Bewitched by Bella's Brother by Amy Lane

Bewitched by Bella's Brother by Amy Lane
Stars: 3.5/5

Length: 192 pages
Sebastian Craig and Isabella Bryne have been best friends for five years in the Neverland of academia, and that's where they're planning to stay. So when Bella's brother, Asa, offers them a rent-free summer in his gorgeous home before they move to their next college and degree, they jump at the chance. It looks like a good deal at first... but there's more to Asa than meets the eye, and Sebastian finds himself suddenly hip-deep in complicated, grown-up problems and the frightening, bemusing prospect of having a family that will miss him when he's gone.

When the best summer of his life finally ends, Sebastian has to make a difficult decision between staying in perpetual childhood forever, and facing adulthood—with all of its joys and fears. It seems that when Sebastian and Bella came up with a master plan for the future, they didn't count on Sebastian being bewitched by Bella's brother.

A charmingly sweet, sometimes silly, exploration of serious topics such as divorce, sexuality, family, and growing up.

I'm not sure if it's the mood I was in or just the laidback storyline, but it took me two reads to really sink into this one. My first read, I enjoyed it, but it didn't grab me by the heartstring (or any other anatomical part) like Lane's books normally do. I gave it a second read because I didn't trust my post-accident brain to know what it likes.

This is a mellow story, despite a fair amount of drama happening all around. Even when events were occurring that would normally have me snotting up like a five-year-old, I didn’t cry. This may be because the story was just kind of...happy. Even when shit was going down I felt closer to happiness than in other stories. This isn’t a bad thing, but it makes for a less dramatic reading, at least for me.

It also made the story extremely accessible and comforting. It’s one I can imagine reading again and again, because it just put me in a content, happy place. It’s like the hoodie that doesn’t look like anything special, but I wear all the time.

The descriptions of the room and the house were gorgeous and made me insanely jealous. But even though money was obviously not an issue for Asa, this didn’t feel like a ‘kept boy’ story either. While Sebastian had lots of emotional growing he needed to do, he also was pivotal in helping Asa grow (in a very different way). There was balance in the relationship.

The Bryne family is amazing, and there is a powerful contrast between their presence in Sebastian’s life and Sebastian’s own family’s absence. It’s one of those things that just fits so well without having to be pointed out. (Except by annoying reviewers. :)

While this is a well-written story, I wouldn’t pin it as one of Lane’s finest, although it has a multitude of good qualities. As I said before, it’s comfortable, not fancy. I almost hate to score it so low just because it didn’t make me an emotional wreck. I loved it and I look forward to curling up with it again later. It just didn’t blow me out of the water.


Monsters, and Guardians and Hugo OH MY!

Hugo - When his father dies, 12-year-old orphan Hugo takes up residence behind the walls of a Parisian train station. There, he meets Isabelle, the daughter of filmmaker Georges Méliès, who holds the key to Hugo's destiny.

(rent/buy) This movie wasn’t at all what I was expecting. I only vaguely remembered the advertisements for it and didn’t really think about it beyond that and knowing it got good reviews. While this film has a PG rating, some kids may find it rather slow progressing. There are plenty of fun bits though, with some little adventures and interesting characters. Oddly enjoyable, although I’d definitely mark this as something to watch before you purchase. It’s a deep movie, focusing on characters and pathos rather than solely plot.

Gods and Monsters - As his life draws to a close, film director James Whale--the openly gay genius behind The Bride of Frankenstein and The Invisible Man--befriends a gardener, and both men learn from their unexpected but platonic bond.

(rent) This movie hit home in many ways for me, which made it difficult to view. It’s a slow movie, especially in the beginning when the characters are first meeting and we’re learning about them. I found James to be a bit of an old man pervert, but as the movie progresses, it seems to be less that and just his personality. These two very different men come together in a most unexpected way and I would say the last half hour is worth sitting through the beginning.

Originally I was mocking the “platonic bond” that is mentioned in the blurb, but I can see why they felt the need to mention that, although there is no real sexual chemistry between the two men, especially since one is gay and one is straight. Definitely worth checking out, especially for people interested in film and directing.

Rise of the Guardians - In this animated adventure, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, the Sandman and Jack Frost come together to battle Pitch, a malicious spirit determined to take over the world and destroy the innocent beliefs and dreams of children.

(rent) I’ll be honest, the way Jack and Pitch were drawn is what drew me in. The characters are fun, and there is a fair amount of humor bantered about, which I think is what carries this movie. The plot is...nothing new, really, and there are some holes that my friends and I had to ‘explain away’ to each other. Kids will probably like this for it’s adventure and story and character design, while adults will like some of the more subtle elements like character development and humor. This was enjoyable, but not something I’d rush out to buy.

Wreck-It Ralph - Wreck-It Ralph longs to be the good guy instead of the villain in an old-school video game. He sees his chance and sneaks into the arcade's newest game, a flashy first-person shooter. But in doing the forbidden, he unleashes a deadly enemy.

(rent/buy) A humorous, learn-your-lesson, feel-good movie. While this isn’t groundbreaking or amazing, it definitely brings some refreshing elements to the table and is littered with old-school (and new-school) video game humor and in-jokes. But I don’t think video game knowledge is a must in order to enjoy this. The story is good and takes some unexpected turns, which keeps the tale from being the stale.

Another Gay Movie - Studly Jarod, nerdy Griff, flamboyant Nico and innocent Andy all want the same thing -- to lose their virginity -- and they'll paint the town lavender to do so in this gay take on the teen comedy genre that's filled with naughty gags aplenty.

(rent) This movie won’t be for everyone and it barely was for me. I didn’t really give it my full attention, but it had enough chuckle-worthy moments that I stuck through to the end. As a parody on American Pie, I didn’t get most of the injokes, since I’ve never seen that movie and the humor (crude) was similar. It had some good moments, but overall I found the film mediocre, but for people with a different sense of humor than me, it may be just the thing to lift the spirit.


Khaos Komix by Tab Kimpton

Khaos Komix by Tab Kimpton
Stars: 4/5*
*Because they’re free, I’d probably bump them up to 5 stars

Length: 8 stories at 51-97 comic book pages each
This is a comic about gender and sexuality. It follows the lives of 8 main characters: Steve, Mark, Amber, Nay, Tom, Alex, Charlie and Jamie. It’s about them finding themselves, falling in love, lust and like and how hard they fight to get there.

This comic contains so many issues I can’t even really list them. Some of the things you may find here include: Gays, lesbians, those weird bisexuals everyone is talking about, faggotry, homophobia, transgender issues, dubious consent, body issues, abuse, hate and most important of all, a big old helping of LOVE. There’s a reason I called it Khaos.

I read five of the eight stories and I loved every one of them. (The only reason I didn’t read all was I was reading them all in one night and it was getting late. And they had female protags. I know, I have my preferences in romantic settings.)

All the stories cover around the same period of time, with some going longer than others. Each story takes place from the protagonist’s perspective, so even when certain events are repeated, we’re given a new look at what was going on. Not only that, but the artist is obviously aware of the repeated events and doesn’t drag them out.

In many ways this is a standard high school/college romance story. But that’s sort of what makes it amazing. You know what you’re getting. And yet you get so much more. All of the stories tell the same general time period, but they also delve into the childhoods of the main cast, so we get so much more than if we just saw the events unfold as told.

The other great thing about these stories is that we have a variety of cast members. Yes, most are gay, but there are also heterosexual couples, MTF, FTM, gay, and ambivalent. They have good pasts and bad pasts. They have shitty parents and understanding parents. They have confused families and broken families. We get a little bit of everything.

Also, if you read the tales in order, they start off pretty light and slowly venture into darker and darker territory, but because you see where things are heading, you can avoid reading the darker tales if you want. I skipped over a few of the stories (Nay, Amber, and Charlie’s) but read through Jamie’s to get the full story on almost all the characters. It was pretty intense.

So these are fun, sometimes dark, often angsty stories that are definitely worth reading. Especially as they’re free and well done (with only a few typos in the text...but it’s a comic, so I’m more forgiving).

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


Clothing Optional by Allen Mack

Clothing Optional by Allen Mack
Stars: 2.5/5

Length: 5,200 words
Jim convinces his partner Brad to spend a day at a newly “liberated” beach -- meaning nudity is permitted within designated bounds. Brad overcomes his shyness and agrees to go, on the lookout for “watchers” the whole time.

The couple meets others like themselves, some interesting folks, some interested in only one thing. Their little excursion turns out to be far from the quiet, restful vacation Jim originally planned. By the end of the day, the sun isn’t the only thing heating up the beach!

A slice of life short that peeks into the life of Jim and Brad, long-time partners who are venturing into something new! This is definitely a nice, sweet story, and while there isn’t much to it, it’s still enjoyable for what it is.

What I loved most about this story was that even though it took place on a nude beach, the story wasn’t sexual. Yes, there were sexual allusions and the two main characters are obviously together, but nudity didn’t equate to sex. It was refreshing to read something that wasn’t just a hot little number. (Not that those aren’t enjoyable too!)

We only really get a glimpse of these two men, which made me want to see more of them. Brad used to be in the clergy, which in itself brings up plenty of questions. While they may not have a novel-length book in their story, it definitely feels like they have a tale to be told. While I liked what we saw, I would like to see more.

There is a definite sense of fun and playfulness between the two men, which was a strength of the story. However, their interactions with other couples was hit or miss with me. The first couple felt good and fine, but the second two pairs felt like forced interactions to cause drama (the final couple most of all). It wasn’t a big deal, but it made me scrunch my nose a tad.

Received this book for review.