Sunday, June 26, 2011

Review: Hot Head

Hot HeadHot Head by Damon Suede

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


So this was powerful, an engrossing read with very likeable characters. I loved big, softhearted bear Griff - although he was so dense at times I wanted to smack him over the head and shout at him, Brains, much? And of course spitfire-loose cannon-Dante was adorable and ├╝ber-sexy. Actually they both were acting - and especially not-talking - as if they were a little... slow. not dumb, mind you, just not that accustomed to talking, rather than acting. Which fits their characters. And set in my beloved dream city of New York - I felt like sitting in a cafe right there in Brooklyn, watching them over a latte or something.

I loved the writing, could myself lose totally in those wonderful word pictures, and the clever wordgames had me laughing out loud more than once. Didn't know there were so many synonyms for "masturbate", I'd swear the author made some of them up. More power to that!

The story in itself... well, this is fiction, isn't it? Others have complained about how unrealistic it is, and I won't argue that. I liked it nevertheless.

The porn plot is not THAT new, but here, I found it was approached in a fresh, and engaging way, adding firemen in the mix. It worked, even though it demanded quite a lot of suspension of disbelief. Especially Alek...ouch. He won't make a lot of cash that way, being this sympathetic whenever one of his actors gets postcoital freakout cold feet. For Dante and Griff, I'm glad he was. Is Dante thinking about a career change, given how well he came to get along with Beth?

Oh yes, the women. From Nonna to grandchild, the Anastagio women were some of the most positively portrayed female characters I've found so far in m/m. And Beth? Please, please send her my way, i hope she digs redheads... joking.

One niggle: The last thirty pages or so felt tacked-on,more like an appetizer for the next book than a necessary part to this. Nice to see them all in happy-happy-joy-joy, but it was kind of a let-down after the high of explosions and fireworks with Griff and Dante.

Still, this book lives up to the hype around it. A truely fine read and a great opening to a series.

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Friday, June 17, 2011

Review: Khyber Run

Khyber RunKhyber Run by Amber Green

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Right from the beginning, this story throws the reader smack in the middle of events. Little is explained; the story, the environment and the characters unfold over the course of the story with background information only given through Zulu’s memories which are strewn in. While this narrative style took a bit getting used to, it added to the overall engrossing reading experience. This story evoked an incredible intense sense of atmosphere and place. There are several scenes which aren’t really necessary to forward the plot, like the encounter with the handless spice dealer, the slave auction or the buzkashi game, but those scenes nevertheless add feeling and “vibe” to the setting. Likewise, the element of contrariness is used in advantage of the world building, the contrast between the seemingly medieval Afghan society and the well-equipped Western troops delivered in a stark matter-of-fact, amazingly non-judgemental view through Zulu’s perception. And as for the locale – the author created vivid images with sparse descriptions, not a word too much, and still a rough kind of poetic quality.

I think the key to loving this book or not is whether or not you’re able to like or at least to relate to Zarak/Zulu. I did, apparently — for me, this character was brilliantly done.

Zulu is a captive between two worlds. His mother was an expatriate American teacher who married a Pakhtun man and was happy to live as an Afghan woman until her husband and oldest son were killed by the Soviets. She then took her four surviving sons and returned to her native Pensacola (and how she achieved this is a remarkable adventure in itself, told in parts through flashbacks).

Uprooted from his native Afghanistan at an age when he had already internalised his forefather’s values and norms, Zulu was thrown into a foreign culture with rather diametrically opposed moral standards. But once he’s back in his native land, he finds his perceptions tainted by his Western education, which makes him a foreigner again. For Zulu, Oscar embodies everything he has ever held dear – honor, strength, maleness. Oscar is the one who can give Zulu purchase, and might ultimately help him grow new roots.

Curiously enough, this story would have worked for me even without the romantic element as a classic action/adventure novel. Nevertheless, the passionate love scenes added depth to both heroes’ characters, and made the book round in a way I haven’t found in the latter. Those were two quintessential macho males at work (even though it took Zulu a while to find his inner alpha ;-) ) Those aren’t men who talk about emotions or put their affection for each other in so much words. Nevertheless, they managed to communicate their feelings so that by the end, I was utterly convinced of their commitment to each other. Who wouldn’t like dark, brooding and handsome? Particularly when, like in Zulu’s and Oscar’s case, the hard crusts actually hide burning cores of passion. What could be more romantic?

This was a deeply engrossing book that took me right out of my everyday life and carried me far away to a place I’ve had a penchant for ever since reading “Kim” when I was little. Highly recommended.

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Thursday, June 9, 2011

Lines in The Sand by Lyn Gala

Lines in the SandLines in the Sand by Lyn Gala

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ever since Carl walked up to him in prison, all balls and no sense of self-protection, asking for a job, Pete wanted the kid. But he’ll never force himself onto another man. Not even on this man, who ratted him out, who made him flee to Mexico.  Not this man, who showed him a strange kind of loyalty, keeping Pete’s finances a secret from the feds even as he lead them to the graves of Pete’s victims. Which is why Pete can afford a rather comfortable life now, and which is also why Pete felt obliged to save Carl from vengeful mobsters as well as from himself, since the man is obviously too dumb or too stubborn to watch his own back.

With two so flawed heroes, a murderer and a traitor as the main characters - in a romance, of all things - it’s not an easy task to get readers to like those men.  And yet, I couldn’t help doing exactly this.

The author doesn’t make excuses for them, they are what they are, but for all the crimes they committed, they have consciences. Even better, each becomes the other man’s conscience out of care for each other. While their relationship started out on an utter imbalance of powers,  their mutual care makes them equals in the end.

Over the course of almost a year they spend together, they don’t suddenly turn into saints. Nevertheless, the new morals they come to accept for themselves make them fit in with the society they are now a part of.

This society is portrayed in a matter-of-fact, non-judgmental way through well – wrought supportive characters:  Jose, Pete’s best friend and business partner;  Castellan, a federale and Jose’s cousin; Vincente, a cop who attempts to blackmail Pete. They may appear openly corrupt and their values may appear as strange as they’re peculiar, but those people, too, are who they are, trying to make the best of what Fate dealt them by drawing their own lines in the sand.

As much as I loved this book, it had its flaws, the biggest being repetitive writing. Some of the character’s reflections were rehashed so often I eventually felt hit over the head with them.  And unfortunately, there were typos and grammar errors too numerous and too obvious for me to ignore, particularly towards the end.

This aside, I can only recommend this book. The characters grew on me a lot, and I finished their story with a happy smile for them.

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