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)
Probably my favorite feel-good story of the year. This made me smile from the first page and I'm still smiling now, after finishing the book. Even the...moreProbably my favorite feel-good story of the year. This made me smile from the first page and I'm still smiling now, after finishing the book. Even the people around me want to read this now (and they don't read m/m) because I couldn't stop reading hilarious little bits aloud to them.
This is a unique story and Al has a way of seeing the world that is innocent and beautiful and direct. This is probably also one of the best romantic pairings I've read in a long while.
I'll be keeping this book on my Kindle for any time I need a little pick-me-up!(less)
Josh is completely smitten with his downstair neighbors Rai and Evan. It doesn't help that every time he spends t...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
Josh is completely smitten with his downstair neighbors Rai and Evan. It doesn't help that every time he spends time with his best friend Denise (who lives one floor below the men) he can hear them having kinky, noisy sex that pounds the walls. He longs for a piece of what they have -- a great relationship, unspoken communication -- and the daily reminder of the two hot men becomes the focal point of his fantasies after a disappointing relationship history. To his surprise, when he befriends the two and gets to know them better, he can relate to both on difference levels. They become good friends until a rather hilarious accident forces Josh to temporarily live with the two men.
They quickly move on from friendship and find that they have an insanely strong sexual connection and spend the next few weeks exploring each other and the new way they relate to one another. Along the way, Josh finds he has growing feelings for the men, and waiting for them to kick him out of their bed and go back to their regular lives, all the while knowing that he'll be changed person when the other shoe finally drops, leaving him hopelessly in love with two men who already have a future without him.
I think that Josephine Myles made a very important choice with this story, whether it was purposeful or not. There is a lot of supply in the m/m market now, which means that what is different stands out. That leads to a lot of genre mashing and while that can work well for a story and certainly stands out, there is something to be said for character driven stories that really look at and develop one particular issue. In the case of m/m/m menage in particular, most of the ones I read these days aren't really about the relationship between the three men, at least not front and center. But The Hot Floor does focus on those issues in such a relationship that would crop up in the real world -- jealousy, prior history, and the different dynamics of trust among more than a two-person couple -- and that is why it worked so well for me.
Josh is an endearing character and though he doubts it at every turn, I could see why both Evan and Rai were attracted to him and could easily fall for him, even when it goes against their rules. He's completely unaware of what he offers in a relationship or friendship, consistently afraid to trust when anything but a definitive proposal keeps him feeling like the outsider in an already existing relationship. Past relationships as well as family history make it difficult for him to trust, especially to show others his true self. His blush becomes a bit of a trademark he does it so often, when just a thought of talking dirty makes him stammer over his words. The fact that everything he experiences with Evan and Rai is so new makes the experiences more meaningful, and I got the sense that it wasn't simply what he could offer their relationship that made him such a great third (and then more than that) but that they both offer something very special for Josh as well. The added security of being welcomed into an already existing relationship helped him focus on other things (like his trust issues).
The focus of the story is really on Josh's neuroses, in particular those issues of trust and his fear of opening up to another man. The great thing about him falling for Evan and Rai is that the arrangement starts out as friendship and then solely as fun sex. The "rules" the two have in place of not sleeping with a friend or neighbor give Josh structure and boundaries, even though they're eventually broken. I loved that we really get to see the lighter side of their lives, especially with Rai around, who constantly had me cracking up in laughter. It is important for there to be something that the "third" can bring to the relationship and I found that I rather liked the fact that even though Josh had things to bring to the table that made a menage relationship work, the original relationship between Rai and Evan was great and had no need of being "fixed". It wasn't a case of him "saving" their relationship, which when I thought about it, seems to be more often the case in menage.
I was surprised and delighted to see that the story didn't devolve into typical romance plot faults. I kept growing nervous about their faulty building, but was happy to see how the situation resolved. For the most part, however, I simply liked that the story spent time with the three of them, often happy and showing the lighter side of a beginning relationship without getting bogged down in what doesn't work and then fixing it. They simply work well together, and the difficulties involved in their relationship were internal and organic to the characters.
I can't wait to read this again. So far it is my favorite of this author's books, and it was a real delight to read. I can't wait to read what she publishes next!(less)
Yay for another novel by JL Merrow!!! She's one of my favorite authors, and as I told a friend recently...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
Yay for another novel by JL Merrow!!! She's one of my favorite authors, and as I told a friend recently, I'm almost nervous when I start reading each successively published novel because I've loved them all so much there's bound to be one that disappoints me. Thankfully, that wasn't the case here and I ended really really thoroughly enjoying this latest offering by a really wonderful author.
Tom Paretski is a plumber with a secret -- he's got a knack for finding things. It's a bit like dowsing, he can hone in on hidden things, things that have deep emotion attached to them like guilt or shame. Sadly, lost and hidden things include people, and we meet him as his friend on the force Dave, calls him in to look for a local missing woman. Tom's in for more shock than seeing another dead body, however, when a ghost from his past shows up at the scene as a private investigator hired by the family of the murdered victim.
The last time Tom saw Phil Morrison was when he and his cronies stepped up their high school bullying a bit too far. Tom still lives with the scars of that physical and emotional trauma and seeing the man ten years later dredges all those feelings back up. It doesn't help that he's just as attracted to the man as he was back then and it certainly pisses him off that the man is apparently as big of a homo as he is, and completely out of the closet. Phil has an attitude as well, one that might rival Tom's perpetual snark and their verbal blows start almost immediately. Phil doesn't believe in his gift, but he needs Tom's help anyway. They both have vested interest in making sure the current suspect gets treated fairly and together, they might be able to get the answers they need to find the real killer.
Merrow has a knack for slyly mixing genres that really works for me. This story is for all intents and purposes a contemporary mystery romance, with the exception of Tom's gift. That is perhaps the reason Tom's gift isn't given center stage. Though we first get to know him through his gift, it's often presented as rather unglamorous and second rate to pounding pavement detective work. We get to know Tom as if the gift is just a quirky peccadillo that comes in handy during his plumbing work. Though it does get used, and is central to the plot, the different focus and misdirection worked well to show Tom as an ordinary guy who is rather in over his head in this whole mess.
I really liked Tom. He's a strong character that has a real moral compass amid the corrupt characters that stock the story. In a way, he's retained his innocence beneath his jaded veneer, which contrasts nicely with Phil, who harbors rather a lot of guilt and shame over his past. I appreciated that they both came across as assholes every once and a while, trying to work through their shared history (or at times ignore it).
The mystery worked well for me, though hardcore mystery fans might find the story lighter than they're used to. Much of the story is focused on detective work, but a lot of the focus is on the relationship between Tom and Phil in the midst of it. I was a little disappointed that we didn't hear what happens to a character that showed up early in the story that I felt rather sorry for, and of course, I could have really done with more of the smexxin from these two because they are sizzling together!
So, once again, I loved this offering from one of my favorite authors and as always look forward to whatever she publishes. This one is definitely recommended.(less)
From all that I can find, JC Lillis is a brand new author, and if this book is any idea of the quality of work th...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
From all that I can find, JC Lillis is a brand new author, and if this book is any idea of the quality of work that she'll produce in the future, I'm a fan for life. Rarely have I ever picked up a book I knew nothing about and loved it quite so much, even waiting almost two whole weeks to write a review of it. I first heard about this book when I saw it on JC Lillis' twitter page and enjoyed the artwork on the cover -- that's what drew me in. The blurb only made me more intrigued.
And you should be -- this young adult novel follows Brandon (along with his friends Abel and Bec during the whole summer after high school) across the US as they visit the series of five Castie-Cons for their favorite show, Starship Planet. Bran and Abel are super-fans (like SUPER.FANS) who first met online and bonded over their obsession, and later became co-vloggers, devoted to the show. Abel loves Captain Cadmus and Bran loves Sim, something which they argue about endlessly! But the one thing they can agree on is their mutual hatred of the "Cadsim" shippers and their rival blog that is devoted to the fanfiction written about the relationship between the show's two stars, Cadmus and Sim. Why, WHY? does everyone assume that they're secretly gay and together -- Bran and Abel are convinced that some people just can't accept that not everyone is really gay and they're fed up with the shippers who think they are.
So, as their road trip summer approaches, they make a bet. At each con they'll ask the question: Do you think Cadmus and Sim are secretly getting it on? to each visiting star of the cast during Q&A, and if any of them answer in the affirmative, Bran and Abel will act out one of their fanfic scenes and post it online. If they're right, and the cast obviously thinks nothing happens between the characters, then the creators of the rival blog will have to sign a document bowing to the awesomeness of Bran and Abel and admit that the two characters would never work together. It's a fool's bet, or so they think. But surprises on the road change the game for both of them.
Okay, so, that sounds super awesome, right? First of all, they're total geeks, which I love. Also, the blurb is written so well and it is so witty, that I was hoping it would bode well for the novel itself. And I honestly had no complains -- none -- about the story at all. In fact, I'm making myself wait a whole month before reading it again. The beauty of the story is the relationship between Bran and Able. Able is the gregarious and sometimes flamboyant of the pair, with lots of sexual misadventures and a style all his own (I loved seeing what he wore from each truck stop they made!). Bran is different, in many ways because of the internet (I'm getting there…). Raised in a devout family, Bran's recent years have been difficult in a family built on secrets and repression. His family loves him, but they also believe he's made a bad choice, not by coming out, but by being gay in the first place. He's continually harassed by their pastor, who always seems to want to have a chat with him. The internet and his heavy presence there, is like a shining beacon for him to represent the best of himself. And.. you can see where this is going… that is how lies are started. At the start of this trip, Bran has found himself in a place where everyone who knows him (save Bec, who he knows from childhood) thinks he's someone completely different than he really is. And of all these people, the ones he's afraid of finding out the truth the most is Abel. Keeping the secrets and using convenient lies like a horrible ex to say why he isn't dating, are easy online and seeing Abel once or twice a month, but together 24/7? It's going to be hard.
Add in a new, ultra-secret group intent on exposing their lives online makes Bran even more paranoid as they stop in each city, putting Bran and Abel at odds and their friendship is put to a severe test when almost nothing turns out to be what they expected.
That might be the LONGEST summary I've ever written! But, there's just so much about this book, and so many different threads weaved throughout. It is really masterfully written with a real flare for voice and style and a huge dose of vulnerability and appropriate teenaged angst. There's nothing I hate more than a whiny teenager, and I was so happy that this author didn't fall into that trap. Bran's issues are extremely real and sometimes quite heavy. The writing is so centered in who he is that it's like a part of him with no separation, like his real feelings come across without filter. So, it affected me, quite a lot. He's really pretty messed up, and in an identifiable way to most people who will probably read this.
Another thing that made this novel a pure pleasure to read was the humor. It is so freaking hilarious that I almost couldn't take it at times. I had so many different quotes and notes on this book in my Kindle, probably more than any book previously, because some of the lines are so funny that I couldn't bear not to mark them and then chat with my reading buddies (Laura and Tina, also in love with this book!). I wish I could share some of them, but I lost them all with my brand new Kindle a few days ago. Anyway, I'll just have to read this again and make another post with quotes or something, because the amount of one-liners you could take from this book astounds me :)
I left this book till last in my reviews because it is the best. And that is saying a lot up against a book like Tinseltown. But, even though I loved both and they both were similar in some ways, like the TV trivia-spouting characters and the unique voice and style, for me this book won out simply because it was such a pure pleasure to read. At times it was emotionally wrenching, something I have a particularly hard time reading if I'm expecting it, but I've still thought about this book at least once a day even so long after finishing it.
And it is only $2.99. Seriously! I kid you not. It's a steal -- and I would have paid three times the price for it and still felt it was worth every penny. I have a feeling that this will be my #1 most pimped out book this year, something I might have been comfortable with if I had read it in March instead of October. So please, do yourself a favor and go buy it. Then, spend this weekend getting to know the two cutest, funniest, and most lovable geeks in print. You'll be happy you did -- I promise!(less)
I can't help it -- this is still my favorite book from Kate McMurray!
Matt Blanco is a Brooklyn boy, born into a crazy Italian family and famous as a top professional baseball player, nearing the end of his long career with the Brooklyn Eagles. He is also gay. There's never even been a rumor of his sexuality, though he's a perennial bachelor, because of his complete dedication towards discretion. If baseball wasn't the true first love of his life, then he might be miserable. But things start to change when a rookie joins the Eagles out of the farm system.
Iggy Rodriguez is a magnificent player, the kind of player who will probably eclipse Matt's own fame and talent. And he's incredibly beautiful. Matt, normally the welcoming unofficial captain, is nervous around him because of his attraction to Iggy, no matter that he's thirteen years younger than him and his presence on the team shows that the Eagles are most likely slowly pushing out the older guys to make way for new, young talent.
Iggy has his own problems concerning Matt. The Great Matt Blanco is his all-time idol and crush -- a man who he fantasized about as a teenager as he looked down from the walls of Iggy's bedroom. Meeting his idol is one thing, but to find out that he's also gay and in the closet and that they have a mutual attraction? That blows his mind.
The two find a way to make it work, always putting discretion above all else. They manage to go years in love and playing together until the magic just can't last. Matt's having problems with his knee and it looks like it won't hold out much longer. Looking at retirement is like the end of his life. Navigating the world of professional baseball with such a secret is hard, but as their lives change around them and pressure mounts, both Matt and Iggy have to find a way to put their relationship above the sport they both love.
First, Kate's love of baseball really comes through in this book. I mean, the sport is shown from both positive and negative angles, but the love of the game is central in the book. It's what initially bring both Matt and Iggy together, and it is at times what keep them together as their common language. Second, Iggy and Matt are amazing characters. It is only in the first few pages of the book that we're shown the dichotomy between the young and old on the team, pitting both Matt and Iggy at different ends of their career. But it is a central theme. It's a bit obstacle, mostly to Matt who has a problem facing the end of his baseball career, but also in the sense that Matt, who already has a problem with change, doesn't want to rock the boat to sacrifice Iggy's career. But the dichotomy between the old and new as they're presented also works well for their relationship. Even though it means that they often clash, they're two sides of a coin also. Where Matt represents a more classic vision of the sport and the culture, Iggy is the idealist who breaks through his stagnancy, to show him that there is hope that there could be a real active out gay athlete.
And third is the main reason that I think this book is so successful. We already have a great setup story and background of professional sports. And we have two really wonderful characters with a great shifting dynamic. What makes them come together to work so well in this book is the pace of the story. The whole story covers roughly three to four years. We're given several major sections of the story in real time with transitions of quick narration to bring us forward. It moves at a quick pace which keeps the story in momentum, but which also allows the characters to grow farther than you might expect. I remember when I first read this, I kept feeling like I was probably getting toward the end, only to realize that I still had half the book left to read. The forward momentum brings the story into new times and into new shifting dynamics between Iggy and Matt, showing how they work around them, how they adapt to new times and how they, eventually, use that time to grow closer and carve a life for themselves.
The story really is beautiful. There's no needless angst, only what is appropriate for the situation and isn't long-lasting. And, after all that, the story ends beautifully. Every time, every damn time I cry when I read the last 7 to 8% of the book, from the 12 year old fan that comes up to Matt in the stands to the purple hats to Iggy playing in the game. The story ends on a high, very optimistically but not unrealistically, and with Iggy and Matt in a really good place. I couldn't be happier.
I think I appreciated this book more the second time around. And I know that I appreciated it more after reading all of Kate's books back to back. I can see where there are some sylistic differences between this book and some of the others. None of the others are formulaic, but something about this book just really works for me. It will always be a book that I'll come back to and read over again. And it's one that you should read as well!
First Read - 4/25/12 to 4/26/12
4.5 stars (rounded up to 5 because this book just had that... indefinable something that made it a truly wonderful read).
I honestly haven't read a book in a while that drew me in so well as this. It took me a while to get into the story, probably because I was going up against all my preconceived notions about m/m closeted athlete books, but around the quarter mark everything clicked, the setting, the narration, Ig and Matt together and the perfect amount and use of angst all rolled into one.
As far as the technical aspect, I thought it was played perfectly, not overhanded but enough to immerse the reader into the characters who speak baseball in a technical way and live it that way. That particular aspect of the book reminded me quite a bit of the Kyell Gold Out of Position books (though not football and not anthropomorphic characters, obviously).
The sense of change over time is a big part of this story, which is what really facilitated the talk of changing views of gay athletes in a successful way here. That also gave the story a more epic quality, as the time, experiences, and relationships grow and change, which added more layers to Ig and Matt, as well as their surrounding characters, though mostly the atmosphere of baseball. From the first paragraph about the OCD of baseball players and their longstanding rituals and traditions, to the ending where (view spoiler)[a 12 year old gay kid can come out to an openly gay player in the stands at a game (hide spoiler)] outline in a broader spectrum the changes that are being singled out here, within the relationships and personal lives of the characters, specifically the challenges that Iggy and Matt both face.
I ended this book just thinking that Kate McMurray must have been writing in the sweet spot, because I could definitely feel it when I was reading. There's a lot of love put in to this book and I felt like somehow, in a way that I can't describe, Kate McMurray wrote the first m/m book about closeted gay athletes that I felt really hit the mark, at least with me.
So bravo! I laughed, and cried.. yada yada. It was good :D["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I have to say, this might be the cutest story I've read all year!
Ryan is just admitting to himself that he likes guys, but it is difficult and scary keeping such a secret in high school, especially when his only friend has a lot to say about "fags." He's scared to get close, in any way, to Jamie, the queer kid. It is social suicide. When he draws his name for Secret Santa in their study hall, Ryan has to figure out a way to make three gifts for Jamie without them knowing it came from him. The problem, is that now Ryan has started noticing Jamie, he can't get him out of his head -- and he starts to see just how hard a time Jamie has in school. Maybe he can make a few gifts to cheer Jamie up.
Not only is this well written, plotted, paced, and pretty much everything I could think of, this is such a feel good story, a perfect young adult story… it is just completely heartwarming. I knew I wanted to read and review this immediately when Madison contacted me. I mean, knitting…young adult boys… secret santa. It just sounded cute. But then I heard from a friend that they loved this story and I just couldn't wait to read it -- I barely made it through finishing the novel I was reading before jumping in. And it completely lived up to my expectations. Sometimes the best thing about a story is the way it makes you feel, and this will give you the warm fuzzies. You'll fall in love with Ryan and Jamie -- the latter because he needs a good cuddle, and Ryan because he's so honorable, yet still a confused kid. He's the kind of guy you want to champion, yet still give him a gentle kick the in ass to get him back on track, simply because Jamie needs a champion of his own. I loved them both.
And it made me want to knit a sock monkey!
So, I definitely recommend this story and I'll be looking out for this author's work in the future :) It's a perfect story for the stressed out holidays! So for those of you eating Turkey today (or tofurkey, or yams and potatoes and stuffing), take this story with you to your family dinner and sneak out when the bickering starts! It will make you feel warm and happy again :)(less)
I really enjoyed this book. I like reading slow and sweet love stories, and this definitely fit the bill, due to Jaime's history. Even more (...more4.5 stars
I really enjoyed this book. I like reading slow and sweet love stories, and this definitely fit the bill, due to Jaime's history. Even more (though they often infuriated me), I enjoyed Levi's family. I think it was very smart of Marie Sexton to let this story run the course it did. Now that I think back on it, there isn't one book I remember reading right now in this genre that doesn't offer a complete resolution for coming out (even though Levi is already out) that isn't either complete and ultimate acceptance or estrangement. It is so often black and white, or the climax of the novel is the point in which the family accepts the MCs completely and without reservation. This is so often not the case in real life, especially in situations like this. Yet, I never doubted the love the whole family had for Levi, and I believe that they truly loved him. And not only did I find Levi much more mature than the family gave him credit for, but I thought it was incredibly mature of him to persist having to bear their disapproval instead of writing his family off and cutting himself off from them, even before he realizes that Jaime needs them as much as he needs Levi.
The only other thing I can say is that they should have chosen Coda!(less)
A miraculous, healing story to hold close to your heart!
I've heard many, many wonderful things about this book over the last month or so. Josephine My...moreA miraculous, healing story to hold close to your heart!
I've heard many, many wonderful things about this book over the last month or so. Josephine Myles wrote a wonderful review that caught my interest after Chris directed me there, and became my personal cheerleader -- saying, "read it now! read it now!". I found myself very lucky then, to be one of the recipients of the GoodReads giveaway and received my paperback copy from Edmond in the mail last week, along with a beautiful note and a yummy, gooey, finger-licking, savorlicious nut roll, that I promply ate on the way back from the mail-box. I mean, hey, I got a free book! But I also got free candy! Well, not candy ;)
So I found myself with a beautiful copy of a book that has probably gotten more 5 star reviews than I've seen before, memory full of sweet and salty goodness, and a personal cheerleader goading me on. How could I refuse?
This is a unique book to review, and I won't re-hash the blurb for you, because there's really no point. There's so much to say about it, yet the beauty of it is in the mystery. I constantly found myself with my pen marking favorite passages to enjoy later (I love marking up books! real books! it's been so long!), but unable to share them, because like an inside joke, no one but fellow Found King and Queen readers would understand them. Point 1 for Edmond Manning -- by reading, I've become complicit in the events of the book.
Because the real story is in the mystery of figuring out the story for yourself and your own personal journey with the characters, the story is a bit hard to describe to those who haven't yet read the book. I was talking to a friend who is also reading this book right now and the only way I could find to describe the story was this: "its... light-hearted on the surface but profound underneath, but it's like a great adventure. It... reminds me, at it's heart... of Max, in Where the Wild Things Are... It's like a great children's adventure for adults." There's a sense of wonder in the adventure, which sounds a bit hokey in summary, but through the character of San Francisco in the novel is laid out in a way that entices the senses.
I do want to talk to potential readers here, because I might not have picked this story up if not for Chris, my personal cheerleader, telling me not to be afraid of the Bittersweet label on this book. The only similarity this book as to Bittersweet books is the fact that there's no HEA. I don't think that's too much of a spoiler to give away as it is pretty well known. However, while this book is wildly romantic, it is also not technically a "romance." I'd rather think of it as gay fiction. It is a beautiful story that left me with a huge smile on my face and warmth in my heart, and no matter how hokey it sounds I'll growl it out like a wild bear :)
All I can say is that I think everyone should read this book, and I'm so happy that I have my very own paperback copy to read whenever I want. I imagine that this book will stay with me for a long time, and having it there to comfort me on a bad day, or remind me of all the good and wonder in the world when I really need it.(less)
I've been excited to read this one for a while now ;) Okay, not only because I love Anne and her books,...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
I've been excited to read this one for a while now ;) Okay, not only because I love Anne and her books, or because I really liked Whitetail Rock and The Fix, but mostly because I loved Sam so much in those stories and couldn't wait to see him get his own HEA. And come on, a character who is admittedly secretly in love with romance novels having his own book called "Too Stupid to Live"? That's gotta be awesome!
We first met Sam in Whitetail Rock with his best friend Nik. Compared to Nik, Sam is always seen as the tall, gangly, awkward one. Too skinny. Too underweight. When Nik finds Jurgen, Sam despairs of ever finding someone for himself, and adamantly refuses to believe that anyone as hot or as in demand as Jurgen would give him the time of day. He's enamored of Ian when he meets him playing rugby with a bunch of other hot shirtless men. He thinks he looks like his very own Highlander and for the first time risks the chance and asks him out -- only to be thoroughly shot down. Ian wonders about Sam too, and not only feels kinda bad about how he shot him down but also can't stop thinking about him, wondering if he made a mistake. Ian has been trying to change recently, after a horrible accident while fighting a fire and then later getting out from under the thumb of the chief, his conservative father. He's a renowned rake of the modern sort, and even though Sam might swoon at the thought of reforming him, the real-life possibility of a rather sensitive and vulnerable Sam not getting thoroughly heartbroken looks impossible.
When the two realize just what a small world it is (Ian is Jurgen's cousin, FYI) and are thrown together at a party thrown by Nik, Sam decides to take his chances under Ian's forceful seduction. He just promises himself he'll try to remember that Ian isn't anyone's idea of a perfect husband.
In many ways this is a classic contemporary romance, albeit approached from a unique angle. While we often seem to have a romance writer as a main character, here we're presented with a story that at least half of the time is told by Sam, an admitted romance reader and a writer himself. He's in a unique position to critique "The Romance Novel", and that experience in how a story is put together comes across in his critique of his own life.
And that's when it hit Sam. If Ian was a TGH [Tortured, Gothic Hero], that made Sam…
Too Stupid to Live.
Sam closed his eyes in resignation. He was TSTL. Stupid enough to investigate the locked fourth story of the manor house, where the human screams originated; stupid enough to run out onto the moors at night to find the howling wolves. Stupid enough to want to suck Ian's cock again. And the whole time, he'd be thinking he could somehow further the plot via his stupidity.
The thing was, whatever had happened between him and Ian was certainly fraught with internal conflict, because all romances -- okay, romance novels -- had some kind of conflict, and if it wasn't external it had to be internal. Since Ian wasn't saving Sam from international drug-smuggling terrorists, and he wasn't the captain of an enemy starship that had captured Sam in battle (ugh, revenge sex), their plotting -- his and Ian's -- had to center on internal conflict.
AKA emotional conflict.
Obviously, if an outside observer had to guess which of them had the more serious emotional conflict, they'd pick Ian. Sam wasn't the one who didn't even know what constituted a relationship. By default, that made Ian the screwed-up one, right?
Aside from his own charm, that connection to the reader makes the story immediately engaging. We can understand and empathize with Sam with his life because of the language he uses to explore it. He's the first person to admit that he's become TSTL and his fantasies are ones that we have as well, or at least know of -- "Reformed rakes make the best husbands." (I love that one).
While it might be unfair for me to compare this (as a novel) to the first two stories because of the length and time to explore this relationship, I did like it more than those. Nik and Jurgen make an appropriate presence in the story without relying on them to carry the story. And Too Stupid to Live carries on in a similar vein as those stories in similar plot, characters, style and tone. The first two stories were incredibly hot, and this novel was as well. Much of the relationship between Sam and Ian is physical (at least up front, and for the first half of the novel). They've created a carefully constructed fabrication over their true relationship to continue the lie that it isn't a real relationship at all, and to do that they rely heavily on sex. For me, it carried the story and I didn't feel the need for more, because it is actually there. The sex scenes are constructed with a careful eye to move the plot forward and subsequently, the relationship.
Fans of Anne Tenino will definitely like this story. Ian is every bit the roguish character he's made out to be and is sometimes difficult to warm to (so are Sam's decisions regarding him). But, those choices are balanced well with real feeling and the lens through which the story is structured (The Romance Novel) bridges the gap between them.
Definitely recommended! And I look forward to the next :)(less)
I'm not up to a full review right now, but I really enjoyed this story that was smooth reading. The characters were great, th...more4.5 stars
I'm not up to a full review right now, but I really enjoyed this story that was smooth reading. The characters were great, the antagonist in all his glory didn't spin over the top into incredulity (unlike many books I've read lately, where somehow a skirmish always becomes a war and a feminine man is always the flamiest flaming queen ever seen). It's really a simple story about coming to terms with your sexuality and domestic abuse, but what makes it special are the characters, and an at-heart simple story made special by soaring characters wins any day in my book. And there are loads of great characters in this one, from Wolverine the mutinous mystery cat to long-armed Adam, who lives with his mom, consistently sounds as if his vocabulary was found at the bottom of a bottle, but has his own special brand of charm. Tim's family dynamics were at times hilarious and at others quite frustrating. The brotherly dynamic was very interesting and quite true to life. Yes, the interconnecting relationships are what makes this book shine.(less)
I wish I had an award to give out to this book! The Sweetest, Most Heartfelt, Make Me Go Gooey award. For those r...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
I wish I had an award to give out to this book! The Sweetest, Most Heartfelt, Make Me Go Gooey award. For those readers that take a chance on this book (and I'll go ahead and say I bet it'll probably be less than should), you're going to find a book that is both a classic love story and at the same time unique in the romance world. The focus of this story is on love itself, in it's most pure form, without sexuality (well, there's a little bit of it, but it's not the point) and while doing that, it whittles down the relationship to it's purest form. It just hits a note early on that really harmonized with me. I felt like -- as soon as I started the book -- I got it and I was there with it right to the very end.
Imaginary starts with the line Aaron is five the first time he sees James. Aaron is a lonely orphan, raised in the foster system and bounced from home to home until he lands with Tiffany and Shaw, a travesty of a pair of parents that make Aaron know very well that they only want him for the paycheck he gets them. His dirty clothes and lack of toys mean that he's set apart from the other kids. So when Aaron sees a boy sitting on the fence around the field near his house, he introduces himself and finds a friend that seems interested in all the same thing he is -- running through the field and exploring the forest and the rabbit warrens, making up their own games. The gig is up, though, when the gossip-happy Tiffany tells Aaron that no boy named James lives in their neighborhood. And James is silent on answers. He doesn't have any. He doesn't know who his parents are or where his house is. He doesn't remember anything before meeting Aaron except wandering around and being lonely.
Aaron is frustrated and angry that no one seems to believe him that James is real. Like all kids with imaginary friends, he's told he'll grow out of it, though Aaron talking to James around Tiffany or Shaw is a recipe for punishment and the threat of sending him away. Aaron learns to stop talking about James, but James doesn't go away. As Aaron grows up over a series of ten years, James seems to grow with him, through puberty, making new friends and the confusing feelings about girls and Aaron's feelings about them in relation to his best friend James.
Aaron doesn't know if anyone will ever be able to see James besides him. But James means too much to him to ignore.
No matter the fact that the story is similar to a few that I've read/seen before in books and movies, I still couldn't see the direction that this story was headed. I'm glad that I didn't, I got to enjoy the story as it was intended, growing up with both boys and like them, not knowing the possibilities of their future, apart and hopefully together. It's a story that produces natural angst, but despite tween and teenager years the story never delves into it. It remains a sense of purity, the same sort of purity and innocence that James brings to Aaron.
It's truly a beautiful story and for most of it, I read it wearing a smile. It's definitely a recommended read. I liked that the story was heavier on their earlier years as quite young boys and then more quickly moved through the 12-15 years, though I would have liked more story at the end.
For those looking for a sweet read, definitely check this one out. I feel lucky that I got to read it ahead of time and I wholeheartedly want to support it and make sure that more people are aware it. If you like sweet stories that aren't fluff but have little to no sex then this is a good fit for you. And no matter how you might feel about the story's execution, I challenge all of you who read it to not find it beautiful, heartfelt and touching :)
Note: This is by far, The BEST cover that I've seen from LT3, made by HM Burns and London Burden. It drew me to the story in the first place and it is perfect for the story.(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)
Taking place on an airfield outside of Berlin near the end of the war in 1945, Felix the airplane mechan...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
Taking place on an airfield outside of Berlin near the end of the war in 1945, Felix the airplane mechanic lives from liftoff to landing, moving forward in a steady crescendo, fixing the planes on the ground and waiting for them to return for more needed work. The war, now turning into a German defensive, is Felix's only real experience with adult life, no matter the cruel parody of life that it is. He's quite an innocent, his dream to fly with the men of the squadron, but relegated to the ground crew after failing the test. He watches the pilots with something akin to hero worship, but none more than Baldur, one of the best of the pilots. The two grow closer after Felix pulls a bullet out of Baldor's plane -- a near-miss that seems to upset Felix more than it does Baldor. They soon become friends and when they have time to take what seems like it might be their last weekend off, they grow closer, resolutely living in the moment and without contemplation of any possible future together when all their countrymen and women and children around them are paying for the actions of the Führer.
As tedious as it must be to write a story marketed towards English speaking readers from the mindset of a German during WWII, it is similar for this reviewer. I realized that when less than two pages in I found myself subconsciously giving each sentence ten times the weight and examination as I would a normal story. Some of that is ingrained habit, of course, on a subject that can easily incite heated feelings, but some of it is also because I was interested in seeing how the author would write the story. With this premise, suddenly it seems like the tone, the characters, and the many little details within carry so much more weight than with another story with a different setting. I know that the author knows this, especially with the note on the story about the exhaustive research he did. And I know it will be the same for most readers. I found myself a little torn about this fundamental question. I tend to be a peacemaker -- someone who doesn't like to ruffle feathers and hates conflict. I know that about myself by now, so my natural inclination towards this review is to completely disregard the politics and focus on the story. In a way, that is a discredit to the story, but I also feel like the story was handled well, in the sense that it was character driven and gives just enough character opinion (POV of Felix) to give weight to German sentiment of the time near the end of the war without it swallowing up the whole story. I can't speak to the accuracy of statements like: "Just a few weeks ago, we were "winning the war." Now, though, propaganda has become resigned, accusatory, as if all the losses and destruction are our fault.", but I will interest me enough to read lots of other reviews of the story to see what other reviewers might think. I don't really know enough about how different groups of Germans at the time thought, so I can't quite say if I believe Felix's statements seem to represent his character. I'm keeping an open mind.
As for the story itself, it is one the best short stories I've read by Voinov. There's an incredibly pervasive dour tone throughout the whole story that sets the mood for the hopelessness Felix feels and witnesses in Baldur. It makes the case of continual hopelessness and the stark reality of their future as well when, at the climax of the story, the tone doesn't change.
I always notice the sensory detail in Voinov's work, and this story didn't let me down. The flashes of color among the grey provide a stark dissonance. All the sense are used effectively, taste, scent, touch, and sound come forward to have more meaning against desolate towns that are described in drab sights. When looking at a basket full of food under a red-checked cloth, Felix narrates: "He pauses for a moment, gazes down at the towel, and we might be thinking the same -- that it looks, from the corner of the eye, like blood-spattered cloth. The pattern is too regular, however, and the whole ordered madness of war is in dissolution everywhere else, so it can't live in that basket."
I don't have criticism for the story, and if this is just a taste of a longer novel soon to come (whether about these characters or not), then I'm very excited to see what Voinov will release in the near future.(less)
Jeez, I don't know if I can write a proper review. Honestly, I'll try. But mostly I ju...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
HOLY FRIGGIN HELL.
Jeez, I don't know if I can write a proper review. Honestly, I'll try. But mostly I just want to sit, my fingers still on the keys and my mouth hanging open like…. guhhh. That was the hottest little scene I've read in a quite a while.
Reading this first foray into the new series (serialized chapter releases?), I have to say that I am very excited about what is to come in this series. The blurb definitely intrigued me and it's got pretty much everything I love. Rent Boys. Check! Threesomes and maybe more in the future? Check. Love among the dirty deeds? Oh yeah, I think it's coming because these two authors singed my Kindle with the chemistry between Tristan and Jared.
So, here's the summary: Jared works at the Market Garden, an exclusive club where he is available for rent. He's sort of half in love/lust/true-fucking-admiration with Tristan, a favorite among the men. Tristan is gorgeous and unattainable to Jared, at least he thinks. They're in a bit of a lull at the club as the story opens. It's just before Christmas and johns are maxxed out on other things. Jared isn't making the kind of money that he's used to and this will be his first holiday season working at the club. Tristan reassures him that it's all part of the season and business will pick up. In the meantime, Jared is surprised to find that Tristan seems to have an interest in him… and well, they're not getting any business at the moment. When a john asks if they work together, Jared wants to scream yes just to get the chance to be with Tristan, in whatever fashion. But the john has demands of his own, which include wanting to watch the two together, and he's willing to negotiate with Tristan, who is quite forward with manipulating Jared and showing him off to get more money. But, the real question that Jared has is how much is for show and how much is real? Because for him, it's all real.
I think that for such a short foray into what is obviously a much larger story to come, this first installment into the Market Garden series was very well done. These two authors work very well together, and I'm not surprised, being a fan of both. In a way, this works as a teaser, because we don't learn much about the characters, but I was immediately pulled into their connection anyway. I could see that they had forged something special, unique in their line of business, and that they had much to build upon. That came through in the writing very strongly. Still, it's little into the real story. I suppose it is really up to you if you'd rather read it now or wait until more has come. This story acted like a hook for me, and I really wished that I could immediately read more about these two characters. So, I'm a fan already and looking forward to where these two authors will take the story.
However, I will say this. This is some hot shit. Sorry, my brain is totally zoned out and I can't even make coherent sentences anymore. So, if you really want the relationship business, you might have to wait for more installments into the series. But, if you just want a really hot short and don't mind waiting for the rest, then definitely pick this up. I don't think you'll regret it. Like I said -- HOT shit. Yep. ;)
I think that was the most inelegant review I've ever written, I love it!(less)
After reading a book that was truly a chore to finish, I needed something safe to read that I knew I already lo...moreSecond Read (8.26.12) - Still 5 stars!
After reading a book that was truly a chore to finish, I needed something safe to read that I knew I already loved. I've been meaning to read this book again since I first finished it last year. In fact, I suspect that I'll read this book many times in the future; I might even invest in a paperback. :)
Most of my feelings are the very same as the first time I read it. I did notice some places where this probably could have used a little work (mostly in the editing and the pacing and use of narration), but the magic of the story outweighs all of those things. I dare you to read this and not want to hug a puppy! Sometimes there is something intangible that brings a story together (even a story like this one that isn't perfect). You can feel this author's emotion in the final chapters. I couldn't do without those chapters, no matter how much they make me cry. Those chapters are what brings the whole story together and offers a new perspective, capitulated by the epilogue that really forces us to consider them as pets. Even though it is a smile-through-the-tears kind of ending, it's still difficult in a totally (view spoiler)[Marley and Me way! (hide spoiler)]
First Read (11.14.11) - 5 stars
This completely bowled me over. And I'm still crying. And it's a happy cry! Though not without a few problems, I was so entranced by this story that I just couldn't put it down and there's no way that I could leave it without a 5 star rating and immediately adding it to my favorites shelf.
I was very eager to read this follow up to Frat Boy and Toppy when I saw that the author was carrying on into a s...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
I was very eager to read this follow up to Frat Boy and Toppy when I saw that the author was carrying on into a series. Not simply because I liked that book so much, because I really did, but also because I was really eager to see how Anne Tenino would redeem Paul. In Frat Boy, Paul was the bastard friend of Sebastian, who was livid that his friend was falling for a brainless jock and frat boy. No matter where their relationship led, every time Paul found himself around Brad (the frat boy jock Sebastian was falling in love with), he couldn't keep his mouth shut. It was obvious that there was more to Paul, other than being stuck up, snobbish, elitist. You could tell that there was a real aversion to jocks, just that he's too proud to say why. Love, Hypothetically gives us that story, plunked straight into the middle of Paul's neuroses, and showing the way he looks at the world around him.
Paul uses dark humor, elitism, and arrogance to cover the depth of the hurt that his one real relationship caused him. His first love, Trevor, chose his promising baseball career over their relationship in the most humiliating and sacrificial way -- a pain he never dealt with, and consequently altered him into the jaded and untrusting graduate student he currently is. Now, Trevor is back and Paul doesn't know what to do about it. He can't face his own feelings honestly, and the friends he once had who could have done it for him he has pushed away. Trevor is asking for forgiveness and a chance to see if they can rekindle their old relationship, but Paul doesn't know if he can trust him again.
Though shorter, this story definitely lived up to my hopes, having really enjoyed the first book about Brad and Sebastian. Paul is an interesting character himself, and I think that the reason he's compelling is that we get to know him first through Brad's POV, in the first book. Paul doesn't treat him well, and for most of the book comes off as a bitter bastard. Now, sinking into Paul's own point of view gives us a chance to understand him better. I expected a different character, honestly. I thought Paul would be a little more lost, but what we see here is a character who, while he might have a skewed perception about some things, is very frankly real about his own shortcomings. He knows that he's bitter, that he keeps his friends at an arm's length. The real problem is that he doesn't know if he can change that, or even if he wants to. Getting close to people is what got him in trouble in the first place.
For the most part, I'm not a fan of flashbacks, and I was worried when Chapter 2 went back to Paul's high school days with Trevor. That doesn't last, for those of you who, like me, aren't fans of going back and forth in time. It's a personal choice that, unless done supremely well, seems to aggravate me endlessly, so I was happy to see that that wasn't the case here. I liked Trevor. He comes off as a stock romance character at first. He's almost perfect (well, at least in in the present time). He's making up for misdeeds and comes in to try to sweep Paul off his feet. In fact, this plot line isn't that original. But still, it becomes it's own story. Paul and Trevor push past the usual plot of relationship failing in the past, to meeting again, to getting to know each other, to having a small problem to work out, to HEA. When they actually get down to talking about how they feel, the author allows Paul to be Paul. In doing so, Paul uses those old defense mechanisms like he really means them. Allowing the character not to hold their punches, to be realistic and not always perfectly understanding gave the story what it needed to come to a successful resolution.
I really quite enjoyed this story. This story ended up having a lot of heart for a story that I was expecting from the outset to be mostly sex (even t...moreI really quite enjoyed this story. This story ended up having a lot of heart for a story that I was expecting from the outset to be mostly sex (even though I enjoy those too!). In the end, it had both. I really loved "Frat Boy" and wanted to smack "Toppy" a few times, but hey, they got there. Sweet, cute, and really hot. A nice combo. I ended up staying up to read it.(less)
I got this book for review on a whim, and I am so happy that I did because it completely took over my life yester...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
I got this book for review on a whim, and I am so happy that I did because it completely took over my life yesterday. I started reading it in the early morning and I couldn't put it down -- I read all day. And to be honest I was a little worried after I requested it because I had previously read a book by John Tristan that I DNF'ed and I think it might have been his first book. I just couldn't get into the writing and I kinda liked it but also didn't. So I couldn't believe that I had none of the same issues with this book that I did with that earlier book. And if this author keeps writing books like this then I'll definitely stick around and keep reading!
When his father dies with a multitude of debts, Etan is forced to sell his home and all his belongings and travel to the capital city of Kered to look for work. His only skills are his ability to read and write, and while those are rare abilities for a country boy, with no money to garner an apprenticeship, his only choice is manual labor, something he's unable to do because of a sickness as a child that stunted his growth. He's pale and petite, and saved by a man in a rickshaw when beaten in the street. The man offers to send him to a place to stay, where he learns after a few days is a home for indentured servants. His only option thereafter is to sign away his rights and work for this man in trade for a place to stay and food to eat.
When the man sees Etan without bruises and washes he almost doesn't recognize him, but he has an even better idea of work for him. Etan is introduced to Roberd Tallisk, a tattoo artist whose patron is the head of the Council, run by the Blooded, the ruling class of Kered society who possess magic believed descended from the gods themselves. There, Etan's slave bond is bartered between the two men when Tallisk agrees to take Etan on as his new work of art, an Adorned. The Adorned have always mystified those of the lower classes. They're those of beauty who are tattooed by master tattoo artists with enchanted ink to become living works of art for the pleasure of the Blooded. Their art is not allowed to be seen by those who aren't Blooded or the artist. And no one else but the tattoo artists are allowed to wear ink.
Etan's new life seems wonderful and exciting. He's protected now for life with gifts of riches from patrons and by the ink he wears on his skin. But there is also an aspect of being Adorned that he never expected. He soon learns the hard price to pay when he starts to mingle with the elite of Keren society and exactly what they expect from him. And he finds himself a pawn, a sort of Mata Hari in the political play between two warring factions for the future of the Keren society.
There are two things that I love most about this story and they go behind the tattoo art (which is super cool) and a lot of the other little details that made this story come alive for me. First is the epic quality of the story. We really get to see Etan's life played out over a lot of major changes in his life that also herald major changes for the whole world. We meet Etan when he's young, still living at home with his father and before he's had to completely depend on himself and we get to see how he changes over time. I typically prefer characters who are alive, present and very decisive about their lives in fiction, especially in fantasy worlds. Etan is alive and present, certainly, but he's also like a piece of detritus in a massive current once he makes it to the city. He's buffered on all sides by those making choices for him. I can't see him acting any other way certainly, as someone who has very little choices, but he's also very internal and cautious. I didn't see those parts of his personality changing until much later because it was such a slow change, but Etan grows as the world changes around him and as he needs to take more of his own care for himself.
The second thing I really loved was the cast of characters. We meet a multitude of secondary characters, most of whom are a good sort, and a faction of those who are good people who make some bad choices. As the world in the story changes, it reveals the best and worst of the characters and each of them are made to understand their regrets, in particular Isadel and Lord Haqan Loren. All of them, however, are well rounded characters that we get to know rather well. And this was done sometimes in a rather subtle fashion. The writing requires the reader to be present and active in piecing the world together and in drawing connections, and I can't tell you how often I find myself wishing for writing like that.
You might not find this story to be perfect, or it might not impact you as much as it did me. Part of how you feel about it, in the end, will depend on what you like most in your romance books. The relationship between Etan and Tallisk is very slow to build and it takes almost the full length of the novel for the two to really come together. The bulk of the story is rather Etan's journey and finding himself, someone who still feels like a country boy, realizing that he's a good person with heart amid vultures who would pick at him until there's nothing left. He has to realize what he really wants out of life, if it is security or love and if those things are separate.
I finished the book wanting more, sad that the story ended and hoping there was a way a sequel could be written, lol. I don't think that's really possible. But I know now that I'll definitely keep my eye on book by John Tristan and I hope that it isn't too long from now that I find another book that I get so lost in.(less)
Re-Read on 4.30.13 - My current rating stands, but man I love this book! And Simon and Gray, and Garon of course :) I can't believe I accidentally re-...moreRe-Read on 4.30.13 - My current rating stands, but man I love this book! And Simon and Gray, and Garon of course :) I can't believe I accidentally re-read this book for the first time directly one year after I first read it :)
Wow, I soared through this book in just a couple hours, all because I couldn't put it down! I don't usually have that problem (problem? that's not really a problem!), because I tend to put books away for a while for a break to read something else for a while before coming back to them. Mind Magic caught me and didn't let go -- most likely because though I've read stories that have just as good of a plot, or even better, the pacing here is really great. There was always something driving the story and all facets of the story (the mystery, the magic and worldbuilding, and the relationship) kept me really interested.
This definitely seems as if it is the first of a series, and my rating is going on that because it seems so obvious by the end of the story. I mean, the story is wide open and it feels like the biggest challenges have yet to come. I'm excited about that, because if this is the first of a series it seems like it is off to the right start. We aren't given too much information. In fact, we learn bits and pieces as the story goes along (always nice to have to work with the story instead of being given all the information for free), and not too much is revealed in total in this book, meaning that any future stories will have lots of room to grow. I'm particularly interested in Cormac. Not only do I want to hear all about his history and life (from him), but I'd love to see how his relationship with Simon grows. Grey is the perfect Alpha in these types of stories. Strong and somewhat silent (don't want him completely removed), a good and kind leader, a natural leader in the bedroom as well but not domineering, and hot as hell with all that grey hair on a young man. Plus, seeing a man like that bond with his son is just heart-meltingly cute. Garon was cute as hell!
So yeah, I really loved this one and had a blast reading it, though I feel like the author kept the story close to the vest. If that's for future stories, then awesome, if not... then well that would suck, plus totally refute a lot of what I've written here. Still, the story was written in such a way that it seems like there has to be more, so I'm just going to go with that :)(less)
Ratings-wise, this is an interesting book for me to rate. Now, I don't know about all of you, but I can't silence...moreWell, now I know what I was missing!
Ratings-wise, this is an interesting book for me to rate. Now, I don't know about all of you, but I can't silence that terrible rating voice as I'm reading. It's constantly saying things like, hmmm, that's -1 star, but +.25 for that crazy outfit! This bizarre and completely arbitrary tally starts in my head. It doesn't even matter because I usually throw it out in the end anyway (unless there are real problems with the book, in which case it comes in handy). In this case I actually hadn't warmed up to the book until a bit past the halfway point. Perhaps this is due to what I like to call the Sixth Sense Effect (in which highly lauded things completely disappoint me). I have, after all, heard endless things about this book, mostly disbelief that I've still yet to read it! Sweet baby Jesus, where have I been?
That first half was still pretty above average though, all things considered (and vastly different from the second half). But, that pesky Sixth Sense Effect reared it's ugly head and I kept waiting for it to get really, really good. I did happen, eventually, which I think is at the point where Roe relaxes a bit and the originality in his voice starts to shine through. In retrospect, it was always here. He's endearing because you can see his insecurity through the way he speaks -- that he's a smart, yet mostly uneducated man. So when a bit of happiness started to shine through... Or, perhaps when a bit of feeling started to shine through and he allowed himself his own emotions, I could finally see the personality there as well. Ultimately, this is what made the book for me. Because the story told without Roe's understanding of it would have been pretty unremarkable, or at least much more average.
I suppose then, since it all comes down to voice, that you probably either love this book or hate it on your enjoyment of Roe's voice alone. For me, this is one in a short list of m/m romances that have won me over purely on that factor, which is definitely a feat to have accomplished.
And how about that AWESOME friend Haley??? Best friend ever!(less)
Damn. This book was just as difficult to read as it was wonderful. I think I'm still too close to read about that period of my life that was eerily si...moreDamn. This book was just as difficult to read as it was wonderful. I think I'm still too close to read about that period of my life that was eerily similar to Vince's and be able to really look back on it in retrospect. Plus, for anyone who has ever felt the empty heaviness of unrequited love -- this book really hits that sore spot. Well done, Ben Monopoli. I look forward to your second novel.(less)
From what I understand, this is the first novel reviewed on this blog that deals specifically with transge...moreReview #2 for Reviews by Jessewave
From what I understand, this is the first novel reviewed on this blog that deals specifically with transgendered people in a starring role. Sure, there have been books (not many, though) that deal with varying gender discussions in all sorts of ways, occasionally in the forefront, but not often, and very rarely about trans, intersex, or gender fluid people (thought that is a completely different discussion). Like all marginalized populations there is often several turnings of the tide, and with last week’s post by Jaye Valentine and Wave on men who cross dress (you can see it here, if you missed it), the growing group of m/m readers who are calling for books that look into the lives of a more diverse group of people, and this new shiny book by LA Witt just recently released by Amber Allure, it is high time, I think for a book about this subject that reaches this audience. Sure, not every book is to everyone’s taste for a variety of different reasons, but I’m happy to read an m/m book that delved more deeply into this subject, and I hope most readers agree with me. And though I would never have though to explore that in a paranormal subtext, I can see how the idea of shifting between genders, a familiar trope, can be used to illustrate the warring factions some people have between their brain and their body. Now that I’ve had my say — off to the review.
The book opens from the POV of Damon Bryce, worried about his girlfriend Alex who he hasn’t seen or spoken to in over two days. They’ve been dating for two years, and Damon is worried about the silence. Alex left him last to meet her parents, a pair of extremely radical fundamentalists, and the visits always send Alex into a spiraling depression that can last days or weeks. Yet, Damon loves Alex, and no matter how often she pushes him away for what seems no reason at all, or refuses to marry him, he knows he has to check up on her. When he arrives at her house, a nearly naked man answers the door and Damon’s first thought is in anger, assuming Alex is cheating on him. Yet the man is in pain, something about a terrible headache and he can barely walk. After getting the strange man settled on Alex’s couch, he finally listens to the man’s story — or rather, Alex’s story.
Alex is a shifter, a small group of people that are able to shift between both genders. He has been afraid to tell Damon because of the suffering and rejection experienced growing up in such a hostile home. Furthermore, Alex is regretful that she didn’t tell Damon before this point because now he’s stuck, unable to shift, after his parents drugged him and had a shady surgeon implant a black market device in his spine, which in their eyes will make him right with God. The loss of his female form is staggering. As a shifter that generally spends an equal amount of time in each body, he feels the extreme loss of half of his identity. Not only that, but the after-affects of the surgery seems the be the most terrible headache in existence.
Damon takes Alex to the hospital where Alex finds that the surgery had caused a spinal fluid leak, resulting in the terrible pain in his head. The situation isn’t serious, but they both soon learn exactly what his parents have done with their illegal actions. The implant may not be stable and could cause paralysis and death. The removal of the implant is incredibly expensive and infinitely more dangerous than the original procedure. And even if Alex is able to get the implant removed, he still might never be able to shift again. Alex also has to decide if it is worth pressing charges against his parents. He wants to save his little sister Candace from his parents clutches, but she already seems to be brainwashed against him. And on top of all that, how will Damon deal with him now being a man? Damon doesn’t know what to think. He loves Alex, but he keeps trying to find the woman he loves in the man standing before him. Can they have a relationship that isn’t sexual? Or is it possible that he can see past the biological trappings and focus on the person he loves with all his heart?
This is a slow story, that really isn’t a romance until quite far into the book. I have been very interested in other people’s reception of this book since it came out earlier this week and I have seen some people say that they don’t believe this is actually a romance. I disagree — sure, it isn’t typical, especially in m/m where the majority of our hero’s are strapping bucks with devilish smiles and killer sex drives. Maybe a better classification for this is a love story (and don’t get upset guys, I don’t mean that this doesn’t end with an HEA, which is all I’ll say about the ending). What I loved most, I suppose, is Damon’s slow realization of what love really means. Damon is a steady and empathic man. He isn’t afraid of what his friends and co-workers will think of Alex being a shifter. The issues he needs to work through are purely internal, and the issues he worked through and the support he offered were heartening to me.
Alex is an example of what a harsh world can make of a person. He is a puzzle to be solved as we slowly learn more about his childhood and how those experiences correlate to his fear of being touched at times, his deep pits of despair, and his self-medication with alcohol. The change of his body to match the gender of his mind at any given time has really been his only therapy in life, and when it is gone, he has no way to cope. What I found most interesting in the discussion within this novel about gender shifters and transgendered people were the differences between them. I loved Tabitha, Alex’s best friend and boss — a biological man who identifies as female, but until such time as a safer and better surgery is invented is permanently pre-op. When Alex loses his ability to shift he unexpectedly leans on Tabitha and can finally understand what it must be like to be faced with the possibility of permanently feeling like you reside in the wrong body. Still, Alex is lucky in that half the time he feels male. He still has a reprieve from that crushing feeling. The exploration of the issues was done very sensitively and thoroughly and presents a real challenge for the romance between Alex and Damon.
There are quite a few surprises within, and let me tell you, it has been quite difficult to talk around them all (so I hope I’ve done a good job). Some readers may find fault with the ending, but I didn’t. I was surprised that I wasn’t surprised, if that makes any sense. The ending is definitely open to interpretation, which I thought really worked for the couple and I could see their way forward in a very clear light. LA Witt has impressed me in a quite a few of her books with the deep psychological dynamics that arise between her characters. She has her characters really work through their problems. I’ll leave that up to you to decide if you felt the same with this book. I was certainly satisfied and I came away from the book still thinking about what she wrote days later. No matter your reception to the story, that’s worth a lot. Last, but definitely not least, during my reading I kept thinking of this story as a GFY plotline. Now, I’ve changed my mind. I think this is a story about finding someone who is the right person for you. I think that is the real message Witt was trying to show.
NOTE: As for the use of pronouns, I stuck with a similar usage as the novel. NOTE 2: I think this is one of the most beautiful Amber Allure covers I’ve seen yet, and I think it does justice to the story.
Original GR Review - June 30
I've been a fan of LA Witt for a while and I'm always a fan of her stories dealing with very deep and convoluted relationship dynamics. This is another story in that vein, but this time she tackles the subject of gender and people who are intersex all with a very clever paranormal twist.
Alex is a shifter (gender shifter) that was born male. While every shifter is different in this society that reflects a contemporary US, Alex is pretty even divided in which gender he prefers, simply changing his body to match the gender he feels in his mind. There are two problems, however. One, Alex has been dating Damon for two years now -- as a female, and hasn't yet worked up the courage to tell Damon that she is male also; and two, Alex's radially fundamentalist mother and step-father have been pressuring Alex to surgically implant a device that will cause Alex to become static, remain in one gender. The story starts from the POV of Damon, not having seen or heard from Alex in over two days after he knew Alex was meeting her parents. He goes to look for her and finds a man in her house. After a very surprising conversation for him, Alex tells Damon that she went to her parents house, where they proceeded to drug him and have a shady back-alley surgeon implant a black-market device into his spine against his will. For the time being, until he can make sure that the forced surgery wasn't botched, whether to decide to press charges against his parents, and whether it will be possible for him to have the implant removed, he is stuck in the male form. Along with his manic depression over sometimes being in the wrong body and his fear that he'll be stuck that way forever, Alex will have to work out his relationship with Damon, a completely straight man who can't seem to find the woman he loves in the man that now stands in her place.
I thought this was a beautiful story about what it means to love a person -- their soul and not the trappings that surround it. Who are we really at our core, and what difference does societal pressure put on us to conform? LA Witt deals with some heavy issues here and this is not a light read, though the emotions are well balanced throughout the novel. The pace is very slow, as much of the story from Damon's POV revolves around his growing awareness of what it means to be a shifter, and how he can stand by Alex. Can he find a way to love the man? Or will he be able to see that the man and the woman are the same person? It is a very interesting take on the GFY trope, and one that I felt was handled very well.
Kudos goes to Witt for her creation of Alex's friend Tabitha and the gang at The Welcome Mat, the bar which Alex bartends and also Alex's safe haven away from the world. I also loved the sub-plot of Alex's little sister Candace, though I wish that we'd gotten to know her a just a little better. Most of all, I found this story fascinating. Usually with a slowly paced book such as this, I find myself reading at a slow pace, but I devoured this book, unable to put it down.
A favorite for sure, and possibly my favorite of LA Witt's works so far.(less)
To be honest, I was a bit daunted when I started thinking of writing this review. Not because of the boo...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
To be honest, I was a bit daunted when I started thinking of writing this review. Not because of the book itself, but because I read this book about two months ago and then didn't write the review promptly (not a surprise, honestly!). But, in a twist I didn't expect, but should have, I find that this book comes back to me in detail that books I read two months previously usually never do. And that just shows how much of this book stuck with me. I remember thinking about it for a couple of weeks afterward, and when I consider that I usually hold books that stay with me for a few days in high esteem, then this was a really special read for me. And without doubt, the best book in the Tucker Springs series by far. Admittedly, my feelings about the books in this series so far have been so so; while I liked them all, none of them really stuck with me (a statement I've made in past reviews of those books). Enter Never a Hero to make me eat my words…
We first meet Owen sequestered in his dark apartment, the main floor of a split level home in Tucker Springs. He rarely leaves, working at home on his computer and getting his groceries delivered. His life is a pretty depressing one. Raised to be ashamed of his missing arm, the result of a congenital amputation (that's where the blood supply to a limb is cut off by the amniotic cord in the womb and the fetus is born without a limb or with a partial limb), Owen was further humiliated by his mother's negativity and verbal abuse as a child to the point where he has extreme social anxiety that goes even beyond his embarrassment over his missing arm and his stutter. Even worse, his mother's campaign of abuse frequently centered on his obvious homosexuality and her relative displeasure at such a prospect of a gay son. Naturally, as an adult Owen's life is rather tormented and lonely, and even though his courage stretched far enough to move away from her influence, his mother's work was done. Owen takes hardly any pleasures in life, and the one he cherishes is soon to end. Owen has fallen in love with his downstair neighbor's daily piano playing and by proxy, Owen fancies himself in love with the woman himself.
Even worse than the prospect of the absence of his unrequited hetero love, Owen's new neighbor is a beautiful gay man. Owen could easily resent Nick's presence -- he's confident, sexy and doesn't deal with the same sort of social anxieties as Owen (proved by the loads of gay male friends who come to help him move in) -- but Nick's charm and easy going nature seem to deflate Owen's bubble of derision and longing. As the two get to know each other, Owen starts to find it difficult to pretend that he still wants his old neighbor, the woman, especially when Nick cooks for him (nasty healthy food) and little by little starts to draw Owen out of his shell and out of his apartment. But the best thing about Nick is his reaction to Owen's missing arm. He doesn't stare, but he doesn't ignore it either. He's comfortable talking about it.
Of course, Nick isn't perfect. As his self-confidence grows with Nick's patient encouragement, Owen finds that as much as he needs a hero (and found one), Nick needs one too. He's full of secrets that he's extremely persistent to keep and each subsequent intimate step forward in their relationship leads to Nick taking two steps away.
Take one look at the tags for this book, even without knowing what the book is about or having read the blurb, and you'll be able to tell that the characters in this story deal with a shitload of adversity. It's enough to pound on the angst button and send me clamoring for the hills! But, once again, Marie Sexton won me over by the charm of her writing. Some writers just have a way of connecting to the reader through their words. Sometimes I like to think of it as if I'm reading the book out loud. Would it sound and feel like I'm telling a story? It doesn't necessarily require a strong or unique character voice, but the narration immediately takes a spark in you and you're hooked. I shouldn't have been surprised… Marie's words have done this to me before in other books of hers. Nevertheless, I felt as if the charm and honesty in the writing cut through whatever natural angst exists from dealing with characters who have such enormous difficulties.
While the growing relationship between Owen and Nick is central to the story, the real star of the story is Owen and the ongoing catalyst to keep the story moving is really Owen's personal growth. Like the blurb says, Owen soon realizes that instead of waiting for a hero, it’s time to be one—for himself…. It is important that Owen take the steps to take control of his life himself. I think it's also important that Owen has a goal other than his own self-worth. I think that having both characters dealing with really heavy issues isn't only to show that the two much rely on one another in any kind of relationship, but it's important to motivate Owen, to show that he can help not only himself but Nick as well.
There's something I found unique to this book in the series that I was really happy to see. You can see in the book that Marie made a decision to incorporate all of the past characters from the books into the story, and not just the ones that are affiliated with her books. I really appreciated this, because the opposite has been true for some of the other books and showing the other characters really helped build a feeling of community in the story. It refreshed all of the connections between the men in a way that wasn't as apparent before. When I first heard that there was going to be a multi-author series based on interconnected stories set in the same town, I think I got a (perhaps) misconstrued notion of a series that was going to be much more interconnected that it has been thus far, which has been somewhat disappointing to me. This book went quite a way appease that disappointment and I hope that in the future the characters from other books start to pop up here and there, or even better that characters would have a more important part to play in books that aren't their own. Maybe authors have an unspoken rule not to fuck up other authors pet characters ;) Maybe not. Maybe this isn't even in the cards for this series, but I would love to see these authors having a more hands on approach to the other authors' characters, perhaps even working together to plan character trajectories over each other's books so that the stories are more integrated. Just my own wish :)
The fact that the stories are by and large separate means that though this is a series, you can feel free to enter at any stage and read whichever books take your particular fancy. If that's the case with you and you haven't read any of the Tucker Springs books, or even if you've read the others, this remains my favorite and as good of a place as any to start reading. You can always go back and read the others if you find yourself interested in the secondary characters in Never a Hero. Definitely Recommended!(less)
I had high hopes for this book, but ultimately I didn't like it for a variety of reasons, mostly because...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
I had high hopes for this book, but ultimately I didn't like it for a variety of reasons, mostly because it needed a lot more work before it was ready to be presented to readers. If it weren't for the fact that I accepted this for review, I probably would have stopped reading it.
Mark is decidedly in the closet. He doesn't really have any friends and is a self-proclaimed math nerd. He meets Bill for the first time when they're forced to unload a truck full of candy bars at the high school over a Saturday. He's known of Bill forever -- they live in a tiny town and Bill is a hottest and most popular guy in school. Bill has never talked to him though, as casually and like friends as on that day. Afterwards, they meet again as the last people leaving the school just as a snow storm hits, leaving Bill stranded with Mark's family for several days. There, Mark starts to question if Bill is really what he assumed he was and if he's gay like himself. The two grow into lovers, but outward best friends, as they and Mark's family take up several public causes against bullying and abuse.
What I first noticed that gave me pause was the rather strained dialogue. The way Mark (as well as the other young people) speak doesn't sound like a high school student. The words were off and while I noticed that the syntax and cadence of Mark's speech and narration was at times made to seem quite young, the words and phrases he uses are at odds with how I remember and expect teenagers to sound (like "my peers", for one example of many).
Perhaps what bothered me the most was that the book is really preachy. Mark and his family continually take up cause after cause, which is fine and they mean well. In fact, the message of the book, the golden rule, is fine and well. I found it difficult to read the same pithy sentiments over and over though, often the exact same quotes. Issues are often explained down to every detail (what is wrong with bullying, etc.) and with melodramatic flair that made it all over the top. A crucial point in the story is a scene where Bill confronts others about bullying and what followed was a quite unrealistic, shame on you speech. It mostly made me feel like rolling my eyes because it seemed a bit callous to treat such really serious issues as if the world just needed a talking to and everyone would go on their merry way, a whole culture changed. Despite the fact that I couldn't reconcile the realism brought to the story by the real bullying and abuse and then the unrealistic treatment of it, iI was sad that a nugget of a great story was presented and then not explored.
The characters fell flat to me for a few reasons. Mark didn't act like a consistent teenager. Bill faces some extremely terrible issues that are dropped halfway through the story without any real lasting affect on his character. The way Mark's parents go about their crusade fundamentally bothered me. Both Bill and Mark often say to jocks who make comments about "faggots" seeing them in the shower that they should be proud they're "hot enough to get attention from women and men". I just kept thinking… what?
I kept wondering if I was taking this book completely different than how it was intended because I just didn't get it. I couldn't decide if all these were deliberate choices by the author. On the one hand, I could perhaps see where some of it is satirical, but that didn't completely jibe. Either way, the book needed more work and more editing in my opinion -- not only for content but also to deal with some sentence problems. Some of the information that is presented over and over (several times an event or scene is told from beginning to end in the retelling to other characters, and without altering or adding new information which would give the retelling purpose) should have been taken out.
Like I said earlier, there's a nugget of a good story in here, it just needed a lot more coaxing out before this was really ready for publishing. I probably won't be carrying on with the series, and I can't recommend this book to readers. I can see where other readers will like this, so please, by all means read other reviews and decide for yourself. This is solely my opinion and my reaction to the book.(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.
Take a cue authors! I have been super excited about this book for months now. Why? All because of that teaser story a year ago. The originally titled story "Dirty Laundry" was a free story about a rather nerdy and frightened young man who is rescued by a giant musclebound cowboy of a man when he's being bullied by a group of frat guys in a laundromat. The kid's gratefulness and awe of the cowboy drive him to thank the man, and that encounter leads to a very steamy public sex scene over the table and pile of unfolded laundry right in the middle of the laundromat. That's all the story was about. It was free and posted on the author's co-blog, Cup of Porn, for their first birthday bash.
I didn't know at that point, that this was part of the Tucker Springs universe. Actually, at that point I think that the first book, Where Nerves End was just being promoted by LA Witt. I'd really like the know the timeline and how that cowboy, Denver, came to be included in the story. That's why I'll be eagerly reading all the tour stops for Heidi Cullinan this week, to see if she details how that came to fruition. A bit of the story is on my blog today, so be sure to check out Heidi's guest post "For the Love of Series".
It must be because of those readers like me, who raved about the short "Dirty Laundry" that this became an expanded novel, and I can't tell you how excited I was when I first learned what the author was doing to this story. I so wanted to know what happened after that laundromat rendezvous. What I can tell you is this: The novel starts with the short story and carries forward with what happens afterward. Denver, who we got to know in the first two novels as a secondary character, is a bouncer at the local gay club run by Jase, from the first book. Adam is an entomology graduate student at the local college and currently getting over a breakup from his one and only boyfriend Brad. The scene at the laundromat affects both men and how they view their own lives and their own neuroses, and while it seems like Adam takes the award for the one with the most problems, Denver carries a secret weight filled with his own shortcomings, and it takes both of them working together to forge a better version of themselves.
I consider this to be the best book in the series so far. In her guest post today, Heidi Cullinan describes the Tucker Springs series as "a set of stories between several authors where each “episode” is unique, but the setting is familiar." That rather simple theme connecting the stories is really reflective of the books individually and as a series. It's true that each subsequent book, so far, seems to get a little better in my opinion, but they are all quite relaxed in theme. What I mean to say is that I found this book like the prior ones, focused solely on the relationship and less on outside connections. All that connects them is geography and limited personal connections. That means, however, that the relationship much carry each novel on it's own, and while I wasn't quite sure the first two books accomplished that, Dirty Laundry definitely did.
What really makes this story work is the consideration given to mental illness. I know very little about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, or severe anxiety issues, so I can't weigh in on the accuracy of the details. But what I did love is how the issues that Adam has (and to a small extent Denver's issues as well) are firmly entrenched in the relationship. Adam tries to hide them at first, but they're so much a part of who he is, it is almost impossible to keep the information from Denver. And I really felt for Adam. It's a tribute to the author's skill that his self-doubt didn't come across to me as annoying, but instead I felt like I had a good grasp on just how difficult his life is on a day to day basis. He has trouble with many things, but most of all is one of his major tics -- that people have their own space. He can't allow anyone inside his house without severe anxiety and he has a really hard time visiting other people's houses, or spaces of any kind. And besides the fact that this allowed Denver and Adam to show their creativity in getting to know one another in public places, I can't deny that the fact that most of the extremely hot sex in this book is in public places completely ramps up the heat factor. That laundromat scene was just the tip of the iceberg.
The BDSM element is more present here that I was expecting. It slowly becomes more central to the story and the relationship as the book moves forward, but it has little to do with sex and everything to do with creating a power structure helpful to Adam's OCD. Denver's commanding will was what drew the two together in that first encounter and is ultimately what Adam needs to cling to to categorize and then compartmentalize his brain to function at it's highest levels.
There is so much to recommend about this book and I could go on and on with more things that I loved -- both characters, the dichotomy between the two that makes them perfect for one another (their looks, their issues, their education, but not intelligence). Heidi Cullinan is a popular and well known author because of her talent and Dirty Laundry is just another example of her success.(less)
Diana Copland is a new author for me. At the time of reading this a couple of weeks ago, I hadn't read anything b...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
Diana Copland is a new author for me. At the time of reading this a couple of weeks ago, I hadn't read anything by her. After reading this, I decided to read her earlier Christmas ballet themed book, Grand Jete, and even though I liked it, I can see that she's improving as an author. A Reason to Believe was much better in my opinion. Maybe it is because the addition of another plotline (the mystery) give the story staying power. As often happens with mystery, as the main plot it gives time for the romance to unfold on its own. Maybe it is something like misdirection, but I like that the author allowed that to happen. The relationship between Matt and Kiernan grew organically in a way it might not have otherwise.
I doubt I'm the only one to notice this, so I think it is safe to say that the murder of the young girl in this story reminded me very much of a very public past popular unsolved mystery -- that of JonBenét Ramsey. Many of the original details are there in the story of a similarly murdered young girl. It is around Christmas in the Denver area. A girl is killed in her own house, dragged from her bed to the basement. The parents are originally targeted as suspects and the immediate police investigation and crime scene is severely bungled. At first, this scared me just a little, and I wasn't sure how much the author would borrow from the case in her story. What I appreciated, was that even though the first details are very much similar, the differences soon emerge. Of course, there is the paranormal aspect of this story as the little girl shows herself to Detective Matthew Bennett. Then there is the entrance of Kiernan Fitzpatrick, who along with an interest in the good detective becomes embroiled in the story by his talents as a medium.
Centered around this mystery the two men are brought together by their shared psychic experiences. Matt brings quite a bit of past emotional trauma, as he's still dealing with the death of his former partner, also a cop and the subsequent outing of his orientation within the force because of that. His Captain already has him one foot out of the door and is just looking for another excuse to boot him out entirely, and the "visions" provide an ample opportunity to do so. The ghost of the little girl is persistent though, and Matt finds that he just can't step away when he and the little girl see how corrupt the police department is. But, he has two problems with continuing his own investigation: the persistent presence of Kiernan Fitzpatrick and their growing feelings for one another and the real possibility that his interference will cost him his job.
The pacing of the story is set up beautifully, part of what I mentioned before, the miracle of juggling the different plot lines. The story unfolds naturally and even though I didn't find the mystery particularly engrossing, it was still interesting and kept me on my toes with a fair amount of red herrings and different suspects. I have nothing much to say about the romance in particular, except that I couldn't find much wrong with it and really enjoyed the guys and their connections to one another. In some says I suppose this felt a bit like the beginning of a series, but maybe only in the sense that the paranormal detective setup is often a series and also that I would enjoy seeing the progression of their relationship, especially down the road when they're really used to working together on cases. I think future stories with this could would work out really well and if the author were inclined to write them, I'll be there to read them :)(less)
I'm always eager to pick up a baseball book and even though I've been interested in several and still plan to rev...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
I'm always eager to pick up a baseball book and even though I've been interested in several and still plan to review a few of them, it has been a while since I've picked up a book from DSP's young adult imprint. From what I gather in the acknowledgements, this is Will Parkinson's debut novel. Sometimes it's a gamble picking books to read by a new author or an author I've never read, but that's another part of reviewing that I like. Reviewing gives me the opportunity to read new authors and it feels like I get to enjoy more of the perks, like finding a surprise that's worth it. Often, it's different though and while I like some of those books I also don't like some of them. I'm afraid to say that this book fell into the latter camp for me. While it wasn't a total disappointment, I just didn't connect with the book.
Taylor is a gay sophomore in a Milwaukee, Wisconsin high school. His best friend Benny is straight and the only person alive who knows his secret. They're best friends and always have been and Benny is a rather special guy that is wise beyond his years, intelligent and loyal. Pitch opens on the day that a new student starts at Taylor's school. Jackson walks into Taylor's homeroom, looking nervous and totally sexy and Taylor immediately wants to draw him. What follows over the next year is an intense unrequited love that just doesn't seem to go away, no matter how hard Taylor tries and Benny cautions. No matter how much Taylor is told that Jackson is disgusted by his little boy crush from Jackson's cheerleader girlfriend, Taylor just can't seem to stay away.
It isn't until he and Benny gain some perspective on their problems during the next summer, camp counseling for abused kids, that Taylor starts to grow up. He still has feelings for Jackson, but he's less likely now to follow him around like a lost puppy. So when a kid from a neighboring school asks him out during their Halloween dance, Taylor decides to take him up on it. He really starts to like Kevin, but he is prey unknowingly walking into Kevin's trap. It takes some extremely tough decisions and way too much heartbreak and drama to realize that much of what he thought before wasn't true, about most of the people he knew.
There are two aspects of this novella that I had a difficult time with. The first are the characters. This, especially, is subjective. Part of what oftentimes makes a young adult novel good are the bad choices of the characters. More often than not young adult stories have a moral and it can walk a fine line in the hands of the author between preachy and poignant. The style of this story went a bit over the top and that just wasn't something that I was really looking for. For high school students, who I freely admit can be some of the cruelest humans on Earth, many of the actions of these characters went beyond immature and foolhardy. I would have appreciated the characters and their decisions (even the bad ones) more if their actions had been more subtle and less ascribed to their particular archetype. Kevin's actions in particular required me to suspend disbelief a few times.
As I said before, those decisions and your own feelings about them are more subjective than usual. My other problem with this story was in the writing. I applaud this author for writing and writing and sharing their work. But like many new authors I think that there were some fundamental writing problems that this author needs to work on. Mostly it will just take continued writing, so even though this book wasn't for me, I sincerely hope that this author keeps up with it. Part of the novice prose problems were dialogue and restraint. In a way, the second has quite a bit to do with the first. This book didn't fall into too bad of a habit of telling rather than showing, but there is importance in letting the characters express themselves in their own ways instead of being a vehicle to express the author's view. I'm not talking about preaching about issues or anything like that here. I simply mean the difference between the characters' observations and personality and the author's. Almost continually there were times while reading this that I stopped and thought that a character wouldn't say or think that. The dialogue, in a similar way, oftentimes sounded familiar for all the characters and didn't seem to represent the individual characters. Restraint is important because readers don't need all the information. It's a partnership, you know? The readers picks up on the clues the author leaves and pieces them together and in that way one small action tells you more about the character than a whole page of narration.
Ultimately, this book just wasn't for me because of the more dramatic plot twists. I have seen a couple of 5-star reviews around so I'll be interested to see if any other readers/reviewers feel the way I do, or if this turns out to be a reader favorite. I've been a part of the more unpopular opinion before!(less)