26.7.14

Blackbird Knitting in a Bunny’s Lair by Amy Lane

Blackbird Knitting in a Bunny’s Lair, a Granby Knitting Novel by Amy Lane
Stars: 5/5

Length: 244
Blurb
After three years of waiting for “rabbit” Jeremy to commit to a life in Granby—and a life together—Aiden Rhodes was appalled when Jeremy sustained a nearly fatal beating to keep a friend out of harm's way. How could Aiden’s bunny put himself in danger like that?

Aiden needs to get over himself, because Jeremy has a long road to recovery, and he's going to need Aiden's promise of love every step of the way. Jeremy has new scars on his face and body to deal with, and his heart can’t afford any more wounds.

When their friend’s baby needs some special care, the two men find common ground to firm up their shaky union. With Aiden’s support and his boss’s inspiration, Jeremy comes up with a plan to make sure Ariadne's little blackbird comes into this world with everything she needs. While Jeremy grows into his new role as protector, Aiden needs to ease back on his protectiveness over his once-timid lover. Aiden may be a wolf in student's clothing and Jeremy may be a rabbit of a man, but that doesn’t mean they can’t walk the wilds of Granby together.


Overall
A fitting conclusion to the Granby Knitting series (or at least the story of these men).

Review
I’m sure there are things about this novel that I didn’t like. Most likely the pieces all falling together too nicely and something of that sort.

But I really can’t say that here. Because these characters, this town, has been building up and coming together for three prior books. And this one doesn’t rush to get to the happy ending these men, especially Jeremy, deserve. Instead we’re led through Jeremy’s difficult recovery, Aiden’s challenges, and the struggles of life, love, and misconceptions.

Jeremy has to deal with his new face, his new life, and all the changes that are being thrown at him. He’s used to running scared, but he’s promised Aiden he won’t. He’s got a lot of work to do to keep that promise.

Aiden needs to come to terms with what he did to protect the love of his life, and he has to be the man that Jeremy needs. While Aiden has always been the “older” of the two, for the first time we get to see things from his perspective and see that he doesn’t always feel as grown up as he is (which is something we can all relate to, I think).

Much of this story is like being wrapped in a heavy blanket: warm, comforting, and protecting the delicate hearts within. But as the final tale for these men who surround themselves with knitting, it is the perfect conclusion, leaving the reader just as warmed as after having finished the first of these Granby men’s stories.

8.6.14

This Boy Drove an Orange Slope

A Clockwork Orange - Against a bleak futuristic landscape, young sociopath Alex DeLarge spends his time stealing, raping and beating innocent people in nihilistic orgies of violence, all in an attempt to get his nightly kicks.

(rent) This is a very weird moving. It’s obviously making a ton of commentary on society, etc, and it’s definitely dark and deep (and sometimes squicky). I’m glad I’ve seen it just because it’s so well-known and part of culture, but I can’t really say I enjoyed it. On the other hand, I’m not sure this is a movie that’s meant to be enjoyed. More studied and analyzed than anything.

Kids on the Slope - (12 episodes) The story of Kids on the Slope really starts rolling when the classical piano-trained Kaoru encounters Sentaro and falls head-over-heels in love with jazz.

(rent/buy) This show was sold to me with the description, “Stupendously, nonstop gay...oh, and jazz.” And considering all the characters in it are supposedly heterosexual, it’s pretty nonstop gay. The bond between the two male leads could be argued as best friends, but it goes beyond that. The relationships are horribly high school sometimes (uh, in a good way), and they suffer from the human condition of being unable to communicate, but this is a great show with fun music, a good plot, and an ending that left me giggling and repeating, “so gay” without being stated as gay.

Star Driver - (26 episodes) Takuto, The "Galactic Pretty Boy," finds himself dragged into opposition with the "Glittering Crux Brigade," a mysterious group that intends to take possession of the island's Cybodies for their own purposes as well as break the seals of the island's four Shrine Maidens, whose powers prevent the Cybodies from functioning outside of Zero Time.

(rent/buy) If I were to read this show’s description anywhere, I probably wouldn’t watch it. Giant robots? High school romance? Ugh. But this show is more than it appears. There are some high-school-hijinks moments, but for the most part the characters (especially the main three) are very mature and responsible. The robot battle scenes are a necessary evil, but generally they don’t last too long. What really sold this show to me was the ending, which felt kind incomplete, but gave a subtle answer to the question of the love triangle. Who is she going to pick? Who says she has to…

This Boy Can Fight Aliens! - (30 min OVA)When aliens suddenly invade the world, Earth seems to be fighting a losing battle until Arikawa accidentally discovers a young man, Kakashi, who has the power to defeat the attackers. Unfortunately, Kakashi has also lost his memory, and with it the knowledge of how to actually use his power. Moving Kakashi in with himself and his commander, Arikawa accidentally starts a strange triangle of emotions and relationships. A triangle that threatens the fate of the planet as Kakashi begins to question his own motivations.

(rent) This is definitely one to watch before buying, as the art styles are very different (either to save money or for artistic reasons...or both), and the story is disjointed and a little confusing. Some things are never really made clear. Some questions are never answered. While there is some resolution, and the development of the relationship is not given much focus, there is also a lot left unsaid and open, which I felt depleted the quality of the story being told. In some ways the artistic style seemed to take center stage, filling time that could have better been used to develop plot.

This Boy Caught a Merman - (30 min OVA) Shima has always strove to be an excellent obedient child to his parents and to others, but in the process he could never be himself. Because of this he has always felt lonely, even with all the people who say they love him. When the picture of his recently deceased grandfather falls into the ocean, Shima nearly drowns jumping in after it. He is quickly saved by a mysterious man.

(rent/buy) This short piece won’t be for everyone, but I found it exceptionally cute and sweet. It has some depth, but isn’t too heavy, really, and it looks at some of the problems of a human/nonhuman relationship. For how short it is, it covers a lot of ground and doesn’t feel like it shorts you any.

31.5.14

Movie Reviews: Shut up, I'm Frozen


Shut Up and Kiss Me - Actor, fitness coach and pinup guy Ronnie Kerr draws on all facets of his far-flung career for this charming autobiographical tale about 35-year-old Ben (Kerr), who finally meets Mr. Right (Scott Gabelein) -- and then discovers how much they don't have in common. Director Devin Hamilton touches on monogamy and other related lifestyle issues in this playful comedy about relationship building in the contemporary world.

(rent) I’m really not sure how I feel about this movie. As the description says, it deals with monogamy...or not. It doesn’t really just touch on the topic either. It’s a central theme as these two men get together and struggle to have a relationship. The plot, acting, etc, were all okay. Not great, but not the worst I’ve seen. For me, watching this movie wasn’t so much a theatrical experience as a philosophical one. How would I handle if I was in a relationship with someone who wasn’t monogamous (and was upfront about it)? It gave me something to ponder, even if I couldn’t particularly recommend this for a viewing.

The Three Musketeers - (2011) The original three musketeers are past their prime and working menial jobs in Paris when their friend D'Artagnan rallies them to defend the nation. To do so, they must undermine Cardinal Richelieu's plot to have himself crowned France's next king.

(rent) Okay, this isn’t as good as the 1993 version, but it also took a very different path, which was sometimes hard to believe, but overall it worked. It uses more the general concept of the three musketeers and the plot rather than focusing on historical reality. It has some laugh-out-loud moments and some fun plot twists, etc. I found some of the action sequences to be a little far-fetched, and the last scene made me roll my eyes, but generally is was an okay psuedo-historical action flick.

White Frog - Nick, who has Asperger's syndrome, struggles to carry on after the death of his brother Chaz. Their parents have their own problems coping with the loss, but Chaz's best friend takes Nick under his wing.

(buy) This movie was pretty fantastic for many, many reasons. Some of the resolution felt a little too easy, but not enough to turn me off it. The characters are wonderfully three dimensional, the story is a slow reveal (that the viewer can guess, but it still is explored in such a way that it makes the reveal all the more important. This has several lessons, but it teaches through showing, not lecturing. I’d recommend this to just about everyone.

The Crow - Exactly one year after young rock guitarist Eric Draven and his fiancée are brutally killed by a ruthless gang of criminals, Draven -- watched over by a hypnotic crow -- returns from the grave to exact revenge.

(rent) I somehow grew up in the nineties and never saw this movie. My friends, who are huge fans, insisted on showing it to me, and despite the hype (and keeping in mind the year it was made), I enjoyed it. It’s very grunge, and the violence/gang gets almost silly in parts, but it never crosses that line and in fact seems to recognize it’s extremeness.

Despite the dark topic and horrible people that make up the majority of the cast, there are a few golden individuals that leave you with a sense of hope for the future. For a dark, death-ridden movie, it was handled with a balanced hand, making it as hopeful as it is a warning. While it didn’t grab me, I was definitely interested the entire time and enjoyed watching everything play out. If you’re like me and somehow missed this, it’s definitely worth a watch...maybe on Devil’s Night?

Frozen - After her kingdom is doomed to suffer from eternal winter, intrepid Anna goes on a quest to find her reclusive sister, the Snow Queen, and break the curse. Along the way, Anna teams with eccentric mountaineer Kristoff and his comic reindeer, Sven.

(rent/buy) I come from a very different place for this movie, as I’d heard all the fuss before watching it. Still, it was a very enjoyable movie. Not completely what I look for in a film to own, but I can definitely see why it’s so beloved. It has two strong female leads, a goofy, lovable (but still strong) male companion, a fun twist, and enough humor to keep things from getting dark. I think my biggest issue was that the ice queen could also form material out of thin air. But her magic is never really explained...so yeah.

24.5.14

Luke (Sylvan #2) by Jan Irving

Luke (Sylvan #2) by Jan Irving

Stars: 1.5/5

Length: 100 pages

Blurb

Wandering cowboy Luke Walker is at the end of his rope after his girlfriend abandons their newborn daughter. A terrified new father, he's grateful to meet Dr. Morgan Gallagher. Morgan recognizes that he and Luke could help each other: Luke can rebuild Morgan's property and land so Morgan can have the horses he wants, and Morgan can provide the younger man with a safe place to raise his daughter. In theory, it should work out perfectly, except that Morgan is instantly attracted to Luke-a straight man-and sharing the same cabin and caring for the baby is a more intimate arrangement than he'd imagined.

Overall

A sweet story without much substance or conflict.

Review

I think the biggest weakness in this book is the lack of conflict. While there is some internal struggle and growth, generally everything falls into place neatly. Too neatly. The baby's momma shows up, but doesn't cause any trouble, the exboyfriend-ish has no hard feelings, and there's no negative ramifications for the gay cowboys.

The biggest conflict was the baby's fever and the guys getting over themselves, and even that didn't seem like such a big problem since the supposedly straight dude hopped right over that hurdle.

There was nothing I hated about this book, but there's very little I remember about it either. Parts of it were cute, and it would work as a series of vignettes, but as a novel it didn’t hold up.

I may have enjoyed this story more if I’d read the first of the Sylvan series, but since the characters in that didn’t play too major of a role, I didn’t feel lost.

11.5.14

The First Real Thing by Cat Grant

The First Real Thing by Cat Grant
Stars: 3/5

Length: 123 pages
Blurb
My name’s Cameron. And I’m a male escort. I’m the best, and most expensive, at what I do. I have one rule—never let anyone in.

In five years of hooking I’ve never picked up the wrong guy. But when I met Toronto ad man Trevor Barclay in a Manhattan bar, his soft green eyes and shy smile drew me right in. When I discovered the error I had made, I should have written it off as a mistake and moved on. But memories of the steamy encounter we shared in his hotel room continued to haunt me.

I never should have agreed to see him again, but from that very first night he worked his way under my skin and into my heart. I can’t stop thinking about him. But how can I tell him the first man he’s been with in sixteen years sells himself for a living?


Overall
A nice mix of sweet and funny with a touch of angst. It may not bring anything new to the table, but it gives a great telling that will tug the heartstrings when you’re not chuckling.

Review
This was a sweet and generally humorous story (as in there are a good number of one-liners, the plot itself wasn't funny). The blogger format worked well for it and there were good reasons for the blogging format, both in the front end and the back end. Of course, the format also didn't feel terribly realistic, as certain parts were too detailed to have been written after the fact, but I marked that down with the hand-wavium of storytelling.

I liked how several threads of plot all came together in the end, drawing on side moments that seem like nothing but result in the climactic conflict. The conflict worked perfectly for the story, although the core of it is rather predictable. The emotional turmoil was great, and while the resolution seemed a little too easy, it also seemed reasonable, so again, I was willing to let it slide.

If you're looking for a classic rentboy-falls-in-love story, then this will probably have everything you need. Otherwise, it's an enjoyable read that didn't blow my socks off, but didn't bore me either.

31.3.14

Blind Space by Marie Sexton

Blind Space by Marie Sexton
Stars: 4/5

Length: 164 pages
Blurb
Captain Tristan Kelley enjoys the luxuries of Regency service, as well as the pleasure of his Prince’s bed. It’s an easy life, if not a happy one. When the Prince decides to take a trip through the perilous Blind Space, Tristan must go with him, but somebody in the Prince’s guard is a traitor.

Blind and held prisoner, Tristan finds himself at the mercy of Valero, a pirate who bears no love for the Regency. Valero is determined to seduce Tristan, and Tristan fears his resolve won’t last. His duty is clear, but so is his desire. As the days tick by with no word or ransom from the Regency, Tristan begins to question what loyalty means to his Prince, the Regency he’s sworn to, and to the man who holds him captive. He begins to realize that being a prisoner may actually set him free.


Note: I read the previous edition (pictured) but Sexton recently re-released it with a new cover and edits (linked to above).

Overall
This story may start a little slow but ends with a BAM that absolutely makes it worthwhile.

Review
I love Sexton's stuff, so when I first started Blind Space, I was a little disappointed. It was good, but it didn't have the same clean writing and style that I was used to. And by the halfway point, I was starting to get concerned--it seemed like the story was winding down...

But Sexton did not disappoint. For one, the writing seemed to pick up as Tristan gained his freedom and made some freeing realizations. I'm not sure if this was done on purpose or subconsciously, but it worked to make the story pick up just as the action did. And boy did the action pick up!

My fears of the last half of the story dragging (because everything had been resolved, right?) were blown away. I slammed through the second half of this book and even pushed my bedtime back a little so I could finish it. And, in true Sexton style, it made me all soft and hard inside. I'll admit, I giggled at one point.

And the sex scenes? Very sexy. Very sensual. Very hot. Sexton also balanced two oversexed characters with not oversaturating the story with sex scenes, making the scenes more enjoyable (especially after all that build up). Plus Tristan's 'naughty' little secret. That was a lovely little bit.

And my favorite line: “He wasn’t demanding my submission—he wasn’t even asking for it—but I knew it would be accepted if I chose to give it. The firmness of his grip on my head, the softness of his touch…”

But it's the plot and story that really grabbed me and had me dragging my tired eyelids over the last dozen pages. It went places I didn't expect...and yet weren't completely unexpected. It was a fantastic surprise.

Even before the 'twist' there was some nice psychological commentary that I appreciated and that felt like a turning point to the story. It could have just as easy done without that chapter, but it also felt like it secured Tristan and Valero's relationship, so I wanted to give a nod of approval.

2.3.14

Caught by A.B. Gayle

Caught by A.B. Gayle
Stars: 3/5

Length: 122 pages
Blurb
When Daniel's invalid landlady asks for his help preventing a possible suicide from the clifftop near their home, he doesn't want to disappoint her. So he grits his teeth, picks up his camera, and goes out to play the Chinese tourist. He's done it before: befriended the lonely, lured them away from the danger zone, acted as a safety net.

This time, the figure staring out to sea is way out of his league, his complete opposite, the sort of man Daniel's always admired from afar. Then the attractive Taylor turns the tables and lures Daniel out from behind the safety of his camera, and as Daniel finds himself fighting off an attraction he can't deny, he realizes he's in danger of being caught. Will the camera expose truths about himself that he wants to keep hidden?


Overall
A fairly delightful story that suffers from a hardcore case of Insta-Love. Otherwise, it’s enjoyable, sweet, and has a warm message at the core.

Review
I enjoyed this tale from beginning to end, but it also made me roll my eyes something fierce. If you believe in love at first sight, then you’ll be fine, but if not...tread carefully. I still think the story is worth reading, but these two men fall hard and fast for each other (and I don’t just mean in the bedroom!).

Daniel and Taylor have a great dynamic, although sometimes Taylor toes the line with his bossy-ness (but never crosses it). They bring out the best in each other and their interactions show an honest connection that can easily lead to love. I just thought the leaps there were a little fast.

Still, the unfolding story, the ex, the motivating introduction--these all built up a pleasant, although oftentimes dark, story that played across my ereader delightfully. The passion of these two men, at their pasts, each other, and jerk exes, were great. However, the problems I had with it (which was rather pivotal to the storyline, or at least was a focus) couldn’t bump it above a 3-star rank, although I couldn’t go any lower for this little gem either.

22.2.14

Turkey in the Snow by Amy Lane

Turkey in the Snow by Amy Lane
Stars: 5/5

Length: 102 pages
Blurb
Since Hank Calder’s four-year-old niece, Josie, came to live with him, his life has been plenty dramatic, thank you, and the last thing he needs is a swishy, flaming twinkie to complicate things. But when Justin, the daycare worker at his gym, offers to do something incredibly nice for Hank—and for Josie—Hank is forced to reconsider. Justin may be flamboyant in his speech and gestures, but his heart and kindness are as rock steady and dependable as anyone, even Hank, could ask for. Can Hank trust in his dramatic “turkey in the snow” to offer his heart the joy he and Josie have never known?

Overall
A sweet Christmas tale that looks at family, stereotypes, and prejudice, all without going too dark, but still gripping the heart and not letting go until the end.

Review
After a long day of Christmas with half the family, I curled up with this story, just planning on reading a bit before bed. Yes, I realize this is the trap we all fall into. I stayed up much later than I was planning, and then scarfed down the rest with breakfast.

The plot wasn’t edge-of-your-seat or overly dramatic (except a few parts, which needed to be). It was just so warm I wanted to keep reading. Hank and Justin are complete opposites, except for the fact that they both want to give the best to Josie, who is adorable, just enough annoyance to feel true and just enough sweet to make even this grinch smirk.

While there isn’t a lot of relationship building given to Hank and Justin, and it feels a little like they go from 0 to 60, I didn’t mind. Both men had good reasons and enough history between them that once they started to help each other, it came together.

Speaking of helping each other...I loved that Justin, who works, goes to school, lives at home, and is the younger of the two, is actually the one riding up on the white horse in this story. It takes the standard and turns it on its head, which is nice and is part of what made me love Justin so much.

I found Hank’s two friends, especially Alan, to be really annoying. I get that it was the point, and thankfully they don’t spend much time on the page, but I really wanted to reach through the screen and throttle him. But he sure did explain a lot about Hank!

While everything gets wrapped up a little too tidy for my tastes--usually--here I felt the characters, especially Hank, earned his ending. We join him in his growth and suffering so that when I got to the last page, I was completely satisfied--and all warm inside.

I’m such a sucker for Christmas stories.

9.2.14

The Kids Are Creepy


ParaNorman - When an army of zombies invades a small town, it's up to an odd local boy with a knack for communicating with the dead to save the day. But judgmental adults prove to be even more formidable adversaries.

(rent/buy) This animated film is worth at least one watch, although it may not suit everyone. It will be just spooky enough in the beginning to make a good Halloween flick, but the creep factor doesn’t last long (so no nightmares) as it provides a heartwarming, uplifting message in the end. Although this isn’t one of the great animated films, it has a simple plot for children and lots of subtext for adults.

Velvet Goldmine - A decade after British glam-rocker Brian Slade fakes his assassination on stage and disappears from view, tabloid journalist Arthur Stuart is dispatched to deconstruct the legend of the bisexual pop star.

(rent) An odd one. My biggest complaint was the sound mixing, which made hearing dialogue difficult when the background music was more in the foreground. Obviously music played a major role in this film, but it still made it hard to follow some things. The best part, I feel, is that while Arthur is figuring stuff out, he rarely tells the viewer what is happening or explains what he figures out. The watcher has to do that on their own.

Of course, that also means that some elements of the movie may remain a mystery to the viewer, or things may be interpreted differently by the viewer, but I think that adds an element of depth to the movie.

Edge of Seventeen - A 17-year-old rediscovers his sexuality in this 1980s story about coming out and its social consequences. Eric (Chris Stafford) takes a job at an amusement park and meets Rod (Andersen Gabrych) -- but finds out too late that his crush just wants sex. He seeks consolation at the local gay bar, only to be used again. As he continues to question his sexual orientation, a female friend (Tina Holmes) volunteers to be his next partner.

(rent) This movie seemed especially long. It was a slow-progressing flick as Eric came to realizations about his sexuality. It had its up and downs and played with what felt like a lot of stereotypes (although those stereotypes are based in fact, I assume). This story definitely looks at things and makes you think, but it’s not amazing either. Kinda middle of the road. I probably would have liked it more if it moved at a quicker pace.

C.R.A.Z.Y. - There are five boys in the Beaulieu family -- Christian, Raymond, Antoine, Zachary and Yvan. But Zac (played by Emile Vallee and Marc-Andre Grondin) is the only one who's gay. That's why growing up in Montreal alongside his heterosexual brothers and his strict, emotionally distant father (Michel Cote) proves especially challenging for the blossoming outsider, who finds solace in the music of Pink Floyd, the Rolling Stones and David Bowie.

(rent/buy) This is a fairly long running movie and a tad slow, but definitely worth a watch. It’s very much a family drama, specifically focusing on a father-son relationship, but it also looks at sexuality, child rearing, love, and family. I think what’s best about this movie is that while one of the motivating factors for some of the actions is Zac’s sexuality, there is so much more at play here.

The Kids Are All Right - Joni and Laser, the children of same-sex parents Nic and Jules, become curious about their sperm-donor dad and set out to make him part of their family unit. But his arrival complicates the household dynamics.

(rent) I generally found this movie to be lacking, but I know a good portion of that is just preference. The cover of the film makes it look happy and positive, but the film itself seems to be the opposite. While there are some good takeaway messages here, there are also lots of bad behavior. It’s all very real, but it doesn’t make it into a moving movie. I was bored for a good chunk, uncomfortable with several pieces, and frustrated the rest of the time.

The only interactions I really liked was between Laser and the donor, although Joni wasn’t too bad, as she can be forgiven, since she’s young. Mostly I found the characters to be selfish, unbearable, and poor representatives of humanity. Jules, especially, irritated me, both with her actions and how it presents her as a character, specifically a lesbian. Joni’s female friend was obsessed with sex and Joni constantly called her a slut. Both traits were irritating and seemed to be trying to say something that I don’t think the film got across.

19.1.14

The Christmas Throwaway by R.J. Scott

The Christmas Throwaway by R.J. Scott
Stars: 2.5/5

Length: 73 pages
Blurb
Christmas is a time for giving - what do you do when no one gives a damn?

For Zachary Weston Christmas means sleeping on a churchyard bench in the freezing snow with nothing better in his future. Thrown out of his home for being gay, he is left without money or, it seems, anywhere to go.

Until a stranger shows him that some people do give a lot more than a damn.

Ben Hamilton is a rookie cop in his small home town. He finds a young throwaway, fresh from the city, sleeping on a bench in the churchyard on a snowy Christmas Eve. Can he be the one to give Zachary his own Christmas miracle?


Overall
A sweet sort of holiday tale that I found to be too easy and kind of questionable about certain events. It was enjoyable, but like mindless television.

Review
There was a lot about this story that I wanted to like, but too much was hard for me to swallow. I liked Zach and Ben, and while I found their meeting and the sequence of events a little brow raising, it wasn’t enough to turn me off the story. The Christmas part of the tale worked the best, and while I was glad to see the rest of the story unfold, it made the pacing unbalanced.

The first 75% of the story is the first winter they’re together, then it jumps months at a time. It’s difficult, because it does resolve some plot points that were good/necessary to see through, but it also felt like an excuse to have lots of sex, plus the jumps felt more stilted than the rest of the story.

Along those lines, sometimes the writing felt a little stilted too. There was some adjective abuse. Normally it doesn’t really jump out to me, but one line in particular illustrates that: “Jesus Christ,” he cursed bluntly.

If the character is cursing, it’s probably blunt (especially in the surrounding circumstances), and in the situation, explaining that “JC” was a curse wasn’t needed either, although I could let that slide.

In addition, the characters tended to internal monologue and describe instead of acting. To some degree, hearing the character’s thoughts was necessary, but in other instances it just explained what the reader already knew, or described why a character was doing something (when the action itself made it apparent).

So this is a tough one, because I liked the story that Scott told, but I also had some problems with it as well, mostly in the style and craft elements, which other readers may not find problematic.