Racing for the Sun by Amy Lane

Racing for the Sun by Amy Lane
Stars: 3/5

Length: 260 pages
"I'll do anything."

Staff Sergeant Jasper "Ace" Atchison takes one look at Private Sonny Daye and knows that every word on paper about him is pure, unadulterated bullshit. But Sonny is desperate, and although Ace isn't going to take him up on his offer of "anything," that doesn't mean he isn't tempted.

Instead, Ace takes Sonny under his wing, protecting him when they're in the service and making plans with him when they get out. Together, they're going to own a garage and build race cars and make their fortune hurtling faster than light across the desert. Together, they're going to rewrite the past, make Sonny Daye a whole and happy person, and put the ghosts in Ace's heart to rest.

But not even Sonny can build a car fast enough to escape the ghosts of the past. When Sonny's ghosts drive them down and run their plans off the road, Ace finds out exactly what he's made of. Maybe Sonny was the one to promise Ace anything, but there is nothing under the sun Ace won't do to keep Sonny safe from harm.

Warning: Due to circumstances, I took an eight-month hiatus from reading this book, which may alter my perspective on it.

While there are some elements of this book that are great, my disconnect from the characters kept me from really getting involved in the story.

From the beginning I had troubles really getting into this story. The story itself is fine, the writing is fine, but the characters didn’t grab me by the heartstrings and demand I hear their story. They are good, deep, sweet characters, but for some reason I just didn’t connect. this of course made the book more difficult to get through (although the hiatus was for personal reasons, not because of the book). I think my main struggles are based around the main vehicle of the story (racing, the army), both of which left me lukewarm.

When I picked up the book again, I was a little lost and I probably should have just reread the darn thing, but I was so close to crossing it off my to-do list that I just read it through. I think it was worth it. And in true Amy Lane style, she kept me up way past my bedtime reading.

Even though I didn’t really click with the characters, and even after a hiatus, I still felt invested enough in the characters that I was turning the pages faster and faster, wondering how much sleep I really needed to function.

This story touches upon some serious issues (coming out, family, prostitution, human trafficking [sorta], the army, racing, betting, cultural differences, class differences, and probably a few others I missed). There are also some elements of it that seem a little far-fetched (mainly in the end), but that I’m willing to suspend my disbelief about because it’s fiction.


Sherlock's Gay Best Father A'oro

Sherlock, season 3 - (3 episodes) After two years' absence, "deceased" Sherlock Holmes emerges from hiding and asks Watson to help him stop a terrorist plot that is threatening London. The twosome also tangle with a blackmailer and track a killer who's infiltrated Watson's wedding.

(buy) While I enjoyed the third installation of Sherlock, I’m not sure if I enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed the previous season. I would say it continues with their standard build mixed with humor, so viewers of the first two seasons will be pleased with this, but people unfamiliar with the series should probably start at the beginning.

G.B.F. - When shy Tanner is outed as a school's only openly gay student, popular girls Fawcett, Caprice and 'Shley engage in an epic catfight to acquire him as their "Gay Best Friend." Tanner soon finds himself torn between popularity and old friendships.

(rent) This is a cute high school comedy that really looks at friendships, stereotypes, and the masks people wear. It was amusing, but never really grabbed my attention. It had great one-liners and dialogue, but in some ways it dragged, which is weird since it wasn’t that long of a film. I would definitely say this is worth a watch, as it avoids some stereotypical high school movie tropes while playing with others.

Easy A - Ambitious student Olive decides to boost her popularity by pretending to be the school slut. As the swirling rumor mill increases both her notoriety and her finances, Olive enjoys her newfound status but eventually must decide if it's all worth it.

(rent/buy) I’m sorry I waited so long to watch this movie. But really, the description (and what I’d heard about the movie) left little desire for me to see it. It didn’t seem interesting or particularly deep. However, after seeing a million GIFs of interest float by, I decided to give it a shot.

And I’m glad I did. This film had a lovely mix of humor, classic high school flick, depth, and wit. Some of the characters were flat, but most had at least various elements that made them fallible and realistic. While much of the underlying message will be “no shit” for older audiences, I still think it’s worth hearing--and seeing.

La Corda d’Oro - (26 episodes) Hino goes to a school that specialises in music and has two streams: the normal stream and the music stream, where the music students are regarded as the more elite. She was running late for her class one day when she saw a tiny fairy, who seemed really excited that she could see it. The next day, the entrants in the music competition, who are decided by the school, are announced. Hino's name appears on the list - except she doesn't play an instrument.

(rent) This is just kind of a mellow high school show. It may not be for everyone (especially as it’s subtitled only), but I found it oddly enjoyable. It’s one of those shows you don’t watch for plot or excitement or any of that, but just to let the story unfold. For all the romantic tension, there’s no real resolution. And the underlying theme gets beaten over the head a bit much (especially in the last episode). This is mostly a character study, although even in that it’s mostly just how Hina transformed everyone in the show for the better. But it had pretty boys and classical music (and it pans away to the same few shots for every musical number rather than animating the instrument playing.

In the Name of… - Running toward God but away from his sexuality, Adam became a priest at age 21. Now the head of a rural parish, he's still tormented by desire. When Father Adam attempts to help troubled teen Lukasz, long-suppressed feelings begin to surface.

(meh) I really couldn’t get into this movie. It had potential, even with what I felt was an under-developed plot, but too much was vaguely hinted out, left undeveloped, or just not really looked at. I’m not sure if better understanding of the culture that movie takes place in (Poland, I believe), would clarify things, but generally I was lukewarm about everything. The acting wasn’t bad, probably the highlight of the film, and there were moments I felt for the characters and their struggles, but generally my confusion over what was happening and how people felt was too deep to let me connect at all to anything here.


A Big Movie in Eden, Tokyo. Don't Cry.

Big Eden - Successful but lonely New York artist Henry Hart (Arye Gross) returns to Big Eden to care for his ailing grandfather and winds up confronting his unrequited passion for his high school best friend and his feelings about being gay in a small town. As Henry works though his emotions, the townspeople quietly conspire to help him along, until Henry realizes new possibilities for both friendship and romance. Eric Schweig and Louise Fletcher also star.

(rent) This is either a bad movie or a fantastic one. It’s very much RomCom, coming out, small town (that is VERY understanding). In all those ways, it’s kinda of over-the-top cheesy. Which may disgust some people. But if you like cheese, even in a cheesy way (if that makes sense), then this may be up your alley. I found it cute and slightly cringe-worthy. The acting, camera work, etc, are all good, but sometimes things happen and I don’t know if they were cute or not. It’s definitely not a completely realistic story, but it’s kind of adorable and sweet, so I forgave it.

Boys Don’t Cry - Based on actual events, director Kimberly Peirce's powerful, often harrowing drama stars Hilary Swank as Brandon Teena, a transgender person searching for love and acceptance in a small Midwestern town.

(rent) This is a dark, heavy piece that has lots of points that brings awareness to trans issues and the dangers of “passing” as a trans person. I think I would have enjoyed this piece more if it wasn’t based on actual events, as I have a feeling the thing that bothered me the most--a person making god-awful stupid decisions--was pulled from the actual events of Tina’s life. That said, while this is a powerful film, it will probably only sit comfortably on a few people’s shelves: Those who like heavier, darker, edgier movies.

We Need to Talk About Kevin - Eva's relationship with her son, Kevin, has been difficult from the beginning. When the 15-year-old boy's cruel streak erupts into violence, Eva wonders how much blame she deserves for his actions.

(rent) I was kind of mediocre on this one. It draws out the pivotal plot slowly, which isn’t bad, and it does lots of telling in flashback, which again isn’t bad, but together they left me lukewarm. It didn’t help that I felt little to no sympathy for Eva. I think it’s an interesting psychological piece that explores an individual’s and a community’s reaction to a traumatic event perpetrated by one man, but I can’t really recommend it.

The Lego Movie - After being mistaken for the LEGO Master Builder, ordinary mini-guy Emmet is swept up in an urgent quest to thwart the evil plans of Lord Business. Emmet's adventures include daunting challenges and hilarious missteps in this computer-animated epic.

(rent/buy) Everyone had nothing but good things to say about this movie, and while I found it enjoyable and rather funny at parts, I wasn’t particularly moved by it. The creative animation style definitely won points, and the plot and deeper meanings were all stellar, but it felt a touch overdone/preachy, probably because it wasn’t particularly subtle about making its points. I have a feeling most people would enjoy watching this and some will fall in love, but it just wasn’t for me.

Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 - (11 episodes) In 2012, Mirai, a middle school freshman girl, goes to Tokyo’s artificial Odaiba Island for a robot exhibition with her brother Yuuki at the start of summer vacation. A powerful tremor registering 8.0 on the JMA scale emanates from an ocean trench and the landscape of Tokyo changes in seconds. With the help of a motorcycle delivery woman named Mari who they meet on Odaiba, Mirai and Yuuki strive to head back to their Setagaya home in western Tokyo.

(rent) This is, as expected, a fairly dark series, but it’s not really dreary or depressing, for the most part, although it has very heavy moments, especially toward the end. However, I would definitely recommend this to almost all viewers, one as an educational element, one as just a powerful reminder of people being the worst they can and the best they can.

One of the nice things about this anime is that it isn’t heavy with cultural references or jokes that the basic viewer won’t get. While some elements may seem odd to the unfamiliar, for the most part people will follow along and still be touched by the story. That said, it still won’t be for everyone, so I’d still recommend watching it before buying it.


How to Find and Train Your X-Men

Geography Club - Looking for a haven from the social hell of high school, the teens in this dramedy form a social club they know no one else will join. Here, it doesn't matter that Min and Terese are more than just friends, or that the quarterback is seeing a guy

(rent/buy) This is a cute film that watches like a YA novel. Not only does it have a heart-warming message, it has a slightly unexpected ending, a multicultural cast, and some twists on characters you wouldn’t expect. This is a piece I’d probably enjoy more in book form, but I’m a reader at heart. The strong cast of actors, good dialogue, and witty lines make this definitely worth a watch.

X-men: Days of Future Past - The X-Men send Wolverine to the past in a desperate effort to change history and prevent an event that results in doom for both humans and mutants.

(rent/buy) Although there are some issues with timelines, the character development and storyline are fantastic and highly enjoyable. Seeing the relationship differences between Magneto and Xavier as young individuals and having come together again in a challenging world, is an interesting study of both character development and a look at the actors and their different approaches to the characters. Definitely worth a watch for a fan of the series, although like all X-men films, don’t look too closely at the plot as compared to the comics.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 - Five years have passed since Hiccup and Toothless united the dragons and Vikings of Berk. Now, they spend their time charting the island's unmapped territories. During one of their adventures, the pair discover a secret cave that houses hundreds of wild dragons. Hiccup and Toothless then find themselves at the center of a battle to protect Berk from a power-hungry warrior named Drago.

(buy) I was tentative going into this movie because I enjoyed the first one so much. There was no way it could hold up to the original. And in many ways, it didn’t. But it also doesn’t try to. It goes it’s own way and by doing so, holds its own. I think the best part isn’t the story (although it’s enjoyable), but the behavior and information we see in the dragons. Toothless is just as adorable and loyal as ever, and the bond between him and Hiccup is lovely and precious. Definitely worth seeing.

8: The Mormon Proposition - Filmmaker and ex-Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints member Reed Cowan examines that church's nationwide efforts to prevent the legalization of gay marriage -- including California's Proposition 8, which was passed by voters in 2008. Confidential church documents, statements by high-ranking church officials and other sources detail 30 years of efforts to turn back gay rights, particularly by the Mormon-sponsored National Organization for Marriage.

(rent) I didn’t know much about the Prop 8 issue aside from the general news, so hearing the details and numbers related to what happened was eye-opening and horrifying. This was educational, with enough of a personal factor to reach the heart of viewers. This was educational, but a bit of a downer--though there is a positive light that things have advanced since this documentary was made.

The Butch Factor - Director Christopher Hines paints an intimate portrait of contemporary gay culture by asking pointed questions and studying the diverse lifestyles of its members, with the resulting film offering a fresh look at masculinity and homosexuality. Interviewing gay men ranging from rugby players to rodeo stars, Hines also talks to historians, psychologists and sociologists to help identify the similarities in the way gay men view themselves.

(rent) Whether or not you agree with everything this documentary says, it’s worth a watch. I found it to be fairly well-rounded, portraying bother the stereotypical “masculine” and “feminine” gays and their take on the stereotypes in the culture. I felt many deep, meaningful ideas were shared without showing one type as being the better one. I also greatly approved that a transman was able to get a say in this, which is a unique perspective in this topic. This documentary was well put together, and while at points it felt like it dragged (and some people were just saying the same thing as a previous person), each speaker brought something new to the table, so I was never really bored or disinterested.


Reviews: Howling at Dinner While Coming Out

Howl - James Franco steps into the shoes of famed Beat poet Allen Ginsberg in this star-studded biopic centered around Ginsberg's poem "Howl" and the widely publicized obscenity trial that followed its publication in 1957.

(rent/buy) I knew nothing about Allen Ginsberg going into this movie, so it was very educational. It was also well balanced between educational and entertainment. It wasn’t a documentary, but the film is grounded in reality. I would definitely say this is worth a watch, as not only do you learn about the poet, but about important decisions the court made in regards to literature.

Ristorante Paradiso - (11 episodes) Ristorante Paradiso follows the protagonist, Nicoletta, as she comes to Rome from the Italian countryside and becomes an apprentice in Casetta dell'Orso, a restaurant owned by her mother Olga's new husband, Lorenzo, and meets its colorful staff.

(rent/buy) This laid-back anime is a nice watch, although if you’re looking for action, go elsewhere. It’s very much like a slice of life series, where we learn about the different characters in the restaurant, their history, and the growth of the lead character. There are some dark moments, but nothing too heavy (or that is too heavy for too long). Generally a nice, gentle story.

Also, if you’re looking for homosexual subtext, there isn’t much. It’s all very heteronormative, although there are a few hints and open-ended events. This isn’t a bad thing, but I do like some handsome men who want to woo other men. But generally this series was so laid back and focused on other things (even when romance was the focus) that it wasn’t bothersome.

Coming Out Stories - In this Logo reality series, gay men and lesbians go through the process of coming out to their families, friends and neighbors. Each episode features the story of one individual and the challenges and thrills of his or her coming-out story.

(rent) This is probably not a series to watch all in one sitting. Much like most reality TV, the drama is amped up (although considering the setting, not that much). There were eight (I believe) episodes, and while each brought different unique qualities, many of the same feelings/issues were raised. These were of course valid, but watching them all in one night made them feel repetitive.

I didn’t really take much from watching this show, although your mileage may vary. What I found most interesting was the look at how culture and LGBT issues cross, such as in the individuals who were Korean, Jamaican, or Filipino. Mainly it made me think of my own quirky coming out. Also, many of the individuals felt pushed to tell a family member because that family member was ill and probably going to die soon. It obviously amped up the drama for the story, and it definitely pushes the idea that we all run out of time, but mostly it showed me (or stressed to me) that we are all on borrowed time, so live happily. After all, if they can’t accept you, that’s their loss.

Save Me - When young gay man Mark (Chad Allen) hits rock bottom, the well-intentioned Gayle (Judith Light) and her husband, Ted (Stephen Lang), welcome him to Genesis House, a Christian haven for men like Mark to seek shelter and get on the right path -- the straight path. But problems arise when Mark's mentor, Scott (Robert Gant), becomes too intimate, prompting Gayle and Ted to face some uncomfortable realities about love, salvation and human sexuality.

(rent/buy) I think what I really loved about this movie was that it didn’t use a horrible, evil place for Genesis House. Instead, Gayle and Ted run a house for helping. The people there can leave at any time. They want to be there. Of course some feel obligated, and there’s some issues, mainly with family making people attend, but generally they are a nice house that brings people to God rather than forcing or brainwashing.

The relationship between Mark and Scott is lovely and for the most part not physical, which I think is a perfect balance for how Mark begins the movie. The lack of physicality allows their closeness and love to really blossom, which is my other favorite part. Although I didn’t necessarily feel chemistry between the two men, I definitely felt a depth of caring that seemed to go beyond basic chemistry--aka, love. It was lovely and sweet, although some moments were very hard-hitting, relating to drugs and suicide attempts.

A Time to Leave - At the height of his career, a gay fashion photographer suddenly faces terminal cancer in this French drama helmed by Francois Ozon. When Romain (Melvil Poupaud) learns he has little time left to live, he decides to tell only his beloved grandmother of his condition, pushing away everyone else in his life -- his parents, his sister, even his lover. Refusing chemotherapy, he struggles to accept his fate and make the most of his precious last days.

(rent) I didn’t even remember adding this to my queue, so I was surprised I had something so potentially depressing on my list. In many ways, this film wasn’t as sad as I was expecting. Yes, it had elements of melancholy, but it was more introspective than drag you in the dirt depressing. By the end, I felt accepting of the main character’s demise, as I think the viewer is meant to be. This is something worth watching, but I think only fans of artsy films will truly enjoy it.


Blackbird Knitting in a Bunny’s Lair by Amy Lane

Blackbird Knitting in a Bunny’s Lair, a Granby Knitting Novel by Amy Lane
Stars: 5/5

Length: 244
After three years of waiting for “rabbit” Jeremy to commit to a life in Granby—and a life together—Aiden Rhodes was appalled when Jeremy sustained a nearly fatal beating to keep a friend out of harm's way. How could Aiden’s bunny put himself in danger like that?

Aiden needs to get over himself, because Jeremy has a long road to recovery, and he's going to need Aiden's promise of love every step of the way. Jeremy has new scars on his face and body to deal with, and his heart can’t afford any more wounds.

When their friend’s baby needs some special care, the two men find common ground to firm up their shaky union. With Aiden’s support and his boss’s inspiration, Jeremy comes up with a plan to make sure Ariadne's little blackbird comes into this world with everything she needs. While Jeremy grows into his new role as protector, Aiden needs to ease back on his protectiveness over his once-timid lover. Aiden may be a wolf in student's clothing and Jeremy may be a rabbit of a man, but that doesn’t mean they can’t walk the wilds of Granby together.

A fitting conclusion to the Granby Knitting series (or at least the story of these men).

I’m sure there are things about this novel that I didn’t like. Most likely the pieces all falling together too nicely and something of that sort.

But I really can’t say that here. Because these characters, this town, has been building up and coming together for three prior books. And this one doesn’t rush to get to the happy ending these men, especially Jeremy, deserve. Instead we’re led through Jeremy’s difficult recovery, Aiden’s challenges, and the struggles of life, love, and misconceptions.

Jeremy has to deal with his new face, his new life, and all the changes that are being thrown at him. He’s used to running scared, but he’s promised Aiden he won’t. He’s got a lot of work to do to keep that promise.

Aiden needs to come to terms with what he did to protect the love of his life, and he has to be the man that Jeremy needs. While Aiden has always been the “older” of the two, for the first time we get to see things from his perspective and see that he doesn’t always feel as grown up as he is (which is something we can all relate to, I think).

Much of this story is like being wrapped in a heavy blanket: warm, comforting, and protecting the delicate hearts within. But as the final tale for these men who surround themselves with knitting, it is the perfect conclusion, leaving the reader just as warmed as after having finished the first of these Granby men’s stories.


This Boy Drove an Orange Slope

A Clockwork Orange - Against a bleak futuristic landscape, young sociopath Alex DeLarge spends his time stealing, raping and beating innocent people in nihilistic orgies of violence, all in an attempt to get his nightly kicks.

(rent) This is a very weird moving. It’s obviously making a ton of commentary on society, etc, and it’s definitely dark and deep (and sometimes squicky). I’m glad I’ve seen it just because it’s so well-known and part of culture, but I can’t really say I enjoyed it. On the other hand, I’m not sure this is a movie that’s meant to be enjoyed. More studied and analyzed than anything.

Kids on the Slope - (12 episodes) The story of Kids on the Slope really starts rolling when the classical piano-trained Kaoru encounters Sentaro and falls head-over-heels in love with jazz.

(rent/buy) This show was sold to me with the description, “Stupendously, nonstop gay...oh, and jazz.” And considering all the characters in it are supposedly heterosexual, it’s pretty nonstop gay. The bond between the two male leads could be argued as best friends, but it goes beyond that. The relationships are horribly high school sometimes (uh, in a good way), and they suffer from the human condition of being unable to communicate, but this is a great show with fun music, a good plot, and an ending that left me giggling and repeating, “so gay” without being stated as gay.

Star Driver - (26 episodes) Takuto, The "Galactic Pretty Boy," finds himself dragged into opposition with the "Glittering Crux Brigade," a mysterious group that intends to take possession of the island's Cybodies for their own purposes as well as break the seals of the island's four Shrine Maidens, whose powers prevent the Cybodies from functioning outside of Zero Time.

(rent/buy) If I were to read this show’s description anywhere, I probably wouldn’t watch it. Giant robots? High school romance? Ugh. But this show is more than it appears. There are some high-school-hijinks moments, but for the most part the characters (especially the main three) are very mature and responsible. The robot battle scenes are a necessary evil, but generally they don’t last too long. What really sold this show to me was the ending, which felt kind incomplete, but gave a subtle answer to the question of the love triangle. Who is she going to pick? Who says she has to…

This Boy Can Fight Aliens! - (30 min OVA)When aliens suddenly invade the world, Earth seems to be fighting a losing battle until Arikawa accidentally discovers a young man, Kakashi, who has the power to defeat the attackers. Unfortunately, Kakashi has also lost his memory, and with it the knowledge of how to actually use his power. Moving Kakashi in with himself and his commander, Arikawa accidentally starts a strange triangle of emotions and relationships. A triangle that threatens the fate of the planet as Kakashi begins to question his own motivations.

(rent) This is definitely one to watch before buying, as the art styles are very different (either to save money or for artistic reasons...or both), and the story is disjointed and a little confusing. Some things are never really made clear. Some questions are never answered. While there is some resolution, and the development of the relationship is not given much focus, there is also a lot left unsaid and open, which I felt depleted the quality of the story being told. In some ways the artistic style seemed to take center stage, filling time that could have better been used to develop plot.

This Boy Caught a Merman - (30 min OVA) Shima has always strove to be an excellent obedient child to his parents and to others, but in the process he could never be himself. Because of this he has always felt lonely, even with all the people who say they love him. When the picture of his recently deceased grandfather falls into the ocean, Shima nearly drowns jumping in after it. He is quickly saved by a mysterious man.

(rent/buy) This short piece won’t be for everyone, but I found it exceptionally cute and sweet. It has some depth, but isn’t too heavy, really, and it looks at some of the problems of a human/nonhuman relationship. For how short it is, it covers a lot of ground and doesn’t feel like it shorts you any.


Movie Reviews: Shut up, I'm Frozen

Shut Up and Kiss Me - Actor, fitness coach and pinup guy Ronnie Kerr draws on all facets of his far-flung career for this charming autobiographical tale about 35-year-old Ben (Kerr), who finally meets Mr. Right (Scott Gabelein) -- and then discovers how much they don't have in common. Director Devin Hamilton touches on monogamy and other related lifestyle issues in this playful comedy about relationship building in the contemporary world.

(rent) I’m really not sure how I feel about this movie. As the description says, it deals with monogamy...or not. It doesn’t really just touch on the topic either. It’s a central theme as these two men get together and struggle to have a relationship. The plot, acting, etc, were all okay. Not great, but not the worst I’ve seen. For me, watching this movie wasn’t so much a theatrical experience as a philosophical one. How would I handle if I was in a relationship with someone who wasn’t monogamous (and was upfront about it)? It gave me something to ponder, even if I couldn’t particularly recommend this for a viewing.

The Three Musketeers - (2011) The original three musketeers are past their prime and working menial jobs in Paris when their friend D'Artagnan rallies them to defend the nation. To do so, they must undermine Cardinal Richelieu's plot to have himself crowned France's next king.

(rent) Okay, this isn’t as good as the 1993 version, but it also took a very different path, which was sometimes hard to believe, but overall it worked. It uses more the general concept of the three musketeers and the plot rather than focusing on historical reality. It has some laugh-out-loud moments and some fun plot twists, etc. I found some of the action sequences to be a little far-fetched, and the last scene made me roll my eyes, but generally is was an okay psuedo-historical action flick.

White Frog - Nick, who has Asperger's syndrome, struggles to carry on after the death of his brother Chaz. Their parents have their own problems coping with the loss, but Chaz's best friend takes Nick under his wing.

(buy) This movie was pretty fantastic for many, many reasons. Some of the resolution felt a little too easy, but not enough to turn me off it. The characters are wonderfully three dimensional, the story is a slow reveal (that the viewer can guess, but it still is explored in such a way that it makes the reveal all the more important. This has several lessons, but it teaches through showing, not lecturing. I’d recommend this to just about everyone.

The Crow - Exactly one year after young rock guitarist Eric Draven and his fiancée are brutally killed by a ruthless gang of criminals, Draven -- watched over by a hypnotic crow -- returns from the grave to exact revenge.

(rent) I somehow grew up in the nineties and never saw this movie. My friends, who are huge fans, insisted on showing it to me, and despite the hype (and keeping in mind the year it was made), I enjoyed it. It’s very grunge, and the violence/gang gets almost silly in parts, but it never crosses that line and in fact seems to recognize it’s extremeness.

Despite the dark topic and horrible people that make up the majority of the cast, there are a few golden individuals that leave you with a sense of hope for the future. For a dark, death-ridden movie, it was handled with a balanced hand, making it as hopeful as it is a warning. While it didn’t grab me, I was definitely interested the entire time and enjoyed watching everything play out. If you’re like me and somehow missed this, it’s definitely worth a watch...maybe on Devil’s Night?

Frozen - After her kingdom is doomed to suffer from eternal winter, intrepid Anna goes on a quest to find her reclusive sister, the Snow Queen, and break the curse. Along the way, Anna teams with eccentric mountaineer Kristoff and his comic reindeer, Sven.

(rent/buy) I come from a very different place for this movie, as I’d heard all the fuss before watching it. Still, it was a very enjoyable movie. Not completely what I look for in a film to own, but I can definitely see why it’s so beloved. It has two strong female leads, a goofy, lovable (but still strong) male companion, a fun twist, and enough humor to keep things from getting dark. I think my biggest issue was that the ice queen could also form material out of thin air. But her magic is never really explained...so yeah.


Luke (Sylvan #2) by Jan Irving

Luke (Sylvan #2) by Jan Irving

Stars: 1.5/5

Length: 100 pages


Wandering cowboy Luke Walker is at the end of his rope after his girlfriend abandons their newborn daughter. A terrified new father, he's grateful to meet Dr. Morgan Gallagher. Morgan recognizes that he and Luke could help each other: Luke can rebuild Morgan's property and land so Morgan can have the horses he wants, and Morgan can provide the younger man with a safe place to raise his daughter. In theory, it should work out perfectly, except that Morgan is instantly attracted to Luke-a straight man-and sharing the same cabin and caring for the baby is a more intimate arrangement than he'd imagined.


A sweet story without much substance or conflict.


I think the biggest weakness in this book is the lack of conflict. While there is some internal struggle and growth, generally everything falls into place neatly. Too neatly. The baby's momma shows up, but doesn't cause any trouble, the exboyfriend-ish has no hard feelings, and there's no negative ramifications for the gay cowboys.

The biggest conflict was the baby's fever and the guys getting over themselves, and even that didn't seem like such a big problem since the supposedly straight dude hopped right over that hurdle.

There was nothing I hated about this book, but there's very little I remember about it either. Parts of it were cute, and it would work as a series of vignettes, but as a novel it didn’t hold up.

I may have enjoyed this story more if I’d read the first of the Sylvan series, but since the characters in that didn’t play too major of a role, I didn’t feel lost.


The First Real Thing by Cat Grant

The First Real Thing by Cat Grant
Stars: 3/5

Length: 123 pages
My name’s Cameron. And I’m a male escort. I’m the best, and most expensive, at what I do. I have one rule—never let anyone in.

In five years of hooking I’ve never picked up the wrong guy. But when I met Toronto ad man Trevor Barclay in a Manhattan bar, his soft green eyes and shy smile drew me right in. When I discovered the error I had made, I should have written it off as a mistake and moved on. But memories of the steamy encounter we shared in his hotel room continued to haunt me.

I never should have agreed to see him again, but from that very first night he worked his way under my skin and into my heart. I can’t stop thinking about him. But how can I tell him the first man he’s been with in sixteen years sells himself for a living?

A nice mix of sweet and funny with a touch of angst. It may not bring anything new to the table, but it gives a great telling that will tug the heartstrings when you’re not chuckling.

This was a sweet and generally humorous story (as in there are a good number of one-liners, the plot itself wasn't funny). The blogger format worked well for it and there were good reasons for the blogging format, both in the front end and the back end. Of course, the format also didn't feel terribly realistic, as certain parts were too detailed to have been written after the fact, but I marked that down with the hand-wavium of storytelling.

I liked how several threads of plot all came together in the end, drawing on side moments that seem like nothing but result in the climactic conflict. The conflict worked perfectly for the story, although the core of it is rather predictable. The emotional turmoil was great, and while the resolution seemed a little too easy, it also seemed reasonable, so again, I was willing to let it slide.

If you're looking for a classic rentboy-falls-in-love story, then this will probably have everything you need. Otherwise, it's an enjoyable read that didn't blow my socks off, but didn't bore me either.


Blind Space by Marie Sexton

Blind Space by Marie Sexton
Stars: 4/5

Length: 164 pages
Captain Tristan Kelley enjoys the luxuries of Regency service, as well as the pleasure of his Prince’s bed. It’s an easy life, if not a happy one. When the Prince decides to take a trip through the perilous Blind Space, Tristan must go with him, but somebody in the Prince’s guard is a traitor.

Blind and held prisoner, Tristan finds himself at the mercy of Valero, a pirate who bears no love for the Regency. Valero is determined to seduce Tristan, and Tristan fears his resolve won’t last. His duty is clear, but so is his desire. As the days tick by with no word or ransom from the Regency, Tristan begins to question what loyalty means to his Prince, the Regency he’s sworn to, and to the man who holds him captive. He begins to realize that being a prisoner may actually set him free.

Note: I read the previous edition (pictured) but Sexton recently re-released it with a new cover and edits (linked to above).

This story may start a little slow but ends with a BAM that absolutely makes it worthwhile.

I love Sexton's stuff, so when I first started Blind Space, I was a little disappointed. It was good, but it didn't have the same clean writing and style that I was used to. And by the halfway point, I was starting to get concerned--it seemed like the story was winding down...

But Sexton did not disappoint. For one, the writing seemed to pick up as Tristan gained his freedom and made some freeing realizations. I'm not sure if this was done on purpose or subconsciously, but it worked to make the story pick up just as the action did. And boy did the action pick up!

My fears of the last half of the story dragging (because everything had been resolved, right?) were blown away. I slammed through the second half of this book and even pushed my bedtime back a little so I could finish it. And, in true Sexton style, it made me all soft and hard inside. I'll admit, I giggled at one point.

And the sex scenes? Very sexy. Very sensual. Very hot. Sexton also balanced two oversexed characters with not oversaturating the story with sex scenes, making the scenes more enjoyable (especially after all that build up). Plus Tristan's 'naughty' little secret. That was a lovely little bit.

And my favorite line: “He wasn’t demanding my submission—he wasn’t even asking for it—but I knew it would be accepted if I chose to give it. The firmness of his grip on my head, the softness of his touch…”

But it's the plot and story that really grabbed me and had me dragging my tired eyelids over the last dozen pages. It went places I didn't expect...and yet weren't completely unexpected. It was a fantastic surprise.

Even before the 'twist' there was some nice psychological commentary that I appreciated and that felt like a turning point to the story. It could have just as easy done without that chapter, but it also felt like it secured Tristan and Valero's relationship, so I wanted to give a nod of approval.


Caught by A.B. Gayle

Caught by A.B. Gayle
Stars: 3/5

Length: 122 pages
When Daniel's invalid landlady asks for his help preventing a possible suicide from the clifftop near their home, he doesn't want to disappoint her. So he grits his teeth, picks up his camera, and goes out to play the Chinese tourist. He's done it before: befriended the lonely, lured them away from the danger zone, acted as a safety net.

This time, the figure staring out to sea is way out of his league, his complete opposite, the sort of man Daniel's always admired from afar. Then the attractive Taylor turns the tables and lures Daniel out from behind the safety of his camera, and as Daniel finds himself fighting off an attraction he can't deny, he realizes he's in danger of being caught. Will the camera expose truths about himself that he wants to keep hidden?

A fairly delightful story that suffers from a hardcore case of Insta-Love. Otherwise, it’s enjoyable, sweet, and has a warm message at the core.

I enjoyed this tale from beginning to end, but it also made me roll my eyes something fierce. If you believe in love at first sight, then you’ll be fine, but if not...tread carefully. I still think the story is worth reading, but these two men fall hard and fast for each other (and I don’t just mean in the bedroom!).

Daniel and Taylor have a great dynamic, although sometimes Taylor toes the line with his bossy-ness (but never crosses it). They bring out the best in each other and their interactions show an honest connection that can easily lead to love. I just thought the leaps there were a little fast.

Still, the unfolding story, the ex, the motivating introduction--these all built up a pleasant, although oftentimes dark, story that played across my ereader delightfully. The passion of these two men, at their pasts, each other, and jerk exes, were great. However, the problems I had with it (which was rather pivotal to the storyline, or at least was a focus) couldn’t bump it above a 3-star rank, although I couldn’t go any lower for this little gem either.


Turkey in the Snow by Amy Lane

Turkey in the Snow by Amy Lane
Stars: 5/5

Length: 102 pages
Since Hank Calder’s four-year-old niece, Josie, came to live with him, his life has been plenty dramatic, thank you, and the last thing he needs is a swishy, flaming twinkie to complicate things. But when Justin, the daycare worker at his gym, offers to do something incredibly nice for Hank—and for Josie—Hank is forced to reconsider. Justin may be flamboyant in his speech and gestures, but his heart and kindness are as rock steady and dependable as anyone, even Hank, could ask for. Can Hank trust in his dramatic “turkey in the snow” to offer his heart the joy he and Josie have never known?

A sweet Christmas tale that looks at family, stereotypes, and prejudice, all without going too dark, but still gripping the heart and not letting go until the end.

After a long day of Christmas with half the family, I curled up with this story, just planning on reading a bit before bed. Yes, I realize this is the trap we all fall into. I stayed up much later than I was planning, and then scarfed down the rest with breakfast.

The plot wasn’t edge-of-your-seat or overly dramatic (except a few parts, which needed to be). It was just so warm I wanted to keep reading. Hank and Justin are complete opposites, except for the fact that they both want to give the best to Josie, who is adorable, just enough annoyance to feel true and just enough sweet to make even this grinch smirk.

While there isn’t a lot of relationship building given to Hank and Justin, and it feels a little like they go from 0 to 60, I didn’t mind. Both men had good reasons and enough history between them that once they started to help each other, it came together.

Speaking of helping each other...I loved that Justin, who works, goes to school, lives at home, and is the younger of the two, is actually the one riding up on the white horse in this story. It takes the standard and turns it on its head, which is nice and is part of what made me love Justin so much.

I found Hank’s two friends, especially Alan, to be really annoying. I get that it was the point, and thankfully they don’t spend much time on the page, but I really wanted to reach through the screen and throttle him. But he sure did explain a lot about Hank!

While everything gets wrapped up a little too tidy for my tastes--usually--here I felt the characters, especially Hank, earned his ending. We join him in his growth and suffering so that when I got to the last page, I was completely satisfied--and all warm inside.

I’m such a sucker for Christmas stories.


The Kids Are Creepy

ParaNorman - When an army of zombies invades a small town, it's up to an odd local boy with a knack for communicating with the dead to save the day. But judgmental adults prove to be even more formidable adversaries.

(rent/buy) This animated film is worth at least one watch, although it may not suit everyone. It will be just spooky enough in the beginning to make a good Halloween flick, but the creep factor doesn’t last long (so no nightmares) as it provides a heartwarming, uplifting message in the end. Although this isn’t one of the great animated films, it has a simple plot for children and lots of subtext for adults.

Velvet Goldmine - A decade after British glam-rocker Brian Slade fakes his assassination on stage and disappears from view, tabloid journalist Arthur Stuart is dispatched to deconstruct the legend of the bisexual pop star.

(rent) An odd one. My biggest complaint was the sound mixing, which made hearing dialogue difficult when the background music was more in the foreground. Obviously music played a major role in this film, but it still made it hard to follow some things. The best part, I feel, is that while Arthur is figuring stuff out, he rarely tells the viewer what is happening or explains what he figures out. The watcher has to do that on their own.

Of course, that also means that some elements of the movie may remain a mystery to the viewer, or things may be interpreted differently by the viewer, but I think that adds an element of depth to the movie.

Edge of Seventeen - A 17-year-old rediscovers his sexuality in this 1980s story about coming out and its social consequences. Eric (Chris Stafford) takes a job at an amusement park and meets Rod (Andersen Gabrych) -- but finds out too late that his crush just wants sex. He seeks consolation at the local gay bar, only to be used again. As he continues to question his sexual orientation, a female friend (Tina Holmes) volunteers to be his next partner.

(rent) This movie seemed especially long. It was a slow-progressing flick as Eric came to realizations about his sexuality. It had its up and downs and played with what felt like a lot of stereotypes (although those stereotypes are based in fact, I assume). This story definitely looks at things and makes you think, but it’s not amazing either. Kinda middle of the road. I probably would have liked it more if it moved at a quicker pace.

C.R.A.Z.Y. - There are five boys in the Beaulieu family -- Christian, Raymond, Antoine, Zachary and Yvan. But Zac (played by Emile Vallee and Marc-Andre Grondin) is the only one who's gay. That's why growing up in Montreal alongside his heterosexual brothers and his strict, emotionally distant father (Michel Cote) proves especially challenging for the blossoming outsider, who finds solace in the music of Pink Floyd, the Rolling Stones and David Bowie.

(rent/buy) This is a fairly long running movie and a tad slow, but definitely worth a watch. It’s very much a family drama, specifically focusing on a father-son relationship, but it also looks at sexuality, child rearing, love, and family. I think what’s best about this movie is that while one of the motivating factors for some of the actions is Zac’s sexuality, there is so much more at play here.

The Kids Are All Right - Joni and Laser, the children of same-sex parents Nic and Jules, become curious about their sperm-donor dad and set out to make him part of their family unit. But his arrival complicates the household dynamics.

(rent) I generally found this movie to be lacking, but I know a good portion of that is just preference. The cover of the film makes it look happy and positive, but the film itself seems to be the opposite. While there are some good takeaway messages here, there are also lots of bad behavior. It’s all very real, but it doesn’t make it into a moving movie. I was bored for a good chunk, uncomfortable with several pieces, and frustrated the rest of the time.

The only interactions I really liked was between Laser and the donor, although Joni wasn’t too bad, as she can be forgiven, since she’s young. Mostly I found the characters to be selfish, unbearable, and poor representatives of humanity. Jules, especially, irritated me, both with her actions and how it presents her as a character, specifically a lesbian. Joni’s female friend was obsessed with sex and Joni constantly called her a slut. Both traits were irritating and seemed to be trying to say something that I don’t think the film got across.


The Christmas Throwaway by R.J. Scott

The Christmas Throwaway by R.J. Scott
Stars: 2.5/5

Length: 73 pages
Christmas is a time for giving - what do you do when no one gives a damn?

For Zachary Weston Christmas means sleeping on a churchyard bench in the freezing snow with nothing better in his future. Thrown out of his home for being gay, he is left without money or, it seems, anywhere to go.

Until a stranger shows him that some people do give a lot more than a damn.

Ben Hamilton is a rookie cop in his small home town. He finds a young throwaway, fresh from the city, sleeping on a bench in the churchyard on a snowy Christmas Eve. Can he be the one to give Zachary his own Christmas miracle?

A sweet sort of holiday tale that I found to be too easy and kind of questionable about certain events. It was enjoyable, but like mindless television.

There was a lot about this story that I wanted to like, but too much was hard for me to swallow. I liked Zach and Ben, and while I found their meeting and the sequence of events a little brow raising, it wasn’t enough to turn me off the story. The Christmas part of the tale worked the best, and while I was glad to see the rest of the story unfold, it made the pacing unbalanced.

The first 75% of the story is the first winter they’re together, then it jumps months at a time. It’s difficult, because it does resolve some plot points that were good/necessary to see through, but it also felt like an excuse to have lots of sex, plus the jumps felt more stilted than the rest of the story.

Along those lines, sometimes the writing felt a little stilted too. There was some adjective abuse. Normally it doesn’t really jump out to me, but one line in particular illustrates that: “Jesus Christ,” he cursed bluntly.

If the character is cursing, it’s probably blunt (especially in the surrounding circumstances), and in the situation, explaining that “JC” was a curse wasn’t needed either, although I could let that slide.

In addition, the characters tended to internal monologue and describe instead of acting. To some degree, hearing the character’s thoughts was necessary, but in other instances it just explained what the reader already knew, or described why a character was doing something (when the action itself made it apparent).

So this is a tough one, because I liked the story that Scott told, but I also had some problems with it as well, mostly in the style and craft elements, which other readers may not find problematic.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another fantastic Johnnies’ tale.