The Art of Steampunk by Art Donovan

The Art of Steampunk by Art Donovan
Stars: 4/5

The Art of Steampunk seeks to celebrate the world of Steampunk: a world filled with beauty and innovation. A world in which steam power and technology intertwine to create machines that are not only functional and practical, but unique and striking.

Inside, you will find the fantastical and stunning artwork of Steampunk artists from around the world. The 17 artists featured on these pages, among the frontrunners of the Steampunk genre, have had their work displayed at an exhibition at The Museum of History of Science at the University of Oxford, UK and have attracted the media attention of BoingBoing, one of the world’s largest blogs. Their artwork consists of everything from clocks and watches to light fixtures and jewelry, but every piece demonstrates hours of painstaking work and devotion from its creator. You will find that the artists themselves are just as unique and colorful as their masterpieces. Fully embracing Steampunk ideology, many have adopted a Victorian alter ego—a mad scientist persona to match the complicated intricacies of their artwork.

Review is based on an electronic viewing
A beautiful introduction to the world of steampunk, with nice art, limited text and good, basic information. While not ideal for someone already deeply in the world of steampunk, this book will definitely give some ideas to the beginning dabbler, as well as explain some of the history and concepts behind streampunk. A visually appealing work, this definitely would be worth having sitting on the coffee table. If nothing else, it will strike up conversation.

Beautiful. There is some truly beautiful art represented on these pages, ranging from clothing to tools to just works of art (although they are all art in their own way).

Ideas. While this book primarily provides ideas of what steampunk culture is, it also is a nice look at different elements of the culture for those already involved, possibly offering fresh ideas for people who want to try something a little different with their own steampunk style.

Minimal words. While there are captions, descriptions, and some cute stories, as well as some background to both steampunk and the exhibition which this book represents, for the most part the art is left to speak for itself, letting the beauty stand on its own without being bogged down by unnecessary information.

Not necessarily a weakness, but this is definitely angled for people just getting into steampunk, or it's meant to educate and draw people into the fold. While the perks definitely outnumber the drawbacks, aside from purely aesthetic reasons to get this, hardcore steampunk people may not get as much out of it.

I requested a review copy of this book.


Review: Stories by Shukyou

Stories by Shukyou
A selection from Shousetsu Bang*Bang

Shousetsu Bang*Bang is a ezine of sorts that publishes through LiveJournal and although it works off the concept of being like the classic boy's love stories found in Japanese manga, it has strayed off this course, often for the better. The guidelines are pretty flexible, only working off length and that there must be at least some sex that happens in detail (although there is flexibility in that, because I think both of my submissions were light on the sex).

One of my favorite authors (normally the same group write for every issue, although some are more consistent than others), is Shukyou. I'd probably recommend all of her (I assume) stuff, but below are a few of my highlighted favorites.

This story dances between being fun and serious as the setting is rather amusing: A poor theatre graduate works at the futuristic version of a phone-sex line, virtual reality, as the “voice” and “actions” of the selected person. When Rex hires a personality for an hour, Patrick (whose name you don't learn until the end) feels like the luckiest man alive. Rex is exactly his type. Of course, Rex sees a buff Scandinavian hottie, not chubby, pale Patrick.

What I love about this story is that while plenty of sex happens (virtually, but described as if real), the connection between the two men is completely emotional and cognitive. The build up between the two characters and the eventual climax where Patrick—and Rex—need to make a decision is both heart breaking and beautiful. This is definitely a great read when you need a feel good story, although it touches upon heavy subjects as well.

Duet for Tenor and Transradial Orthosis
Enzo is wallowing in a good (and deserved) bout of self-pity, booze, and pain killers when Gus comes onto him. Or more appropriately, onto his metal and gear arm. At least, that's what Enzo things. But really, Gus just wants to fix the arm to make it as beautiful as it's owner. But the more Enzo is around Gus, the more Enzo wants Gus. If only the mechanic weren't oblivious.

Although much of the subject of this story is dark, it is all lightened by a jaded and easy going narrator who has plenty of time on his hands and an aptitude to studying people. The growth of the two characters and their relationship is amazing and I love the path that the two take. In addition to a great steampunk story, there is some gorgeous art to go along with this one!

The Amanuensis
...I won't even chance giving a brief summary, because this is a heavier and denser story that looks at Judaism and the very first blush of Christianity, along with all the conflict it brings. However, if you're interested in religious stories that take Biblical teachings and approach them from a new angle (or completely upside down), then this is definitely worth the read.

Scientists have found the gay gene and a select group who have been carefully researched, studied and questioned have been granted the first opportunity to have the gay gene removed/altered so that they will be attracted to women. Of course, the problems start when one of the researchers falls in love with one of the men preparing to undergo the procedure...

This story was good, although it didn't become my favorite until the end. It brings up a lot of interesting points and handles them well, really showing the author's thoughtful nature. As the story of the two men unfolds with some mix of emails from the researcher's colleagues, the full story unfolds in a very interesting way. Be sure to read through to the very end. It's worth it!

A Voice in the Wilderness
A story of Easter, church, and talking with God. David has tried to live a pious life of minimum pleasures while leading his church's choir and resisting his desires toward men. Isaiah has not lived quite so piously as he often gives in to his desires at shady bars and clubs, but hates himself for it. He also leads the choir at his own church, and when David's church approaches Isaiah's church in need of some help with their organ, Isaiah is sucked into something he wasn't expecting.

I re-read this story every year at Easter, which is saying something since I describe myself as atheist. There is something so moving about their faith in each other and God that you can't help but feel that within the story (at the very least) God exists. This is a slower moving story that builds over time as both men struggle with their friendship, their personal demons, and what they feel God wants them to do. It's beautiful and touching.

Yellow Fever
Drew is in a bad place: After Vietnam, he's addicted to drugs and sex, the two tools he uses to drive out the memories and try to redeem himself—although he's not reaching for redemption. When he meets William Ma, he's not looking for more than a quick screw, but Bill has other things in mind. Eventually it becomes clear that it's not a matter of whether Bill can stand living with Drew, but if Drew can stand living with himself.

This story covers a lot of sensitive topics, and it deals with them well. Both characters are straight forward, blunt and strangely easy going. While this isn't by any means a “hot piece,” it is very moving emotionally and psychologically, and definitely worth a read!

Recommended for: Everyone who likes a great stories and doesn't mind two men together.


A Suitable Lover by plumblossom

A Suitable Lover by plumblossom
Length: 113,600

In this soap-opera of a romance, Skip has rules, mainly one rule: Don't fall in love. Not because he doesn't want to, but because when he does, he eventually messes something up. So he goes through life with his friend, one night stands, and scrapping by on his salary. But he's doing okay. He thinks.

Marcus is tired of dating psychotic men who make the world a drama centered around them. When he meets Skip--after all the hot, wonderful sex--he thinks Skip is just another one of that type. But coincidence, or fate, keeps bringing them together and the harder Skip pushes Marcus away while giving him desperate, needy looks, the more Marcus digs to find out about him.

This entire novel is the unfolding of how Skip and Marcus meet and the happenings that could bring them together if they are willing to allow it. Of course neither is willing to jump into the situation and while Skip is fighting falling in love, Marcus is curious while hearing nothing good--nothing bad, but nothing good--about Skip.

The characters are my favorite part of this work, because they come to life, they are extremely real, varied, and fallible, and they make the story happen. While I love the leads, Paris is possibly my favorite. He doesn't have a boyfriend, he has lovers and goes into every situation knowing what he's getting and what the other people are getting. He's not a player or a slut, he's just not the settle down type. But as flashy as he pretends to be with his friends, he's this sweet romantic at heart. Love him to death. Aside from him there are plenty of other characters to adore just for being themselves and insanely human.

The writing is good, although there are some editorial mistakes (especially name switches) which the author recognizes and would like to go through and heavily edit the story, but I'm not sure if/when that'll happen. Most of the mistakes are easy to figure out who should be saying/doing what and otherwise it's enjoyable to read.

The plot is very much a drama of misunderstandings and chance meetings and chance missings. Of course this is frustrating (it's meant to be), but it doesn't run on too long, although it does run on fairly long. Also, some of the events/reasons behind what people feel about each other might be pushing it. I think Skip's parents are the biggest case of this, but others may find some other points questionable, although I still don't think it's enough to ruin the story.

Recommended for people who like long, drawn out, "Get together already!" romances. Also there is plenty of self-hatred, humor, jokes I didn't get (over my head humor, not a bad thing), and drama.


For All Waters by Sirivinda

For All Waters by Sirivinda
Length: 106,000

I don't remember the first time I read For All Waters, but I know I've read it many, many times since.

At first glance it doesn't seem to be my kind of story: A college man, who doesn't have a boyfriend, just a friend with benefits, goes to visit his sister over summer holiday. Sebastian is a pretty boy who knows it and isn't really ready to settle down. He isn't a player or a slut--he's just enjoying life, which makes him more enjoyable (to me). Then he meets Antonio, who is gorgeous, interested, and...married. And is his sister's (and her husband's) friend. The couples, and their children, hang out all summer, and it doesn't take long for Sebastian and Antonio to fall in to bed together.

Adultery crawls under my skin, but Antonio is somewhat on the level: His wife knows he's gay and they have a platonic relationship in order to raise their son in an unbroken home. However, neither of them have had an affair, since they are both married. At least, until now.

You can see where the problems begin for our two leading men as they struggle with themselves and society, their age difference, and their life differences.

The writing, overall very strong, has moments when it is downright moving, in happiness, in sadness, and sometimes just the ache of "that's how life is." The style is often beautiful, offering just the right amount of description to paint the image of the people and the surroundings without bogging down the chapters trying to explain a place most people haven't been.

I love the story. Yes, it breaks my heart at times, but for me it's worth it. Again and again. Sebastian is smart and jaded, while Antonio is warm, kind, and never wants to hurt anyone (and by trying not to, hurts many). The supporting cast all play their roles to perfection, whether they are the sweet shadow of a wife or the jubilant nephew, carrying Sebastian through the summer and beyond.

I don't want to spout too many wonderful things for fear it will make the experience less wonderful, but I enjoy this story enough that I've sat on my butt for many hours reading it online (repeated times) and finally copy and pasted it into a document for my kindle.

Recommended for everyone, but especially people who like age gaps in their romances, challenges to overcome, sex, humor, and beautiful story telling.


The Fall of the Dragon King by MomsDarkSecret

The Fall of the Dragon King by MomsDarkSecret
Length: 68,000

The world is ending as the gods make the earth quake with their anger, and Mora, a priest and last descendant of the world's previous savior, must work with Prince Hadrin, the last descendant of the Dragon Kings--the cause of the world's destruction--to fulfill the prophecy and bring peace to the world as they know it. But what Mora suggests--a union between the two men--is deemed unacceptable by the King, even as the two men are learning to be friends and care for one another.

This fantasy novel leans heavily in the romance genre, but isn't weak in its fantasy elements as the world comes to life both visually and culturally. The scenes are described just enough to let the reader fill in the spaces in a somewhat typical setting with just enough unique qualities to keep the reader's interest.

The sex scenes are okay, although some of the dialogue in them felt a little cliche, but aren't really the selling point of the story. The plot and the characters are the main interests as the two men try to find balance in their love of one another and their duties to the court and society at large. In addition there is the pettiness of nobles, the support of some family and friends, and finally a fantastical climactic moment that wraps the story up.

Recommended for people who like light fantasy novels that don't get too serious about their world building but still has some fun angles, plus male romance, royalty and priests. Not to mention fun side characters.


Review: Breaking the Mirror by Nilah E. Rose

Breaking the Mirror by Nilah E. Rose
Length: 106,000 words

Jayden has a crappy life with an abusive father, he was sexually abused in the past, and he's poor. The majority of this story is not happy, and could be put into the camp of "everything bad that could happen, happens to him." If that's not your type of story, this probably isn't for you. The first person narrator curses (a lot) and has plenty of issues that get worked through as the story progresses, mostly through the introduction of Jayden's new neighbor Seaton. Seaton is a mystery to Jayden, and although he avoids people, he finds himself both terrified and drawn to his neighbor.

The writing is good, if not a little raw, and the story's strengths lie mostly in the narrator's voice and the intensity of the emotions. The pacing and progression of character development, both for Jayden and Seaton, is excellent as neither seems rushed nor slow as all their secrets are revealed.

Because of both their issues (mainly Jayden's), there is never any sex between them, although they do both like each other and I would mark this as a happy ever after type ending.

While this is a book that I would have loved to see go on for longer, I'm also glad it stopped when it did, one because the author didn't feel any more story was left to tell, and two because the problems are all resolved and continuing would just have been to wait out when sex scenes could happen.

It's a rather dark story, but it made me laugh and ache and made my insides squirm.

There are a few events that might not factually match up to reality, but if you're willing to forgive a few of those (and I'm not sure on most of them), it'll be fine (such as laws, the justice system, etc). There are a fair number of typos, but not enough to dig under the skin, and a reasonable amount considering the length

Recommended for: People who like angsty stories with main characters who suffer needlessly.


Between Sinners and Saints by Marie Sexton

Between Sinners and Saints by Marie Sexton
Stars: 5/5

Levi Binder is a Miami bartender who cares about only two things: sex and surfing. Ostracized by his Mormon family for his homosexuality, Levi is determined to live his life his own way, but everything changes when he meets massage therapist Jaime Marshall.

Jaime is used to being alone. Haunted by the horrors of his past, his only friend is his faithful dog, Dolly. He has no idea how to handle somebody as gorgeous and vibrant as Levi.

Complete opposites on the surface, Levi and Jaime both long for something that they can only find together. Through love and the therapeutic power of touch, they’ll find a way to heal each other, and they’ll learn to live as sinners in a family of saints.

This is a long and beautiful piece that follows the journey of two men whose chance meeting leads both of them to emotional growth.

The most challenging part of this novel is that it's pretty long, compared to some of its peers, and is slow moving. But I can't mark that was a weakness because rushing this story would have ruined it. It requires a gentle hand to guide the reader through the delicate situations and build up to the climax. Even though this isn't what would normally be considered a "page turner," I found I couldn't put it down.

Writing. Very enjoyable and well done! Also, I can only assume Sexton did this on purpose, but after reading the first chapter (narrated by Levi), I was enjoying her writing style. then we switched to Jaime and I was surprised at how stiff it felt. Only after we switched back to Levi did I realize that the writing was expressing Jaime's own discomfort with life and his own skin. As Jaime progressed, the writing balanced out as well. I don't know if it was done on purpose or was a result of the author "getting into the character's head," but it worked.

Characters. Both characters are charming (in their very different ways) and wormed their way into my heart. Levi is tough and stubborn, rebelling against his family and living life to its fullest, mostly in the forms of sex and surfing. Jaime is scared, but stern, and truly a good man. These two work beautifully in their opposites, not water and fire, but each fire while being air to one another. In addition there is Dolly and the Binder family, which at times is confusing but kind of amazing.

Religion. I love religious themes in books, and this one was especially well done. The representatives of religion are varied and realistic and although their perspectives clash with one of the main characters (and probably the reader's), they are not so horribly offensive as to be ridiculous (or like beating a dead horse). In addition, the story works mainly with Mormons, a group that tends to get more stereotypes than other Christian sects, which was refreshing.

Progress. While I enjoyed almost everything about this book, the progression of the characters—including the people and situations that perpetuate the change—is my favorite. These characters need each other and that need and the subsequent satisfaction of that need is well done. The author took the necessary time for the characters to know each other and help each other. There were no quick fixes (except maybe one). Sex wasn't the answer (not that it didn't help). People acted like people, and although there was no great evil to fight, the end of the novel feels like a victory.

There is one small niggle at the end which made my nose scrunch a little in disbelief, but it was a minor thing (although it was rather major in the character's lives), which I was willing to forgive because of how much I enjoyed everything else. Mainly it's a timing issue where certain relationship events felt rushed. Very minor.


Too Soon for Love by Kimberly Gardner

Too Soon for Love by Kimberly Gardner
Stars: 3.5/5

Michael Stricker is still reeling from his partner's sudden and untimely death when he meets someone new, someone he could really care about. But first he needs time, time to get his life back in order and time to get over is lost love. But learning to live alone again is nearly impossible with his well-meaning relatives treating him like a poor helpless blind guy.

When Alan Stuart befriends Phillip DiMartino's grieving partner, the last thing he expects is to discover hidden lies and infidelity. Guilty over his attraction to the still-grieving man, Alan resolves to stay silent. But the truth has a way of coming out, and soon a dead man's secrets bring about more heartbreak than Alan could have imagined.

Although both men vow to keep their distance, staying away is easier said than done, even when it's Too Soon For Love.

Focusing on the concepts of forgiveness, second chances, and independence, this novel is highly enjoyable, if not a little slow moving. While the pace dragged at times, I never lost interest in the characters or what was happening in their lives, although I did want to slap all of them upside the head. More than once. In a loving way, of course.

Writing was good and I'd definitely check out other books by this author. I enjoyed Gardner's style; it was to the point most the time and descriptive when it need to be.

Characters. Although I wanted to throttle them at times, I really wanted them to find their happiness. Both characters were distinctly human in their strengths and their faults as they fumble through a friendship, a relationship, and a friendship and then through the reveal of a dark secret.

Realism. The plot may have been outside my own experiences and maybe a little expected, but it felt more like a mirror than a story. The important part of the book are the characters, who all felt extremely realistic (except maybe Robbie, who felt a little plastic...but that is how some people are). It was the realism of the characters that kept me going through the story, plus the side characters were enjoyable with the little quirks they added.

Pacing was slow or a little off. While I liked it for two reasons, it also was the hardest part for me to get through. It was appropriate because the grieving partner needed time to heal and find himself, so the story needed time to grow for that reason. Also because they went through a soap-opera like series of emotions, we were given the time to be introduced to various side characters who eventually brought everything together in the end. So the length/pacing isn't horrible, just slower than I may have liked.

A Week Free!

Starting Monday, each day this week I'm going to do something a little different, one because I need a breather and two because I think it's a nice thing I may make a habit of. See, I spend a fair amount on books. Not enough to break the bank, but if I allowed myself, I probably could. I imagine you're probably much the same. Or maybe you're on a tight budget. Or maybe you just like reading. Everything.

So in the week to follow, I'll be post a new review each day of a "free read." No short stories, these will take a chunk of your time and, in my opinion, be worth the effort. Because they're free--and long--they probably won't be from authors you know (unless you haunt the same places I do). My first glimpse into M/M Romance was through these free reading sources (which are difficult to dig through to find good stories), and if I had more time or wanted to put the effort in, I'd probably go back to them. I know there are plenty I won't have listed, but if you have a recommendation (or twelve), I'd be happy to hear it (and read it) and maybe I'll do a review of that one later. Maybe if I'm really motivated I'll make a list (although I hesitate because there are so many lists out there already).

Here's the list:

M - Breaking the Mirror
T - Fall of the Dragon King
W - For All Waters
H - A Suitable Lover
F - Stories by Shukyou

Because these are free, I will be more lenient on editing (which I try not to mention too often, unless it's really bad anyway) and formatting (because sometimes the sites used to host just get grumpy). Also, Friday's post is a collection of longer short stories because I enjoy the author that much.


Anchored: Belonging Book One by Rachel Haimowitz

Anchored: Belonging Book One by Rachel Haimowitz
Stars: 5/5

Network news anchor Daniel Halstrom is at the top of his field, but being at the bottom of the social ladder—being a slave—makes that hard to enjoy. Especially when NewWorld Media, the company who's owned him since childhood, decides to lease him on evenings and weekends to boost their flagging profits.

Daniel's not stupid; he knows there's only one reason a man would pay so much for what little free time he has, and it's got nothing to do with his knowledge of current events. But he's never been made to serve like that before, and he fears he won't survive the experience with his sanity intact.

He finds himself in the home of Carl Whitman, a talk show host whose words fail him time and again when it comes to ordering Daniel to bed. Daniel knows what Carl wants, but it seems as if Carl isn't willing to take it, and Daniel's not willing to give it freely. His recalcitrance costs him dearly, but with patience and some hard-won understanding, love just might flourish where once there'd been only fear and pain. Can Carl become the anchor in Daniel's turbulent life, or will he end up the weight that sinks his slave for good?

Although this is shelved with romance novels, if you go into this expecting a romance, you'll probably run screaming. The amount of romance present is minimal and, for the most part, one sided. There is also a (tastefully done) on camera rape scene, a non-sexual flogging, and 80% of the book is Daniel bouncing between terror and panic.

Maybe it says something about me, but I loved it.

While this book by no means gave me warm fuzzies, except for maybe on the last few pages, it was a powerful, moving story of humanity and freedom and the fight to keep a sliver of self. For the majority of the story (80%), I ached for Daniel's situation, never quite crying but definitely hurting for him. The horrors that happen to him are shocking and painful, and some people understandably won't be able to take them. The emotions are raw like the top layers of skin have been peeled back to expose you to the air, stinging and burning, and if everything wasn't written so well and handled so carefully, this story could have fallen down in a pile of creepy, disturbed author. Instead it's wonderful in a horrible, horrible way.

This isn't one of those books I want to read again. This is one of those books I want to read again immediately. (In fact, shortly after finishing this review, I did just that.)

Writing. Highly enjoyable, Haimowitz handled some heavy duty, very sensitive subjects well. She paints a very clear picture of what's happening and the world, although we only see glimpses of it.

Characters. Carl. Of all the characters, I find Carl the most interesting because he is so very human. Jane is sweet and tender, sometimes giving Daniel tough love, but still there to support him and help him through rough spots. Mr. F is the villain who you want to lock away in a tiny cell and pretend that sort of inhumanity doesn't exist (even though it does in every world), and Carl is human. He is kind of in love, trying to do the best he can, but he has certain expectations and becomes frustrated when they aren't met. He's not a saint and he's not vicious. He's a good man, but he's not a perfect man and while some events in the novel are his fault, it's his blindness to some elements of reality that leads him to make those mistakes, even when he was just trying to do what was best for Daniel. Overall the characters were great, each in their own way, and colored brightly, and sometimes horribly.

Emotion. I don't think I need to reiterate how much emotion this book evoked from me, but I will. I found it to be extremely powerful and moving in that way that fiction portrays the horrors of reality.

Carl's ignorance. I was surprised at Carl's lack of understanding about Daniel's situation, but I can also defend it to myself as well. He doesn't understand Daniel's fear, but he's a worldly man who would/should know how some slaves are treated. However, giving him the benefit of the doubt, he's only seen Daniel as a happy, smart slave on television and probably figures Daniel has a good life. Also, he is human (with a bit of a temper), and was expecting a happy, at least somewhat willing bed partner (with some Companion training) and instead got a quivering, terrified man. While his reactions are necessarily always forgivable, they are understandable. Also, his ignorance ends after the Big Event, which I think really opens his eyes. So maybe not a weakness overall, but initially it seemed that way.

The ending/characterization. Maybe this will appear in a sequel, but I wish the end had built Daniel and Carl's coping outside the bedroom a little more. Carl (and some reviewers I've seen) make the point that we never see Daniel being suave, witty and functional. I can believe that he is that (because of his airtime), but we know that Daniel is a basket case around Carl because he's terrified, and I would have liked to have seen a scene or two of Daniel being who everyone says he is, possibly with Carl after the big event. I'm perfectly happy with the ending, at least for where Daniel is now, but I think seeing competent Daniel would have been nice too.


Ryland's Sacrifice by Kim Dare

Ryland's Sacrifice by Kim Dare
Stars: 3/5

While I enjoyed the ride, I wasn't really won over by it. Elements of it were good and nothing was particularly bad, but it didn't spark an interest, either.

Repaying the debt. Very amusing and funny, I like where Dare took this.

Characters. Although the main characters were fine, I was more interested in some of the side characters, specifically three of the lions who, since they have their own books, I am tempted to read more about. As for the main characters, they were both acceptably human and realistic, and although I connected to them, I wasn't really too emotionally involved.

I found the conflicts hard to buy and didn't feel incredibly invested in the characters or their plight. Although I wanted them to get together, I didn't feel a sense of struggle in them doing so, although I did want them together and was frustrated (like they were) with their situation.

The shifter's place in society seemed a little odd, because people seemed to know about shifters (enough that some would be willing to be 'thrown to the lions') but outside of the den scenes, we don't get any mention of shifters. I wanted to know more about the society, especially since culture played an important role with these two characters.


Muffled Drum by Erastes

Muffled Drum by Erastes
Stars: 4.5/5

This is a well-written novel that I emotionally struggled to finish, not because of the writing or the 'heavy' content, but because the character's suffering spoke true to me. Although it's not an overly intense in any one way, it is the story of two lovers, one of whom has forgotten the past two years during which the lovers came together. While in the end I was rewarded, I had a hard time making myself read when I knew the characters were in emotional pain. However, if you struggle with the same, I'd still recommend this book--and recommend you stick through 'til the end.

Approach. The angle of the story (one lover loses his memory just as the pair are prepared to forfeit their ranks in society, leaving one in the lurch), was well played out as the characters struggled with the new places they find themselves in. Interestingly, there are almost two major conflicts: the initial problem that perpetuates the story and then the later event that is the real rising action of the story. I enjoyed the direction the story went and the eventual resolution.

Characters. A nice variety of characters with good human reactions. One kind, but clueless, hero; the second hero is pained and trying to do the right thing; a companion is gruff, trying to do the right thing, but not that bad a guy; and a skeevy man who uses his body to trick rich men. Individually the characters may not be that interesting, but thrown together into the situation and we see more of them than is first presented.

While the lead up to the end was long, the end itself was short, almost abrupt. It didn't feel lacking in content, but it did bring about a quick turn of emotions that I'm not sure I was completely prepared for. A very minor niggle in my brain.

I requested a review copy of this book.


Movie Reviews for July 8th

All Over the Guy - Striking a healthy, loving balance in a relationship is no easy trick, no matter what your sexual orientation. For Eli (Dan Bucatinsky) and Tom (Richard Ruccolo), a set-up first date goes horribly awry. But when they meet again later, without any pressure, a connection is made. And with a little constructive help from friends, including Lisa Kudrow and Christina Ricci, they might be able to handle a seesaw of emotions and keep things on track.

(Rent) I read a book once that was very much like this movie, but I have to say I enjoyed the book more (no surprise). One guy keeps accidentally hurting the other guy's feelings while his feelings in turn get hurt and guy two doesn't want to admit, even to himself, that he wants commitment because it just makes him think of his parents, who are not a happy couple. Overall I enjoyed the movie, although I didn't really feel like I got anything out of it. The dynamic between the two male leads is difficult, because they seem to clash constantly, which makes the viewer wonder why they are so interested in one another, although there are attempts to show the pair getting along, which helps smooth things over. Acting was good, story line fair, and overall ending enjoyable. Worth the rental fee, but probably not something I'd return to.

Get Real - Steven (Ben Silverstone) is an average student at his middle-class high school, but he's harboring a big secret: He's gay. His only confidant is best friend Linda (Charlotte Brittain) -- until he meets John (Brad Gorton), the school's star jock who's seemingly straight and dating a model. The boys stumble through an awkward affair that sends Steven spinning and has John more confused than ever. The film is based on a play by Patrick Wilde.

(Rent/buy) This film is longer and has a slower development, which made me restless in the beginning, but once the relationship begins to develop, the story held me. The acting was excellent, and there was enough lighter scenes to break up the heavier elements of the story-line. There were a lot of interesting characters and developments and the end didn't play out how I was expecting, which was refreshing. There were some powerful moments toward the end, and while I enjoyed the movie overall, the slow beginning and lack of anything spectacular leads me to mark this as a film I probably wouldn't watch again unless it was with other people at their behest.

For the Bible Tells Me So - In this Sundance documentary, director Daniel Karslake goes to the Bible to examine the ways in which conservative Christian groups have used -- and sometimes exploited -- holy Scripture to deny human rights to gays and lesbians around the world. Highlights include interviews with V. Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop in the Anglican Communion, and Chrissy Gephardt, the lesbian daughter of former U.S. Rep. Dick Gephardt.

(Rent/buy) I'm never really one for buying documentaries, but this is one I would consider purchasing. It's well constructed and covers a wide variety of situations while being entertaining and educational. While it was long and I felt some elements could be shortened, I could also understand how the director wouldn't want to have removed any of the content. My favorite part is the cartoon that's in the middle (and can be found on YouTube here). While the documentary obviously has a goal and it works to establish and present information for that goal and in doing so may ignore some information, overall it is a very level-headed documentary that isn't meant to raise torches so much as a politely interject into the conversation on Christians and homosexuality.

Wilde - Stephen Fry stars as playwright and larger-than-life personality Oscar Wilde in this lush historical drama based on the late Richard Ellmann's definitive biography of one of London's most prolific writers and orators. The story traces Wilde's rise to fame -- from his marriage to Constance (Jennifer Ehle) to his sweeping, torrid affair with a young Oxford graduate, Lord Alfred Douglas (Jude Law), that brought about his imprisonment and downfall.

(Rent/buy) Personal taste will dictate if this is a purchase-worthy movie. The acting was excellent, the set design was beautiful, and everything was very well done, but this is not a movie with a lot of action, while it is a longer movie. This could be distasteful for some people. I found it difficult to sit still because it did move so slowly, but I also knew what was going to happen and was not looking forward to it. However, it felt historically accurate (and from what I know, it stayed true to fact as much as one can in film and re-enactment). Definitely worth seeing, I can't help imagine this being a film schools would show students--if the content weren't so "scandalous."

The Book of Daniel - Aidan Quinn stars as Episcopalian minister Daniel Webster, a man who talks to Jesus about his addiction to prescription medication, his son's gayness and his daughter's addiction to illegal drugs in this humorous series. Garrett Dillahunt, Ellen Burstyn, Alison Pill, Christian Campbell and Ivan Shaw co-star in the controversial NBC dramedy that ran for only four episodes before it was canceled due to pressure from certain religious groups.

(Rent) This series has the feel of Seventh Heaven meets Desperate Housewives as it centers around a minister's family, but has more outrageous drama than Seventh Heaven ever had. That is, of course, because it's a comedy although it discusses some heavy material like homosexuality and gay bashing, teen pregnancy, racism, interracial couples, drug and alcohol addictions, Alzheimer's, and extramarital affairs. It's a shame that the series was cut short due to pressure from religious groups as it would have been interesting to see where it headed, although I don't know if I would have wanted it to go any farther than one season (to avoid it from "jumping the shark"). The acting and sets were excellent, I loved the transitions to commercial and I enjoyed the "realism" of the characters (although sometimes they were, as comedy tends to do, hyperbolic of the "real" characters). Definitely worth a watch, all 6 hours of it.

Beautiful Boxer - Kickboxer Parinaya Charoemphol (Asanee Suwan) harbors an unusual secret: He's transgender. Inspired by a famous Thai pugilist who lived two drastically different lives, this award-winning drama recounts Parinaya's painful attempts to exist in paradoxical worlds. To fund the sex-change operation he's desperate to have, Parinaya earns money in the ring, participating day after day in the ultimate "masculine" sport.

(rent) While I mark this as “rent,” I could see some people wanting to own this work of art. It is made with a dramatic and realistic craft, but the length and subtitles, and ultimately the plot, left me lackluster. I enjoyed the ride, but it didn't keep my attention. Not to my taste, but a well-done production that others may find of interest.

Kiss the Bride - Dashing magazine editor Matt (Philipp Karner) dumps all potential boyfriends when they don't measure up to his high school flame, Ryan. So when Matt learns that Ryan (James O'Shea) is getting married -- to a woman (Tori Spelling) -- he rushes back to his Arizona hometown to investigate. There, he makes another confounding discovery: He actually likes the bride. Sexual identity crises ensue in this warmhearted comedy.

(rent) The most I could call this is a charming romantic comedy where our young gay hero dashes home to save his high school sweetheart from making a terrible decision to marry a rich blonde. Overall I found it an awkward mix of comedy and poor decision making which left the story a little lacking. Some of the behaviors of the characters (such as Alex, the bride) left me raising a brow. The ending was happy but ultimately unsatisfying for me as while it didn't sadden me, I didn't feel much character growth happened, even though there was a scene that monologued each character's growth. Although the acting/set/production were all high quality, I couldn't recommend this for more than one sit down.

Maurice - Set in pre-war I England, this Merchant-Ivory drama (based on the controversial E.M. Forster novel written in 1914 but not published until 1971) is about the coming of age of two young college men (Hugh Grant and James Wilby) who meet at Cambridge University and fall in love. The movie casts a critical light on the era's moral hypocrisy, as Maurice and Clive struggle to make room for their forbidden love in an intolerant society.

(rent/buy) An enjoyable, if not sometimes painful, story about Maurice's struggles with his sexuality and being love in a time where such love is forbidden. I'm not familiar with the novel this is based on, but I found the story good and enough happened to keep me interested, although it was 2h 20 min, which made for a long movie. Very little in the story is high intensity, but a plot does unfold, mostly involving Maurice, Clive, and eventually another young man. This very much just follows the life of a young man from age 12 to late 20s (I'm guessing). Good, but not exciting. I think my favorite part is the discreet butler who you think is going to ruin everything but instead just makes comments hinting that he knows something.


Changing Tides by Michael Thomas Ford

Changing Tides by Michael Thomas Ford
Stars: 4/5

While this book started off slow (perhaps even extremely slow), I felt it was worth holding out for the ending. The style of writing was enjoyable and with the constant references to Steinbeck, I feel like something of the story (whether it was writing style or plot progression) harkened back to it, although I haven't read much/any Steinbeck, so I can't say for certain.

The development of characters is the main focus of the story, with the romantic relationship taking the back seat of the bus although it does play a critical role in plot creation. While this was a long and at times slow book, I felt it was worth the time it took. As long as you're not looking for a quickie, this is a good place to go, especially if you can find it in your library, like I did.

Character development. Perhaps the most important part of this novel is the development of the characters as they progress from their individual roles to the braid they form with each other. Ben, who verges on socially inept, would rather spend time with sea slugs than people, especially his daughter. At least until he meets Hudson, a graduate student studying literature and doing his dissertation on Steinbeck. Hudson makes Ben more human, and Ben incidentally makes Hudson realize he's chasing ghosts, while both of them are needed to help Ben's daughter. The tiny advancements each person makes through the story is interesting to watch as each small victory often doesn't seem like a victory at all.

Final plot. While the build up is important, the end plot is well executed, both in the climactic scenes, but also in how the story is tied up. While I don't think the final sex scene was necessary (and was a little heavy handed), it was important to the characters. It was the climactic scene that did the most for me in how it forced all the characters to act and moved along their relationships at a quicker pace.

Writing. There were many detailed descriptions, specifically of the scuba diving, that were very nice, and overall the writing was good, although these same strengths made the story drag out a little, especially in the beginning when the reader wants to get into the meat of the story. In some ways the writing is just like other Ford novels, in some ways it's different in that it seemed slightly longer winded than the other books I've read by him.

Speed. If I were a quitter, I may have stopped reading half-way through the book. It took me to nearly three-quarters to really start getting into the book, although I enjoyed it, it never felt like anything was happening. However, once the conflict was presented, the pace picked up and the end really came together nicely.