GOD… what to say about this book? I've been sitting at the keyboard for almost thirty minutes now tryingReview 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....more
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 theProbably 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!...more
Josh is completely smitten with his downstair neighbors Rai and Evan. It doesn't help that every time he spends tReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
Josh is completely smitten with his downstair neighbors Rai and Evan. It doesn't help that every time he spends time with his best friend Denise (who lives one floor below the men) he can hear them having kinky, noisy sex that pounds the walls. He longs for a piece of what they have -- a great relationship, unspoken communication -- and the daily reminder of the two hot men becomes the focal point of his fantasies after a disappointing relationship history. To his surprise, when he befriends the two and gets to know them better, he can relate to both on difference levels. They become good friends until a rather hilarious accident forces Josh to temporarily live with the two men.
They quickly move on from friendship and find that they have an insanely strong sexual connection and spend the next few weeks exploring each other and the new way they relate to one another. Along the way, Josh finds he has growing feelings for the men, and waiting for them to kick him out of their bed and go back to their regular lives, all the while knowing that he'll be changed person when the other shoe finally drops, leaving him hopelessly in love with two men who already have a future without him.
I think that Josephine Myles made a very important choice with this story, whether it was purposeful or not. There is a lot of supply in the m/m market now, which means that what is different stands out. That leads to a lot of genre mashing and while that can work well for a story and certainly stands out, there is something to be said for character driven stories that really look at and develop one particular issue. In the case of m/m/m menage in particular, most of the ones I read these days aren't really about the relationship between the three men, at least not front and center. But The Hot Floor does focus on those issues in such a relationship that would crop up in the real world -- jealousy, prior history, and the different dynamics of trust among more than a two-person couple -- and that is why it worked so well for me.
Josh is an endearing character and though he doubts it at every turn, I could see why both Evan and Rai were attracted to him and could easily fall for him, even when it goes against their rules. He's completely unaware of what he offers in a relationship or friendship, consistently afraid to trust when anything but a definitive proposal keeps him feeling like the outsider in an already existing relationship. Past relationships as well as family history make it difficult for him to trust, especially to show others his true self. His blush becomes a bit of a trademark he does it so often, when just a thought of talking dirty makes him stammer over his words. The fact that everything he experiences with Evan and Rai is so new makes the experiences more meaningful, and I got the sense that it wasn't simply what he could offer their relationship that made him such a great third (and then more than that) but that they both offer something very special for Josh as well. The added security of being welcomed into an already existing relationship helped him focus on other things (like his trust issues).
The focus of the story is really on Josh's neuroses, in particular those issues of trust and his fear of opening up to another man. The great thing about him falling for Evan and Rai is that the arrangement starts out as friendship and then solely as fun sex. The "rules" the two have in place of not sleeping with a friend or neighbor give Josh structure and boundaries, even though they're eventually broken. I loved that we really get to see the lighter side of their lives, especially with Rai around, who constantly had me cracking up in laughter. It is important for there to be something that the "third" can bring to the relationship and I found that I rather liked the fact that even though Josh had things to bring to the table that made a menage relationship work, the original relationship between Rai and Evan was great and had no need of being "fixed". It wasn't a case of him "saving" their relationship, which when I thought about it, seems to be more often the case in menage.
I was surprised and delighted to see that the story didn't devolve into typical romance plot faults. I kept growing nervous about their faulty building, but was happy to see how the situation resolved. For the most part, however, I simply liked that the story spent time with the three of them, often happy and showing the lighter side of a beginning relationship without getting bogged down in what doesn't work and then fixing it. They simply work well together, and the difficulties involved in their relationship were internal and organic to the characters.
I can't wait to read this again. So far it is my favorite of this author's books, and it was a real delight to read. I can't wait to read what she publishes next!...more
Yay for another novel by JL Merrow!!! She's one of my favorite authors, and as I told a friend recentlyReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
Yay for another novel by JL Merrow!!! She's one of my favorite authors, and as I told a friend recently, I'm almost nervous when I start reading each successively published novel because I've loved them all so much there's bound to be one that disappoints me. Thankfully, that wasn't the case here and I ended really really thoroughly enjoying this latest offering by a really wonderful author.
Tom Paretski is a plumber with a secret -- he's got a knack for finding things. It's a bit like dowsing, he can hone in on hidden things, things that have deep emotion attached to them like guilt or shame. Sadly, lost and hidden things include people, and we meet him as his friend on the force Dave, calls him in to look for a local missing woman. Tom's in for more shock than seeing another dead body, however, when a ghost from his past shows up at the scene as a private investigator hired by the family of the murdered victim.
The last time Tom saw Phil Morrison was when he and his cronies stepped up their high school bullying a bit too far. Tom still lives with the scars of that physical and emotional trauma and seeing the man ten years later dredges all those feelings back up. It doesn't help that he's just as attracted to the man as he was back then and it certainly pisses him off that the man is apparently as big of a homo as he is, and completely out of the closet. Phil has an attitude as well, one that might rival Tom's perpetual snark and their verbal blows start almost immediately. Phil doesn't believe in his gift, but he needs Tom's help anyway. They both have vested interest in making sure the current suspect gets treated fairly and together, they might be able to get the answers they need to find the real killer.
Merrow has a knack for slyly mixing genres that really works for me. This story is for all intents and purposes a contemporary mystery romance, with the exception of Tom's gift. That is perhaps the reason Tom's gift isn't given center stage. Though we first get to know him through his gift, it's often presented as rather unglamorous and second rate to pounding pavement detective work. We get to know Tom as if the gift is just a quirky peccadillo that comes in handy during his plumbing work. Though it does get used, and is central to the plot, the different focus and misdirection worked well to show Tom as an ordinary guy who is rather in over his head in this whole mess.
I really liked Tom. He's a strong character that has a real moral compass amid the corrupt characters that stock the story. In a way, he's retained his innocence beneath his jaded veneer, which contrasts nicely with Phil, who harbors rather a lot of guilt and shame over his past. I appreciated that they both came across as assholes every once and a while, trying to work through their shared history (or at times ignore it).
The mystery worked well for me, though hardcore mystery fans might find the story lighter than they're used to. Much of the story is focused on detective work, but a lot of the focus is on the relationship between Tom and Phil in the midst of it. I was a little disappointed that we didn't hear what happens to a character that showed up early in the story that I felt rather sorry for, and of course, I could have really done with more of the smexxin from these two because they are sizzling together!
So, once again, I loved this offering from one of my favorite authors and as always look forward to whatever she publishes. This one is definitely recommended....more
A smartly written story about a pair of seeming misfits that quickly get to know one another during a weekend in London. Owen is "Yank", a 23 year oldA smartly written story about a pair of seeming misfits that quickly get to know one another during a weekend in London. Owen is "Yank", a 23 year old bisexual son of a hippie on a trip with his friend and ex-girlfriend Jenny, who meets Malcolm, a near thirty British trader and arrogant Dom in a seedy pub on Owen's first day in town. A self-described "country mouse", Owen is immediately intrigued by the man in a dirty pub drinking top shelf vodka, and when he's immediately hit on, ready to show that just because this man is rich and bossy and frankly incredibly hot doesn't mean he will just spread his legs and whimper for a flogging. Malcolm has been stood up by his regular appointment with his latest submissive and can't take his eyes off the cute Yank. But he's in for a surprise that not only surprises and delights him, but also comforts him in a strange way. Owen, if he admits to himself that he'll remember this one's name, is not going to take his shit. He might even lose control all together and find himself ass up and Owen taking all the power in their night together.
I honestly wasn't sure what to expect of these authors teaming up together, but I knew that it would be smart. The best thing about this story is that it is playful and intelligent. Not only is the dialogue witty but abundant and intelligent. Owen sees quite a bit for his young age. He's a wise soul and open for new experiences. So much that bothers Malcolm rolls right off of Owen's back. Malcolm is a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy. His job required a certain type of personality and drive, which ended up making him over into the man he is today -- a bit of a crisis. Owen's soulful nature and easy companionship and their surprising sexual chemistry allow Malcolm to be vulnerable and admit that he isn't the man he wants everyone to think he is, that he isn't his job.
This is well worth a read and a re-read just because the characters are great and fun. As a romance, this rocks. The connection between Owen and Malcolm was off the charts with loads of chemistry. In the bedroom, out of the bedroom, I could see that each of these guys had something (or more than) to teach the other, and that they would compliment each other, so I really rooted for their happy ending.
Now, if these two would only see what a great pair they make and get back to writing together!...more
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"]>...more
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 :)...more
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 thReview 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!...more
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 (4.5 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!...more
I've been excited to read this one for a while now ;) Okay, not only because I love Anne and her books,Review 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 :)...more
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 MyA 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....more
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 WedSecond Read - 5/15/13 - 5/18/13
I love it just as much as the first time. Even though I told myself I'd just read a bit here and there, because on Wednesday when I started this I really needed a comfort read, I couldn't help but putting everything else aside and reading this first book straight through. I have another full week of reviews coming up that I still need to finish some of them and finalize and format the rest of them, but I don't think I'll be able to stop myself from opening now and reading it as well! Hopefully I can take it slower though :) Maybe...
First of all, I really want to thank Jen for pointing this online serial out to me (don't worry, this book is complete), and by proxy Orannia. It is a pretty long book, especially when you realize that the rest of the series is just about as long, but it really is worth reading.
The basis of the story is a working ranch in Wyoming that runs an exclusive program designed to help overworked and overstressed executives and CEOs rejuvenate. It may seem like rehab, and it is -- without the negative white-washed wall and formica tabletop and stale coffee associations. It is a place where people can come and help work the ranch (one at a time) and get some perspective and help with their problems.
Dale is sent to Falls Chance Ranch by his company after he has a breakdown at the office. A lifetime of bad habits and obsessive behavior have gotten him the reputation as somewhat of a whiz kid in financial circles, but at the failing of his health. Not eating and not sleeping and working around the clock simply will not work for him anymore. He's not given much of a choice, something he really despises, but the ranch and the people who live there quickly get under his skin. He starts to feel a part of something he never even knew could exist and starts to understand himself for the first time in his life.
I swear at least one of the authors of this MUST be a psychologist. I just don't know if I could believe that such a character intensive story could be written, especially in the setting of mental heath issues, without that knowledge and background. Because it doesn't just sound like Dale has an internet diagnosis and the plot flows from a breakdown of Wikipedia neurotic disorders, but the story is deeply ingrained in how people see the world and react to one another, both from a social perspective, and from a deeply internalized one. The slow pace and long length allow the authors to really dig deep in the characters, take their time, and let the plot unfold.
I think that a very strong case could be made for shortening some of this. And if this were published and professionally edited (it is remarkably free of mistakes and errors, to me anyway :D), it would no doubt lose quite a lot of length. But a lot of the charm and reason that the characters sunk so deep in my bones and I could feel them like best friends, was because of the time spent with them. Enough time that the pace is much more akin to real life, more than most written works.
Perhaps what is strongest here though, besides how wonderful the characters are and the relationships between them, is the place of Falls Chance Ranch. The whole premise of the rehabilitation of clients, even though it is never called that, is the return to idyllic nature. The meaning of working land and passing it on. Of a place as character, seen through the constant stories of David and Phillip, now long since died in the story, but present characters because of interchangeability of them and the land they became. Seen from the perspective of a man who has become battered by everything artificial in the world, the land, the story and characters, and therefore the book become a similar experience for the reader as the situation is for Dale. It seems like so many of the reviews I've seen of this story have mentioned how people felt so connected to Dale, and that's because when his problems are laid bare, really bare, we can each find a way to connect to them.
I'm completely addicted to this story, and it probably isn't for everyone. There's no sex, which definitely upset me sometimes because the connections are so strong I wanted to see that. In her post, Jen talked about seeing a group of 5 guys work together, and that was simply wonderful. I've never seen such a polyamorous family work in fiction this way. It is very long and has a slow pace. So it might be tedious for some to read. But if you really like digging into stories that won't leave you for a long time and will take you a while to enjoy, then this is definitely for you. I simply cannot wait to read the rest of this series, no matter how much further it will destroy my very detailed reading schedule I had laid out. Who cares? I'll read all those books next week! This week, I want to finish Falls Chance Ranch.
**Note: While technically this is BDSM, the lack of sex and therefore BDSM sexual play really breaks down to the core of dominance and submission and the transference of power.Three Traders...more
I'm not up to a full review right now, but I really enjoyed this story that was smooth reading. The characters were great, th4.5 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....more
I wish I had an award to give out to this book! The Sweetest, Most Heartfelt, Make Me Go Gooey award. For those rReview 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....more
I was drawn to this book immediately the moment I saw its cover on the Dreamspinner website. The gorgeous cover, painted by artist and cover artist PaI was drawn to this book immediately the moment I saw its cover on the Dreamspinner website. The gorgeous cover, painted by artist and cover artist Paul Richmond, was strangely serene and peaceful, and I remember at the time hoping that the beautiful art on the cover accurately represents the pages within. I bought the book the day it came out, and immeditely upon reading, I was captivated. This story is based on a single idea — one that has been explored countless times in literature and film, yet which when paired with Eric Arvin’s beautiful prose and the genre of m/m romance itself, becomes truly unique — the travel into the afterlife for answers about life. death, and the love that you found along the way. Here, Eric Arvin takes our young Odysseus through an epic adventure in the afterlife, each encounter with a strange being or situation demonstrating a major moment of his life that Joe is due to remember, for only in acceptance and remembrance of his successes and failures in life will Joe learn from them and be able to move on. From childhood friends to teenage heartbreak, from struggling to come out to finding love and failure as an adult, Joe’s memories get succeedingly difficult to face, until becoming too difficult all together. If he does not face his past and find a way to understand it, he will never move on, stuck in the limbo of his Journey. Even more upsetting, if he doesn’t finish his Journey, he might never learn who the alluring stranger is who periodically shows up to give him courage, and as a result, Joe might never unravel the greatest mystery of all — his death.
He doesn’t even remember his name when he wakes up naked in the field of barley. He doesn’t know who he his, where he is, or who the strange and beautiful man is who shows up with an eager dog and tells him that if he has the courage, they will meet again and the end of the journey the man insists Joe must take. When the man disappears and he has nothing more to do, he sets off to explore. It seems as if each little thing, the feel of the grass on his toes, or the image of the night sky brings upon a memory. Slowly at first, he starts to remember things: his name, the face of his mother, his first memories. So far he has let his feet wander where they may and he has come across the largest tree that he’s ever seen, with the largest treehouse he’s ever seen, spiraling level after level into the boughs. Feeling compulsed, David follows a big of music into the treehouse and comes across a man playing a guitar. He says his name is Baker and that he is to be Joe’s guide through the Second Existence, and his Journey. They set off, getting to know one another and bonding like old friends as they take on and deal with one encounter after another of people from Joe’s life that he is destined to face.
I loved this book so much for the breadth of scope it encompasses. It is insightful into the nature of celebrating life and honoring it in a way that includes honoring death as well, not as an ending, but as a transistion from one form to another. The story was also hilarious at times, as Eric Arvin took real advantage of certain situations to show the difference between different periods of Joe’s life and how they manifest themselves after death — Joe’s childhood friend 3P, who teaches Joe how to regain his childhood; Joe’s grandfather, who in life was keeping some secrets of his own, but who, in the afterlife, has wings like an angel and loves to swoop through the pink candy clouds and roll and dive through the air, joyous in a way he never was in life; and also Guy, Joe’s vain best friend from college, who is more of himself in death than he even was in life, having made his body into a monstrous display of masculinity, a giant with a giant penis and the leader of a fraternity of men who spend the afterlife playing naked wrestling, having constant sex, and being a group of brothers in a glaring tribute to the Abercrombie & Fitch catalogue scenes of frolicking half-naked men. These were only a drop in the bucket of the amazingly varied characters Joe meets in the afterlife, each a bit more magnanimous than they were in life. I particularly loved Phil and Mitch, the gay talking horses
The world itself is beautifully built, a place that is an extension of the mind. It isn’t unusual to see the world quite literally shifting around a character to reflect their mood. It is a place a bit like Oz, yet also with the depth of the dreamscape in the movie Inception. The place is like a blank canvas, it only limitation being the boundaries of the mind. This lends to each day being an act of creation, and we see this as we learn who Joe is along with him. The slow reveal of each piece of Joe’s life builds the suspense of what is coming. We, the reader, nor Joe understand exactly what that is, but we know that there are things coming that he will have to face that are difficult. In the end, how did he die, and what role in his death did the Stranger have?
Taking place on an airfield outside of Berlin near the end of the war in 1945, Felix the airplane mechanReview 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....more
Jeez, I don't know if I can write a proper review. Honestly, I'll try. But mostly I juReview 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!...more
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 tI 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....more
After reading a book that was truly a chore to finish, I needed something safe to read that I knew I already loSecond 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 sReview 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.
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-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-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 :)...more
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 siDamn. 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....more
This is the second book in the Tucker Springs series, all set in the same town but with different, barelReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
This is the second book in the Tucker Springs series, all set in the same town but with different, barely related, characters and written with different authors. The first book, Where Nerves End by LA Witt, was only okay for me. This one really excels and a lot of you will really love it, I know that without a doubt.
Paul is a mess. His girlfriend of seven years and fiancee has left him for another man and he'll do anything to get her back. He's looking for a gift for her in the only place he can afford one (a pawnshop) when he meets El, the owner and all around cool guy with his feet propped up and smoking a cigarette. When Paul is forced to return Stacey's gift the next day, El takes him out for drinks.
Their connection is immediate. While El is certain to deny the possibility of happiness, both in the world and his own life, Paul is finding old feelings for men returning. What was the real reason he was with Stacey? Because it was right, or easy?
Paul and El are the absolute winners with this story. It wouldn't be a story at all without them -- there isn't really anything more here than their friendship and later relationship. Their personalities are so different, yet harmonious right from their first meeting. They each have a lot of issues to work through and though some of them are quiet heavy I never felt as if they were overwhelming. Paul, of course, has never really had to face his own fundamental character head on. He's clueless about everything in his life, and he's clueless that he's clueless. Meeting Stacey so young and breezing through life comfortably meant that he never had to consider whether he was truly happy or only content. Never having to make choices combined with a deep seated self esteem issue (because no one could really want him) makes it safer to leave his curiosity smothered. When Stacey takes away the comfort, Paul flounders, unable to see any other way of living if it isn't to constantly curry Stacey's favor.
El is a different puzzle. He's convinced that there's no such thing as real happiness for anyone, so why try to look for it himself. He isn't maudlin about it, he simply accepts it as a fact of life, telling himself that he's a realist and is happier for never searching for an elusive prize that only ends in heartbreak. This is highlighted very well by his family troubles. He's portrayed as having a typical loud and obnoxious Latin family, but the focus is shifted to his mother's hoarding problem. This allowed his family to be real instead of stereotypical, and by showing the role that El plays (stern mediator) that while he loves his family he's constantly seeking to separate himself from them. After all, his sister is constantly dating a new man who screws her over and his mother seems to care for her possessions as living things. They are attachments to disappointment and superficiality, and even while El rants against them, his lonely life and his later actions to court Paul's favor (a straight man), betray those feelings as falsehoods -- a smokescreen for fear of disappointment. I wondered where this came from. We never hear of a failed relationship in his past that might have made El so jaded, so I could only assume that his feelings have grown in response to his family.
There is so much to recommend about this story and like I said earlier, this short novel is going to be a hit with most readers. I sometimes have a hard time getting into contemporary unless I'm not in the mood for any other genre. I didn't have that problem here because the writing was so superb and kept me interested from the beginning. I can only hope that Heidi and Marie continue to write together. Both of these authors are wonderful, to which their numerous fans will attest, but together their strengths compensated for the other's weaknesses.
I'm still not entirely sure what draws this series together. Obviously, the town of Tucker Springs which is the name of the series. Aside from that, I haven't noticed any overall thematic connections -- though perhaps I will have to wait for further installments. Definitely Recommended!...more
I got this book for review on a whim, and I am so happy that I did because it completely took over my life yesterReview 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....more
OMG! The best ending ever! Okay, I really don't mean to make people upset, I put up like 1% of books I read early on Goodreads, but even though I'm noOMG! The best ending ever! Okay, I really don't mean to make people upset, I put up like 1% of books I read early on Goodreads, but even though I'm not posting my review until tomorrow, I just want to make sure that all of you preorder this book (and buy the ones before it if you haven't), they're really wonderful.
Okay, straight up… let's get this first thing out of the way. Don't expect this review to be necessarily eloquent or far-thinking or in any way an analysis of the book or series. I just don't have that in me at this point. What this review IS… is an immediate reaction to reading this third and final book of the series; a book which I've been eagerly awaiting for quite a while now. In fact, I've been thinking about this last book ever since reading the first, Mind Magic, back in 2012. Normally that doesn't happen for me, I'm not sure where the story is going. But, and maybe some of you who have read the books can understand me in this, but I felt like (in reading that first book) that the series had a clearly outlined direction, firmly delineated by the names of the books and the separate romances, which mirror the way that magic is first described to us in this world, in a triangle and points of three -- three kinds of magic, three different romances, and three different books. The harmony of all of those things are what the series is working towards and Poppy did a wonderful job in satisfying my need for those things to come full circle.
We start this third book with most of the essentials already firmly in hand, with the base of the story firmly established so that the threads immediately start to come together for the final picture the moment the story starts. I cannot tell you how frustrating it is to me to become absorbed in a fantasy (or paranormal, but these series tend to be fantasy) series where I'm pulling the threads together on my own as I'm reading, putting the pieces together, only to have them be swept out of the way in the final confrontation or ending by a deus ex machina or even a plausible ending that is somewhat foretold but doesn't take those threads I pulled together into account. In this series, I felt the planning throughout and that it was important to this book, which I appreciated.
Here's a summation of the first two books: (view spoiler)[Now, back to what I was saying after that tangent. We start this book with two soild romances under our belt and a pretty firm idea that this book will concentrate on another -- Cormac and Liam -- the very much alive ancestor and vampire to Simon and Gray's beta of the High Moon Pack. We know that Simon started this story by rescuing a group of wolf cubs from a demon that was working with his own mage teacher who was stealing his magic, and that by rescuing the cubs he made himself friend to the wolf pack and mate to their alpha, Gray. In the second book, Body Magic, we go further and learn that there is a man with unimaginable power who was directing both those people (for lack of a better word) and that they're in even more dire straits than before. In this book, you'll learn exactly who that person is and what threat they possess. The clues are all there are the start of the book and I bet some of you have already guessed the direction this book is going, in fact may have already guessed who that person is who attacked the pack during the mating ceremony in the second book (hint: you'll get there eventually, knowing that Cormac is the focus of this last book). (hide spoiler)]
But really, even though we get to know Cade and Rocky better in Body Magic and Cormac and Liam better in this book, the main star of this series is Simon, and beside him Gray and their family and pack. But Simon's magic and his exploration of his powers remains the main thread of this story that draws all the others together. I want to mention, at this point, that the setup of this series really pleased me and is something that I'm not sure I've seen very much in the past. I was originally a bit upset at the start of the second book, thinking that we were leaving Simon and Gray behind and moving to a new couple when their story wasn't really finished. But, what Poppy has done with the series is make Simon and Gray the main couple, and even though she introduces new characters and their romances in each book (including their own chapters) she never abandoned that first couple. I really loved that, not only because Simon and Gray and even Gray's son and the alpha-heir Garon were why I originally fell in love with the story, but because Simon's importance to the series means that he can't be abandoned. He's the star.
Now I'm going to go back on my word :)
I think some analysis of the series as a whole is due here. I want to describe why I think I fell in love with this series at the first book and just why it has remained with me. In past, I've equated my intense connection and love of a story with it's length. The more time I spend with the characters, the more I get to know them and the bigger the world is, the more detailed, the more I'm drawn into it and the less I want to leave. That didn't happen here. I was immediately drawn into this world -- three books, which in the fantasy world are rather short novels. And I think, now that I've finished all of them, I know why. There is a clarity of purpose in the writing and a lack of verbosity to get the author's point across. I'm not sure why this is. Maybe it's in planning. But the world is brought through the characters and their love of it. There's very little detail, compared to those others I'm so used to becoming engrossed in, of the world. And there is also, I must point out, what I felt to be perfect pacing. That is what really brought the story through for me. You can't say that it is necessarily action-packed, but you can say that there aren't any needless words. The story is succinct, to the point, and there is a somewhat heavy emphasis on the non-romance plot as opposed to the romance-centered plot, which nevertheless felt quite balanced to me because those characters and their relationships came across to me so clearly.
I hope that come across in the way I intended, and I'd absolutely LOVE to hear from those of you who are fans of this series and how you feel about it, now and after you've read the third book.
Now, I've rambled enough. But I do want to take one last minute to urge those of you who are new to this author or series to take a chance on these books. I can't tell you that you'll love them the way I do, but I do think you'll enjoy them.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Oh Kaje… you did it again! I was thrilled (to say the least) when I saw that Kaje had a new novel (a very LONG noReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
Oh Kaje… you did it again! I was thrilled (to say the least) when I saw that Kaje had a new novel (a very LONG novel) coming at the Samhain site and even more excited when I was able to procure a review copy early. It's been a couple months since I first read this, but I didn't really fall into the trap of reading a book and not writing the review right away. Well, I did, but it didn't matter because I really liked this book so much that I had no trouble reading it again.
Mike lives with his sister and her husband. It's a nice arrangement. Mike is able to be a part of a nuclear family and it helps stave off the loneliness, but there are some difficulties. Like most siblings, his sister doesn't have a problem inserting herself into his life. And she brings up some valid points, which is probably why it grates on his nerves so much. Mike is a pathologist by day but a real book lover by night. And his only real social interaction apart from his family comes from his long time internet friend. They talk almost every day, discussing books and Mike has grown to really care for his friend.
Without realizing it, Mike and his internet friend fall into the awkward category of being rather intimate friends but not really knowing each other at all. When Kellen asks to meet up for coffee, Mike's neuroses come out to play. Somehow, though Mike can't understand why, Kellen seems to really like him. What Mike doesn't like about himself, Kellen finds charming… like his nerves and clumsiness. And Kellen turns out to be even better in person. To Mike, he seems cool, collected, and incredibly handsome.
Over time, Mike and Kellan grow closer in person, but having to deal with significant real life roadblocks that interrupt their new relationship. It seems like when one of them is smooth sailing the other is dealing with a crisis. It doesn't really help that Mike feels incredibly vulnerable in new, choppy waters. He might be incredibly intelligent and (though he chooses to live with his sister and brother in law) rather successful, but romantically, Mike is just a teenager. At the same time, Kellen refuses to share his burdens which grow over time to be almost unbearable. No matter how naturally they might seem to work together, their choices and fears lead them to build an unstable relationship. And it will take real work to turn it all around into something healthy and stable.
When I first started writing this review, I almost said that I was excited about this book because it's so solid. I realize that's not a great descriptor, but what I mean by that is that I feel like when I get a book from Kaje Harper to read, I know that I'll get a story that is really explored, detailed and have a fulfilling read. This was definitely the case with Sole Support. Like her other characters from past books I've also loved, Kellen and Mike came across so honestly and so fleshed out. And though it helps to have a particularly long novel to read when you really like the story, as it was here, that isn't the reason why I felt this way. This is a story about real life, real relationships and real issues, which make it both heartening to read and also at times heartbreaking. It's rare for me to find a book where the characters have to deal with such issues, yet don't delve into their own angst needlessly.
Part of the beauty of this story is how Kaje wrote Kellen's mother, who suffers from advanced dementia. We witness her slow decline, which is utterly heartbreaking, but more upsetting to watch is the correlating decline of the caregiver, Kellen, and the issues he has to deal with. The issue is handled with care and with intense empathy, and it's no surprise that Kaje dedicates this book to all caregivers.
I love slow romances, and I really fell in love with Kellen and in particular, Mike. I can't help but recommend this book to everyone. It's a perfect example of the writing talent of Kaje Harper and also an incredibly touching story. And though the characters go through some real turmoil, they come out in the end better people for it. I was carried along for the ride and in the end, it felt cathartic. I have no complaints. I forgot I was even reading this for review most of the time. I just enjoyed the story....more
Ratings-wise, this is an interesting book for me to rate. Now, I don't know about all of you, but I can't silenceWell, 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!...more
To be honest, I was a bit daunted when I started thinking of writing this review. Not because of the booReview 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!...more
From what I understand, this is the first novel reviewed on this blog that deals specifically with transgeReview #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....more
I think this just might be the best Jet Mykles that I've read so far. I like the fact that she's taken something that she's done well and is4.75 stars
I think this just might be the best Jet Mykles that I've read so far. I like the fact that she's taken something that she's done well and is successful at and really tried to make it better (gfy rockers). The subject matter, emotions, and the events in this new book are certainly taken to a new level from the popular Heaven Sent books. The world is grittier, the emotions are deeper, and she's given the story a lot more room to grow at almost double the pages of those other books.
I was certainly impressed that JM was able to take a world that she's written quite a bit in and show us a new side of it. I was also surprised and very impressed with how realistically the California music world is shown, in all its light and dark shades. The glimmering veil of success measured by partners and pockets full of pills and powder is ripped away quite early in the story and is like a harsh slap in the face to Marlowe, who has become somewhat of a bloated fish in a tiny pond, feeding off of the admiration until he's lost in it, until it disappears and he's cut adrift. I appreciated his growth throughout the story and I really believed in him.
I do get frustrated sometimes in JM's stories because a lot of the times the characters never really seem to talk to each other until they've built completely separate sides to the world their relationship encompasses, always presupposing what the other side looks and thinks like. I suppose I could say this is stereotypical of men, gay or straight, to not talk about their feelings, but I also feel like it runs deeper than that. I would have definitely rated this book as 5 stars if I felt like I understood more about Marlowe's past. It has quite a bit to do with his substance abuse and it is only ever briefly alluded to. I am, of course, but one person, and I don't always believe that more information is good for a story. However, in this case, where a lot of the second half of the book deals exclusively with the central relationship, I would have appreciated more background information.
All together, I enjoyed this book immensely. I certainly hope that JM decides to make this a series, as she often does. There were quite a few references to Female Unspeakable Parts and Dirty Acts with Women, but I suppose with a bi guy and a reformed straight man, this is to be expected. Its just too much for these gay eyes to read about :)...more