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.

13.1.14

Tag Team, Guards of Folsom: Book Two by SJD Peterson

Tag Team, Guards of Folsom: Book Two by SJD Peterson
Stars: 3/5

Length: 220 pages
Blurb
Following the death of their sub, the former owners of the Guards of Folsom, Robert “Bobby” Alcott and Rig Beckworth, were left to pick up the pieces as best they could. After seven years, these two Doms are ready to move on and find the boy who will complete them. Their painful past comes crashing back when they meet Mason Howard, a submissive who just weeks ago lost his Doms in a car accident.

Reeling from overwhelming grief that’s complicated by a severe social anxiety disorder, Mason can barely leave his home. When Rig and Bobby find him, he’s hit rock bottom, believing life is no longer worth living. Bobby and Rig set out to prove the younger man wrong. Fate has brought the three men together, but they’ll have to face the pain of fear and loss head-on before they can all truly live again.


Overall
Despite an interesting plot and characters, I found the story to be slow-moving at times and it just didn’t grab me.

Review
I enjoyed Mason’s struggles and the care and tenderness that Rig and Bobby show him. That said, I found myself skipping over large chunks of text on my second read, as it didn’t move the story forward. This is a personal preference, but the verbosity seemed to bog down the storytelling.

But, keeping that in mind, I still want to get the next in the series. The reading isn’t painful, it’s just not to my liking, and I enjoy the characters and their stories enough to be curious about the men on the side who get mentioned. So even though this story didn’t blow me away, I enjoyed it enough to want to continue.

One of the best things for me was seeing two doms who were very different and who were changed by the sub they were dealing with (rather than the sub who is always the changed one). In addition, at least one of them has a judgmental thought about the previous doms and later rescinds it in his own mind as he comes to understand why it would happen. He still think it was wrong, but he reaches an understanding.

I love that we see the growth of each of these characters and not just the sub. It makes the growth feel real and, in turn, makes the characters feel real (you know, aside from money never being an issue).

It took me a while to write this review, one because I didn’t have much to say, and then because I needed to reread it for a proper review. But even then, this book didn’t scream at me what to write about it. So sorry for a mediocre review that you had to wait for. I think my overall review would be: If you liked the first in the series, you’ll probably like this one at least a little. If you didn’t read the first in the series...then you should start with that one!

4.1.14

Ethan in Gold (Johnnies, #3) by Amy Lane

Ethan in Gold (Johnnies, #3) by Amy Lane
Stars: 4.5/5

Length: 350 pages
Blurb
Evan Costa learned from a very early age that there was no such thing as unconditional love and that it was better to settle for what you could get instead of expecting the world to give you what you need. As Ethan, porn model for Johnnies, he gets exactly what he wants—comradeship and physical contact on trade—and he is perfectly satisfied with that. He’s sure of it.

Jonah Stevens has spent most of his adult life helping to care for his sister and trying to keep his beleaguered family from fraying at the edges. He’s had very little time to work on his confidence or his body for that matter. When Jonah meets Ethan, he doesn’t see the hurt child or the shamelessly slutty porn star. He sees a funny, sexy, confident man who—against the odds—seems to like Jonah in spite of his very ordinary, but difficult, life.

Sensing a kindred spirit and a common interest, Ethan thinks a platonic friendship with Jonah won’t violate his fair trade rules of sex and touch, but Jonah has different ideas. Ethan’s pretty sure his choice of jobs has stripped away all hope of a real relationship, but Jonah wants the whole package—the sexy man, the vulnerable boy, the charming companion who works so hard to make other people happy. Jonah wants to prove that underneath the damage Ethan has lived with all his life, he’s still gold with promise and the ability to love.


Overall
A long story that is worth taking your time with to savor the ups and downs of Evan’s and Jonah’s lives. Gobbling it all down at once may seem like a good idea, but may result in a Thanksgiving-gorge-like hangover.

Review
This story runs somewhat parallel to Chase in Shadow and Dex in Blue, and while each story stands alone, the reader would be better served by reading them in order.

First, a warning: The Johnnies stories tend to run long because of the issues that are handled and the number of events that have to appear as the stories crossover. I still feel the stories are longer than strictly necessary, but I also understand why they're so long, and I enjoy them enough that the length doesn't bother me (except when I'm kept up reading when I should be going to bed).

Because much of the same content is covered in each story, it's commendable how Lane handles the plot points that overlap--hitting major points without rehashing everything, but yet giving the reader adequate information if they haven't read the previous novels. She also develops the events from different perspectives, turning events that may not have been as emotional into a poignant moment.

Ethan/Evan is my favorite of the boys so far, because of his reasons for getting into porn, his general personality, and his relationship with Jonah (the first to be outside the business). Plus, his need to be touched speaks deeply to me.

He's a likeable character and dips into some nerdy elements (or perhaps I should say different nerdy elements, since Kane and his reptiles were pretty nerdy!). The conversations about anime and manga was appreciated (although that element faded as the story went on), although I wasn’t familiar with the particular pieces that were mentioned, so they may have been faulty.

Evan’s story, like most of the Johnnies boys, is a tough one (although none really compares to Chase’s). He had a crappy childhood, and although he’s tough, and he recognizes that, he still has a low self-esteem. Or more like he doesn’t want to bother/sully the people around him whom he loves. It’s commendable, although many readers (like Jonah) will want to smack him for it.

And of course Jonah has his own struggles to handle as well, both familial and in courting the stubborn Ethan. These are two sweet boys who grow together and together overcome great obstacles.

Another fantastic Johnnies’ tale.

29.12.13

Valentine Wish by Eden Winters

Valentine Wish by Eden Winters
Stars: 2.5/5

Length: 36 pages
Blurb
Isaac Lewis left the gangs behind to remake himself. He’s a street fighter turned gym rat, a thug turned honest man—only his loneliness hasn’t changed.

Success as a restaurateur hasn't erased Thierry Guillaume’s insecurities. Well-padded in a world where looks matter, he’s been grasping at crumbs of affection. Can Isaac convince him he deserves the whole cake?


Overall
A sweet, short tale that is probably just the treat for the February holiday.

Review
A sweet little short that has a good message, but lacks much depth, both for the characters and the plot. I definitely enjoyed this, and I especially liked how it was both a Valentine's story and not solely focused on Valentine's day.

I would have liked to have seen more of Isaac's backstory. We get the major points that are related to the plot, but in some ways the straightforward provision of this information makes it feel less real and more an element that was added to create the story. A more natural reveal, as well as a few more character-building facts about Isaac's previous situation, would have made everything feel more realistic.

Thierry was just the right mix of uncertain, nonaggressive persona and knowledgeable bed partner. They had a nice dynamic and I was happy when they ended up together, but the story lacked any depth that really would have helped me care about the characters and their relationship.

24.11.13

Family Man by Heidi Cullinan and Marie Sexton

Family Man by Heidi Cullinan and Marie Sexton
Stars: 4/5

Length: 262 pages
Blurb
Sometimes family chooses you.

How does a man get to be forty without knowing whether he’s gay? That’s a question Vince Fierro is almost afraid to answer. If he is gay, it’ll be a problem for his big, fat Italian family. Still, after three failed marriages, he can’t help but wonder if he’s been playing for the wrong team.

There’s only one way to settle it, once and for all—head for Chicago’s Boystown bars, far from anyone who knows him. Naturally, he runs smack into someone from the neighborhood.

Between working two jobs, going to school, taking care of his grandmother, and dealing with his mother’s ongoing substance abuse, Trey Giles has little time for fun, let alone dating someone who swears he’s straight. Yet after one night of dancing cheek-to-cheek to the sultry strains of Coltrane, Trey finds himself wanting to help Vinnie figure things out—no promises, and no sex.

It seems like a simple plan, until their “no-sex” night turns into the best date of their lives and forges a connection that complicates everything.


Overall
Beautiful in its simplicity, heartwarming, and sometimes painful, this novel was a thick blanket on a cold night.

Review
While the trope of “not realizing you’re gay until 40” may seem far-fetched, Cullinan and Sexton do an admirable job of showing how Vince of the great big Italian family got there. There are still some moments that made me roll my eyes, but most of those were in humor at his family. In the first few pages we see of his family, their classic accents almost seemed offensive, but beyond that first scene, they don’t really leave that impression (possibly because those family members don’t talk as much).

While the main romance plotline is good, what really made this story for me was the build between the main story and the side stories (specifically two older characters, which was so sweet!). There is a lot going on in Trey’s life, and when dealing with an in-the-closet boyfriend, it almost seems impossible for him and Vince to get together. But because of all the things that surround these two men (including all those things that cause problems), they are able to be together. That’s what made this special: the family. (And yes, I realize that’s the title and all.)

While this is very much a traditional romance in some ways, in other aspects the romance is secondary. Obviously to family, but also the struggle of identity, dealing with family members who have addiction problems, finances, asking for help, and being honest with yourself. It made for a very touching tale.

That being said, I found the last scene to be perfect and yet oddly too much. It works (especially for Vince’s character), but it also was a bit too cheesy for me. But that’s kind of what I love about the rest of the story, so it didn’t negatively alter my opinion of the novel.

31.10.13

Where Nerves End (A Tucker Springs novel) by L.A. Witt

Where Nerves End (A Tucker Springs novel) by L.A. Witt
Stars: 3/5

Length: 61,000 words, 180 pages
Blurb
Jason Davis can handle a breakup. And an overwhelming mortgage. And a struggling business. And the excruciating pain that keeps him up at night thanks to a shoulder injury. Handling all of it at once? Not so much. When his shoulder finally pushes him to a breaking point, he takes a friend’s advice and gives acupuncture a try.

Michael Whitman is a single dad struggling to make ends meet. When a mutual friend refers a patient, and that patient suggests a roommate arrangement to alleviate their respective financial strains, Michael jumps at the opportunity.

Living together would be easy if Jason wasn’t so damned attracted to Michael. Good thing Michael’s straight, or the temptation might just be too much.

Well, their mutual friend says Michael is straight…


Overall
Sweet, cute story that isn't incredibly fresh, but holds up on its own. Another lovely Tucker Springs tale.

Review
Oddly enough, this was the first Tucker Springs story to come out, so of course it was the last one I read (not including any future releases)! Part of that was just circumstance, so when I had birthday money to burn on books, I remedied that problem.

I could very much associate with Jason and his pain, and his struggle to find something that would relieve the agony, along with the sleeplessness that can join that pain. (And I'll be honest, the story has caught my interest regarding acupuncture.)

While I liked Michael and Jason together, I struggled with the mid- to late-sections of the book. The conflict, while reasonable, didn't feel believable to me. I had trouble really relating to Michael's dilemma, although I realize it's a very real challenge. In real life, something minor--no matter imaginary or not--can stop us from going after what we want. So it wasn't that it wasn't something that needed to be overcome, I just felt he was making a bigger deal about the whole thing than was necessary.

But, along that same vein, the resolution and falling action all fit well with the story, the characters, and the conflict. So I guess I'm a little mixed on the whole thing. It's all perfectly reasonable and realistic, but it also made me want to smack Michael upside the head.

If anyone was scared off by the presence of child in the story, this one is fairly safe. He's 7 years old and only with Michael half the time, so he's barely on screen for those who prefer their romances child free. And toward the end, he has some rather cute scenes with his family.

In general, I found the story enjoyable, but it didn't wow me. Aside from some disagreements with Michael, I don't have anything bad to say about this tale. Definitely worth a read, especially for fans of Tucker Springs, who--if you're anything like me--want to collect them all! (And on that note: These probably work best read in order, but for the most part, it's not necessary. The only points given away is you know who ends up with whom, which is usually obvious anyway in this genre.)