Sunday, December 9, 2012

Winter's upon us

It's snowing. Holy moly is it snowing, half a meter over the last 6 hours and there's still more coming down. Feels like Alaska, except with less bears around here. Then again who knows, the Bavarian Forest isn't that far away... but I digress.

Actually I'm thinking about Alaska 'cause my this year's NaNo project was set there. Two men, twelve dogs and the cruelty of the Great White Yonder. Sounds good, doesn't it? Well I didn't get far, had to cry uncle about 30 k in.

NaNoWriMo got to me this year. I kept telling myself, it's less than 2000 words per day, it's not THAT much, surely you can make it?

Big surprise: I didn't.

I've heard about storys practically writing themselves, just pouring out of the writer. I've even had it happen to me once--I wrote Desert Falcon over the course of one long weekend and afterward sat back, rubbed my eyes and thought, "Did I just do this? Really?" It was magic, but like all magical things, something like this can't be forced.
As wrapped up as I was in my Alaska story, I couldn't force it out of myself.

Writing is a slow process for me. I mull over sentences. I search the thesaurus for the ONE word, the ONE phrase that's just right, that says exactly what I want it to say, and that can take half an hour. I go back, I edit, I jump forward again, write a scene from the beginning, one from closer to the end, then I have to connect them--or I realize they don't fit in anymore or have to be written in an entirely different way.

There's that, and then there's real life too.
Million Dollar Question: how do you know it's NaNo? When my husband call me "Ms. Faber" and the empty pizza boxes are about to reach critical mass in the kitchen, when my dogs won't let me into the sitting room anymore, when I'm so out of it from sheer lack of sleep that I find myself driving to work even though it's Sunday: that's how.

Anyhow, I'll never figure out how people write two, three, a dozen books a year while managing a full time job/ family/kids/pets/all of the above. I'm in awe, and perhaps a little envious.

But then again: so what?

That's not who I am.

Some people like my books, some don't. Most have never heard about them. Once again: So?

I didn't make it through NaNo. But I got back into the flow of writing. And even if the Alaska story joined the WIP Nursery for the time being, I know I'll revisit it. Like I do the rest of the poor abandoned babys there time and again; and perhaps, someday soon, one of them is going to see the light of day.

The mountain laboured and brought forth a mouse, some might say. Again: So what?

Some people think mice cute. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Monday, September 24, 2012

Review: Gasp!

Gasp! by Z.A. Maxfield

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I must admit I had a bit of a hard time getting into the story at first, which was mostly due to the way the characters were portrayed in the beginning. The superficial spoiled-brat persona Nigel presented to the world–and to me, the reader–wasn’t very likable. No more than Deirdre, his manager, whose primary purpose in life seemed to cater to Nigel’s every whim, and to sweep the fallout of his shenanigans under the carpet. As she did after Nigel was caught doing something outrageously scandalous–even for him– when she sent him to a remote luxury resort in the mountains for “regrouping”. And since she was just about to have a baby, she more or less shanghaied her brother into watching over Nigel– Jeff, who was supposedly a battle-tested Afghanistan veteran but appeared quite the pushover, unable to assert himself with Nigel and constantly whining about him to Deirdre.

First impressions can be misleading though, which I learned pretty quickly here. Driven to distraction by Nigel’s self-detructive carelessness, Jeff eventually breaks, and quite impressively at that. From then on, the story gripped me and didn’t leave me out of it’s grasp. As the two men were forced together in the involuntary solitude of an (admittedly luxurious) mountain cabin, as they came to know each other, they both revealed layer upon layer about themselves. Like they slowly, gradually fell for each other, I fell for both of them.

Many times when it comes to rockstars in m/m romance, it’s all about the show, the fame, the performance; the characters often strike me as stage props rather than real persons. But not Nigel Gasp. He may have played so many roles that he has a hard time remembering who he really is, he may be just as convincing and comfortable in drag as he is in full rockstar regalia, but he is an actual, real human being under all the glitz and glamour, a man with vulnerabilities and weaknesses, loyal, generous and, when it comes to his music, incredibly focused and professional. In the mountain cabin, we see him working and practicing, and there’s a great scene with Nigel on stage later on.

It’s really Nigel’s musicality that defines him most. He reminded me of the great ones in his genre, the very heroes of my own youth–Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, Freddy Mercury and Brian May, Mick Box, Bernie Shaw, David Gilmore, Roger Waters, Mark Knopfler… Some of them died before their time, others flared high, hot and short like a straw fire almost to the point of exstinguishment. But those of them who survived the blaze came back like phoenixes from the ashes, changed and matured and still brilliant, though now with more of a deep, warming, steady glow. It was where I came to picture Nigel going, this mature yet in no way subdued deeply simmering passion, and I loved his character for both his boundless energy and fierce endurance.

I can only admire how all his endearing character traits subtly and seemingly without effort came into the picture, thoroughly changing my view of Nigel Gasp until by the end, he was one of the most fascinating and winsome characters I’ve ever met.

Jeff, on the other hand, is something of a walking contradiction. A soldier who has a problem with authority. A free spirit who needs structure in his life. He is down-to earth realistic but won’t acknowledge that he suffers from PTSD, drowning his nightmares in alcohol instead. He keeps complaining to Deirdre about Nigel, but he won’t admit to any weaknesses, physical or emotional.
It’s being with Nigel, coming to care for Nigel and being cared for by Nigel that makes the first dents in Jeff’s armor of stubbornness. Coming home from Afghanistan, Jeff was looking for a home, a place to put down roots. He always thought he’d find this place on a map. But falling in love with an unpredictable, restless man teaches him that home doesn’t have to be somewhere, it can be someone.

Parts of this story I enjoyed tremendously, like Nigel’s and Jeff’s slowly opening up to each other. I loved to see them both grow up and mature, and I equally loved that this didn’t just happen because they fell for each other. Jeff’s family, especially his newborn nephew, helped changing their view at the world and each other, and so did the reality of their respective lives once they left the solitude of their mountain cabin. I loved that it wasn’t some stupid misunderstanding, but Jeff’s understandable need for independence that separated them, I loved that they really talked to each other, and I really, really loved Nigel’s diverse personas and the way Jeff reacted to them.
Other parts of the story gave me pause, for example the bear affair (yes, there’s a honest-to-God bear in this story!), or the whole hospital policy thing inclusive of Deirdre’s strange burst of mistrust towards Nigel.

As a whole, this story was a delight to read, romantic, funny and heartwarming without sentimentality, without overwhelming angst and with two very endearing, realistic main characters. I heartily recommend it.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Review: The Hand-me-down

The Hand-me-down
The Hand-me-down by Zahra Owens

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Workaholic businessman and occasional Leatherman Jez gets stuck in Spain due to his plane being grounded thanks to the eruption of an Icelandic vulcano. For lack of anything better to do, he pays a call on his old friend and occasional lover, former porn star Nick who has gone into retirement in a villa near Barcelona. This is where Jez learns Nick is married, to incredibly shy and reclusive Jamie. Jez also learns that Nick is fatally ill--and that Nick plans to entrust him with caring for Jamie once he'll be gone.

Jamie is so shy he can't even speak to strangers. Events of his past have left him quite unable to cope with life on his own; he needs guidance in many regards, and he desperately needs something or someone to give him structure (this might sound like a classic D/s setup but it's not, not at all--Jamie isn't some submissive boy, but a grown man, deeply damaged by life, and neither Jez nor Nick are actual Doms)

Jez goes from incredulous to refusing to resigned to accepting over the course of Nick's last weeks on earth, not least because he learns quite a surprising lot about himself by watching Nick and Jamie together. But taking responsibility for another person, let alone someone so dependent as Jamie, was never something that fit into Jez's busy lifestyle. Once he finds himself actually in charge of Jamie, he's out of his depth. Only when Jamie suffers through a deeply self-destructive episode, Jez realizes what caring for someone else really entails. But he does care for Jamie, a lot more than he thought he would. And it's not only Jamie who gets something out of the equation; suddenly Jez has someone he wants to come home to, someone who brings constancy into his unsettled life. Jamie and Jez may have fallen into each other's laps, but neither of them will let the other go ever again.

Jamie was a fascinating character. He was a modern day Kaspar Hauser all grown up, with all the implications of the "wild child" premise executed to perfection. As for me, his character was totally consistent, everything he did well founded in Jamie's own strange logic, and I loved so much watching him find his feet in life. I also loved very much that this story refrained from turning into a D/s setting, even though outwardly Jez was the dominant part and Jamie the dependent one. But in reality, Jez turned out to need Jamie just as much as Jamie needed him. In fact, they raised each other, grew mutually and grew together. In the end, they were fully equal partners, no small feat to achieve with a story that started out on such an imbalance of powers as theirs did. Beautifully, masterfully done.

I'd only read one story of this author a few years ago, Diplomacy, which I found nice but quite unexciting. I was baffled with how much both the writing and the storytelling had matured since then. Pulling off this story, making it believable, making the characters come alive on the pages despite their almost incredible backstories was, I'm repeating myself, no small feat and deeply impressive.

My only little niggle here was with Kee, Jez's best female friend, who acted a bit too much like a benevolent genie in a bottle (completely with vanishing into thin air once the crisis was overcome) and with the fact how easily everything fell into place for Jamie and Jez by the end. Then again, they've both won my heart and I was far from begrudging them their hard-won happiness.

Warmly recommended.

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Monday, August 27, 2012

Review: Butterfly Hunter

Butterfly Hunter
Butterfly Hunter by Julie Bozza

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This story bypassed my conscious brain and went straight to my heart, just the same way a new puppy eases into your bed despite your best intentions, and one morning you wake up to a velvety little snout nestled into the crook of your neck and you wonder how it came to be there, but at the same time you won’t even think about doing something about it because you’re much too blissfully happy to have it right there. Just the same way the love for Nicholas sneaked up to Dave, and when he finally recognized it for what it was, he didn’t think about fighting it anymore. He just let himself sink into it and be lead by it much the same way he’d let himself be led for most of his life by his friend Denise.

For, you see, most of his life Dave thought he was straight. Actually, he didn’t give that particular aspect of himself that much thought; all he knew he was one half of Denny and Davey from their first day in kindergarden. He always assumed that, in good time, he’d settle down and make babies with her. So when the book starts, more than a year after Denise left him, Dave is holding the baby she made with another man and still wondering the hell out of what happened and why this delicate little thing isn’t his.
It’s the same day on which he meets Nicolas, or rather the day on which Nicholas blunders into his life–literally, as when Dave sees him for the first time, Nicholas is smiling at him upside down from an airport floor where he ended up after tripping over his own feet.
What brought them together in the first place is the fact that Dave is a tour guide to the Australian outback and Nicholas hired him to go hunting for a mysterious blue butterfly–mysterious insofar as nobody’s really sure if this butterfly exists at all. Nicholas is English, an earl’s son (which has Denise name him an earling), he’s a quarter French and, in his own words, “incorrigibly gay”. And from the very first moment, starting with that upside-down smile at the airport, he’s as plain as can be about being attracted to Dave.
And now it’s Dave’s world that gets turned on its head, because he finds himself responding to the signals Nicholas sends his way, and how can that be? He’s a woman’s man, a one-woman-man to be precise, everybody knows that, so why is he cataloguing the one-thousand-and-one different ways in which Nicholas smiles, why did he match the color of the Akubra hat he bought for Nicholas to the man’s eyes, and why would he break his firmest rules for him?
As they slowly approach Nicholas’s improbable goal, their relationship changes, shifts, evolves as naturally and inevitably as a caterpillar becomes pupa becomes butterfly. But a butterfly’s lifespan is short. What will happen when Nicholas returns to England?

This book was enchanting, with finely drawn, adorable characters and a delicate, tender love story that was to die for. Even the slightly sappy ending had a beauty of its own; it was a secretly shameful pleasure to read, like a brush of Bob Ross on a Leonardo, and I just savored it, whipped cream, candied cherry and all.

The characters are the backbone to this story. Both Dave and Nicholas were lonely souls (though otherwise fully capable of looking after themselves). The increasingly intense emotions between them never took away from their dignity or their masculinity. The supporting cast, Denise and Charlie and the other people they encountered during their quest were sometimes only sketched with a few strokes of the pen, but recognizable personalities in their own right.

However, it’s in equal parts the setting that makes this tale so special. As I said above, this is a quiet read, unspectacular and timeless, though nothing less than boring, just like the landscape in which it is set. In fact, it is almost as if the land was a character in and of itself, and it lends this book a solid reality as well as a hint of magic with the mystery that is the Dreamtime, interwoven strong and palpable with the storyline in a respectful and unobtrusive way.

But the greatest lure of this book lay in the writing itself, which was exquisite. There was easy, smooth narrative and sparkling, lively dialogue, both laced with just the right dose of humor and tongue-in-cheek, and then, without warning, we stumble upon little gems of prose like this:

“… [Nicholas] sat there, offering a dazed smile to Dave, and said,”I just looked up.”
“Oh yes.The sky.”
“It’s rather larger than the one we have at home.”
Dave put his head back and looked up. There wasn’t a cloud to interrupt the enormous arc of pure blue, which if you didn’t –scarily–let into your soul, would indeed make anyone feel insignificant. Dave huffed a breath.
“You matter to me. If not to the sky.”

Passages like this made me sigh in contentment and longing, and, to quote the friend who recommended this to me, I went to bed hugging my reader, dreaming of acacia scrub and falling up into endless skies, and of adorably shy Australian outback guides and English earlings.
I’ve read this book in one go, I’ve reread it, and I’m likely to read it many times over. But in the end, what it comes down to it is what most anybody I know contented themselves with saying after reading it, as trite as it is, since just no other words seem appropriate:

What a beautiful story.

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Monday, June 4, 2012

Review: Cost of Repairs

Cost of Repairs
Cost of Repairs by A.M. Arthur

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Although this story was set in Pennsylvania, it had a somewhat Southern feel to me. Whether it was the name of the CafĂ© where Rey works, Dixie’s Cup (Dixie, the owner, was a force to recon, by the way) or the big role Samuel’s back porch plays for the story, whether it was the fact that it’s summer and warm as the story begins or the calm practicality the characters took what life dished out to them, I couldn’t say, but still. Perhaps it was the fact that this story moved slowly and unagitated like I’ve always imagined the Mississippi does. I’m not saying the story was dull, not at all, there was some pretty exciting action, especially toward the end, in the actual story as well as in the flashback sections. However, I think the picture fits this story quite well, the broad river with its calm surface and the treacherous undertows and occasional white water rapids. A river of life.

When Rey and Sam meet, they know next to nothing about each other, except for the attraction between them which is there almost from the very first second. Their afternoon hookup was actually meant as some kind of pastime, a way to act out their sexual needs which apparently hadn’t been appeased for both of them for an considerable amount of time. But, although both have their own reasons for wanting to stand back from romantic relationships, neither of them can deny that there was something more than sex even to their first tryst, though what exactly, none could say. Not that they would; neither Rey nor Sam are big on talking anyway. So they settle for mutual sympathy as a common ground to start from. Gradually, almost reluctantly sympathy turns into friendship, and love sneaks up on them as they come to trust each other, sharing bits and pieces of their pasts with each other until they realize they’re sharing a present–and maybe a future, too.

Both Sam and Rey are wonderful, impressive characters; I’ve rarely met a pair of so tortured heroes. Rey started his life under poor conditions, coming from a broken home, and being gay didn’t prove overly conductive to him. Some bad decisions he made in his youth and a dire misfortune led to him being up to his ears in debt which he works like a dog to repay while living in abject poverty. He carries a deep grief that makes him slow to open up to strangers, and while he’s too proud to take any help even if it’s offered to him, let alone ask for help, he goes out of his way to help others. In fact, Rey’s pride and deep seated wariness is one of the major obstacles he and Sam have to overcome.

But if there’s one man who can crack Rey’s shell, it’s Sam.

Sam was born into a loving, supportive family, he took up his dream job as a police officer, finding mostly acceptance as an openly gay man with his colleagues, and he had a stable long-term relationship with the man of his dreams. He lost everything in one single stroke of fate, the aftermaths of which he’s still struggling with, more than a year after the fact. And that’s why Sam is such a perfect match for Rey. Sam gets grief and heartbreak and loss, he experienced it firsthand. Sam understands Rey needing space and time, as he feels that need himself, and he understands and forgives when Rey lashes out at him in an excess of irate helplessness, as he knows exactly how this feels. It was so beautiful to watch how those two wounded men helped each other heal; Sam barely recovered enough from his own hardships to provide a shoulder to lean on for Rey; Rey so full of life despite everything that he stirred Sam out of his grief-frozen state and made him want to embrace life and love again. I particularly loved the respect and consideration with which they treated each other, there was no rushing, no pushing on either part, and between them they maintained a heartbreaking honesty that made the development of their relationship harder though all the more precious for that. For me, they came alive on the pages; even after I finished reading they stayed in my head and had me thinking about them, this is how real they were.

The writing itself was as smooth as the story, beautifully rich in imagery at times, matter-of-factly where it fit the story and laced with just the right dash of humor to keep all the drama from becoming melodramatic. The supportive cast was, for the most part, as well-drawn as the main characters. If I had any issues with this story, they occurred right at the end, with a villain who did something that was too far-fetched even for a fictional story; in the end, though, this small niggle couldn’t spoil my overall enjoyment of the story.

This was a beautiful, well thought through story with multi-layered, well drawn characters that lingered in my mind long after I finished reading and which I’ll definitely read again. Highly recommended.

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Monday, May 14, 2012

Review: Selling It

Selling It
Selling It by Sara York

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This was more of a 1.5 stars; rounded up for the sheer ridiculousness of it.

Police detective Blaine has only recently transferred to DC, and he’s glad that no one here knows about his homosexuality, or his past as a prostitute. On top of that, he has to deal with a serious case of loneliness, which he attempts to drown with frequent anonymous fucks at a gay club, and his meddling female partner, who thinks him morose and keeps trying to remedy that by setting him up with her friends.
Once Blaine realizes his attacker of so long ago ago might actually be the very perp he’s looking for here and now, he realizes he can’t very well keep hiding much longer – which causes an understandable conflict of interests in him. This is why Blaine, at first, buries his head in the sand and says nothing. But then two things happen that force him to reveal his secrets. Nate, a young prostitute Blaine formed a connection with, is attacked and barely makes it out alive, and Blaine meets Andy, a dancer and actor, a man he deems worthy to come out of the closet for.
Once he’s made his decision, Blaine pulls it through, and soon things look golden. He and Andy practically live together with the blessings of Andy’s protective friends, and the murder case starts moving. But then a series of strange coincidences puts Andy’s friends on the killer’s hit list, and suddenly it’s Andy’s life that is at stakes, and Blaine is Andy’s only hope for survival.

Sounds good, doesn’t it? Perhaps a bit far fetched, but who cares, it’s fiction after all, isn’t it? And the mystery wasn’t all that bad, actually, even though it required some suspension of disbelief, especially with the series of hunches and coincidences that had Blaine show up just in time to save his lover’s life.
The taut writing style didn’t appeal to me overly much, but that’s mostly a matter of taste. The same may apply to the multiple POV’s; aside from Blaine and Andy, several other character have their say, including Nate, and Blaine’s partner Lucy, and even the killer, who was a bigoted, megalomaniac nutcase who behaved so erratic I couldn’t help wondering how he remained undetected as long as he supposedly did. Some parts were really well wrought out, particularly the harrowing misery of living on the streets and the day-to-day ordeal of turning tricks for a living. I also found it remarkable that the rent boys were always referred to as prostitutes, never some more derogatory term.

But, the romance – omigod...
Andy’s and Blaine’s first meeting in Blaine’s favorite hookup joint (their second meeting, actually, since Andy had already caught a glimpse at Blaine driving by him on the street) had me scratching my head due to the instant connection they formed. It wasn’t the insta-lust that puzzled me, given the location – two attractive strangers in a gay bar, serious flirtation, what’s to expect? Certainly not what actually happened, which would be commitment-shy Blaine talking about their future relationship by the second sentence they exchanged, and adventurous Andy virtuously calling it an early night because of his early start the next day. Each went home into his own bed. Then again, perhaps they were just being mature adults, they’re both over thirty after all, I thought.
However, it went on in the same vein. Andy almost weeped into his pillow from longing for Blaine the same night. Meeting on the street on the next day by chance, Blaine kissed Andy in front of his partner Lucy, effectively blasting the doors of his closet wide open (after having talked to Andy once for less than half an hour, mind!). But the real kicker came once they FINALLY had a closed door between them and the world for the first time (three days after said first meeting). Now you want to picture two sexy and horny and insta-enamored guys, hot kisses, condom on, lube applied where it’s supposed to go, and then the following scene happens:

..."Blaine grabbed Andy and turned him around, then pulled him into a crushing kiss. They were panting in seconds; sweat beaded on Blaine’s chest and the lube from the condom was cold against his belly. Andy was driving him crazy, but he wouldn’t mess up this relationship with a quick fuck.
He pushed Andy away. “No. I’m not doing this right now. I want you in my life for a long time. I want to get to know you.” What the hell was he doing? He could be inside this wonderful man right now. His entire body hurt with desire.
Andy’s face grew serious. “I want us to last, too.”
“We can’t do this right now.”....

Sweet and considerate, aren’t they? Epitomes of reason. I couldn’t take anything serious that went on between them after that. It didn’t help that, once they’d established that it was twu wuv for both of them (they all but started picking china patterns shortly after the scene above, after all), Blaine kept agonizing over how Andy was too good for him, how cop’s relationships never lasted, how Andy was surely to be disgusted with Blaine’s past, his scars, his work (all this after Andy had reassured him to the contrary).
And the ending was just over the top, from Blaine’s riding in to Andy’s rescue, literally guns blazing, to the “he-loves-me-he-loves-me-not” going on during their hospital reunion scene. It almost didn’t matter that things smoothly fell into place for both of them, professionally as well as privately, and Blaine’s past trauma was miraculously healed by Andy’s unerring love, and that Nate just dropped from the story somehow after playing such a crucial role for the most part.

This book would’ve made a halfway decent mystery without the romance part, and a real nice parody on the m/m romance genre without the serious and sensibly written parts about teenage prostitution. As it was, it went both ways and arrived nowhere, unfortunately.

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Saturday, May 12, 2012

Review: Fallen Angel

Fallen Angel
Fallen Angel by Eden Winters

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One thing in advance: this is not a light and easy read. Not unexpectedly so for those who are familiar with this book's prequel, [b:The Angel of 13th Street|8125589|The Angel of 13th Street |Eden Winters||12921252], but rather unlike many other books from Eden Winters. With this book, the author shows herself from a more serious, pensive side.

This is very much Noah's story; one could justifiably call it his backstory, since there are many flashbacks to his rentboy years and to his hangups on Billy, his former boyfriend and fellow rentboy.
Although we also get Jeremy's voice, and although there are quite a few erotic scenes (and I loved to see Jeremy as Noah's mature, self-conscious lover in those), Noah's problems were there front and center.
Outside the bedroom, Jeremy and Noah had less page space together than Noah's inner musings took, and they walked parallel for a big part of the book rather than together, each caught up in his own problems. Their relationship is established, though somewhat under duress lately, mainly with Jeremy's upcoming departure for college, but also with the changes that Doc, Noah's mentor, puts on the streetworker organization for which Noah has been working during the last ten years.
But that's just the surface. The real problem is, for one, that Noah hasn't quite arrived in his still-new relationship. He's still full of guilt and remorse about Billy, so much so that he wakes from sleeping screaming his former lover's name (much to Jeremy's chagrin) Unconsciously Noah is still thinking of Jeremy as his "ward", someone he has to protect and keep safe at all cost, even though he knows that Jeremy is all grown-up by now, even though he acknowledges Jeremy as his equal partner. As a result, Noah keeps things to himself, even keeps things FROM Jeremy, and tries to work out everything by his lonesome like he was used to doing before he had a partner. Which, of course, puts some strain on their relationship. This goes beyond typical male incommunicado, it's a problem Noah doesn't even realize he has and, once he does, has to work at very hard to overcome.
For another, Noah is seriously burnt out. But with his abovementioned communication issues, Noah won't even admit his state of emotional exhaustion to himself, much less ask for help from his nearest and dearest. His friend have to drag him out of the swamp of his self-destruction by his hair, which doesn't go without some kicking and screaming on Noah's side.

This is a character-driven book. Following Noah's slow struggle out of the chains of his past is not always pleasant, even exhausting at times, and yes, as other reviewers have stated, the ending has its melodramatic moments, and there's a loose thread which bothered me as much as it did Simsala. But I was once again taken by the honesty of this tale, by the sincerity that shines through the pages.
Not for every mood or every day, but definitely recommended

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Friday, March 23, 2012

Too close to home

A short glimpse into the lives of Harrison Sheldon, aka Harry (Mark from City Falcon's uncle) and his partner, Nikodemos Archangelidis, aka Nick. Enjoy!

Note: adult content

Too close to home

New York City, 1979

The apartment was dark and silent, but Nick's keys were in the clay bowl on the dresser, indicating that he was home. Sleeping, most likely, given the hour. Leaving his boots next to Nick’s loafers in the hallway, Harry tiptoed into the kitchen by the street light falling in through the slits in the blinds. After he'd stowed his gun in the safe under the sink and thrown his hat and tie on the table, he pulled a beer from the fridge and leaned back against the counter as he drank, guzzling down half the bottle in one go.
With a sigh, he closed his eyes and rolled the cold bottle across his forehead, held it there for a moment, his shoulders sagging.  

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Review: Irregulars

Irregulars  Anthology

I've enjoyed each of the author's works separately, but together, they created a world so multi-faceted and unique that someone could easily write dozens of stories inside it without repeating themselves once. Fantastic, alluring, and simply awesome.
All stories are set in the same universe, and each story contains a mystery, a romance, an aspect of worldbuilding, and a message. This setup, and of course their shared universe, connects the stories to make four pieces an almost seamless whole, but there's also a distinct individuality to each novella which I'd attribute mostly to each author's personal preferences and style. Mind you, we've got four masters of their craft at work here, so each novella contains all aspects, and all stories are beautifully woven, but each story focuses on one particular aspect of the basic scheme.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Review: A Private Gentleman

A Private Gentleman
A Private Gentleman by Heidi Cullinan

This book was like one of those vending events where a well-versed eloquent salesperson effortlessly as anything manages to convince you that you can't live without their goods - and you listen raptly nodding your head and open your purse wide since you're sold, literally. Only once you're outside the sales room with your absolutely superfluous overpriced heating blanket, you wake from your daze enough to take a break to think, and then you shake your head at your own gullibility. But do you storm back in to demand a refund? No, you just walk off with a shrug. After all, it was a nice event, and you had fun listening to the salesperson. You clutch your blanket tighter with a slightly embarrassed self-indulgent smile. All things considered, it's a nice blanket.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Review: Light of Day

Light of Day
Light of Day by Sue Brown

This sequel didn’t appeal to me quite as much as the first book did.
Not that there was anything wrong with this book. It was smoothly written and well-paced, and I found it estimable that things didn’t just immediately fall into place for the loving couple. Both had to compromise, and both did, once they realized they had to in order to make the relationship work for both of them. I also found the character development nicely done. Both men remained true to what they were made out to be in the first book, while maturing over the course of the story, in a way that fit their respective personalities and made them plausible as a couple.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Review: The Island

The Island
The Island by Lisa Henry

This book was very well-written and intense; both Shaw and Lee got to me and had me rooting for them to find happiness, individually and together.
For all its intensity, though, it had some lengths; particularly in both character's inner monologues. Parts of those could've benefited from some nipping and tucking, which, to me, would've made a very good book a great book.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Review: Fall Into the Sun

Fall Into the Sun
Fall Into the Sun by Val Kovalin

Bobby and Alejo first met when they were six years old, after a Sunday mass at the church both their families went to on a regular basis. Both grew up in Albuquerque, both are of Hispanic origin, but that’s about all they have in common. Alejo’s parents owned a Mexican restaurant, they were among the pillars of their Catholic parish. The Sandoval children were raised to traditional middle-class values; Alejo’s older sisters married and had families of their own, and Alejo got into the family business when his father became ill. Bobby had three older brothers, all good-for-nothings like their father who died in prison when Bobby was fourteen; their mother worked two jobs, drank a lot and mostly left her children to their own devices, except for making them go to church on Sundays as long as they’d listen to her.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Review: Bonds of Earth

Bonds of Earth
Bonds of Earth by G.N. Chevalier

This book took my breath away with its feeling of time and place. The glimpses I was granted into the half-world which gay culture was at that time were particularly fascinating to me, although the other settings, from the Bowery to the veteran clinic, were equally well worked out.
From the tone of the narrative, to the characters' mindsets, their way of talking, the very real threat of imprisonment or institutionalization that hung above homosexual relationships back then, every little detail added up to a consistent, harmonious whole. Despite the mountain of research that must have gone into this book, there’s nothing schoolmasterly about the historical details, they’re just smoothly woven into the story flow.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Review: Flamingo

Flamingo by Sarah Black

Flamingo is a story within a story within a story, beautifully, almost lyrically written, quiet and conveying a feeling of intimate tenderness for the characters. (The title refers to the story at Flamingo’s innermost core, which is a legend of two lovers, separated by death, who reunite in a different incarnation.) There is wisdom in this story, and yes, ridicule too, for William knows how fleeting the good things in life can be. But there’s also hope and optimism, brought on by Tommy’s unbroken vitality and joie de vivre which eventually brings both men to enjoy their time together, how long or how short it may turn out to be.

As multi-layered as the story in itself were the messages it transported. In the foreground it said that love doesn’t know any boundaries, it hits where it choses, regardless of age. But it also says that love is a risk, and that it might be worse to never take a risk than doing it and losing. Even more can be read into the story Tommy wrote for William (which, btw, was just as beautiful as the coating).

I found this story poignant, heartwarming and simply lovable. Warmly recommended.

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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Review: Secret Light

Secret Light
Secret Light by Z.A. Maxfield

Rafe came to the United States at the age of twelve as a refugee after the Nazis invaded his native Austria. He changed his too-German sounding name, made himself a new home in his new country and eventually managed to make a good life for himself through hard work and a winning personality. (His motto is “nobody says no to Rafe Colman.”) But except for his prowess as a Real Estate agent, everything else about his life is a lie. First and foremost, he’s not the womanizer he acts for the benefit of his co-workers, not in the slightest – he’s gay, and on the surface his life revolves around keeping this secret a secret. He even concocted a clever scheme that secures him the sympathy of the women he keeps hooking up with as part of his cover. But beneath this disguise, Rafe hides even more secrets. Extra precaution has been ingrained into him ever since he was a child, and events he witnessed since only reinforced his preformed notion that he can’t allow anybody to find out about him, never, not on any terms. However, the price Rafe pays for his safety is terrible, soul-freezing loneliness. Caught up in secrecy and fear, Rafe isolated himself from each and every personal contact; he has no friends, only colleagues and neighbors, and the only being he really has a connection with is his dog, Mookie (who, by the way, was a treat and a wonderful character in her own right and, as opposed to other canine matchmakers I’ve come across now and then, actually served another, very crucial and rather dark purpose in the plot.)