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)
The most awaited book of the year! Well, maybe… probably! And ever since the listing came up on the DSP...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
The most awaited book of the year! Well, maybe… probably! And ever since the listing came up on the DSP site I've been mourning the fact that I can't get it in paperback, to complete my set :( I guess that means that Marie is going to have to extend the series somehow, because that would be a crime!
Anyway, I was so happy when I got this in my inbox for review. In fact, I knew I was getting it early so I made sure to go back and read Strawberries for Dessert, which would be somewhat fortuitous. For those of you not living under a rock, Fear, Hope and Bread Pudding continues the story of Cole and Jonathan. Let's do a little recap. We first met Cole in the first book of the Coda series, Promises, as Jared's past fuck buddy and good friend. He's fabulously rich and traveling is his career, with a boy in every port shall we say. Jonathan is introduced as Zack's ex-boyfriend and we meet him on page for the first time in The Letter Z, where the two couples (Matt and Jared, Zack and Angelo) run into Jonathan in Las Vegas while on vacation.
Then, the best book of the series (and it's definitely not just me that thinks that!) introduced the two men to each other. Jared, playing matchmaker, gave Cole Jonathan's number which he got in Vegas and Cole called Jonathan to introduce himself and ask him out the next time he was in Phoenix. Strawberries for Dessert shows their very rocky start to a solid relationship as they both deal with the massive changes in their lives: Jonathan's father and his dead-end job, and Cole's relationship with his mother and his neuroses about settling down, being enough for one man and being a gypsy spirit tied to one place. In Paris A to Z, all three couples convene in Paris for the wedding of Jonathan and Cole, and we get caught up on each relationship.
Fear, Hope and Bread Pudding starts not too long after their wedding and takes the couple through the next few tumultuous years of their lives. The sequel that we were all waiting for after Cole ended Strawberries… with the secret "I've always wanted to be a father", starts with the two men planning their family. Creating a family is more to the two than just wanting a child to care for. Cole was completely alone in the world before he married Jonathan, estranged from his socialite mother and ungrounded from any real roots. Jonathan always felt immense guilt for taking away his father's possibility of grandchildren, but mostly he wants to please Cole, who he knows would be an incredible, doting father to any child. With all of Cole's money at their disposal, they immediately set the adoption process in motion.
Their lawyer lets them know up front that the process can be full of heartbreak and take years to conclude. But Jonathan and Cole don't really understand what waiting means when they're perfect applicants and are already decorating their nursery. After months and months the absence of a child and the presence of an empty room start to loom over Cole. His excitement over becoming a father is wrapped up in his need to create stability for himself and in some way make up for the damage in his relationship with his own mother. Jonathan is firmly on Cole's side. But Jon's father understands things from a different perspective, and his meddling creates a whole new dynamic in their growing family… if they can finally find someone willing to give them their child.
Sorry, that was way too long!
This sequel surprised me in a number of ways. First, I was always going to love this, just because it's a story about Cole and Jonathan and shows us where their lives are going after we saw them last. But how Marie wrote their story surprised me in a few ways, foremost with Jon's father taking a large part of the POV in the middle section of the book. At first I was quite unsure of what she was doing with that, but I grew to love it and understand the perspective that he could offer, even though it took time away from Cole and Jonathan. It was a real gamble, but I felt like it payed off.
I think that if I had not read Strawberries… right before this book that I may not have liked it as much. Part of the problem is that this story is actually quite short and reading the first book with this couple helped me with feeling like I got to spend enough time with them. Make no mistake, though. I'm not saying that this story needed more. There is quite a large progression of time and a quick pace that made this novella feel really full of plot and time with the characters.
So yes, without a doubt I recommend this one. If you haven't ever read the Coda series, or Strawberries for Dessert (which you could technically read without the other books), then you should run to pick them up. It's one of my favorite m/m series out there. And this book is a continuation of a story that I already loved.(less)
ZA Maxfield is one of those unspoken authors that just naturally seems to go onto my Classic Great M/M Romance Authors list, and I think that this book is a good illustration of why she deserves that spot. I read a lot of likable m/m romances, but it takes a little something extra to sink into the story. The more of this genre that I've read I've realized how that has less to do with how much I like a plot, and more how the author extends the story into wordplay -- one of the biggest reasons that I review a book first on it's execution and only after on the author's choices. The best books use prose like an extra limb, manipulating the reader's emotions not by what they say but how they say it.
Grime and Punishment certainly isn't original, but ZA Maxfield does do something pretty important that allowed me to get closer to the characters. They're playful, both in words and jokes, and in intimacy. And humor and playfulness is important in this story to offset the angst. I've made the mistake in the past of leaping from angst to unpleasant and therefore bad for the story, but whether you're an angst fan or not, angst is really only the angst we talk about when it's overused. In a story such as this, where the characters are working through some pretty heavy emotions and dealing with some seriously unpleasant situations, angst is a natural factor. But, it was needed and balanced nicely with little moments of humor.
Equal parts romance and individual journey, "Grime" is the story of a man who shows up to clean the scene of a suicide to find that the man who killed himself is his first love. Jack is co-owner of The Brothers Grime, a crime scene cleanup company that sees the worst of people's messes, as well as their lives. When Jack receives a call from old friend and fuck buddy Dave about a neighbor's suicide, Jack is thrown headfirst into bad memories that he told himself he'd dealt with. Nick was Jack's first love, and after a betrayal of the worst kind, Jack hasn't seen the man. The last remnants of Nick Foasberg represent closure to Jack, but actually confronting the grisly remains brings up those ugly memories. But even worse than Nick's teenage betrayal, Jack must face his own past: the teenaged boy that lost his idealism and Jack's subsequent lack of progression into adulthood. Worst of all is confronting Ryan, Nick's cousin and the man who was housing Nick and trying to help him get back on his feet. Also, the man who looks almost exactly like Nick.
A walking shadow of his past love is haunting to see, as is the man's anger -- at Nick, at Jack and at himself. A nurse and a beacon for lost causes, Jack is drawn in right away to the man's familiar beauty and his need to shoulder the burden and face the scene himself. The two butt heads from the start, arguing (of all things) over their right to clean the scene themselves. It isn't long before Ryan's anger spills over onto Jack and Jack learns that Ryan doesn't know the full story of Nick's betrayal. But those aren't Jack's secrets to tell, especially a dead man's who isn't there to answer the accusations.
The best part of this story is Jack's own journey toward enlightenment. The romance is sweet at times and poignant at others, but mostly only because of Jack's slow realizations just what romance means to him. Jack is happy to be a hit a run type of guy before the past shows up to haunt him, but spending time with Ryan and bonding, again of all things, over their gruesome task of cleanup shows him the security in having a partner in life instead of only sex. But Nick's treachery is insidious and the rest of Jack's hasn't a piece of cake either. The loss of his other great love, being a firefighter, comes with a major work-related injury. He's floundering in a stagnate life, refusing to accept change. Despite the brief thunderstorms between them, Ryan is fresh air and sunshine in his life and the specter of Nick that has been telling him how love only brings pain slowly starts to drift away. Though I think that a point of view from Ryan could have added some much needed perspective a few times and I didn't really like the manner in which Jack's secrets come to light, I felt that for the most part ZAM made all the right choices here. Though the real charm of the story, for me, came with the several points of epiphany that Jack has as he allows himself to be open to change.
This is a relatively short novel, so there's really no excuse not to pick this one up. For some reason it seems like I read somewhere that this was part of a series called The Brothers Grime, but I have no idea if that's true or not. I'm not sure which characters would move the story forward if it were the start of a series, but I certainly wouldn't complain. I'd never complain about getting a new book from ZA Maxfield :) And this one was definitely satisfying!(less)
Dead in LA is the book that shows just how economical Lou Harper's writing is. It surprises m...moreReview posted for Lou Harper week at The Armchair Reader.
Dead in LA is the book that shows just how economical Lou Harper's writing is. It surprises me even now to write that this book of two stories is only 28k words simply because my memory from reading it is how full of plot and detail it was. Of course it depends on your style and preferences, but I always admire an author who can get their word across without a whole lot of words -- I'm the exact opposite! As you might have noticed and indeed bemoaned from my incredibly wordy reviews :)
Both of these stories, "Dead in the Hills" and "Dead in the Valley" focus on a separate mystery while the overall arc of the story that connects them is the building relationship between Jon and Leander, two completely fascinating characters! I say that because at this point (after reading the first two stories and waiting for the rest to come) I still feel them on incredibly shaky ground, no matter how far they've come from their beginnings as roommates in "Dead in the Hills". And they, in so many ways, are an opposites attract story, not in a sortof comically stereotypical way (like… the twink and the cop or something) but simply because when I first started reading this book I thought… wait, is Leander really going to become Jon's romantic interest? I just couldn't see it. It wasn't until after they were firmly established as friends with benefits (or roommates with benefits) that they both really started to open up for me as characters and I could see past their superficialities. Jon is an art student, but of course in a completely responsible way (art advertising) that he might not have ever really gone in to anyway, and Leander is a psychic who finds things that people have lost. Now, sometimes those are puppies (like the "unlucky Chihuahua" LOL) and sometimes those are missing people. Jon has a hard time at first believing in what Leander does until he offers his roommate a ride to a job and sees it for himself, not only the accuracy of Leander's visions but what it also does to him. His ultimate understanding of Leander's job is what slowly softens him to Leander's charms, even through all of the trauma and guilt that Jon still has after his wife's death.
Dead in LA was probably one of the most enjoyable books I've read this year, and in some ways that's because of the mysteries and in others the relationship. The relationship is also what makes this book like a really early part of a series. Of course, these are the first two stories in this series, but what I mean is that by the end of both there's still a great deal of uncertainty about their relationship and a lot they'll need to work through. Both of these stories, for me, were really about getting to know the characters individually and that makes me even more excited for the coming ones, because I get to see more about where their relationship will progress.
This book also shows how well the episodic mystery format is working for Lou. Making the mysteries somewhat shorter allows for more possible directions for the story to go because we, as readers, aren't completely committed to a long mystery plot while the characters are growing with their relationship. That is what makes the next stories in this series exciting to me.
Also, a note about the cover, which I really love. Lou mentioned that it doesn't really scream romance (which is true) but that it does really highlight that these are mysteries. That works well for me with these two stories -- the cover seems aligned with how I feel about them in any way -- but also, I think that the lack of a naked torso makes your book stand out in new ways these days, when I feel like most others I've heard from… we're just tired of those covers.(less)
This has the most eclectic mix of tags I've ever given a book. Surprisingly, they all went together! And even more, it kinda represents this book, whi...moreThis has the most eclectic mix of tags I've ever given a book. Surprisingly, they all went together! And even more, it kinda represents this book, which is a bit of a hodge-podge of different quirks and ideas, even plotting and pacing which I found rather refreshing. Definitely not typical vampire fare!
I hadn't planned on giving this book a proper review, but when Sunday rolled around and I was still thinking about this book, so I decided that it really needed one. For some reason, and I sincerely hope that this is just my 2D, rather limited view of the m/m romance reading community, this book hasn't seemed to have had a real splash yet. And that's a damn shame. Here's what I said on Goodreads immediately after I finished the book Satuday:
This has the most eclectic mix of tags I've ever given a book. Surprisingly, they all went together! And even more, it kinda represents this book, which is a bit of a hodge-podge of different quirks and ideas, even plotting and pacing which I found rather refreshing. Definitely not typical vampire fare!
Now, the tags here are pretty much similar to the ones on Goodreads, but since I can more easily edit and add tags here at the blog, they of course have a bit more flair ;) I have to admit that I've fallen into a bit of a pattern in my mismanagement of my m/m reading, where many of the most exciting releases seem to slip through the net (there are many factors, though it still makes me a dolt) mostly because of reviewing duties, but Lou Harper is perhaps one on the top of the list of those stellar authors that I haven't given their due. Perhaps I should do a backlist read. Anyway, this book wasn't just well written, but it was a thoroughly enjoyable read, for many reasons I'll talk about later. But that brings me to another point. Another byproduct of my reviewing duties is that I tend to analyze first rather than enjoy the book first, and having not originally slated Spirit Sanguine as a review book and (imagine this!) actually making myself sit down and read a book for pleasure instead of work on reviews I should be getting up to date, meant that this one just slipped right through and knocked me flat. I didn't really have to think about an analysis of the book, of styles and pacing and plot and characterizations, but… I just enjoyed it. It was a refreshing read, and not something I was expecting from the vampire angle.
Bloodsuckers are everywhere; you can't walk down a dark alley without a couple of them jumping out and accosting you with their dark and broody eyes. They do that a lot--mope and sulk. That's what got to me, all the melodrama. I mean, they are practically immortal, don't get sick, grow old, don't need to watch their weight or work out. What the hell do they have to bellyache about?
(That's the truth.)
And that's the point. In a sub-genre where melodrama rules and/or kinky vampire sex clubs are the forte, humor takes precedent here, brought forth by the vivacious and quirky Harvey (I love the name, and not just the Feng/Fang part, the fact that her vampire is named Harvey), who isn't really like any other of his kind. In actuality, I'd rather not go into characterization here, because I'd rather not cut him into pieces to analyze him. He's best enjoyed as it's written… plus, you'll find plenty in other reviews, I'm sure. The same goes for Gabe, who is perhaps the undervalued of the pair, though it's important that he's the lens we see the world through, and even more in which we see Harvey through. His understanding of and feelings for Harvey are how we understand him best, in reflection.
What was really refreshing about this book for me was also in a second part -- the style, which is reflected in pacing but also the plot. Both were atypical in that they don't follow the usual structure. Broken into three parts, each concentrates on a different aspect of the story while they, in succession, follow a continual arc. Some readers might find this off-putting. I'm not really sure. I quite enjoyed it. Because while the first is a typical setup to the story and introduces the relationship between Gabe and Harvey, the second and third both have a somewhat separate plot, though they're tied together. But you do get the feeling, between the transition between Parts 2 and 3, that there's a bit of a jog. And consequently, you'll find two climaxes (one at the end of each part) around the 55% mark and the end of the book.
Nikyta noticed this as well and made a remark to me about it (in our many back and forth book gabbing emails) and probably described it better than I did, asking if I had noticed authors using this style more lately, the (in her words) "multiple mini stories in one book of the same couple" style. We both automatically thought of Megan Derr, who sometimes writes in a similar though pretty different style from what I'm describing in Spirit Sanguine. Perhaps it's that Gabe and Harvey really only have two distinct adventures and Megan Derr often writes books that are split between the many adventures one couple has, a sort of extended vignette style. Nik thought that maybe it was a style that was becoming more popular. I'm not sure, but suffice to say that it is something that we've both enjoyed. And definitely something that I found made Lou Harper's book infinitely more original -- though, of course, anything with a vampire named Harvey Feng could hardly be called conventional.
OMG! The best ending ever! Okay, I really don't mean to make people upset, I put up like 1% of books I read early on Goodreads, but even though I'm no...moreOMG! The best ending ever! Okay, I really don't mean to make people upset, I put up like 1% of books I read early on Goodreads, but even though I'm not posting my review until tomorrow, I just want to make sure that all of you preorder this book (and buy the ones before it if you haven't), they're really wonderful.
Okay, straight up… let's get this first thing out of the way. Don't expect this review to be necessarily eloquent or far-thinking or in any way an analysis of the book or series. I just don't have that in me at this point. What this review IS… is an immediate reaction to reading this third and final book of the series; a book which I've been eagerly awaiting for quite a while now. In fact, I've been thinking about this last book ever since reading the first, Mind Magic, back in 2012. Normally that doesn't happen for me, I'm not sure where the story is going. But, and maybe some of you who have read the books can understand me in this, but I felt like (in reading that first book) that the series had a clearly outlined direction, firmly delineated by the names of the books and the separate romances, which mirror the way that magic is first described to us in this world, in a triangle and points of three -- three kinds of magic, three different romances, and three different books. The harmony of all of those things are what the series is working towards and Poppy did a wonderful job in satisfying my need for those things to come full circle.
We start this third book with most of the essentials already firmly in hand, with the base of the story firmly established so that the threads immediately start to come together for the final picture the moment the story starts. I cannot tell you how frustrating it is to me to become absorbed in a fantasy (or paranormal, but these series tend to be fantasy) series where I'm pulling the threads together on my own as I'm reading, putting the pieces together, only to have them be swept out of the way in the final confrontation or ending by a deus ex machina or even a plausible ending that is somewhat foretold but doesn't take those threads I pulled together into account. In this series, I felt the planning throughout and that it was important to this book, which I appreciated.
Here's a summation of the first two books: (view spoiler)[Now, back to what I was saying after that tangent. We start this book with two soild romances under our belt and a pretty firm idea that this book will concentrate on another -- Cormac and Liam -- the very much alive ancestor and vampire to Simon and Gray's beta of the High Moon Pack. We know that Simon started this story by rescuing a group of wolf cubs from a demon that was working with his own mage teacher who was stealing his magic, and that by rescuing the cubs he made himself friend to the wolf pack and mate to their alpha, Gray. In the second book, Body Magic, we go further and learn that there is a man with unimaginable power who was directing both those people (for lack of a better word) and that they're in even more dire straits than before. In this book, you'll learn exactly who that person is and what threat they possess. The clues are all there are the start of the book and I bet some of you have already guessed the direction this book is going, in fact may have already guessed who that person is who attacked the pack during the mating ceremony in the second book (hint: you'll get there eventually, knowing that Cormac is the focus of this last book). (hide spoiler)]
But really, even though we get to know Cade and Rocky better in Body Magic and Cormac and Liam better in this book, the main star of this series is Simon, and beside him Gray and their family and pack. But Simon's magic and his exploration of his powers remains the main thread of this story that draws all the others together. I want to mention, at this point, that the setup of this series really pleased me and is something that I'm not sure I've seen very much in the past. I was originally a bit upset at the start of the second book, thinking that we were leaving Simon and Gray behind and moving to a new couple when their story wasn't really finished. But, what Poppy has done with the series is make Simon and Gray the main couple, and even though she introduces new characters and their romances in each book (including their own chapters) she never abandoned that first couple. I really loved that, not only because Simon and Gray and even Gray's son and the alpha-heir Garon were why I originally fell in love with the story, but because Simon's importance to the series means that he can't be abandoned. He's the star.
Now I'm going to go back on my word :)
I think some analysis of the series as a whole is due here. I want to describe why I think I fell in love with this series at the first book and just why it has remained with me. In past, I've equated my intense connection and love of a story with it's length. The more time I spend with the characters, the more I get to know them and the bigger the world is, the more detailed, the more I'm drawn into it and the less I want to leave. That didn't happen here. I was immediately drawn into this world -- three books, which in the fantasy world are rather short novels. And I think, now that I've finished all of them, I know why. There is a clarity of purpose in the writing and a lack of verbosity to get the author's point across. I'm not sure why this is. Maybe it's in planning. But the world is brought through the characters and their love of it. There's very little detail, compared to those others I'm so used to becoming engrossed in, of the world. And there is also, I must point out, what I felt to be perfect pacing. That is what really brought the story through for me. You can't say that it is necessarily action-packed, but you can say that there aren't any needless words. The story is succinct, to the point, and there is a somewhat heavy emphasis on the non-romance plot as opposed to the romance-centered plot, which nevertheless felt quite balanced to me because those characters and their relationships came across to me so clearly.
I hope that come across in the way I intended, and I'd absolutely LOVE to hear from those of you who are fans of this series and how you feel about it, now and after you've read the third book.
Now, I've rambled enough. But I do want to take one last minute to urge those of you who are new to this author or series to take a chance on these books. I can't tell you that you'll love them the way I do, but I do think you'll enjoy them.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I'm so excited to write a review for this one, I really really liked it. Too bad you won't be able to see it for months :( That's why I'll give you a...moreI'm so excited to write a review for this one, I really really liked it. Too bad you won't be able to see it for months :( That's why I'll give you a peek now into my feelings. I couldn't put it down and I haven't laughed so much in a long time! So look forward to it, everyone :)
Back when I was reviewing at Jessewave's in early 2011, this is the series that brought Kyell Gold and a...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
Back when I was reviewing at Jessewave's in early 2011, this is the series that brought Kyell Gold and anthropomorphic fiction to my attention. I fell in love with Lee, the fox who dressed up as a vixen to seduce a straight jock and Dev, the tiger who ended up falling for him. Their lives and relationship continued on in tumultuous fashion after graduation when Dev was drafted into professional football and Lee sacrificed his gay activism for his love of football and became a professional scout. The visibility in the sport forced him back into the closet and their relationship suffered. They endured, however, only to be publicly outed by Lee's ex best friend and have since tried to make the best of their relationship and Dev's career as a professional gay athlete. Dealing with homophobic teammates, homophobic fans, and family troubles have made their relationship stronger as Divisions opens, and we reconnect with the two in a much more stable relationship than in the past.
Though their relationship is stronger in this third installment to the series, they still have problems going on in their own lives and just like in the past much of the story is seen from their different perspectives while apart. Lee is dealing with a crisis of career. Now that their relationship is public, he has to be careful working in the same sport that his boyfriend plays in. And should he even still be working towards a career as a scout? What happened to his days of activism, when he wanted to make a difference? At the same time, his family has fallen apart around him. He's close to his father once again and they're working to make their relationship stronger, but it has really only happened because of his parent's new separation. And the direction his mother has taken is even more upsetting when he learns that the organization that spreads hate he's been considering taking up activism to work against has their own hooks in her, turning her into an even more intolerant mother than she previously was.
Dev has his own problems. Now out of the closet and past his problems with his own team, their newfound camaraderie has made them a winning team that is headed towards the Division Championships. All of that is jeopardized by a new member brought to the Firebirds who seems determined to make his life difficult. Dev just wants to play football and he doesn't want to be made into a gay role model, something that his teammate and Lee with his reemerging activism can't seem to let go.
I've been excited to read this book for two years now, ever since I read the first two and I wasn't disappointed. The difficulty with an ongoing series is how so many different strands of a story become interwoven and then are left dangling when each book ends, and Kyell Gold did an excellent job taking up those strands and weaving them into the continuation of the complex relationship that I love. What I love so much about Lee and Devlin is that they have their own lives. It's so much more of a real life relationship that what we're usually given with romance plots, where a couple disappears into one another. They're given their own lives that at times perfectly mesh with one another and are at times completely at odds. Lee and Dev have to reconcile those things and always work on their relationship, or at least actively work so that it isn't destroyed among all the people that are trying to drive a wedge between them. Many of those people are back, some malicious (like Lee's past activism friend Brian) and some whose intentions are unknown, like Dev's new teammate.
The influences that surround them, especially in the wake of Dev's coming out press conference, serve to make Lee realize what an opportunity they have to help gay youth, especially other young athletes. The modern day epidemic of gay suicide and bullying take stage in this book as Lee learns that one of the young men who wrote to thank Dev after coming out on national television is reported to have committed suicide. This affects Lee deeply, having corresponded with the youth and now understanding the full impact of their actions, or in Lee's fears, their inaction. This is further compounded by the knowledge that the "family values" community his mother has apparently taken up with may have had a direct impact on the young football player and his reasons for taking his own life. Though only one part of the whole story, this subplot took front and center stage of this novel. It is indicative of the one central issue that stands between Lee and Dev and that is how they react differently to such issues. Dev, of course, just wants to play football. And with good reason, he's naturally one that almost tries not to be affected by such issues, on top of which if he does consent to putting more time into his public image and philanthropy, it could kill his career. This, of course, drives Lee insane. He's naturally a crusader and feels some guilt for letting his relationship and his love of football to dictate his life and career away from activism. Could he have been helping all along? What could he do now? Could he dismantle this organization meant to spread hate and lies and manipulation with the power his lover now has in the spotlight? Is it worth it to possibly sacrifice his relationship with Dev to save young lives? Their fundamental differences are continually pitting them against one another. In a sense, they deal with it well, but in many ways they're prolonging the issues -- I assume until the next (final?) book, which is only one of the reasons that I'm even more eager to read it.
When I find a book I love, I feel like a salesman. That's really not my personality, but when you love something you want to share it. I want to get all of you to read a certain book. In many ways, I felt that way with the first two books I reviewed in 2011. I hadn't heard of Kyell Gold at that time and I wasn't really sure that many people in the m/m romance community had at that point, though I know Kyell had popularity in other communities. I feel like Kyell Gold is a widespread name now in our genre, something I'm very happy about, and I no longer really need to sell this series to all of you reading my reviews. If you're reading this, chances are you've already heard of Out of Position and may have even read it. If you have, I know you'll want to read this new book, because I can't imagine anyone reading about Dev and Lee and not getting as hooked as I am.(less)
I have to admit, I somehow had this idea that I wasn't very impressed with this author. I'm not sure why, but whe...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
I have to admit, I somehow had this idea that I wasn't very impressed with this author. I'm not sure why, but when I decided to read and review this book, I decided to disregard that and read it anyway, purely by the outstanding blurb, only to realize now that I've only ever read one short story by this author in the past. And, while that story didn't stick with me, I have no idea why I had the idea that this was a so so author for me. This book blew me away in so many ways, that no matter what, I'll always give this author the benefit of the doubt from now on. I loved it so much, I could barely put it down and had to stop myself from starting it again as soon as I'd finished -- and I rarely re-read a book. I have to have really loved it.
The story is set around the life of Brute, a hulking man whose life is an amalgamation of all the hurt and shame a society can accumulate and put upon one person. Set in a fairy tale world, Brute faces the misery of society every day, just by doing his job as a laborer and bearing the brunt of his town's misery. Yet faced with a past full of abuse and abandonment, and living in a world where he's continually degraded, Brute remains mostly unaffected. Though he understands how the town feels about him, he's faced with it every day, he has a pure moral compass that far surpasses any sort of negativity or revenge. When a visiting prince of the realm has an accident, Brute is the one who rushes to save him.
The prince's accident has many ramifications, not only to Brute himself, but to his life and future in the town. As a reward, the prince offers Brute a job and pay at the palace, if ever he decides to visit. And now, with his situation in the town changed and his prospects few, Brute has no choice but to venture to the capital. The choice is fortuitous, because when Brute takes up the job the prince finds for him as a jailor, he finds that the man he guards has a past of his own. And while they may seem to have many differences, they're both on the outside of society.
This book, and Brute himself, is so absolutely charming that I almost can't get through this review. Rarely do I end up writing a review, even for a book I love, where I keep thinking about moments in the book and wanting to talk to you about them, to share them. It has only happened a few times this year, in fact. It's such a great thing to find a book like that, that affects you and you love so much. It reaffirms why we read and what we get from it. Why it's important. Brute is a character that is bigger than life, and will always remain close to my heart. Like Gray says, "Y-you’re a giant because an ordinary man’s body is t- too small for what you are.”
Underneath all of that, Brute, his charm and the charm of this book, there is actually a lot about this book that is superbly well done. The world created casts a perfect balance to show the good and bad in their society and uses Brute as a catalyst, for good or bad, however each person reacts to him. In a similar way, the tone of this book is perfect because it doesn't lose the magical quality a fairy tale gives but it also shows a harsh reality for a story set in such a world. The setting is very evocative of this in the disparity between rich and poor and the people and the choices they make and which of those factions they belong to -- all seen through Brute's eyes, which are startlingly unbiased. And finally, the ending casts a very fine balance between feeling perfectly wrapped up, but not trite. The characters seem to choose their own direction, without being forced to take part in any sort of catharsis -- some in ignorance and others evolving.
So, I haven't really raved about many books lately, but I can't help it with this one. I think everyone should read this book. And when you do, please let me know!. I want to be able to talk about it with all of you!(less)
Like yesterday's review of The Other Guy by Cary Attwell, this is another self-published book that I've been encouraged to read by friends and really awesome reviews on Goodreads. It is very different from that book, of course, and not without it's own problems, but the awesomeness of the book and the characters outweighed my frustration with some of the writing issues, leaving me really excited and hopeful that this author will continue writing.
Howie (never Howard) is stuck in his hometown. He and his twin have forged different paths, leaving him perpetually feeling like the loser twin. His brother is going to school to be a doctor, but he's stuck at home after leaving school to help his mother after their father died. They've become quite close, but Howie is stuck feeling like a kid that never grew up. He doesn't go to school, he doesn't have a job, and his mom still pretty much takes care of him. But, in talking with his best friend, Howie comes up with what he thinks is a great plan -- he'll get a job at an Arts and Crafts store to meet women. His reasoning is that girls love a sensitive guy, and knowing about all that knitting and crafts crap is sensitive, right? His best friend, who is in love with his twin, is much more pragmatic. Obviously, she tells him, they'll just think you're gay.
But Howie is determined and lands a job at Artie's Arts 'N Crafts, run by Arthur himself. He immediately sets his eyes on the bubbly and cute Kristy, but finds himself creating a strange love/hate relationship with Arthur, his gay boss. Arthur is everything that Howie isn't. He's stuck up, a complete do-gooder, and a nerd to the core. But Howie soon finds that even if his love life is more complicated than he expected, having a job is helping him anyway, and the people whom he originally hated to work with become a new sort of family.
This is really a coming of age story. Even though Howie is in his early twenties (22? I can't remember for sure), his growth was stunted by his move back home. Being in a rut is a rather simple way to put it, but the jealousy and hatred in having to watch his brother move onwards and upwards in life makes an already uneasy relationship downright difficult. I finished this book feeling like I knew the secondary characters almost as well as Howie, and though the book is long, the writing is somewhat dense, with quite a bit happening in an economy of space. In a way, reading this feels a bit like reading a long serial -- we get to know the characters so well because there is so much time and wealth of words to get to know them, not only in important scenes but in Howie's day to day life and interactions. I didn't have a problem with this because I never felt like any of the writing was superfluous, and it creates a really fleshed out world with complex connections between the characters.
I'm making a broad generalization here, which obviously isn't true for every book and author, but this book epitomizes my reasons for liking to read online original fiction and self published books. Sometimes, when I read something like this, I feel like it's set apart from the m/m community, where the characters (or archetypes) and their actions tend to grow homogenized and feed off one another. We often say or hear things like, we want more realism or more realistic characters, which in all actuality we don't literally want. Maybe it is the absence of editors, or some other difference I'm not sure of, but this book actually felt more real to life. The rough edges aren't buffed out, and while that may be somewhat annoying in the prose, it is pure gold to me in the content when done by an intelligent and talented author. Sure, this author could have been reigned in at times -- the dialogue tends to spiral out of control at points, Howie can be rather infuriating sometimes with long periods of annoying behavior, and a few other things I've forgotten by now -- but in the big picture, they mattered less to me than the central core of the story, which was beautifully written and executed.
I very much hope that this author continues to write and publish, in whatever manner, because I'll remain a reader for life, and I know that I'll continue to read and re-read this book. So I definitely want all of you to read it as well.(less)
Oh Amy! You slay me!! How do you do it? Seriously! Every book I read I think, this is my new favorite couple! And...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
Oh Amy! You slay me!! How do you do it? Seriously! Every book I read I think, this is my new favorite couple! And then I think… but what about all the other ones I love, they're still great! I guess I'll just have to find room in my heart to love them all, and move over because Quent and Jace have just climbed to the top of the (very sexy) pile.
Quentin and Jase have been best friends ever since their days in college. It has now been eight years (four in school, and four since) and they're still best friends, yet now also business partners. Quent is devoted to Jase and Jase is a unique man who for all his surly temper and difficulty defining life in non-poker terms, feels very deeply. Their friendship is rock solid, a true bromance. They both are "straight" -- well, Quent is straight only because there's no point who he dates and sleeps with because Jase is all he needs and Jase well, no one really knows anything about him until he lays his cards on the table. They're both obsessed with poker, but well, Quents obsession is with Jase and Jase's obsession is really just his way of defining the world around him, which is the way one of the uncles who raised him taught him. This is their adventure into turning their friendship into a real relationship.
I have to say that I didn't quite expect this story. I don't know why but the thought of poker made me think this was some sort of underworld gambling ring story and what I found was the epitome of everything I love about Amy's writing. The story is really only about these guys, but poker is their language -- a deadly serious language, sure. But it isn't a business or career path, it is the central role in how Jase relates to the world and as such how he relates to Quent. I loved both of these guys. They came through for me faster than most characters do and even though it took a while to get to know them, just as in any story, I had connected to them from the first page. Partly this is the way the story is told, heavy on voice and narration, and partly it is the plot. Their history together is shown throughout the story in recollections and memories (not flashbacks), so the story starts right at the catalyst in the transition of their relationship. That drew me immediately.
I am so happy that 1) I got to meet Amy at GRL; 2) I bought this book in paperback at GRL; and 3) that I decided to start reading Amy's books (one a week folks!). But… I am disappointed that I was talking to Amy about Clear Water (ohhh Whiskey!) and I could have been talking about these guys! Jeez, what was I thinking? I can't recommend this book enough, especially to those of you who like Amy's writing but aren't so up on the angst. I seriously, felt like this books was written for me. I loved it that much. Thank god I can read it again whenever I want!
Sure, this is a fanboy review. I know it. But I deserve one of those every now and then and this one deserves getting one. So, go on now, if you haven't read it, read it now!(less)
I have meant to read this story since its release in the summer of 2011. In fact, I had told Barry in New Orleans...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
I have meant to read this story since its release in the summer of 2011. In fact, I had told Barry in New Orleans that I'd read it and review it for it and I just never got around to it. Well, it must have been the universe telling me to get on with it, because I won the book in paperback along with some other books and prizes at the Comedy Hour event at GRL. And I knew that now that I had it in paperback, I really wanted to read it as soon as possible. So as I went through my massive bag of paperbacks I brought home, I picked it out first and started to read it. I was enthralled, immediately, into the story and voice of Micah, who things just never seem to go right for.
This is a difficult story to summarize. At it's heart, it is the story of Micah Malone -- in many ways typical gay young man, but also with a (somewhat/at times) atypical storyline. Micah tends to be quite melodramatic and campy, but that's what you gotta love about him. He has a very original voice and his film and TV obsession is shown through obscure references throughout the story. The book is very voice and narrative focused, which in Micah's life is all screenplay based, so we're first introduced to him and his circle of friends with a Dramatis Personae. The story follows Micah has he trudges through life at a young age -- college, friendships, sex and relationships. The focus isn't romance, though some does come into the story in the last half, but instead Micah himself, that that is what made the novel so successful for me. Not only does the format of the writing echo his personality so perfectly (untraditional, and often like a screenplay), but it isn't tied to the typical romance "rules". It threw me a curveball or two, and I loved that.
This book made me a fan of Barry Brennessel for life, even though I've read a few of this other things. No matter if the next three things I read of his I don't like, I'll always take a chance and read something he's written, because he proved to me with Tinseltown that he is a phenomenal author. Also, quite a funny one. This book had me doubled over laughing. I'd recommend this to anyone, as long as you know not to expect romance right away.(less)
GOD… what to say about this book? I've been sitting at the keyboard for almost thirty minutes now trying...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
GOD… what to say about this book? I've been sitting at the keyboard for almost thirty minutes now trying to start. It was really just so wonderful. I started this book knowing only that it was about two men, one with Tourette's and one with a Traumatic Brain Injury. I liked discovering the story on my own, so the blurb suffices as a summary in this case.
The beauty of this story is that Ethan takes everyone around him on a journey, on that includes Carter and the reader by proxy, to see the world around them in a different way. The music he sees is a metaphor for the different way he relates to the world, even though to him it is real. He sees the world in absolutes, which cuts through the muck and shades of grey that inhabit everyone else's life. He's so perceptive that way -- he likes Carter because he makes music (his tics) and because he's cute and he makes Ethan's penis hard. For someone like Carter, who is continually drawn into the mire of his own mind, the self-deprecation and embarrassment of his own condition, Ethan's perceptive mind and stark personality continually help to bring him out of his shell and into the world he tries to hide away from. They are two of the most special characters and they really came across the page in a very strong way. This story almost seemed private, and I felt like reading it was a gift.
The other part of the beauty of this story is that it really forced me to consider how I feel about the differences and level of perception among those with injuries and disabilities. It forced me to be 100% honest of my own feelings about Ethan and I felt like I was rather protective of him in my own mind. I didn't want to hear that he has casual sex with men at first. It took some real thinking and consideration on my part to understand why that was. Part of it is because until I was probably halfway through the book I wasn't sure that I considered Ethan capable of making those decisions, until I realized that that way of thinking was wrong. Part of that reason is personal. I have an autistic cousin with a host of other brain conditions, who about 10 years ago was abducted from a local mall, taken to the woods, and raped before being brought back and dropped off as if nothing had happened. It was hard for me not to lump Ethan's character with her, because they both had some kind of disability that any type of sexual relation was rape. It actually helped me realize that I still had a lot of pent up feelings about that incident that I hadn't dealt with, and that there is a real difference -- not only in the fact that one was a rape and in this case most definitely not, but that their conditions had very little in common.
That is what I think Ryan Loveless did so incredibly well in this book, and I really hope that other readers feel the same. We get to know Ethan from his own POV, and to see that not only does he have more cognitive ability than most give him credit for, but also that he has something important to teach the people around him. That really touched me. I cried a lot while reading. A lot of it was me working through my own issues and the finding that I was looking at Ethan completely wrong. The rest was that this was the kind of book that I cried and then felt so much better afterwards -- the story was beautiful and cleansing for me because of the loving community that surrounds him.
I think… I think that's all I'm going to say about it, except for this. I think everyone should read this. No matter what you think of the writing, of craft -- I dare you not to fall in love with Ethan and Carter and think that this story is incredibly special.(less)
**Beware! Some spoilers for those who haven't read the first book**
Earlier this year I picked up a book on a whim by an author I'd never read before. I ended up absolutely charmed by the book that just seemed to have something special that made it rise above its few flaws. In looking at it, it was hard to pinpoint exactly what made it special. Though there are elements unique to the story, in general, it is a plot that we're familiar with. Still, I absolutely adored Mind Magic by Poppy Dennison. At the time, I didn't know that there might be a series planned, so I was frustrated with the things left open ended. This is now the second book of what will be three and I'm very pleased that my wait was rewarded with another book that I could really enjoy.
Based on the three types of magic in this world, Body Magic continues where Mind Magic left off. Simon the mage is newly mated to Gray, the alpha of the High Moon Pack. Under Gray's leadership they are a progressive pack, flouting tradition and breaking the rules when they see the need for it. They've done this in a big way by the mating of Gray and Simon. Not only is mating between different magics taboo, but simple contact between them is severely frowned upon. But Simon has shown himself to be a rather unique mage, as well as an ever increasingly powerful one after he was almost killed by his old tutor at the end of the first book and his grandfather Cormac (who really deserves a book of his own!) killed the tutor, sending all of that power back into Simon. Now the two are working on getting Simon in shape for his 25th birthday, the secret ritual that will bring Simon out of his apprenticeship and into his full power. In addition, Simon and Gray are feeling out what being a family is like, and Gray's son Garon, the alpha heir, has a lot to do with that with his big personality and his secret of having more than one kind of magic, a rarity among shifters.
Besides the continuation of the romance between Gray and Simon, in this book we get to know Cade and Rocky much better. Cade is the alpha best friend and handyman around the pack. He's fiercely loyal after finding a family in the pack as the only man of color and never being treated differently as he would in other packs. Even though he doesn't trust Rocky, the wolf from another pack that has been brought in to shore up their security systems, he finds that he's starting to have feelings for him. Likewise, Rocky is a secret omega, caught up in the self-repetitive cycle of hate and shame that makes him a lapdog for his alpha, who is the only one that knows the real objective Rocky has while visiting the High Moon Pack -- reconnaissance. His own alpha is looking for information he can use to bring down Alpha Gray and bring the disgraceful and shameful pack that is flouting were rule to its knees under his own new leadership.
When the mysterious attacks on were start again, the new pack is on high alert. They'll have to make sure their cubs on extra safe this time around, after they were kidnapped the first time and almost completely drained of their magic. And even though they are a little more prepared this time around, they still to little about what they're up against.
This sequel had that same something special I was hoping for that I loved about the first book. It is a little more subdued than the first book, which in setting up the whole story had more action. In that sense, this book definitely seems like a typical middle book of a trilogy, though I didn't find it to be less than in any way as I have found some other middle books. Much of the story is dedicated to the growing relationship between Cade and Rocky, who definitely have a rocky time of it that's for sure, as well as Simon's fear of committing his life to a mate and family after so little time knowing Gray. This was, perhaps, my favorite part of this book. Not only do I adore Simon, but seeing him with Garon is always a treat because the little boy has so much personality. There's a development in the book that I won't reveal in regards to their family that I also absolutely loved. I really love Cade as a character -- he's naturally lovable because he's fiercely loyal and kind. Rocky is different. I still feel pretty neutral regarding him, though his journey throughout the story is perhaps one of the biggest parts of this book. He's a conflicted character. His need to belong has made him accept the horrible treatment he's received at the hands of his alpha and pack. He's confused by this new pack that doesn't seem to follow the rules and I think that uncertainly and fear of the slim hopes he might have that this pack really could be his salvation, is what makes him outwardly hate some of the decisions they've made, most especially the union between Gray and Simon. Seeing him change and seek redemption, buoyed by his relationship with Cade, was nice, but I will enjoy seeing him grow and hopefully be less duplicitous in the next book.
I love that the author made the choice to both introduce a new romance in each book and continue the ones from before. The characters are all so close, that simply revisiting the past couples wouldn't work, and having them be fully integrated into the book really makes sense, as well as the fact that their stories really aren't over. Technically, all three books could simply be about Gray and Simon, they have enough going on for it, but I tend to really like books with multiple romances, so this really worked for me.
I admit that I'm a bit sad there is only one book left. I'm also curious as to who the couple will be, unless Poppy surprises us all and doesn't have a new romance, just the previous couples. I could live with that, but I confess that of all the characters I still want to get to know better, Cormac really deserves some loving of his own. If she gives me more of Cormac and more of the family time I love so much, I will love the last book which by the title alone intrigues me with thoughts of what it could be about (it will have to be called Soul Magic right?). Oh, well I suppose she'll have to wrap up the mystery they're trying to solve as well ;) Nevertheless, I'm not worried because I really have enjoyed both of these books so much, I'm simply hoping that there isn't too much time in between that I'll have to wait, twiddling my thumbs.(less)
In lieu of a typical review that I might write, I'm going to just post some of my favorite quotes from this book....moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
In lieu of a typical review that I might write, I'm going to just post some of my favorite quotes from this book. Sarah Black is one of my very favorite authors, across the board. Her books always move me -- I don't know if she can write a book that isn't really exploring a part of our lives. I feel refreshed yet tired after finishing one, as if I've just had a long and hard workout. And I try not to read too many of her books around the same time, or I'll just go crazy. I may love it at the time, but I won't be able to get into any other books afterwards and I feel particularly exposed, like the book opened me up to everything wonderful in the world, but also everything hard and scary, and sometimes being that open is frightening.
I am almost too nervous to review her books sometimes. They move me so much and they're so personal that I want everyone else to experience them blind. I don't want my feelings to impact yours because, above all, the experience of reading her books is most important to me, and I hope that all of you feel that way as well.
So, I'll just share some of my favorite quotes from The Legend of the Apache Kid and hope that they'll make you want to read the book. Because you should.. you really should. Now, I need to read Lawless.
Go to the review at my blog to finish and see the quotes. They formatting doesn't work as well here.(less)
Cain is the owner of La Terraza, a 1920's apartment complex left to him by his grandmother who cared for it and i...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
Cain is the owner of La Terraza, a 1920's apartment complex left to him by his grandmother who cared for it and its tenants lovingly her whole life. He has taken over that cause, dedicating his life to the upkeep of the building and it's colorful inhabitants. But he's barely holding on. Nothing seems to be going right. It is falling apart around him and someone is trying to buy him out -- bully him out is more accurate. He can't find a bank to give him a loan to keep him afloat and he's barely holding on by his grandmother's memory and his own feeling that La Terraza has been his only real home his whole life.
Things look up for Cain when he meets Henry. They have an immediate connection that both want to see grow. Cain is worried, at first, when he finds out that Henry was headhunted by Hamilton-Bach and now holds an architect position there. They are the representation for the unnamed buyer who Cain fears wants to tear down the apartments. Trying to keep the two parts of his life separate seem to be a full time job, but as time goes on and he and Henry get closer, he can't decide which he'll choose if he's forced to make a decision -- the home that he has always loved and the people that depend on him, or the one man who has made him happier than any man has before?
There is so much here that fans of Ethan Day will be excited about -- his usual collection of funny characters and wacky RomCom scenarios, couples that remind me of guys I know in the real world, and a flair for character voice and storytelling that almost sounds as if the author is right there reading to you. But what I love about the books that Ethan has published in 2012 is that he's really progressing as an author. Of course, A Token of Time was a real progression in his craft, where he played with a lot of new themes and genres. Here, Ethan has taken what was once his usual faire, and more subtly crafted it. The evolution of the romantic comedy in his hands is exciting to me. I was so excited to see him branching out, succeeding in writing things other than what we know he does really well. I never really thought to expect a story like Love in La Terraza, which is solid Ethan Day RomCom, but has benefitted from his other new experience to be more finely crafted and honed than his previous books.
I purposefully decided to wait to write my review for a few days after reading this book, because all I wanted to do when I finished it was gush about it. It deserves more than that though, because there is real progression and craft here instead of just a book that I really loved. Sometimes I can LOOVE a book like nothing else and it still be kinda crappy (I know you've all been there). You overlook it's faults because you loved it so much it didn't seem to matter. I didn't want anyone to take my gushing of this book that way because it deserves my sober thoughts ;)
The success of this story is twofold, in my opinion. First, the structure and pace of the story work well together. It is a solid novella with just the right amount of plot for length, which makes the pace natural and easy throughout. It doesn't try to do too much, but focus on the relationship between Cain and Henry (who I adored together) and allow Cain's troubles in keeping La Terraza together unfold. Perhaps it seems so natural because these two plotlines are so well integrated. Much of the story is overtaken by the relationship, but slowly weaved into that as the two get to really know each other is the one obstacle in their path, their opinion on the buyer situation. They both follow their character in their choices which brings them at natural odds. Cain's reluctance to deal with the situation pragmatically (because either way will bring the way of life he knows to an end in some way) is expected and something I understood. Henry's selflessness (be it natural, or his own choice of relationship over career) shows the reason they seem to fit so well together. Their actions and choices form a natural division leading to realistic internal conflict.
Second, the style of the story is reminiscent of an old movie. I'm going to show my lack of knowledge here, but bear with me please. The style and cast of characters is something we all love and can relate to because it has been so successful in the past. There is Cain, the perennial bachelor in the center of couples. He's the lonely captain of a sinking ship surrounded by an eclectic cast of characters. They're drawn together by a love of the setting, and while anything would do in theory, the arrangement of them all in an apartment block or courtyard makes this even more powerful. Cain, as the captain, is the only single welcomed into the fold, but in a way all other singles in the story are suspect (at least where the "family" and the courtyard of La Terraza is concerned). Henry is given a trial period, and everyone else is suspect of the other single in the apartment complex who keeps to himself. This backdrop to the story pulled me in immediately because it is something that we can relate to in common experience through film and literature. Plus, it gives the atmosphere something special, a way for us to feel special and connected with the story, and it allows Ethan to write some truly zany characters (I'll let you discover them on your own!) but still keep some of the humor for Cain and Henry, though albeit, maybe a little toned from characters past.
In the end, I adored Cain and Henry together. What I love so much about them is that they're funny, yes. But mostly, they have fun together and so much of what we see is them building a the relationship that people have in real life. It isn't just what we see in most fiction, or the bullet points that are important in the evolution of a relationship. We also get to see the behind-the-doors camaraderie they're creating together that make them part of a pair, the shared jokes and experiences. We don't often really get to see that in fiction, or at least where it serves a more prominent role than what is typical. That made Cain and Henry really leap off the page for me.
Fans of this author will undoubtedly want to read Love in La Terraza, but I think this is a good entry place for readers not familiar with Ethan Day. It is indicative of his earlier romantic comedies, but a bit shorter and better crafted. Definitely Recommended!(less)
By chance I happened to read the first Loka book, The Cat in the Cradle at just the right time. I read i...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
By chance I happened to read the first Loka book, The Cat in the Cradle at just the right time. I read it as part of a TBR Pile Purge a few weeks ago, not knowing the sequel would come out in less than a month. It is serendipitous that it was so, because these last few weeks, until I found out that From Darkness to Darkness was indeed about to be released, I've been bemoaning the fact that I loved the first book so much and I'd have to wait who knows how long to read more of this wonderful story. The m/m gods must have been on my side (side note: I'd love to meet those guys … or gals! yes, they're probably women).
I started reading this book the minute it came in the mail, yes the mail (artwork + this world & author = 100% faith in a good book). I was fully prepared to be a bit disappointed; the first book has a firm ending and I was afraid, with the blurb talking about a new character that the old gang would be relegated to a small part. That wasn't the case, and Dylan had just as hard of a time staying out of things as he did the first time around. He comes to visit the new Black Oligarch, a young man of 16. The Black Oligarch is the master of death, both immortal while possessing the loka and able to kill with a thought. It is a dark power, uniquely suited to those who know pain and death and the bringer of it. And the young Oligarch, Cole, is definitely damaged; seeing his whole village, family, and his best friend and love Jonah brought down by corpse sludge has brought out a dangerous darkness within him, making him a fierce weapon who in his desperation will be easy to manipulate.
Fans of the first book will definitely want to read this sequel and will be pleased. It is a little grown up in all ways -- the author has grown, the characters are wiser after all they've gone through, and Cole is darker than any character we've met so far. His presence and the differing reactions the characters have to the events of the first book, bring out a side of several of them that we didn't see in the first book. Where the first book introduced us to the Five Lands and the Oligarchy in a light and bright adventure of discovery and intrigue, this story is muted. The first book celebrated that adventure, but in Darkness their travels are solely part of the mission to end the evil they seek to understand and end. The stakes are higher this time around, which is a sobering thought, especially with the knowledge of what it takes to make it to the end alive.
Though the circumstances are different, the theme of inner darkness is developed here just as it was in the first book. In The Cat in the Cradle, Tyjinn is forced to simply confront that aspect of himself in one moment that really matters (to the plot, anyway). In this sequel, it is a part of Cole's story and his choices from the beginning to the end. He's constantly conflicted and shows his age and lack of experience after losing Jonah, who made most of his decisions for him. His characterization is given much more time and effort, comparing and contrasting nicely to both the sides of "good" and "evil" in the story, until the lines are blurred enough for Cole to have to make serious considerations about himself and the others.
This group takes several different directions at a few points, in geography and plot. I found a couple of them to be somewhat tangental and therefore made the story lose a little focus. Sadly, one of my favorite parts of the book felt this way -- when Kio finally finds out where he's from and returns home. Not only did this feel out of keeping with the important parts of the rest of the story, but I wished for more time for the situation to resolve. As it was, that particular point of the story seemed resolved a little quickly. This made the whole feel a little disorganized, with a few bumps in the forward momentum.
Mostly, this just makes me want to read the first book all over again -- then this one, and once more around just for shits and giggles. This author has a fan for life, and like a very few series (i.e. Harry Potter), I could read these over and over and never get tired of them. I hope that there are many more stories in this series to come. It would be a shame for the series to end here. I urge everyone to read this and tell everyone how much you love it (and you will), so that the author has every reason to continue the series again and again.(less)
I had heard so many wonderful things about the original story that led to this book, and this book itself, that I...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
I had heard so many wonderful things about the original story that led to this book, and this book itself, that I was almost worried when I actually started reading them that they might not live up to my expectations. The first story, which I reviewed as part of the Wild Passions anthology last week (and is also offered free when you buy this sequel) definitely opened the door to a wonderful story. I loved it, but it intrigued me more than anything, because there was so much room for growth alongside a relationship that definitely hadn't been explored to my own satisfaction. Of course, it didn't take long for me to get this sequel and set out to read it. I sped straight through it, barely taking breaks, and I am left with a sense of awe with this world that is so multifaceted and this story that is put together so artfully.
In the prequel story, "Opening Worlds", we meet Jason as a space pilot who is carrying a group of Perels home to their rather isolationist planet after a year sojourn among other cultures. What Jason didn't expect was to fall in love with one of the alien race. Ferran is expected to return with his wild oats firmly sown and settle into married life as a sterile male in a matriarchal society. Their relationship seems doomed to failure from the start, but the possibility for more time together presents itself when Ferran and his mother convince the ruling council of Perels to open a new diplomatic position for Ferran -- as long as Jason agrees to marry him. Jason readily agrees, but we're only left to envision their future ourselves.
The real story comes later, in this sequel novel that starts at the immediate end of the first story. Jason and Ferran are married and move immediately to Perelan, a planet that has hosted only a handful of humans since first contact was made. The union gives Jason privileges other humans haven't known as ambassadors to Perelan society because Jason is now a Perel by marriage and accepted into their society, though many are not happy about it. The population is split between those who are working towards progressive change -- like Ferran's family and their allies -- and those isolationists who are staunchly against the integration of their races. Jason becomes a celebrity, both for good and bad, and finds adapting to an alien life extremely tiring and humbling. The different factions only seem to escalate in their sparring when a rival Perel becomes known and lays down the gauntlet to Jason, spurring those political rivals to violent means that could upset the fragile hard-won peace of their entire race.
I am almost overwhelmed to review this because there's so much I could talk about. This novel seems to have everything and is a huge success for this author. Much of the story is anthropological. The meeting of two very different races is messy in many ways, with Jason just at the center of it all. The pressure he's facing is immense, and though Ferran faces similar pressures, we don't see as many of them. They're separate for much of their time. Ferran is preparing for his future diplomatic role to represent his race among the other worlds, while Jason is forced to show the positive influence his existence could be for the Perelan society. It is a trial run, and Jason continually feels the pressure of making a perfect impression day after day, all while dealing with the very intense culture shock of integrating into an alien society and living on a planet whose very atmosphere tries to tear him apart. It has the internal and external complications placed upon their relationship as well as the political maneuvering required to continue the forward progression of Perelan integration. Jason has to struggle to remain an independent entity among a society where being male decreases his power and in a family that, though is the best of all alternatives, is still subjecting him to political manipulation to further their own alliances. In the middle of all these other things is the intrigue, danger and ultimate violence that brings out the buried warrior in Jason, to fight for himself, Ferran and his new family.
This was all pulled off remarkably well. The pacing is superb and the balance of the relationship, world building, and politics is admirable. The mood of Jason's point of view is nervous and wary from the beginning, and that undercurrent of discomfort and pure alienness and isolation is given in much detail. A particular description stuck with me through the story. Jason remarks, just after his arrival on Perelan, how the eyes of the Perels watched him out of the dark his eyes were unaccustomed to. That describes his situation perfectly for much of the story. He's the focus of attention that makes him uncomfortable, whether in curiosity or hostility, and the pure isolation of having no control on his surroundings is creepy -- like eyes staring at him out of the dark. The tone blankets the story in a tense foreshadowing that made their trials seem hopeless and their accomplishments seem even more hard-won. I was also surprised by the direction the story took on several occasions, which kept me on my toes.
I can't say much more except to urge all of you to read both "Opening Worlds" and Changing Worlds. While I was a previous fan of this author, this book in particular far outshines her prior work. I can only say that I wish Jason and Ferran's adventures went on forever, simply because I wouldn't be able not to read them. I would also like to add that I adore the cover for this novel. It perfectly represents the wonder of the planet and the fantastic setting. Very well done and Absolutely Recommended!(less)
This third installment in the Falls Chance Ranch series sees further exploration of the relationship and family of Dale, Paul, Flynn, Riley, and Jasper as well as the exploration of Dale's issues as he finally starts to get a grip on his new life on the ranch.
After a tumultuous summer of getting caught in mines, the discovery of Gam Saan, and a very celebratory commitment among friends and family at the ranch, fall has set in and winter is quickly approaching. Dale is given a work project, his first real project since his breakdown, which brings back a lot of the problems he's had trouble working through at the ranch. Combined with that stress, Dale continues seeing strange people and animals around the ranch. His analytical mind cannot leave an unsolved problem alone, and whether the origins are his own anxiety or a real mystical connection to the land doesn't seem to matter until Dale starts having extremely realistic dreams that uncover clues about a spiritual place on the ranch they call Mustang Hill, a spot where nothing grows and Dale finds strange markings. New friends from Three Traders, Luath and Darcy, return in this book as Dale starts to really believe in his place on the land and that his extraordinary mind for facts and figures also relates to seeing connections between people and places that the others don't.
This book is somewhat different than the previous ones, for several reasons. I've seen other readers have varying feelings about this book where most of them loved the previous ones for these reasons. For one, it is at least a third shorter. Where the second book, Three Traders moved beyond the internal and explored the whole of the ranch and the characters of the family, Mustang Hill is in many ways a retreat to the style of the first book. Without losing the connections made in the second book, this time the story is again a solitary journey for Dale. He's regressed in several ways that remind us of the first book. He is also dealing with a very private understanding of the land and why he can see certain things that only Jasper can see, and sometimes sees even more than Jasper.
The mysticism is something that I am always interested in, so I really ended up enjoying this book, even though it is a bit more subdued and certainly less exciting than TT. This is also Jasper's area of expertise. Having grown up Cherokee in the mountains of Virginia alone with his grandfather, learning the lore and essentially raised in isolation and of a lost period of time and Native American culture, he's connected with spirit and land more than anyone else. We have seen and gotten to know Jasper the least of the 5 main characters at the ranch, but he's one that I've always been really interested in. He's quiet, an observer and he has immense respect for everything around him. The discovery of the spiritual site atop Mustang Hill allows Dale and Jasper to connect in a way that they haven't before, and for us to see a side of Jasper up close that has always fascinated me. As a part of that, we get a lot more of his history and the history of the Shoshone area around this part of Wyoming.
I plowed through this book. It is the last of the completed books. The fourth book, Silver Bullet, isn't finished yet. I tried to slow myself reading this book because I really don't like to read WIP but this book was so much shorter that I found myself finished in a day. I'm really sad that I have to put this story down for a while. I have no idea of the schedule of releases, how fast these authors write, but I have a feeling that I'll be waiting quite a while to read the next book. No matter how much I'm trying to talk myself out of it…. I love these characters too much and I wouldn't be surprised if later today I can't stop myself from picking up the first chapter of Silver Bullet.
It will be a while before I'm able to review Silver Bullet, even if I do start reading it as it is being written. So I really hope that you all have enjoyed my reviews (more of a lengthy profile!) of this series. This series has become quite important to me. Of course it isn't without it's own problems, no matter how much I have gushed about it. Still, it's one of the best serials I've read. I have been really happy to see a lot of you pick these books up! It is such a good feeling to find a series that you love like this and then for them to be free. If you have the time and patience to read such long books, I couldn't recommend these more!(less)
Again, like my reread of the first book, I seemed to love this even more the second time around. I LOVE Dale. Well, I...moreSecond Read - 5/19/13 - 5/22/13
Again, like my reread of the first book, I seemed to love this even more the second time around. I LOVE Dale. Well, I really love all of them! Esp. Riley :) And I have a soft spot for Tom and Jake :D Now on to a re-read of Mustang Hill.
**Spoilers for those who haven't read the first Falls Chance Ranch book**
We left the end of book one as Dale became an official part of the relationship between Riley, Flynn, Jasper and Paul. Three Traders picks up right where the first book left off. Dale has come back to Falls Chance Ranch following his first time back in New York City after his recuperative therapy at the ranch and his epic breakdown. Dale thinks that his dissatisfaction with his old life will keep his three weeks in NYC quitting his job and moving to Wyoming from changing him, but he quickly finds that that isn't the case. He's slipped back into old patterns of obsessive and perfectionistic behavior. Besides, he comes to learn (or Flynn tries to drill into him) that moving to the ranch to be with the men is really like starting over. Before, he was a client and focused solely on bettering his own behavior and learning new methods to cope in life, but entering as part of a relationship opens up whole new areas Dale has no experience with in life, namely commitment. And that is a whole different beast for Dale, still a bit shell shocked by normal, every day interactions and his own head games.
On top of this Dale, Riley and the guys stumble upon a bit of a mystery that needs to be solved, linking the ghost town of Three Traders to the ever present reality of the ranch's past owners, David and Philip, two spirits of the ranch land that Dale desperately needs to feel connected to in order to tell himself that he belongs on the ranch and in the family.
I need to admit something. Last week, when I reviewed the first book I talked extensively about how amazing the slow pace works for this story -- to wade through the deep characterizations as well as Dale's numerous mental health issues -- and partway through this book I felt a bit hypocritical. I started getting a bit dispirited while reading, thinking not more of the same problems! At the end of the first book i was so happy that these problems were treated so in depth and given so much time to work themselves out. It is something that is given a much more real to life pace. Part of this is that I'm reading these stories back to back, so there is significantly slower change like most serials that are meant to be read by installment.
Then, something magical happened. The pace of this story started to pick up with all kinds of wonderful little sub plots (the mines, the town, all the new characters coming to visit!) and I could see that this second book was going to be a story all of it's own. Yes, it continues the first, but it goes further. No matter how much I love these guys, I wouldn't have been able to handle another book one over again with the same issues. I don't know why I lost faith, perhaps because I continually don't know what to expect from these books, but I am so happily surprised by the turns this story took and I was present for every bit of it, unable to put it down for other things. Now that I've finished this second book, I can see how it has built steadily over time, a story arc for the book independently, and a separate overall story arc that is very ingrained into the story and so naturally slow at progressing (which I was so happy about above).
I finished this story feeling like the first book really served as a foundation, in a way a prequel to this story. Where the first book was an in depth exploration of Dale, this book really set out to explore their overall relationship, something that I was insanely curious about. The first book barely even touches on their relationship. Besides the fact that there is no sex, there's barely even any kissing or mention of private time. This book allowed us to peek a little more into what they do and how they interact behind closed doors now that Dale is properly a part of it. We get a lot more detail about the characters and their history, which really pleased me and helped me to get to know them better. They're also becoming a lot closer as a 5 person unit, with a whole new dynamic now that Dale has joined them, and I loved seeing them explore that and finally settle into it by the end of this book. It made me instantly want to see where the third book will go and once again, I doubt I'll get any other reading done in the next few days. I probably won't even be able to go to bed tonight without at least starting Mustang HIll.
This is definitely one of those reviews that I can't stop gushing in, but that's okay I suppose. I've been reading these books totally hooked, and to be honest, that doesn't happen much anymore. I read a lot of wonderful books but perhaps because I've read so much of this genre, I feel like something has to really be different and have a lot of charm for me to feel this wonderful feeling reading. It is something that I only remember from when I first started reading in this genre and reading about gay men in (happy) love felt so wonderful to me as a form of fiction and literature that I'd never read before. This series feels like that to me, and when I finished Three Traders, I felt like I just might like this book even more than the first.(less)
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 Wed...moreSecond 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(less)
If nothing else, this spinoff story of the In This Land serial is a wonderful excuse to get to spend some more time with Orinakin and Bade, the origin...moreIf nothing else, this spinoff story of the In This Land serial is a wonderful excuse to get to spend some more time with Orinakin and Bade, the original couple and one that -- now that we've moved on in the serial to other brothers and their love stories -- have made less and less appearances as they travel around the world, separate from the main story.
As a story itself, it's similar in many ways to the main serial. Of course, the few main characters are ones we already know quite well (Orinakin, Bade and Rini, oh Rini!). There's also the trademark excess detail which outlines something that is probably most important to anyone interested in reading this: while it's possible to read this as a standalone, the world here would mostly fall flat if you haven't read at least the Purple Book of the In This Land serial (Chapters 1-77). If you were to read this story without knowing these three main characters, anything about the Seven Siblings, the children of the gods, Anosukinom, Orina Anoris, or the tangible impact that the gods have on real life, then you're only getting half of the story. And yes, there's a lot of extraneous detail. One of the biggest problems I had with In This Land (which, keep in mind, I totally love and am addicted to) is some of the outrageous detail, especially in names and stuff. But the more I kept reading the serial, and the more I became invested in it, the less it mattered to me. I think if I had read this book without reading any of the serial first, I wouldn't have appreciated it nearly as much. Some of those things might have really bothered me. Keeping the characters and their respective countries straight in this book is a bit of a nightmare, but I just rolled with the punches and eventually, around about the end of the book, LOL, they finally sorted themselves out in my mind.
The mystery was sufficiently difficult for me to be interested but not too overly complicated in the end. Some of that detail in keeping the different parties separate from one another played a part in that. And throughout it all we get to see Rini behaving in his naturally slutty ways. That breaks the tone nicely and keeps a similar light and erotic mood similar to the serial.
If only we could get some more spin off stories like this! The serial just doesn't move fast enough for me. It's so in depth into their lives, that even though I feel fortunate that we get a fairly long weekly update when we could get bi-monthly updates or even monthly updates or less often like other serials, the story still moves at a glacial pace! I suppose I'll just have to start it all over again *sigh*. What a hardship!(less)
This dark and finely crafted mini mystery had me falling for everything I was set up to, and then marvel...moreReview 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.(less)
I read a couple of these as they were released as serials, but I hadn't yet had the chance to go back and read "The Fairy's Assistant" and "The Prince...moreI read a couple of these as they were released as serials, but I hadn't yet had the chance to go back and read "The Fairy's Assistant" and "The Prince of the Moon", which in reading them now are definitely to favorite stories of the anthology. I suppose, being the gay man I am I'm not yet brave enough to read f/f, no matter how much I love JL Merrow, so I did skip that story.
I have to say, though, that the opening story (more like novel) of this anthology, Sasha Miller's "The Fairy's Assistant" is by far the best Cinderalla re-creation that I've read. I absolutely loved it and I loved the way she made the story her own.
The Fairy's Assistant by Sasha L Miller - 5 stars! The Prince of the Moon by Megan Derr - 4.5 stars Learning to See by Julia Alaric - 3.75 stars Cinder-Elle by Mell Eight - 3.75 stars Capture the Moon by JL Merrow - (f/f) didn't read(less)
This is a book that I want everyone I know to read!
I've been eyeing this book for a while, especially altering seeing some great reviews. I think I was most intrigued because this book is about a different side of gay marriage that I've read before. From the very first page, I was in love Steven's voice.
It all starts when Steven starts to notice Adam changing. They've been partners for about 7 years, and they generally seem like the perfect couple -- they have two children (well, cats), they watch old movies together, and they are similar and different in all the right ways -- essentially, they're quietly compatible. Steven's nature is to let Adam's changes slide until he starts to get freaked out that something really, no really serious is going on. Then, Adam decides to take action. He's tired of planning weddings for people when he can't have a "real" one of his own.
They decide to do what they can to spread their message. Steven uses his column with The Gay New York Times to spread their message and implore those who agree to boycott the wedding industry. Unfortunately, at about the same time as the column goes live, Adam's sister and Steven's brother who have been dating for a while now decide to get married. What do they do? The problems really start to escalate when people catch onto their message, driving a huge wedge between their families.
Told through Steven's publicly quiet demeanor but inner snarky voice, The Marrying Kind doesn't let up from the moment the story starts. Steven's narration switches consistently from present quick paced wit to memory, history, and cultural references, all offering some insight to the present. His voice is so funny that I laughed out loud throughout the entire book and was marking passages on my Kindle over and over.
The activism in this novel might be the spark, the catalyst that sets everything in motion and the undercurrent that keeps it moving forward. It also holds a huge message for readers. That message is achieved, though, through the shifting familial ties and family dysfunction that laces them all together. It's a bit like looking at two sides of a coin -- when the shit hits the fan, everyone is facing everyone else's ugly sides. It's the way that families are, and I really have to give this author props, especially for such a resounding job in his first novel. I always admire authors who can truly juggle a large cast, without dropping anyone and continually interlacing their actions and emotions throughout the group. This author does that really well here, usually offering Steven as the observer, quietly narrating (with his own hilarious commentary) as it all happens. The fact that the story never loses sight of the fact that they're a family, a truly mashed up American family, takes the story from admirable to heartwarming.
There is really a lot to recommend about this romantic comedy. New York City is almost a second character and I love when authors really get that right. The voice of Steven is pivotal to the story. Despite bringing all the charm and quirky insight to the story, the events could have turned the tone a bit depressing in another character's point of view. Instead, Steven is constantly avoiding the real issues with anything he can think of until he truly has to face them. The secondary characters really sparkle, especially in ensemble settings.
I really think this is a book that people will love and I hope that more people hear about it. I know I'll be doing my best to recommend it to everyone I know!