book that I set it down, read some other things and then picked it up later. I think that as long as you don't go into this book expecting it to focus on Noah's romantic life and that the story will be more about action than reflection, you'll enjoy it. Also, if you haven't read much of Hayden Thorne's work by now you might not realize that most of her work is cerebral. This book is a reflection of Noah's life, in almost an allegorical way. If you'd rather just read for fun and not want to focus on the meaning of it all, then you might find this story a bit slow … in the first half anyway, the second half was much more exciting.
So I definitely recommend this one. I really like Hayden's work and I'll always pick up her books when a new one is out. She always has a really great point of view coming from gay teenagers that it's so easy to connect with. That, and sometimes this book just makes you go -- What the FUCK?(less)