Truth in the Dark by Amy Lane

Truth in the Dark by Amy Lane
Stars: 5/5

Having heard nothing but good things about Truth in the Dark, I was excited--and hesitant--to read. Surely it couldn't live up to my expectations?

I was wrong. So wonderfully wrong. I was so moved by this book that I went on twitter and told everyone to read it, whether you enjoy reading two men having sex or not. You can skim those parts. This is a touching story of acceptance, love, and guilt. Of being ugly and being beautiful.

Read it, I don't think you'll be let down.

Writing was probably the strongest part of this novel, because if it weren't for Lane's style and grace, so many things would have fallen apart. It would have come across cheesy, emo, or bland. But her descriptions bring the island and the characters to life, so that even if it is written in first person (which is not my preference for reading), we are not trapped inside Knife's head or heart.

All the rest. I'm exaggerating (a little) but just a run down of what I loved: Imagery, plot, characters, side characters, humor, twists that weren't really twists, and names.

If there is one, it's the ending, but I can't even mark it as a weakness because it fit so very nicely. Yes, it dragged a little after the Big Drama, but it was very appropriate how the rest of the story unfolded, so it was worth reading.

PS. Some people may have more difficulty with the flowery, descriptive language. If that's not your cuppa tea, just be aware that you will face it going in. It's not too heavy with it, like JRR Tolkien, but it does weigh considerably in some chapters.


Demon's Dance by Evey Brett

Demon's Dance by Evey Brett
Stars: 3/5

While this book wasn't bad, it wasn't great either. It wasn't one of those that I struggled to get through, but there are some definite negatives. The basic concept of an abused cambion (a half-human, half-incubus) struggling with his demon half and trying to make it on his own is good, but some of the players are morally questionable, creating a teetering balance of enjoyability. It could just be that this book isn't my cup of tea, but read ahead and make your own decision.

The writing was fairly good. It didn't bring me to tears or move me exceptionally, but it kept me reading through some fairly rough patches. It was steady and consistent and is probably good enough that I'd consider reading other works by this author, despite some of the qualms I had with this book.

Tristan and Cory. Our leading men have a rather nice dynamic. Tristan is the most compassionate character, and while Cory makes mistakes, most can be written off as being human and desperate for human contact, or poor decision making, although I cannot see how he creates any sort of positive bond with Blanco.

The world. We are given an interesting world, much like our own with some additions...namely incubus and succubus, but there are some other people who are Sensitives or have similar gifts. The keepers of the cambions, the Wardens, have a duty to have sex just as much as they enjoy it, in order to keep the demon within their ward sated.

Morals? Some of the characters behave in ways that to the average person will be bothersome/horrifying. Blanco is possibly the bigger example, but depending on what bothers you, Cory may offend you too. Blanco considers himself Tristan's guardian and when we see things from his perspective, he seems like a reasonable man.

However, he often comes across as a pervy old man (he's 60ish while the other two lead males are mid-20s, early 30s). He gets off watching (and narrating) Cory masturbating and presumably watching Tristan and Cory have sex. In addition, there is an event at the end that adds to this, though it was asked for by one of the other leads. All the sexual encounters are consensual, but he still sometimes reads as a perv.

Another element which touched on the questionable morals nerve is the relationship of cambion and Warden. While Blanco insists that the Warden's role is to keep his ward safe (and he feels guilt at his own failings in this matter, so a few points in his direction), the relationships seem off balance. Cambions are controlled by the Warden in where they go (etc), and they can be sold out for sex by their Warden, in order to sate their demon's lust (while bringing profit to their Warden). I buy it, but I'd probably buy it more if the only time we saw a cambion being used thusly wasn't Tristan being horribly abused--it didn't leave a very good impression of the system.


Like a Sparrow Through the Heart by Aggy Bird

Like a Sparrow Through the Heart by Aggy Bird
Stars: 5/5

Very enjoyable. Once again this is a free read (you can find it via the link (above). Although it is an LJ published story, there was promise of a PDF--which I couldn't find. However, I just copy and pasted the story into a word doc, then had amazon convert it for me, so I could read on my eReader. I tend to have lower expectations for free reads, because they tend to have minimal editing and no limit of what horrors can be posted.

However, once again I was delighted to find a well-written, well-edited story with a good mix of plot, romance, and humor. We follow the adventures of Flit and Talon, a sparrow and griffin shapeshifter, who accidentally meet. Talon is a bully, Flit has a penchant for fixing birds and sees Talon as a bird who needs fixing. He forces his company upon Talon, and comedy (and excitement) ensues.

Writing is really what made this story work. The mix of sensitive subjects, heartbreak, humor and action only function because the author strings them together effortlessly. What starts as an almost comedy develops into something more, then transforms once again into a third incarnation that holds its own. Exploring all these different elements like the author did helped the story work and not become cliche, which was a real possibility.

Along these same lines, the author was good at developing small instances to remind the reader that these were not just humans that live among the clouds. They do pretty much have everything we do, which kept the author from having to create her own world, but there are little word choices that are cute and birdy (eg, poppypeacock, birdfriend [instead of boyfriend], finchtoast).

Although Talon is a bit of a grump in the beginning, Flit is a lovely little bird who is small and tough. There are a variety of side characters who make an appearance, most, amusingly, just being named after their bird-type (Robin, Finch Finchly). They work to keep the story going and break up the alone time that our two main characters have with one another.

Not so much a weakness as a warning: There is violence/abuse in this story, and it follows a Beauty & the Beast motif. If this is unacceptable, then you will not enjoy this book! Flit enjoys a dominating man, which has previously landed him with abusive birdfriends, and in combination with his need to fix things, gets him into trouble (NOT that he warrants some of the things that happen to him). Talon has a temper, is aggressive and things nothing of smacking someone around. The combination leads to what could very easily be seen as an abusive relationship. I forgive it for two main reasons: 1. Flit isn't being kept there by Talon. In fact, he holds the power in the relationship via tail feather (aka, blackmail). 2. Talon is a brute, yes, but he doesn't really mean to be abusive (which sounds like denial/excusing, I know), and once things are pointed out to him, his behavior changes for the better (well, at least in Flit's case).


Details, Details, Details

First, I'd like to say that if there is a sudden lag of reviews being posted, there are two reasons for this.

One, my main computer decided to get a virus and is currently not being used. My secondary computer decided some time ago to rebel against the man and has been out of service for the past three months. I'm working off my work computer (shh) and my 10-year-old laptop to do anything internet/computer related. The secondary computer is repaired (supposedly) and I have hopes for the main computer, so within a week or two everything should be back to how it was. I hope. Not only does this computer issue mean I have difficulty posting, it also distracts me from reading as much, as I spend many hours glaring at my monitor.

In addition, I'm trying to broaden my reading horizon to include non-M/M romance novels, which means books that are normally longer and more complex to read, so I can't get through one in a single sitting. This means reading fewer books (potentially), and more variety in what I am posting. Yes, a vast majority will still be M/M romance.

What you can expect in the future: I have a review ready for Like a Sparrow Through the Heart that should be posted on Friday, I'm currently reading You Better Not Cry and Darkly Dreaming Dexter, as well as Oscar Wilde's "De Profundis" (which, if you follow me on GoodReads, you'll notice I've been reading for months).

I'm also contemplating something book-related that isn't just reviews, so if you have any suggestions, I'll hear them out. (One thought is giving away books I already own if they aren't a favorite, but I feel weird giving away books I didn't like.)


The Lexicographer's Dilemma by Jack Lynch

The Lexicographer's Dilemma: The Evolution of "Proper" English, from Shakespeare to South Park by Jack Lynch
Stars: 4.5/5

If you like words--their history, the fights they cause and their creation--then give this book a gander.

The "Average Joe" probably isn't going to willingly pick up this book, although it's written to be easily accessible and enjoyable. And how many books discussing and analyzing the history of English can make that claim? Lynch uses a sense of humor, dry wit, and a balanced perspective in his writing, so that what could be long and tedious is educational and fun.

Yes, fun.

Some parts do drag a little, but like any nonfiction/educational book, the author does need to get across information which can be tedious at times. But for the most part, this is an easy book to read. It covers how English got to be so screwed up (via the linguistic mashup that was performed), the history of dictionaries, grammar books, the thesaurus, the lack of an Academy of English Language, and how language continuously changes. While it can't look at all of these topics in depth (there are too many topics covered for that), it does give a good summary and weaves the different points together to bring us to the current day.

I think my only "tsk, tsk" moment was that he used "sexual preference" instead of "sexual orientation." But that was once and not the focus of the book or the chapter (and perhaps a show of language use!). The copy was clean of grammatical mistakes and typos (which you would hope, considering the content, but I still like to point out). There is alot of pressure when writing a book like this, and Lynch pulled it off. Happy reading!


On Reading

A recent author inquired (I can't find the post) if we (as readers) are annoyed when a writer (like she does) jumps around in sub-genre. Do we want an author who writes consistently or who writes whatever he/she wants? (Not that these can't be one and the same.)

Personally, I like both and said as much, but I thought I'd explore that a little more in depth.

When I'm in the mood for a certain type of book, I rarely start a new one because I don't know what that book will give me, in most cases. In some instances (such as with Andrew Grey), I can be fairly certain I know what I'm getting, especially if it's his Farm series. But for the most part, I prefer to go into a book only knowing the barest of details and with minimal expectations.

This usually works. Assuming my expectations are always set at 3 (for acceptable writing, plot, characters), most books meet it, some go above it, a few go below it. My only real requirement is I'm a huge fan of happy ever after (HEA), or potential happy endings. (Life sucks enough, I don't need to be heart broken after reading.) If a book is good enough (as judged via reviews on GoodReads), I'll risk the non-HEA. (Side note, I recently got the two books in the Infected series by Andrea Speed. I've heard the ending is not so HEA, which worries me, but I've otherwise heard good things.)

So I start new books without needing anything from them except basic good book protocols. If I need something, I go to something I've already read, because I know the emotions it evokes (or the events that occur to satisfy that need). I don't want the author to feel trapped in a writing style, and I think I'd become bored if I kept reading the same book over and over again in slightly different plots. And yet...

And yet I read every book of Grey's Farm series and am chomping to read the next one. Why?

Aside from my insane need to buy books (I just picked up Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay, first of the series [and I think what the show is based on] at Good Will for $.25), I'm attached to the characters we've been introduced to and look forward to hearing more about them. In addition, Grey is very good at giving exactly what he gave in the previous four books in a way that's just different enough (for me, at least). Okay, when I read three of them in a row, it probably wasn't a good idea (I get a little sour on things), but I still read and enjoyed them. It's like eating chicken every Monday. Sounds boring, right? But it isn't just plain chicken. It could be chicken parm, chicken in white sauce on shells, chicken sandwiches...you get the idea. That's how Grey's Farm series feels to me.

So why am I chomping at the bit to read the next of Grey's books (Love Means ... No Fear, fyi) and not just reading it?

Well, for one I want to finish the book I'm reading (The Lexicographer's Dilemma, the review should be up by end of the week), two I shouldn't be buying more books (I have over 20 that I already own that should be read), and three, even if I'm really in the mood for one of his books (aka, something with emotional struggle that has a HEA), I can't really excuse buying his new one when I have four others that would work, plus a kindle full of other stories that match that description. But damn you, Grey, I still want to buy it.

Okay, so this wasn't really about reading, it was about me resisting the temptation that is an author who produces cookie cutter books (I mean this in a good way, not a bad way). But to make it less off topic, what do you do? Do you like your favorite authors to surprise you? Or do you want what they write to be what they always write?