27.12.12

The Brush Whistler's Song by Augusta Li

The Brush Whistler's Song by Augusta Li
Stars: 4.5/5

Length: 22,000 words (55 pages)
Blurb
Young Arjin is caught in the web of an ancient truce. Barely into his adulthood, he is given as tribute to the mysterious Najadira, part of a race of nigh-immortal horned warriors known as the Ansari. But Arjin is no innocent. Since his childhood, he has been trained for this day, groomed by the temple priests for a singular purpose: not to please the Ansari, but to murder him and free his people from the terms of their agreement.

Najadira, though, is old and jaded, and unsurprised by Arjin's true nature. Still, he chooses to keep Arjin near to him, finding that the young man's zeal quickens his old blood like few before him ever did. He allows Arjin access into his world, a world of beauty and wonder that had before now been denied. And as Arjin learns more about Najadira, he begins to question his teachings about the Ansari. Ultimately, he must choose between taking a life in the service of his beliefs or abandoning his duty and thereby condemning his soul to the decadence and sin surrounding him.


Overall
Wow. That's about all I can say. In a relatively short span Li creates a world, fills it with color, and brings the two main characters to life. My only complaint is that I want more!

Review
I think what immediately caught my eye with this story is the gorgeous descriptions Li uses in detailing Arjin's new home. Everything is bright and colorful and very nearly jumps off the page. After reading an excerpt, I very much wanted to delve into the decadent writing. And it's absolutely worth it. Not only is the writing a wonderful practice of the art, but the story and characters hold up in comparison.

Arjin is a man on a mission and despite Najadira knowing what that mission is, the two bond. Najadira is fighting against Arjin's entire past, while Arjin struggles between what he knows and what he feels. In some ways this reminds me of Every Good Thing by M. Jules Aedin, although much shorter. Arjin's inner conflict is what propels the story and gives plot to these two living together, and the reader will delight in seeing Arjin be swayed by Najadira and then repulsed.

This tale explores self-discovery and coming of age, in addition to several religious and cultural concepts, and in doing so can push some sensitive subjects, although I felt everything was handled respectfully. There were some convenient plot elements in this regard, but they weren't off-putting.

If I could say one negative (aside from wanting to see more of these two, although their story is quite complete), it's that I felt a giant question was left hanging in the air in regards to Najadira's immortality and Arjin's mortality. The fact that this was never addressed soured (a little) the wonderful conclusion this story draws.

In general I found this to be a delightful story that is quickly devoured and leaves a lingering splash of color across the palate.

20.12.12

Shoulda Been a Cowboy by Terry O'Reilly

Shoulda Been a Cowboy by Terry O'Reilly
Stars: 2/5

Length: 21,354 words
Blurb
Charlie Bradley has always entertained cowboy fantasies. When his boyfriend Jared offers him the choice of where to go on their summer vacation, Charlie chooses Stallions and Studs, a dude ranch catering to a gay clientele.

Upon arrival, Charlie meets the very handsome and studly Wade Connors, a riding instructor. Charlie is immediately enthralled with the man and finds his feelings, fight them as he may, are turning into love.

Wade, however, is a man who chooses a guest as his flavor of the week -- to romance, play with, and then move on. But this week Wade finds Charlie becoming more than he bargained for. What will happen when the week ends and Charlie has to leave for home?


Overall
If you're looking for cowboy smut with a weak, but existent, plot, this may be up your alley. I found it fairly lacking and hard to believe, but I still read the whole thing.

Review
I think my biggest beef with the story is that it's completely unbelievable. While I can imagine a couple with a relationship like Charlie and Jared, the way everything falls into place is just too neat, especially since it's so hard to imagine Charlie staying with Jared anyway. Along those same lines, this story deals with cheating, although not entirely of the main characters, so those who are sensitive to that should probably avoid this all together.

What's not believeable is what happens at the end. And some of the horse stuff. Being a 'natural' is good and all, but being a natural doesn't equal being able to rodeo better than people who work on the farm (unless they're incompetent, but that's never implied). Obviously some things needed to be forced in order to resolve issues within the short space, but the "solutions" felt extremely flimsy to me.

That aside, if you're looking for a range full of hot cowboys who cater to gay clientele (and I DO mean cater!), you may find this a tasty little bite, although I didn't find it satisfying.

17.12.12

Puppy, Car, and Snow by Amy Lane

Puppy, Car, and Snow by Amy Lane
Stars: 4/5

Length: 92 pages
Blurb
Ryan’s entire life changed the night Scott surprised him in a bathroom at a party. Now Ryan’s soulless climb up the corporate ladder has stalled—but his quality life has become a whirlwind of laughter, joy and surprises, thanks to Scotty’s playful, gentle heart.

After three years together, they’re going to Ryan’s parents’ cabin to spend Christmas. Snowed in by the weather and locked under the icy glare of his mother’s disapproval, can Ryan show he has found the most profound happiness in the simplest of things?


Overall
I can always trust on Lane for a sweet story, especially if it's around the holidays. I needed some cheering, so I picked this one up and found it to be a good mix of sweet, realistic, and funny. A great Christmas story.

Review
I'm not familiar with Ryan and Scott's previous stories, but I think the background Lane provided gave enough facts that I wasn't lost while not rehashing it for those who are familiar with these two men. They have a Love-at-First-Sight background, but they've also spent three years building a real life together, which I find just as wonderful as the first coming together.

I think what really brings this story to life is the characters. They are, well, a bunch of characters! (Sorry, couldn't help it.) Although our narrators (Scott and Ryan trade off back and forth) have already formed opinions about the cast, what's really great is that those opinions are able to be pushed and stretched.

The bigoted character isn't just a bigot. He has some other qualities too. The stuck-up sister? Also a caring mother. In a short space, Lane takes this tiny cast and shows the depth of people, even people you don't like who you're stuck with because they're family. It left me with a very positive, Christmas-y feel.

The plot was good, cute, but I think outshone by the interplay of characters, so I don't really have much to say on it. A good, joyous tale!

13.12.12

precious_boy by KZ Snow

precious_boy by KZ Snow
Stars: 3.5/5

Length: 142 pages
Blurb
It was just an amateur porn video, like thousands of others on the Internet. Like hundreds Jonathan Wright had seen and hundreds more he'd ignored. He hadn't intended to watch it, but he gives in to his curiosity. When he sees the lithe, blond young man who's doing naughty things with a bearish, older man, he's seduced… and feels like a pervert afterward. The youth in the video seems a little too young, despite the fact he runs his own escort service. Worse yet, Jon gets the nagging feeling he's seen "Justin Time," aka precious_boy, before.

When Jon takes a chance and meets Justin in a Chicago hotel room, Jon's past, present, and possibly his future begin to converge in alarming and confusing ways. There's no escaping the resulting dilemma: Jon must decide just how involved he wants to get with a sweet kid whose life has turned sour… a decision made more complex by a surprising connection to a lover from Jon's past.


Overall
A sweet, kind of cute, story that was enjoyable but didn't leave a lasting impression.

Review
The story/plot isn't bad and has several strong points, the majority of which centers around Ethan and his strengths. He's in a bad situation and while he hasn't made the best choices, he's also strong enough to recognize that and, with a little help, do what is needed to change. The coming together of these two men is sweet and enjoyable, although I felt it was a little forced sometimes.

I wasn't enthralled with the characters and found the leading male especially lacking. While the plot covers some pretty heavy topics, nothing feels like it's developed deep enough to really appreciate the struggle of the characters. Jon may be representing a realistic character, but as the reader, I didn't like him. He wasn't bad or hateable, but he wasn't someone I actually cared about either. Readers who don't mind Jon and his issues probably will enjoy this story more.

I founded the majority of the characters likeable and that they added nice flairs to the story. However, when Jon sleeps with Ethan's father when he knows he feels attracted to Ethan (and knows Ethan's father is lame), I found my dislike of Jon growing. He really isn't that bad of a guy, and maybe my obsessive reading of true love tales has tainted me, but I found the action unsavory. Jon of course grows and matures over the course of the story into a man who is worthy of Ethan, but I still found it difficult to like him.

10.12.12

A Knitter in His Natural Habitat (Knitting, #4) by Amy Lane

A Knitter in His Natural Habitat (Knitting, #4) by Amy Lane
Stars: 5/5

Length: 212 pages
Blurb
Stanley’s life took a left turn at a knitting shop and hit a dead end. The closest thing he’s had to a relationship breaks things off to date a “nice boy,” and none of the pretty young things in Boulder’s limited gay scene do it for Stanley. He needs to reevaluate whether working as a floor designer for a series of craft stores is really where he wants to be.

Then Stanley does a peculiar thing: he starts to live the life he fell into. Stitch by stitch, he knits his life into something meaningful. Just when he does, Johnny, the store’s new delivery boy, walks in.

Johnny is like no one Stanley has ever met: he doesn’t believe in quickies in the bathroom and has a soft spot for theater and opera. There has to be a catch. When Johnny’s dark past comes back to haunt them, Stanley realizes how much he loves his cushy life in the yarn store—but he’ll give it all up to keep the man who makes his ordinary life extraordinary.


Overall
As much as I love Amy Lane's stuff, I had low expectations for this one. Stanley is portrayed as bit of a slut in previous stories, and Johnny's dramatic dark past seemed eye roll worthy. I expected cheesy and shallow with characters I didn't like.

I love being wrong. Stanley is a bit of a slut, but he sort of reforms, and the drama that happens is dark enough to be meaningful and not just drama to further the romance. In fact, the romance is fairly secure by the time the drama happens. And Johnny is a completely sweet gentleman.

Absolutely worth picking up, especially if you like sweet, heart-stopping stories.

Review
This is just charming. Stanley and his makeshift family are charming, Johnny charms the pants off Stanley, and of course, life is knitting. While I think everyone can enjoy Stanley's story (and Jeremy's and Craw's), I think fiber workers (knitters, etc) probably enjoy it a little more—at least I do. It's inspiring. And sweet, and cuddly and some days just plain squee-worthy.

The characters in this Knitting book are kind, helpful, and pleasant to be around. While they may have habits that annoy you, they are still people you'd want to be your friends. They're nice and want to be good to you. They think you deserve something great. It makes the entire story a joy to read, although some may find it not conflicted enough. Honestly, the characters are a little too good to feel realistic, but they don't feel unrealistic either. (I know, that didn’t make sense!)

I was surprised where the plot went and how things turned out. It was a wondrous shock to see how things unfolded. In many ways this is the darkest of the Knitting series, although the purity of the characters never makes it feel too desperate. Even when horrible things are happening, there is still a sense of hope that radiates in the actions and the writing.

Final perk: The entire cast from previous books reappear and play significant roles. We see more of Jeremy and Aiden, we get to see Ariadne have her baby, and more Craw and Ben—plus the Ben-Stanley conversation from Stanley's view, which is very different from how Craw interpreted it. A warm, fuzzy family of knitters who help Stanley and Johnny come together.

7.12.12

Aliens, Smith and Jones by Blaine D. Arden

Aliens, Smith and Jones by Blaine D. Arden
Stars: 3.5/5

Length: 75,000 (200 pages)
Blurb
Connor Smith works for Primrose, an organization tasked with monitoring and tracking aliens and alien technology. It's a job that doesn't know the meaning of "nine-to-five". It also doesn't leave much room for a social life, a complication that Connor hasn't minded, until now. At the prodding of his best friend, Connor reluctantly puts himself back in the dating pool, even though it means lying about his remarkable life.

Elsewhere, Noah Jones has led a remarkable life of his own. Stranded on Earth in 1648, Noah was forced to transform himself permanently into human form to survive. He soon learned that in doing so, he'd become effectively immortal, aging only at a glacial pace. Alone, with no way to contact his people or return home, Noah becomes a silent observer of human civilization—always in the world, but never of the world. Then, hundreds of years later, he sees a face in a crowd and instantly feels a connection that he thought he'd never feel again. But he's too late: Connor's already taken.

Destiny is not without a sense of humor, though, and the two men are pulled inexorably closer, snared by the same web of dangers and conspiracies. Worse, Primrose is now aware of Noah, and they aren't ones to leave an alien unrestrained. So while Connor struggles to understand the strange pull he feels toward Noah, forces without as well as within are working against them to keep them apart.


Overall
An enjoyable romance/mystery with a bit of sci-fi thrown in. Some fun and interesting characters, some twists I wasn’t expecting, but some of the mystery in the mystery plot was not too mysterious.

Review
Noah and Connor are good leading men. They are decent guys who aren't perfect, they have a good chemistry (alien biology aside!), and you want them to have a happy ending. They are also surrounded by various other types of characters, which keeps interactions fresh and lets Arden show different reactions to different situations and really build them as people.

Despite some issues I have with weaknesses (under the spoiler mark), I enjoyed the plot and the unfolding. Arden has created an interesting world here. It was fun to hang out in and see, and while it's not deeply developed, the reader can fill in the gaps. It's like a fun romance from X-Files. The beginning stuff when they still had silly alien stories.

Spoiler

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One weakness I found was that the mystery wasn't too mysterious. It's fairly obvious who dun what, but the suspense/adventure played out well and made up for the lack of mystery suspense. Along the same lines, the suspense between Noah and Connor getting together is lacking, as if you figure out A, then the solution to B is pretty obvious. While it's a general weakness of the story, the overall plot didn't really suffer, since while nothing is a surprise, per se, it's still a fun story to see unfold.

Another issue is with Connor and Noah's connection. Although I can understand that the reader never gets to find out why Connor is special and can emotion-meld with Noah because no one in the story knows, I still felt like it was a hole in the story. I wanted to know! Obviously authors have to make decisions, but some speculation would have been nice, since Connor shows no psychic or empathic tendencies.


Received this book for review.

4.12.12

Another movie review kind of day

The Hunger Games - In a dystopian future ruled by a totalitarian regime, resourceful Katniss and her partner, Peeta, represent their district in the lethal Hunger Games—a televised survival competition in which teenage contestants fight each other to the death.

(rent/buy) I avoided seeing this in theaters despite several friends (and many others) giving it a wonderful review. I was rather sick of hearing about it and even when my friends eventually sat me down to watch it, I wasn’t on the edge of my seat with excitement. The movie is enjoyable, well done, well acted, and gorgeous. The plot, pacing, characters and story are all fantastic, although I did feel like the ‘romance’ was forced and the story would be stronger without it.

American History X - A California neo-Nazi gets sent to prison for murder and comes out a changed man. But can he atone for his sins and prevent his younger brother from following in his hate-filled footsteps?

(rent/buy) This is not an easy movie. I added it to my Netflix queue because it’s sort of classic, and then I realized what it was about. It sat beside my TV for a month—or two—waiting to be watched. When I finally bit the bullet and watched, it was absolutely worth it! It’s good, but it’s also heavy-hitting enough that I know many people wouldn’t watch it again. But it’s definitely worth checking out once. Just don’t watch it when you need a happy movie, although ultimately there are a ton of positive messages. Great acting, great story.

Judas Kiss - While judging at his alma mater's film festival, failed director Zach Wells has a fling with a student contestant. The following day, Zach discovers that the young man is a past version of himself, offering him a chance to improve his own future.

(rent) This is an enjoyable but odd movie. It’s not crazy weird, but it is different. The acting, sets, and special effects were good and the plot/theme was interesting, although I think a few points of the plot can’t be looked at too closely, and I felt like some things were left open-ended. Overall, definitely worth a viewing, although it does hit on some heavy-duty topics.

Breaking Dawn, pt 2 - Brought back from near-death by Edward after childbirth, Bella begins her new life as a vampire and mother to their daughter, Renesmee. When the Volturi are led to believe that Renesmee was not born as a vampire but, rather, turned into one in violation of their code, the Volturi set out to destroy the child and the Cullen clan. The Cullens band together with vampires from around the world to stand united against the Volturi.

(rent) Yes, I watched this. Yes, I paid money at the movie theatre for it (though we went to the matinee, so it was cheaper). My friends and I made a pact to go see them all together after I laughed (silently, in stitches, probably terrifying the poor woman next to me) through the first one. It’s better than the first one, but no better than the others, really. And they got a little weird with their fight scene. So, yeah, it was another Twilight movie...pretty much what you’d expect.

What Happens Next - After rich businessman Paul Greco retires early, his imperious sister tries to get him to settle down with the woman of her choosing. But Paul seems more interested in developing his friendship with Andy, a charming young man he meets at a dog park.

(rent/buy) This was a sweet, cute, kind of awkward romantic comedy. The leads are attractive without being too attractive, which makes things feel more real, but the short scenes left me kind of unconnected with the pair. I didn’t feel a dynamic with them, although they were both nice men (although one is in the closet and causes all the eyerolls/hair pulling associated with that). It was enjoyable, but didn’t blow my socks off, but probably worth a cuddle on the couch.

30.11.12

One True Thing by Piper Vaughn and MJ O'Shea

One True Thing by Piper Vaughn and MJ O'Shea
Stars: 3.5/5

Length: 260 pages
Blurb
Dustin Davis spent years wishing for a prince but kissing frog after slimy frog. When he sees Archer Kyriakides for the first time, Dusty thinks his luck has finally changed. Archer could be it. The One. But their hot and cold romance leaves Dusty confused: why does it feel right one moment and wrong the next? It doesn’t make sense—until the day Dusty meets Archer’s identical twin, Asher, and realizes he’s been seeing them both.

Asher Kyriakides dreams of being a fashion photographer, but he’s stuck with a job he hates and an irresponsible playboy brother whose habits drive him absolutely insane, especially when he finds out Archer is dating the cute little blond Asher can’t seem to forget. Torn between loyalty and desire, Asher does nothing but try to warn Dusty away.

But when Archer finally goes too far, Dusty turns to Asher for comfort, and Asher knows he can’t refuse. It isn’t long before they realize they’re falling fast, but more than one thing stands in their way, not the least of which is Archer, who isn’t quite ready to stop being a thorn in his brother’s side.


Overall
While I enjoyed this novel, I also was very blasé about it. The writing felt stiff compared to One Small Thing and while the plot was interesting, I had a hard time getting into the characters and siding with them. Don't get me wrong, I liked the characters, but also struggled to really care about them.

This is worth a read, but I found it disappointing after how much I enjoyed the previous story.

Review
Dusty and Asher are a cute couple; both men are looking for true love, and they feel the classic zing when they meet. They definitely fall into the love at first site trope, but it's pretty well-handled and a majority of the story doesn't focus on that so much as the twin confusion and the later troubles involving Archer. I still found it a bit irksome, but not enough to put down the book and not continue.

The broader cast in this book is enjoyable, and the roles they play in the story (minor though most of them are). I'm also hoping we'll get a Lane/Josh book, because things were definitely set up for that to happen. The additional cast added some nice flavor to the story and let characters talk out their problems with outside sources, but I also felt like most of the extra characters were just cardboard cutouts. They lacked much depth, although I still found them darling.

I really wanted to smack Asher (after taking a hit at Archer) for how he handled his brother and the entire fiasco that he causes. I found the whole thing super annoying, but I can also respect that people react differently to situations. In the end, I found the end resolution very fitting and kind of amusing.

Everything gets tied up rather neatly in the end, but that doesn't mean there isn't a little bit of heartache. I was glad the ending had a bit of melancholy because that balanced out the love at first sight perfection from the beginning of the novel.

This won't be for everyone, but I think fans of the authors and the standard contemporary romance will enjoy.

28.11.12

Dex in Blue by Amy Lane

Dex in Blue by Amy Lane
Stars: 4/5

Length: 350 pages
Blurb
Ten years ago David Worral had plans to go to college and the potential for a beautiful future in front of him. One tragic accident later, he fled to California and reinvented himself as Dex, top porn model of Johnnies.

Dex’s life is a tangled mess now, but the guys he works with only see the man who makes them believe even porn stars can lead normal lives. When Kane, one of Dex’s coworkers, gets kicked out of his house, the least Dex can do is give him a place to stay. Kane may be a hyperactive muscle-bound psycho, but he’s also a really nice guy. What could be the harm?

Except nothing is simple—not sex, not love, and not the goofy kid with the big dick and bigger heart who moves his life into Dex’s guest room. When they start negotiating fractured pasts and broken friends, Dex wonders if Kane’s honest nature can untangle the sadness that stalled his once-promising future. With Kane by his side, Dex just might be able to reclaim the boy he once was—and if he can do that, he can give Kane the home and the family he deserves.


Overall
After Chase in Shadow, the next of the Johnnies series is far less intense! Dex in Blue is not nearly as angst ridden, nor does it have as much of a rising action/climax/falling action construct. It focuses more on the development of these two men, especially Dex, in their own lives and in their relationship. This is a much slower book than many other of the genre, and aside from some drama at the end, it keeps it's steady pace throughout. That didn't stop me from reading it all in one day though, and I think most people will enjoy the characters, story, and writing enough to forgive the somewhat drawn out telling.

Review
After my first read through, I was of the mind that I enjoyed this novel, but felt that it covered too much and could have ended earlier. However, on the second read, perhaps because I was prepared for the length, I felt the story worked. The problems both characters have are faced and dealt with, and while I still have some issues (in a spoiler note below), I enjoyed it more.

Kane and Dex are sweet together as they just sort of stumble into bed and then build a life together without defining it as having a relationship. Kane’s insistence that he isn’t gay seems a little questionable, but somewhat understandable, and the conflict and resolution this builds is worth any of the eyebrow raising it may create.

While I read this all in one night, I wouldn’t recommend it for most readers. The gradual and slow build of the plot is better experienced when it’s not rushed into one sitting, and although I felt an urge to know what was going to happen, this is one of those novels that is better savored. I think hurrying through leaves a feeling of disappointment, since the drama is minimal and it really is the journey that is worth experiencing.

I'm looking forward to the next book in the Johnnies series, which hopefully will focus on Ethan!

Spoiler!
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The end felt a little too perfect. Everything ties up too neatly, too perfectly. Also, since most readers will be familiar with Chase in Shadow, they'll notice some repeated themes. The ending isn't bad, and it definitely is sweet, but the almost absolute perfection of it all working out felt like too much to me. I could have been left with more hope and fewer definites.

23.11.12

Carved in Flesh ed by SL Armstrong & Kristen Pavka

Carved in Flesh ed by SL Armstrong & Kristen Pavka
Stars: 3/5

Length: 193 pages
Blurb
People often say that the true perfection in the human form is in its imperfections. Scars are visceral reminders of a person's past, a sign of an event that can never fade. Whether it was gained in combat, a traumatic experience, or part of a ritual with a lover, scars are the ultimate labels. They leave a permanent mark on the body and spirit that, one way or another, change a person forever.

Overall
Anthologies are always tough, and once again I found a wide range of quality, both in writing and storytelling. How much you enjoy the stories will really depend on what you want out of them: Are you here purely for the carving kink? Then they all will probably satisfy that. For those who want more depth and exploration, there are a good number for that as well, and even the ones I considered weak were still enjoyable.

I must admit that the creation of scars always made my skin crawl, but after reading "Oren's Right" and "Sojourn Home," it has become beautiful. These stories definitely opened my eyes, and it was interesting the different ways the authors interpreted the theme.

Oren's Right by Blaine D. Arden
Stars: 3.5/5
This was an interesting story that continued in the world of Arden's short "The Forester." I found the characters compelling, and I love the world we're provided, but I wasn't wild about the plot. While it fits in and explains some points in the story, it also feels completely unrelated to the romantic strain of the story and the narrator's near-obsession with Oren and his marks. I enjoyed the description of the scarring ritual and Vern's own marks—and his love of Oren's marks. I wanted more of that and less of the mystery, but overall still an enjoyable read.

Tiofaidh Ar La by Angelia Sparrow & Naomi Brooks
Stars: 2.5/5
Initially I wasn't too wild about this story. It felt rushed through the meeting and the courting and the sex. The time skips jumped through massive amounts of development and potential for character building, and while I can understand why, it all went too fast. This would have been better told in a full novel to better explore the bond between the characters and to explain why a young man would go to such lengths for a man he's only known a few months/a year.

I liked Joe's difficulties with his scars and how Ryan reacted to them, recognizing them, adoring them, but not forgetting that they still hurt. The romance worked well, despite what I felt were underdeveloped characters, because of the strong emotions Joe felt about his scars and Ryan. So a nice story, but really could have been explored more completely.

Faded Love by MA Church
Stars: 3/5
This one started rough for me, as the opening scene is sex and felt rather porny. It took me a while to get into the story, and I wasn't wild about the narration jumping between the two main characters constantly, but the end was sweet and made me go "Aww." So that was worth it in the end.

The plot (pretty boy loses his looks) isn't necessarily new, but some interesting things were done with it here, although again it felt like too much story was pushed into a short piece.

Scar Therapy by Logan Zachary
Stars: 2/5
This one really didn't do it for me. I like the concept of the injured young man coming in for scar therapy and the bond between man and therapist, but too much was told not shown and I never really got a good sense of the characters and their bond over the story.

By the end I was so irked by the patient/practitioner questionable-ethics issue that the sex just felt like porn. There were also several things that just felt weird, like Tim's mother coming to his first therapy session (which made me think Tim was much younger than he was [he's out of college]) and Tim just showing up at Larry's house (which was just kind of creepy and a porn setup).

Gift of the Goddess by Kaje Harper
Stars: 5/5
Loved this one. The incorporation of scars was fantastic for both men, and the drama and plot were riveting. It was amazing to see how far Garvin was willing to go in order to save Nyle. It was intense, and I appreciated that while Garvin was all strong about everything, it still affected him, despite his 'choice' in the matter.

This feels like it is the start of something, with the fickle goddess's attention now turned on Garvin, but the end resolved all the current issues and felt complete, leaving the reader at a compelling point. Overall this story quickly fleshed out the history of the two characters and threw me right into the action. Absolutely recommend it.

Sojourn Home by TC Mill
Stars: 4/5
I struggled with this one, not because it was poorly written or boring, but because it was so emotionally charged that it hurt to read. I have difficulties with open relationships though, so some people may not be as affected as I was, although I felt the narrator was compelling in both his desires and his restraint.

Not only did it make me ache, but it also made me rejoice. The ending was near perfect (only not perfect because I like my endings oozing a sugar-laden chocolate center). But I felt happy with how things went and it fit both the characters, which can be difficult with stories of open relationships where one is maybe not so happy with that setup. Not much happens action-wise, but this is worth reading just for the compelling emotional story.

Received this book for review.

19.11.12

The Hot Floor by Josephine Myles

The Hot Floor by Josephine Myles
Stars: 5/5

Length: 233 pages
Blurb
Two plus one equals scorching hot fun.

Dumped by his boyfriend and reduced to living in a grotty bedsit, Josh Carpenter has gotten used to expecting the worst. Now he lives only for his job as a glassblower…and occasional glimpses of his sexy downstairs neighbors, Rai Nakamura and Evan Truman.

Every time he overhears the diminutive academic and the hunky plumber having loud and obviously kinky sex, Josh is overwhelmed with lust…and a longing for a fraction of what they have.

To his amazement, Rai and Evan find his embarrassing tendency to blush utterly charming, and the three men grow closer over the course of the long, hot summer. Despite Rai’s charming flirtation and Evan’s smoldering gaze, Josh is determined never to break his new friends’ loving bonds.

On the night a naked Josh falls—quite literally—into the middle of one of Rai and Evan’s marathon sex sessions, the force of their mutual attraction takes control. But just as Josh dares to hope, he senses a change. Leaving him to wonder if the winds of love are about to blow his way at last…or if history is about to repeat itself.


Overall
Y-U-M.

Followers of my reviews know that sex in stories is usually my least favorite part. This is an exception to the rule. A perfect mix of hot, steamy sex, a slow build of romance and drama, and a terrified narrator, who I associated with perhaps a bit too much. A perfect mix for a steamy romance that is just as delicious as the cover.

Review
Considering the smoking-hot cover and the steamy sex scenes later, the beginning of the book starts slow as the characters meet and become friends. It worked, and it helped lay the foundation that cemented their relationship.

The first-person narrator is a bit of a spazz and jumpy. I connected with him immediately. He worries about his job when he has no need, he can't imagine people wanting him, and he has a string of crap luck (or good luck, maybe), to get things to where they go. Despite his poor self-image, he's not overly dramatic about it, although his kicked-puppy personality is the motivation for most of his actions.

I think what worked best for this story (aside from the yummy sex scenes) was the fact that the characters didn't seem like they went together at all, but Myles made it work for just that reason. The three men are all so different, but in that way they complement one another and break up stereotypes (mostly). Even beyond the main three men, there is a great cast of everyday folk who are just like coworkers, neighbors, and flirty friends that you've probably met in real life.

I do have to admit, a little bit, that when the threesome first gets together the scene feels like something out of a porn, but for some reason it works, and I didn't even think about it until my second read through.

Finally, I just really enjoyed the story, the character dynamic, and the sex. The end is a little expected, but not so much that it's silly, and it felt completely appropriate and alluded to throughout. This story can be summed up with a few visuals: schoolboy role play with creative use of ties, bathtubs in bathtubs, '70s decor and owls, and giant glass dildos.

Enjoy!

15.11.12

Making Ends Meet by SL Armstrong and K Piet

Making Ends Meet by SL Armstrong and K Piet
Stars: 3.5/5

Length: 65,000 words (166 pages)
Blurb
Zach is just seventeen years old, but despite his youth, he has more than his fair share of responsibility. An experimental fling in high school has led him down the path of single fatherhood. Now, he holds down a job, takes his college classes online, and pays his own bills as best he can—all while juggling daycare and chores and play-dates for his four-month-old, Mae. It's a rough, 24/7 life, but to Zach, Mae is worth every penny spent and every minute of his day.

With no free time to speak of, it feels like a miracle when Zach meets Wil in the check-out line at his work. Handsome, grounded, from the proverbial "right side of the tracks", and—even better—good with kids, Wil is everything he could want in a boyfriend. But as interested as Wil is in Zach, he has his own life, his own family, his own job and college career to think about. All the various draws on their time means that it's hard just to find chances to be together. But Zach's no stranger to hard tasks, and believes he owes it to himself to try.


Overall
If you're expecting a plot twist, huge drama, or dark secrets, you're going to be disappointed with Making Ends Meet.

The story is as described in the blurb. It's a charming tale of a very young man who decides to keep the baby he and his friend produced after a misguided night of exploration. Zach is overly independent and Wil is too good to be true, but they still have a sweet story to share. For lovers of everyday romance (and who love babies in stories), this will probably hit all those soft squishy spots.

Review
I found this novel difficult to review because it's just so mellow. There are a few dramatic moments, mostly due to Zach's insistence that he be independent, and there is some family drama, but it's never too explosive, and most of it is just plain ol' Family Drama. In some ways this is refreshing and nice, in other ways it feels like it's missing something. Much like Zach, I was waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Wil is a perfect boyfriend, a perfect father, and a good guy. I found him almost too good, as he's rarely, if ever, the cause of strife in the relationship. Obviously he's the older, wiser, more experienced one, but his perfection rubbed me the wrong way. He rarely gets angry and he does nothing wrong aside from spoil Mae and Zach. I would have liked to have seen some faults in him, but from a literary angle, his only fault was his lack of faults!

Zach is the opposite. He is inexperienced and young and is struggling to raise Mae on his own. He's all about being independent and is against taking money from people, even his parents and his boyfriend. I can completely understand his stance, his struggle, and the arguments he has with friends and family, but I also think it's good that he learns to accept help when he needs it.

The familial contrasts (money, love) are a persistent theme in the story, and I felt the end came together to show what is important. However, in regards to the end, I also wished Zach wasn't always wrong. I felt he had some good points, even if they were only emotional, and they needed to be addressed and accepted more than they were, especially in regards to Wil spending so much money on him and Mae. Wil isn't seen in the wrong because he's giving them something, but the story brushes aside Zach's feelings about this, and despite Wil kind of knowing how Zach feels about the money being spent, he continues to do it. While he obviously has the best intentions, I thought this fault of Wil's could be explored and a better balance found.

An enjoyable story, worth reading, but only if you're in the mood for something super mellow.

Received this book for review.

12.11.12

How to Raise an Honest Rabbit (Knitting, #3) by Amy Lane

How to Raise an Honest Rabbit by Amy Lane
Stars: 4/5

Length: 180 pages
Blurb
A Knitting Novella

Everything about Jeremy has always been a lie—including his last name. When one grift too many ends in tragedy, Jeremy goes straight. But life’s hard for an ex-con, and Jeremy is down to panhandling and hope when Rance Crawford offers him work at a tiny alpaca farm and fiber mill. Jeremy takes him up on the job, thinking this could be his last chance to be a good man, and meets Aiden, who is growing into a better one.

As Aiden comes of age, Jeremy finds himself desperate to grow up, too, because Aiden starts looking to him for things Jeremy doesn’t know how to give. Being honest is terrifying for a man who’s learned to rabbit at the first sign of conflict—more so when Aiden gives Jeremy a reason to stay that can’t be packed up and carried in a knapsack. When Jeremy’s past comes knocking at their door, can Jeremy trust enough in Aiden and his new home to answer bravely back?


Overall
Another sweet story from the Knitting series, Honest Rabbit has more struggle than Fur-Bearing Critters. Of course, this is expected off the bat, as we're being told Jeremy's story (and Aiden's as well), and Jeremy has a much darker past than Ben and Rance. Jeremy is a panicky little rabbit, and he is consistent throughout the story, even when he's maturing. It will be reader dependent on whether this is a good thing or tiresome. I found it well executed, since trauma and life-history don't just vanish once you're in a safe little hutch.

Review
While I enjoyed this novella overall, one of the most interesting elements was that some of the plot points overlap with Rance's story, but obviously we see it from a very different perspective. Rance, for how rough he is, is an honest-to-goodness nice guy. Jeremy and Aiden are both good guys (or getting there), but are more human than Rance in some ways. Rance sees things in black and white, though Ben may loosen him up a little; Jeremy and Aiden are basic humans who sometimes tell white lies or keep secrets. It makes for a very different story.

The plot takes longer to develop, as it covers a larger part of Jeremy's life, but everything comes full circle and wraps up nicely. We get more development for various characters, which really opens up the world of the small town. For beginning knitters, it's nice because we get to hear more about yarn and knitting in simpler terms, although Jeremy obviously has plenty of time to advance through the story (while I didn't get any better!).

I think the only bad thing I have to say about this story is that it didn't grab me as much as Fur-Bearing Critters. I liked the characters, but I wasn't enamored, and while the story is sweet, it isn't as diabetes-inducing as the previous tale, which for some people might just be a good thing!

Be sure to check out my other reviews on my blog.

8.11.12

Magpie (Avian Shifters #2) by Kim Dare

Magpie (Avian Shifters #2) by Kim Dare
Stars: 4/5

Length: 215 pages
Blurb
Everet has found his perfect place in the nest. As a raven, he’s ideally suited to his new role in the nest’s security flock. Some of the jobs it entails have been far more enjoyable than others, but when he’s called to retrieve a magpie, whose got himself into trouble in a local human club, it becomes a truly life changing experience.

Magpie shifters have always been looked down on by other avians. Just as attracted to shiny things in their human bodies as they are in their avian forms, everyone knows they’ll do anything for money—and they’re not above stealing what they can’t get by more honest means.

Kane knows what being a magpie means, and he’s got the bruises to show for it. When Everet rescues him from his latest scrape, Kane knows better than to believe the raven will actually take an interest in him and his welfare, but it’s just possible that Everet is different to any other man Kane has ever met.


Overall
After reading Duck, I was anxiously awaiting Everet's story, and while it wasn't at all what I expected, it didn't let me down in the least. Everet and Kane are so different from Raynard and Ori, that it's a nice change in both personality and in the dom/sub dynamic. I wasn't as blown away or as emotionally invested in the characters, but I found the evolution of them and their relationship to be highly enjoyable. (And the writing felt stronger, since it didn’t rely as heavily on referring to them as ‘the submissive’/’the dominant.’)

Review
Kane is a brat, but with his drug-use history, it's not really too surprising, since much of his brattiness comes from his addiction (although, not all of it). He's well matched with Everet, who needs someone to boss around, but who also wants someone with a backbone to challenge him. Their personalities lead to conflict, but ultimately also lead to balance in a rough and tumble sort of way.

Hamilton continues to be a jerk, but I love how we get moments of Ori putting him in his place. That has to rub him the wrong way. *cackles madly* My only issue with Hamilton's later actions is that it felt someone forced in order to cause X, Y, and Z to happen, but it also didn't bother me as much, because I can see Hamilton doing what he did, although the motivation behind it was a tad flimsy. It would be interesting, if there are going to be more in the series, to see how Hamilton could be redeemed as a character. But if there are going to be more, I think the next is going to be Albatross or Doctor-bird. :)

The plot focuses on the transformation of Kane from a druggie whore to a happy submissive. The concept isn't necessarily highly original, but I enjoyed the progression nonetheless, and it provided plenty of opportunities for Dare to develop the world and the nest, which was a complaint I had in the first book, plus it showed the improvements that have happened since Ori came into power (as it were).

An enjoyable plot, fun characters, and further development of the world leave this being an enjoyable novel, especially for fans of Duck, although in some ways it caters to a very different audience in regards to the BDSM elements, as pain is not so important as dominance, and even that differs from Raynard/Ori’s relationship.

5.11.12

Hard Tail by JL Merrow

Hard Tail by JL Merrow
Stars: 4.5/5

Length: 248 pages
Blurb
"Finding love can be a bumpy ride."

His job: downsized out of existence. His marriage: on the rocks. It doesn't take a lot of arm twisting for Tim Knight to agree to get out of London and take over his injured brother's mountain bike shop for a while. A few weeks in Southampton is a welcome break from the wreck his life has become, even though he feels like a fish out of water in this brave new world of outdoor sports and unfamiliar technical jargon.

The young man who falls-literally-through the door of the shop brings everything into sharp, unexpected focus. Tim barely accepts he's even "in" the closet until his attraction to Matt Berridge pulls him close enough to touch the doorknob.

There's only one problem with the loveable klutz: his bullying boyfriend. Tim is convinced Steve is the cause of the bruises that Matt blows off as part of his risky sport. But rising to the defense of the man he's beginning to love means coming to terms with who he is—in public—in a battle not even his black belt prepared him to fight. Until now.


Overall
I've been wanting to read this for a while, since it came out and I’d heard plenty of positive reviews about it. I was not disappointed. I read it all in one night (You know, “just going to read a little before bed”...and then at 2 o’clock in the morning you finally put it down). It didn't blow me off my feet, but I thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyed it. It's sweet, funny, and a little bit awkward. It's a feel-good story that has struggles, but never gets too angsty. Definitely worth a read.

Review
There is no one part of Hard Tail that stuck out as being especially brilliant. Instead, it's one of those hinky little stories where all the pieces fall together into one cohesive tale that works brilliantly.

It's an interesting mix of characters, and even those I swore I wasn't going to like ended up growing on me until there was really only one villain, and he's a villain through and through. Matt is the happy-go-lucky type, all kindness and friendly, balanced out by Tim, who has become a bit of a stick in the mud and is down on his luck, having lost his job and his girl. Tim's mum bothered me to no end, until we're given a greater understanding of her character, and then she's just annoying, not overly annoying. It felt like a pretty standard family.

There is very little drama. Or perhaps I should say, there is a completely reasonable level of drama. The characters and the plot are very realistic, not relying on over-the-top dramatics to brew an interesting story. Instead, the quirky narrator and crazy cast of characters give livelihood to what could be a very mellow story.

This book is one I see myself returning to again and again, simply because it's an enjoyable read with a fun narrator. It won't leave you on the edge of your seat, but it will bring a smile to your face.

SPOILER
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Some of the end could be read as being too easy, too much of a happy ending. It was all very neat and tidy, but I didn't feel like this story was meant to be too much of a struggle. The self-acceptance and confidence of the two main characters is the focus, and they are rewarded for their achievements. Because of this, I didn't mind, but people who don't like the too-neat endings may find it unsatisfactory.

30.10.12

The Red Thread of Forever Love by Nicole Kimberling

The Red Thread of Forever Love by Nicole Kimberling
Stars: 3.5/5

Length: 96 pages
Blurb
A "Not Quite New Year" Story!

Folklore researcher and PhD candidate Hank Caldwell has a problem. He’s come to Japan to get information for his book on supernatural creatures called yokai. Along the way he discovers that yokai are not only real, but one of them is determined to make Hank his forever lover.

Translator Daisuke Tachibana knows all about the shadowy figure in a business suit who keeps accosting Mr. Caldwell. He knows the creature must be stopped, but how? Their upcoming research trip to a remote, hot springs resort will be exactly the opening the yokai is looking for. Now if only Tachibana could stop thinking about Mr. Caldwell’s naked, freckled body submerged in steaming water long enough to formulate a plan to keep the amorous creature at bay.


Overall
This is a cute story that immerses the reader in Japanese culture, specifically folklore. While I enjoyed the historical elements, the romance, and the plot, I had a hard time really sinking into the story. Everything was good, but I never deeply associated with any of the characters, which left me pleased but not completely satisfied.

While this story starts slow in order to develop the culture and character relationship, the end picks up, culminating in their relationship and a dramatic turn of plot. The pacing was a bit of a struggle in the beginning, but a necessary evil and definitely worth muddling through.

This is one of those stories that I enjoyed but never wow'd me, leaving me with very little to say. It could be that it just wasn't up my alley, or not relating to the characters kind of ruined it. Nonetheless, I would recommend this story to others, especially those interested in Japanese folklore, who like a little bit of humor, and who are looking for something serious but not too heavy. It's an interesting mix of cultures, characters, and rhythms. And if Fingers annoys you in the beginning, he'll probably grow on you by the end! :)

25.10.12

With Abandon (With or Without, #4) by JL Langley

With Abandon (With or Without, #4) by JL Langley
Stars: 3/5

Length: 206 pages
Blurb
Love was never part of his plan…until it pounced.

As heir to an old and proud heritage, Aubrey Reynolds works and lives for his family, his employees and his pack. Agreeing to watch after a visiting werewolf is no big deal—until he discovers the newcomer is his mate. His very male mate…which is a very big deal, indeed. Revealing his sexuality was never part of Aubrey’s well-ordered life plan.

Much as he loved caring for his eight younger brothers, Matt Mahihkan knows it’s time to grab the opportunity to attend college in Atlanta. Realizing Aubrey is his mate should have been a delightful experience…except Aubrey treats him more like a dirty little secret than a lover. Yet Matt is a patient man. Aubrey can’t stay in the closet forever. Can he?

In time, they settle into a comfortable, if complicated, routine. Until a rogue werewolf with an axe to grind forces Aubrey to add to the wedge of secrets driving him and Matt apart, leaving Matt exposed to danger…and Aubrey forced to choose between love and duty.


Overall
Nothing in this story really jumped out at me as being horrible and irredeemable, but nothing inspired awe, either. I enjoyed it and think most readers will too, even if they may want to smack Aubrey (and Matt, wondering why he's OK with some of the stuff Aubrey pulls).

There were elements of the story that had me raising a brow, wondering why they were included, but in general it was a cohesive (although slightly branching) story that involves wolf shifters and the struggles of finding your mate.

Review
The story started pretty strong with a slight mislead that was cute, and a nice conflict of character personality. Aubrey wants sexsexsex and Matt wants to go slow. Both characters also have external stresses in their lives, whether it's work or family, that influence their actions throughout. There are also outside characters that are interesting and obviously placed to play a role later in the story, which builds a nice anticipation for what is to come.

I was a little disappointed for what happened though. I liked where some characters went, but the drama involved seemed a little over the top and unnecessarily traumatic. Langley definitely re-uses a specific course of drama, even if it does have a new spin on it.

One of my concerns going into this book was Aubrey. I'd read plenty of reviews announcing him as an unredeemed prick, and I was terrified I was going to hate him the entire time. While he's not my favorite character, and he is a prick, he does redeem himself slightly. He obviously cares for Matt, and while he doesn't really evolve as a character (most things just fall neatly in his lap), he does at least realize what is important and make good decisions by the end.

One thing that confused me was Aubrey's parents. Their initial reaction made no sense to me—or maybe their logic behind it. It was probably my biggest peeve, because if they had confronted the issue head-on, Aubrey would have worried less, I'm sure, and Matt would have had a different relationship. As it were, it felt the parents reacted the way they did simply because the story needed to continue moving along. On the other hand, I love Gadget's reaction, how it was balanced out by Bambi's reaction, and the love that exudes from Matt's household.

Langley set this up to open multiple different future stories (not including the one for Sterling that some fans are waiting for), and I'd like to hear those stories, although I'm not chomping at the bit. Langley's stories are good, enjoyable, but were better enjoyed when I wasn't waist-deep in the genre. They are an excellent introduction—a taste test, if you would :)

22.10.12

Men of Smithfield: Adam and Holden by LB Gregg

Men of Smithfield: Adam and Holden by LB Gregg
Stars: 3.75/5

Length: 55,000 words
Blurb
Holden Worthington's globetrotting days are over. Once the host of a popular adventure show, he hasn't ventured past his own front door in more than a year. Then the arrival of a sexy new gardener sparks something Holden hasn't felt in a very long time?an interest in the world outside his window.

Holden tries to resist the attraction. But painfully shy yet definitely interested Adam Morgan has Holden longing to conquer his debilitating anxiety and live again. After a grisly discovery on the grounds of the estate, the town of Smithfield turns a suspicious eye on the reclusive Holden?and the two men must trust in each other to bring the truth out in the open.


Overall
I started reading this before bed one night when I was restless, and although it didn't grab me as thoroughly as some books, I kept reading until 2:30 am, when I finally finished and was flat-out exhausted. It's enjoyable, with a background murder-mystery plot and some kooky romance. In the beginning, half the cast was going to drive me mad, but by the end I'd come to terms with most of them. I felt the story was leaning heavy toward having too much sex, but never crossed that line, although having read it all in one sitting may have given that impression. Aside from the off-kilter pacing and early annoyances, I found the story interesting. I didn't feel like I could quite give this a full 4-star rating (although it will be tagged as such), but it was better than 3.5. My second favorite of the three Men of Smithfield novels I've read.

Review
What really made this story work for me was Adam and Holden as two 'broken' characters who blend together nicely despite coming from 'opposite sides of the track.' Holden is agoraphobic after a traumatic experience left him shy of being photographed by the press, and Adam can't read people's facial expressions, body language, and verbal nuances. I really love how these two come together through their initial mutual attraction and develop as characters from there, helping each other 'heal' (or in Adam's case, have a safe place where he doesn't have to keep his defenses up). The opening up of their weaknesses helped them quickly develop an intimacy that otherwise would not have worked.

My biggest issue with this story is the rest of the cast (aside from Mrs. H and Tony, I suppose). Everyone just waltzes in and out of Holden's house as if it's nothing, avoids police questioning (even if they've nothing to hide), and is generally rude to Holden (except maybe Mitzie, who may have invited herself over, but seems rather nice). Obviously they do this because they've been permitted to do this, but it rubbed me wrong, although I understand this is a personal thing.

The murder mystery, while playing a main role in bringing all the characters together and moving all the pieces around, definitely feels secondary, which probably stems from the fact that it is secondary in Holden's mind. Holden isn't really too concerned with the dead body in his backyard (which sounds a little odd, but didn't bother me); he's too focused on his hot new gardener. This worked in some ways and didn't in others. I felt that when they were talking about the murder, I was impatient to get back to the romance, and when they were having sex, I wanted to get back to the plot. Perhaps that's just me.

Finally, the murderer's motives were lacking, although the murderer does seem to fall into the 'just plain crazy' domain. A reason for the murder is given, but the character seems unstable, which in itself is a reason for the murder, but while this happens in real life, in stories it seems like poorly constructed plot.

Having said all of that, I still enjoyed this story. My love of Holden and Adam overpower any of my disdain for the side characters, and the resolutions made me like some of the characters more than I had in the beginning, which possibly left me with a better taste in my mouth. But really, Adam and Holden pull this story along and are worth sitting down to read.

Received this book for review.

19.10.12

Alien 'n' Outlaw by KC Burn

Alien 'n' Outlaw by KC Burn
Stars: 3/5

Length: 44,000 words
Blurb
R'kos, son of the Ankylos Emperor, is expected to settle down. But he's much more attracted to human males than to his own species. Eager to explore his forbidden longings, he steals a ship and heads to Elora Ki to see if he can find the right human guy.

Darien robs the corrupt to give to those in need, but now he needs a ride off Elora Ki, stat. Pursued by drug lords, he accepts help from the amorous stranger who calls himself Ricky. As they fly together along Darien's route, their friendship quickly turns into passion.

But when Ricky is injured, Darien must contact the embassy to get his alien lover the medical care he needs. As Darien finds himself accused of kidnapping, and Ricky fears his family's disappointment, can the two protect their growing relationship? Or are their differences just too great?


Overall
Fans of Spice 'n' Solace will probably love this story, but I had similar issues with this one as I did with the first, which is odd, since I love Burn's Cop Out. An enjoyable story with an interesting world, steamy sex, and a unique alien specie, but nothing that really jumped out and impressed me. I wanted to enjoy this story more than I did, and though I felt disappointed in some elements, overall it was a pleasant read.

Review
The writing wasn't bad, but it didn't thrill me. It felt clunky, and while it didn't detract from the storytelling, it didn't really enhance it either. It could be personal preference, but it didn't do it for me.

I liked the challenges that get raised for the lead males, but the solutions felt too easy, much like Spice 'n' Solace. Misunderstandings and a simple conversation clear up problems that needed more attention. Maybe I just like my characters to struggle. A lot.

I love different takes on alien sex, and this series already caught my attention with the triads, but the anatomy differences were especially appreciated. They are cute and almost funny out of context (...though most sexual anatomy things are...), but in scene they are pretty darn sexy! Also, from the descriptions, I think I want to rub up on R'kos. He sounds divine.

There was a good balance of science fiction and romance, and while romance/erotica is obviously the driving force, the science doesn't get ignored, although hard-core sci-fi fans would probably find it lacking. There is brief exploration of other planets and cultures, which was there to help explore parts of the characters that we may not have seen otherwise. I enjoyed those elements of it.

Requested this book for review.

17.10.12

Men of Smithfield: Seth and David by LB Gregg

Men of Smithfield: Seth and David by LB Gregg
Stars: 4/5

Length: 32,000 words
Blurb
He's everything I've never wanted -- too young, too weird, too wild.

I wasn't impressed that I had to get my weekly massage from a guy with a toe ring. But when I discovered David Cooke's skills as a masseur were literally orgasmic, I couldn't stop thinking about him and his amazing hands, day and night. Especially at night.

He's full of surprises. And despite my bad behavior, David's just as eager to explore this chemistry between us. Turns out, there's a lot more to him than hemp pants and tattoos. If he's so wrong for me, why does being with him feel so right?


Overall
Despite Seth being a jerk in the beginning, I really enjoyed this story. I normally hate main character jerks who get the guy, but here it worked, because even though Seth is a jerk, he also tries to do the right thing, and as we see, hasn't always been a jerk. And in many ways he isn't a jerk...just a little closed-minded.

It's a sweet little story that's a mix of serious emotional topics and humor. And some sexy times. Seth and David definitely have physical chemistry, and the clash between that and their emotional involvement is nice.

I'd call this story a palate cleanser, as it is enjoyable and good, but doesn't draw the reader into the drama so far that it's overwhelming.

Review
There is some drama in the non-romantic parts of the plot, which I found to be the weakest parts of the story, but the drama between the lead men was perfectly enjoyable. David is a good, nice guy (who may be a little spastic at times), Seth is a surface jerk (who has been using one line of thinking so long it's habit). Seth has some growing to do, and David is the catalyst. They are a nice mix and the end is completely satisfying.

Also, for people who like stories with kids, there are two here, but for the rest of us, those kids, while playing an important, focal role, are old enough not to be too needy, and they don't overwhelm the story. It was a nice balance, considering the situation.

I don't have much to say about this one. It was good, I enjoyed the story (even the nonromantic elements of the plot that I found to mediocre), and I really liked the characters, especially Seth, who gets to grow and transform over a short number of pages. A nice, pleasant read.

Received this book for review.

13.10.12

Touching Lives

Sometimes there is a passing moment in life—a brief contact, a short exchange of emails—that leaves a lasting impression.

Patric Michael left one such impression in my life. When I first picked up “The Santa Mug,” my only knowledge of him was that he was an author who wrote a Christmas story right up my alley. Read, reviewed, went on with life.

Then Wishing on a Blue Star came out and through tears, I read and reviewed that one as well. I was touched, deeply, by the entire package. But I’m not one to go chasing after authors, so I quietly posted my review.

And was pleasantly surprised when Patric emailed me about my review. We shared a few emails, but I’m extremely shy, so I vanished back into the woodwork instead of letting it go on.

Some time passed and I was out shopping, and I came across a goofy Santa mug, just like that on the cover of “The Santa Mug.” I bought it, and sent him a message along the lines of “Saw this and was touched enough by the story that I bought it. Happy holidays.”

Once more he emailed back. We spoke a little more, but one thing he said will always be with me: “Come Christmas Eve, I'll fill my Santa mug with eggnog and think of you perhaps doing the same.  We'll drink a toast to good stories, the characters in them, and the readers who bring them to life every time they open the book.”

So when I heard that he’d passed, I was very sad. And although it’s been nearly two months, today it just sort of hit me. That despite our interactions being so small, so brief, he’s left an impression in my life.

And this year at Christmas, I’ll be drinking eggnog from my Santa mug alone, but I’ll be thinking of him and I’ll toast good stories, the characters in them, and all the authors and readers who bring them to life.

4.10.12

Galway Bound by Heidi Belleau and Violetta Vane

Galway Bound by Heidi Belleau and Violetta Vane
Stars: 4/5

Length: ~7,0000 words
Blurb
A year after they saved each other’s lives in The Druid Stone and eager to return a little bit of intensity to a sex-life that's been put on the backburner, Cormac and Sean book a weekend in Galway with no limits and no distractions. Cormac has a few ideas on how to spice things up and the bag full of kinky surprises he needs to make them happen: a spreader bar, a brand new toy or two, and even Sean’s own belt. But once the cuffs get buckled, just how far can he push Sean... and himself?

“Galway Bound” is a BDSM short featuring Sean and Cormac from the urban fantasy M/M series Layers of the Otherworld, but the only magic here is what’s happening in their bed. Fans of the series and new readers alike will all find a little something to love in this erotic story.


Overall
While this short story stands alone as a sexy excursion into BDSM, it will be better for readers to have read The Druid Stone if they want an emotional attachment to the characters. For readers just looking for kinky sex, this will work nicely.

Review
An unabashed porn-without-plot tale, "Galway Bound" still has character development, particularly the emotional connection between the two men and Sean's boundaries (and, actually, Cormac's). There was just enough depth to give the story flavor without bogging down the focal point: two sexy men getting kinky!

I generally am not a huge fan of PWP stories, as I tend to like plot more than porn, but this story handled it well. The BDSM element makes the sex less insert-and-thrust, and instead draws out the process, building to the, well, climax. The BDSM seems knowledgeable, and covers various kinks without going too heavy, although there is one moment (involving slapping) that bothered me, but that is definitely a personal preference thing.

A quick, hot read that fans of The Druid Stone will especially enjoy.

Received this book for review.

1.10.12

The Druid Stone by Heidi Belleau and Violetta Vane

The Druid Stone by Heidi Belleau and Violetta Vane
Stars: 5/5

Length: 117,000 words
Blurb
Sean never asked to be an O'Hara, and he didn't ask to be cursed by one either.

After inheriting a hexed druid stone from his great-grandfather, Sean starts reliving another man's torture and death...every single night. And only one person can help.

Cormac Kelly runs a paranormal investigation business and doesn't have time to deal with misinformed tourists like Sean. But Sean has real magic in his pocket, and even though Cormac is a descendant of legendary druids, he soon finds himself out of his depth...and not because Sean's the first man he's felt anything for in a long time.

The pair develop an unexpected and intensely sexual bond, but are threatened at every turn when Sean's case attracts the unwelcome attention of the mad sidhe lords of ancient Ireland. When Sean and Cormac are thrust backward in time to Ireland's violent history—and their own dark pasts—they must work together to escape the curse and save their fragile relationship.


Overall
Another breathtaking exploration of reality, love, and the supernatural by Vane and Belleau. In some ways this story is very similar to Hawaiian Gothic, but it differs so dramatically that the similarities aren't even worth mention, although fans of HG will just as surely love The Druid Stone. Be sure to grab on to your hats, though, because just when you think the ride is about to end...it's really just beginning.

Review
Holy Plot Batman! This story makes your head run in circles trying to guess what's going to happen next—give up, you won't! It's an amazing adventure that once again crosses the boundaries between the mundane world and the supernatural, as Sean and Cormac try to resolve Sean's recurring dreams—a more complex problem than either of them suspects in the beginning. Along the way they make friends, make enemies, and struggle to handle the greed of supernatural beings. The plot is fantastic and leaves no stone unturned—and no thread left dangling.

There is a fairly large (but not overwhelming) and varied cast in both worlds. Cormac, who is a bit of a stiff board sometimes, is balanced out by his super-welcoming family, while Sean, who is incredibly functional considering all he's been through, is contrasted by his almost completely absent family. The men themselves work well together in their struggle and in their stubbornness. And, while this is definitely a romance, it almost takes second seat to the adventure, although the two parts seamlessly entwine.

There are vivid descriptions in this novel, letting the reader experience what the narrator is, while enhancing the narration and bringing the environment to life. But these descriptions also didn't overwhelm the story or interrupt the flow of action. They were well placed and easy to skim with a quick read (if you're that type of reader). Gorgeous.

I think my biggest 'issue' with the novel was the ending, which felt almost anti-climatic after the drama in the previous 100,000 words. I found the conclusion completely satisfying, but after riding the adrenaline and emotional high, it felt so very mundane. That being said, it was perfectly handled and I really loved how things were resolved.

This was one of those books where I loved every moment and already want to go back to re-read.

Requested this book for review.

24.9.12

A look to the past...in movies

More movie reviews!

Young Frankenstein - A laugh riot from beginning to end, this classic parody from director Mel Brooks stars Gene Wilder as Frederick Frankenstein, who detests his family history but ultimately can't resist the temptation to follow in his infamous grandfather's footsteps. Adding to the fun is a brilliant supporting cast that includes Marty Feldman as bug-eyed assistant Igor, Madeline Kahn as Frankenstein's frosty fiancée and Peter Boyle as the zipper-necked monster.

(rent) I’ve enjoyed other Mel Brooks movies, and this one was no different, although it definitely didn’t rank as high as some of his others. I think my favorite is Men in Tights, so that may give you an idea about where I fall in the humor spectrum. This felt like it was trying too hard, and involved more one-liner-eye-wiggle jokes than what I was expecting. I have Blazing Saddles in the future, so we’ll see how that goes!

History of the World, Part 1 - Mel Brooks's comic genius is unleashed in spades in this episodic spoof of history's seminal moments (narrated by Orson Welles), which begins with a brilliant send-up of the cinematic classic 2001: A Space Odyssey. Brooks goes on to lampoon the Stone Age, the Roman Empire, the Spanish Inquisition and ends with a clever takeoff on the French Revolution. The all-star-cast includes Gregory Hines, Madeleine Kahn, Dom DeLuise and Harvey Korman.

(rent) An enjoyable, funny bit with several skits from the dawn of time to the French Revolution. My disk was scratched, so sadly I missed some of the funniest bits, but it is amusing. It’s slightly less amusing when everything has been quoted to death around you, but I could still appreciate it as the origins for many other things.

Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter - Honest Abe: he was the 16th president, the Great Emancipator ... and a righteous slayer of the undead spurred to action by his mother's vampiric murder. History and legend are both turned upside-down as Lincoln tracks the creatures of the night.

(rent/buy) A fun actiony-historicalesque moving, pretty much everyone I know who read the book first hated it. While I’m not saying the book isn’t better, the movie to me felt like a perfectly enjoyable afternoon spent in the blasting AC. It isn’t great cinema, but it had some gorgeous ax choreography, fun battle scenes, and some nice eye candy. A bit slow for a pure action flick, but overall enjoyable.

Super Size Me - Director Morgan Spurlock takes a hilarious and often terrifying look at the effects of fast food on the human body, using himself as the proverbial guinea pig. For one month, Spurlock eats nothing but McDonald's fare.

(rent) I work for a dietitian magazine, so I hear lots about this type of content (and have heard lots about this movie). I found it enjoyable and entertaining, and while nothing was groundbreaking for me, I could see how it could potentially have a positive influence on others. Definitely worth a viewing, although it will either make you want fast food or make you never want to eat it again (or for at least five minutes after the movie ends).

Bringing Up Baby - Love runs wild for a hapless scientist and an unstoppable heiress in Howard Hawks's classic screwball comedy that ranks high on the American Film Institute's list of the funniest Hollywood films ever made. With her eye on paleontologist David (Cary Grant), heiress Susan (Katharine Hepburn) lures him to her home. But the hilarity begins when Susan's dog steals David's prize dinosaur bone and her pet leopard, Baby, is mistaken for a zoo escapee.

(rent) I couldn’t finish this, I don’t even think I got very far in, either. The characters were too ridiculous, the leading female annoyed me, the leading male confounded me, and overall it had little to nothing that caught my interest.

22.9.12

Fraternal Devotion edited by K Piet and Kristen Pavka

Fraternal Devotion edited by K Piet and Kristen Pavka
Stars: 3.5/5

Length: 65,000 words
Blurb
When you pit knowledge against emotions, there's the no-man's land in between those two opposing forces where taboos lie. Incest is one of the untouchables, a taboo that even in alternative cultures is often still looked on negatively. But how can something that feels so right be wrong?

In
Fraternal Devotion, the focus is on brotherly love—in every sense of the word. These are tales of love, lust, devotion, and passion as real as any other romance. Why should the fact that the two men are brothers take away from that? This collection may challenge your assumptions and beliefs, but may also melt your heart. Not to mention steam up your glasses.

Overall
Because of this anthology’s content, it will obviously not be for everyone. But if you’re reading this review, then you probably are interested enough to take the risk and dive in.

These stories definitely push the brotherhood button, and several are well done, while others left me cool. Just like every anthology, the mix is all based on the authors who write for it. For readers looking for these types of stories, I think it’s worth a gander and will be satisfying.

War and Peace and Brotherhood by DK Jernigan
3.5 stars
This story has many interesting elements in the plot, from the human evolution/disease conflict, the way it’s passed on, and the two brothers stuck in the center. I like the plot of this more than the sex between the two characters, and I like how Jernigan approaches and develops the two to what eventually happens in the end. Some parts of the conclusion feel unnecessarily rushed (or added and then rushed), but overall a satisfying read.

Analgesia by Alisha Steele
4 stars
One brother returns home, per his mother’s request, after being on tour with his band and the younger brother struggles to deal, as the last time they were really together, the older brother punched him in the face. Although the plot conventions aren’t fresh, the writing and eroticism of the characters work well together and made a strong dynamic as the two men come together. The two characters have a nice playful power struggle, and although the bits about analgesic and antiseptic seems a bit out of left field, the banter showed their relationship and kept the story light, sexy, and sweet.

Depression, Love, and Swimming Pools by Leigh Wilder
3 stars
While this story is grounded in reality, it has some elements that make it somewhat surreal. The role of stories and characters (and actors) play is an important theme throughout and creates an almost story within a story feel. The somewhat overly dramatic actions of the characters are odd, but fitting for the people and the environment they were raised in. This story may not be to everyone’s taste, but it’s worth a read.

On Clouds of Obsession Azalea Moone
2 stars
I had difficulty relating to the two main characters, who were very hot and cold to one another, and the events that unfolded just seemed a little strange. Matters were raised that didn’t really seem important and the whole impetus felt contrived. Although this story dealt the most with the realism of two brothers being together, it also resolved many of the issues too quickly.

On the Edge by SL Armstrong and K Piet
4.5 stars
Wow. This is a very powerful story that rips the heart out, holds it in the air a few seconds, then shoves it back in. It dissects the psychological aspects of incest for one of the partners and really looks at it how such a relationship would have to be handled in reality. I love how the characters struggle with one another and their emotions and how they handle their falling out and everything that comes after. It had my heart clenching in my chest.

Requested this book for review.