Book Review – Beneath the Neon Moon by Theda Black

•May 30, 2011 • 2 Comments

Genre: Paranormal Gay Romance
Publisher: TKB Books (July 12, 2010)

About the book:

“Zach’s alone, he’s lost his job and the rent’s coming due. He thinks he knows all about bad luck, but he’s about to find out what it really means.

In high school, Mal was the golden boy. Then he lost his way. Now he’s back on track, working his way through college and looking toward the future.

They’ve never met, but one summer night everything changes. They find themselves in desperate trouble, trapped and bound together in darkness.

The moon is riding high and bright in the sky when Zach notices Mal’s changing, growing volatile and wild. Suddenly Zach’s got bigger things to worry about than being kidnapped―he’s trapped with a man who’s going wolf with the full moon.”

MY REVIEW:

The author Theda Black explained in her afterword that Beneath the Neon Moon came about from her wanting to pull off the challenge of writing this pretty fantastical storyline – where “two men in a basement, chained together, in terrible danger, falling in love in the middle of their ordeal” and where one of the men could presumably “eat the other’s intestines”. Pretty gross, huh – but she wanted to pull the story off with “heart”.

And whataya ya know – in my opinion she actually pulled it off! Somehow, the story did morph into a believable love story in the end. And she did that by the very strong characterizations for her main characters Zach and Mal.

It’s a horrible premise really – the two young men (the drifter Zach and college student Mal) wake up to find themselves chained together in a cellar. They have been kidnapped by a pair of dangerous & violent men (Aaron and Kane) for reasons that are slowly revealed through the course of the story. As Zach and Mal start to form a bond with each other during captivity, Mal starts exhibiting changes – changes that can prove fatal for Zach – especially with the coming of the full moon up ahead. Catch my drift?

The story is VERY dark and pretty violent – no mistake about that. Yes, it morphs into a love story in the end, but for majority of the book, the atmosphere is very tense and there’s a current of very real danger for the characters. Zach in particular is presented as a very damaged young man with a painful family history. There are scenes of violence (including Zach being sexually victimized) that may be disturbing for some readers.

What turns the book around really are Zach and Mal’s characters – how they tried to remain true and strong, and just because of who they were – I could actually believe that they had formed a real bond that could withstand even such a supernatural threat. This is a book that’s definitely not for the faint hearted, you’ve been warned!

Check out Beneath the Neon Moon and help support Theda Black!

Book Review – Exiled to Paradise: The Nine of Pentacles by Anah Crow

•May 10, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Genre: Fantasy Gay Romance
Publisher: Torquere Press, Inc. (March 13, 2010)

About the book:

“Anyel was exiled to paradise to protect his lover’s position as heir to the throne of his country. Twenty years hiding as a monk on a remote, lush island have changed him. Yet, Anyel has never stopped loving Quin, who now holds the throne. When he is brought back, all he wants is to fall back into Quin’s arms.

The old world seen through new eyes is full of lies. A man who Anyel once mocked and derided is revealed as a bastion of decency, and a glimpse of Quin’s true nature leaves Anyel fearing for his life. Anyel must protect himself and the few good people he once took for granted, cure a plague, and find his freedom, while real love takes root in the untended garden of his heart.”

MY REVIEW:

I’m not sure why Exiled to Paradise: The Nine of Pentacles by Anah Crow got tagged on Amazon as erotica, bdsm, dominance or submission – none of which actually applies to this book. Exiled to Paradise: The Nine of Pentacles is actually a sweet (and pretty chaste) gay romantic short story about a man who loved and lost, and yet learned to love again (emphasis on the chaste, the characters pretty much just kiss – and anything more than that is just implied).

I really liked the main character of Anyel – we first meet him as a well-respected monk who has been living in the rustic ‘paradise’ of Bisera for the past twenty years. It’s been quite a change in lifestyle for him, from living in the city as the crown prince Quin’s lover, to being exiled to far-flung Bisera (ostensibly to protect Quin’s political interests). Still, Anyel has adjusted as best as he could, and has spent the intervening years honing his magical healing talents to best help the simple people of Bisera. Twenty years is a long time to carry a torch for someone, but Anyel endures with his love for Quin, even while not quite understanding why (the now King) Quin hasn’t sent for him all these years.

When a plague sweeps Quin’s kingdom, Anyel finds himself on a ship captained by his old ‘nemesis’ Berrit heading straight back for the city. Anyel has finally gotten his heart’s wish – Quin has sent for him. But it’s a case of be careful what you wish for – what if the man you loved isn’t the man you thought he was? And what if the man you thought was your enemy, was anything but that?

It’s a very short tale, but I think it’s well worth reading it. I loved in particular how Anah Crow described Anyel’s life in Bisera. It’s not quite a ‘paradise’ – but I could understand how it became a kind of paradise and home for Anyel. It’s a bittersweet tale – Anyel has pretty much spent all the ‘best’ years of his life pining for someone unworthy, so I was happy that we did get a happy ending for him eventually :)

Check out Exiled to Paradise: The Nine of Pentacles and help support Anah Crow!

Book Review – The Demon Catcher by Lesley Hastings

•March 26, 2011 • 1 Comment

Genre: Fantasy Gay Romance
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press (January 5, 2011)

About the book:

“Brother Euan has always been skeptical about the existence of demons. He may have spent his life in a monastery dedicated to the God Ajen, but that doesn’t mean he has to indulge in superstition. Even the unnatural storm that batters the monastery one night isn’t enough to make Euan believe. But superstition becomes the least of Euan’s worries when Leon of Tremea arrives at the monastery to investigate the reports of demonic activity. Leon is nothing like the frightened, shame-filled monks, and when Euan is assigned to assist Leon in his work, he finds himself struggling with desires he’d thought firmly under control. After a second demon attack on the monastery—one that not even Euan can explain away—Euan’s beliefs and assumptions about the world are shattered, and with nothing to hold him back, he opens himself to his feelings for Leon. But then Euan discovers that Leon is not all he seems to be….”

MY REVIEW:

The Demon Catcher is a promising debut novella by author Lesley Hastings mixing fantastical elements and gay erotica. It’s made clear that the setting is not on Earth – but it’s similar enough – the monks in the story could have lived in our middle ages (even though they worship other gods).

Brother Euan has lived a sheltered life in the Ajenite monastery dedicated to the worship of Holy Ajen and Blessed Kara. He thinks that the Damned God and his ‘escaping’ demons are just superstitions, but recent events convince his fellow monks that evil / demons are afoot. A ‘Demon Catcher‘ Leon of Tremea is summoned by Euan’s father superior to the monastery, and Euan is given the task of assisting Leon. Euan is forced to re-evaluate a lifetime of beliefs when he is confronted not just with his growing feelings for Leon, but another deadly demon attack threatens him & his fellow brothers in the monastery.

I thought that Euan was a very sympathetic character; I really empathized with him when he was struggling against believing in the existence of the demons to begin with, and also against his growing attraction to the foreigner Leon. The ‘Demon Catcher‘ Leon is much more mysterious and we’re kept in the dark about his real nature until the end. I found the little information that is given to us about Leon’s real job very tantalizing though – and I’m excited that the author is currently writing the sequel ‘The Taken Ones‘ where we get to know more about Leon.

I did like how the romance between the two was developed; yes, it was a bit rushed, but then the two men were placed together in an extraordinary circumstance. It will be interesting to see where it goes for these two. I did wish that everything was more fleshed out in this book, but I guess the novella format just didn’t give the author enough space to really develop the characters (we really only get to know only Euan well, and hardly any of the secondary characters) and their story. The world building also could have been better. But like I said earlier, the author does show promise in terms of great imagination, and I do want to read more from her.

Check out The Demon Catcher and help support Lesley Hastings!

You can check out other reviews for The Demon Catcher on Reviews by Jessewave.

Bloggiesta Ole! What’s Up for Bloggiesta?

•January 22, 2011 • 2 Comments

Since I noticed that I really neglect this blog (in favor of my main blog RandomizeME – which is plenty popular since I post freebies & bargains there), I decided to challenge myself by participating in Bloggiesta (via Maw Books Blog)! It’s a 3-day challenge where you’re supposed to do something for your blog, and they’ve got some interesting suggestions on how to start. If you’re interested in joining, check out Bloggiesta!

Bloggiesta! Ready, Set . . . Let’s Fiesta! I’m in!

*This is a post in progress, so I can update what I’ve been up to! :)

Bloggiesta Mini-Challenge: Getting your blog listed in several blog directories (via Chronicle of an Infant Bibliophile)

As the Bloggiesta challenge winds down, I think I’m going to continue going through the different mini-challenges and suggestions they have. It’s been really an eye-opener for me!

Anyway, here’s another old minichallenge that’s definitely helpful – getting your blog onto some blog directories! Given how much my blog sucked on the Grading challenge, I think I need to start with this step, so this blog wouldn’t be so anonymous! Anyway, Chronicle of an Infant Bibliophile has a pretty good compilation of different blog directories – now off to submit my blog! :)

Bloggiesta Mini-Challenge: Grade Your Blog (via Bookish Ruth)

This is another old mini-challenge for Bloggiesta participants that’s very helpful. The goal of this excercise is to find out how healthy your blog is when run through the Website Grader. It’s a relatively painless process since all you need to do is input your web address, and then you’ll get back an analysis of your site. There’s even a sister Twitter Grader to find out how well you’re using Twitter.

Anyway, OUCH, this blog is doing terribly as per my Website Grader analysis report. I’ve got a Website Grade of 39 (I’ve never ever flunked that bad in school before), a Blog Grade of 20 and a MOZ Rank of 1. In addition, I have no metadata info (how do I get one?), have no indexed pages, and I’m told that I have way too many images in my blog (It’s my experience that my blog still loads fine even with the images – but do you find a slow loading time for my blog because of all the images? Please let me know!). Hmmm… looks like this blog needs some tender loving care from me!

Bloggiesta Mini Challenge-Your Review Policy (via Girls Gone Reading)

I thought I’d dip into one of the mini challenges from a previous Bloggiesta. This is my first time to join anyway. Girls Gone Reading has some very good and concrete suggestions, and I’ve altered my ‘About Me’ section slightly after reading it, but I don’t know, I didn’t want to make it very formal and say, here’s my review policy. At the moment, all the books I review are stuff that I’ve bought for myself, given to me as gifts or books I borrow. Not that I wouldn’t welcome any coming from a publisher/author :)

Book Review – Hourglass by Jane Davitt

•January 12, 2011 • 3 Comments

Genre: Contemporary Gay Romance
Publisher: Torquere Press (December 22, 2010)

About the book:

“When Ben Adler gives in and makes his young daughter’s wish come true, making a movie out of a TV show he used to produce, he knows he’s going to have big problems. One of the leads from the original is a big star now, but the other’s vanished into obscurity, leading a life far from the glitz and glamour of Hollywood. Not to mention that Ben can still remember how the two actors’ scorching off-screen romance went up in flames. Undeterred, Ben goes forward with the project, recruiting Ash and Lee by dangling very attractive carrots before them. The cameras start to roll, but the main action takes place off set. It’s never easy to try to work with an old flame, or to handle with the renewed feelings that are bound to come out. As two men who could never get enough of each other deal with a rekindled attraction, they discover that when it comes to love, there’s always time for a retake.”

MY REVIEW:

Hourglass by Jane Davitt is an absolutely charming gay romance about getting a second chance in love (even in Hollywood).

Jaded Hollywood uber producer/director Ben Adler has only one weakness – his only daughter Samantha. So when Sam’s greatest wish is that he resurrect a 10-year-old defunct TV series (Hourglass) and turn it into a movie, Ben moves heaven-and-earth to do just that, and becomes an unexpected cupid into the bargain. Ten years ago, closeted leading man Ashton Morden chose a burgeoning career over a fledgling love affair with his co-star Lee Simons, breaking Lee’s heart. The set of the new movie becomes an opportunity for a second chance at love for Ash and Lee, but do they really have a chance for something that can be forever?

Author Jane Davitt has an easy writing voice that makes following the story effortless, and I really liked the little interludes she included of scenes from the TV series and from the movie. I actually think that if Jane decides to turn the plot of the series (about a man who has the power to grant wishes, but loses a day from his lifespan when he does) into a book, I’d love to read it too!

I do wish that Ms Davitt had fleshed out the two romantic leads (Ash and Lee) more than she did. There is definite chemistry and the scenes featuring the two do smoulder, but while I get that they are very sexually attracted to each other, I wasn’t ever quite completely clear on why they ‘loved’ each other. And the ‘near-tragedy’ that Ms Davitt inserted in the story kinda felt like a cop-out to me – just to nicely tie everything together.

Still, the better-than-usual-quality of writing (in the M-M genre) saves the book for me, as well as the really fleshed out supporting characters. My favorite character happens to be the jaded producer/director Ben who dominates all the parts of the book he appears in and is an absolute hoot into the bargain. I’m pretty happy with Hourglass as a whole to recommend it, and I think I’ll be checking out Ms Davitt’s other books as I do like her writing voice.

Check out Hourglass and help support Jane Davitt!

Other reviews for Hourglass are on Reviews by Jessewave and GoodReads.

Book Review – Dudleytown by L.B. Gregg

•December 9, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Genre: Contemporary Gay Romance/Thriller
Publisher: Aspen Mountain Press (November 12, 2010)

About the book:

“College sophomore Alexander Strauss has one rule: no messing around with straight guys. Especially not his mouthwatering roommate, Shannon. When their ride share drives off the side of a mountain, the two young men find themselves deep in an uninhabited forest searching for their missing friend. Wandering the famously cursed grounds of Dudleytown, Alex figures something truly unholy must be at play, because only insanity could tempt him to break his cardinal rule.”

MY REVIEW:

Dudleytown is a short and sweet romantic thriller by L.B. Gregg, and I was surprised by how much this short story appealed to me. Usually, I get irritated by novellas since I always feel like so many threads remain unravelled, but I thought that L.B. Gregg successfully wrote a self-contained little story here, with pretty much all plot points tied down.

The story opens with three college friends (Ricky and the roommates Shannon and Alex) who are on the road for a weekend of vacation at Alex’s home in Goshen. After Ricky take an ill-advised short-cut through the woods that takes them near the titular Dudleytown, they get into a car accident that leaves Ricky injured – and in all the confusion – Ricky wanders off. Alex and Shannon team up to go rescue their friend, and they discover that they are all in more danger than they thought. Because someone else is also in the woods with them – and this stranger is bad news.

The tale is told from the POV of Alex, a slight 19-year-old premed student with an encyclopedic knowledge of scary movies AND porn movies, and who is also nursing a secret (and what he thinks is an unrequited) crush on his ‘straight’ roommate – the very buff & athletic Shannon. Alex is a pretty funny guy and prone to inappropriate thoughts even as he and Shannon get into some dicey & life threatening situations. I found the ironic commentary from Alex to be a good foil against the sinister enemy that Alex & Shannon have to face. It was a good mix of comedy and suspense.

I did find the erotic romance part of the story to be a bit awkward – yes, Alex and Shannon’s erotic interlude while they were hiding was hot – but I just found it hard to believe that the two boys could be so intimate while their lives (and their friend’s) were still in danger. I mean, really? really?

The story does end on a very sweet note (cheers for Shannon!) that made me very, very happy for Alex :) I’ve never read an L.B. Gregg story before, and I was really impressed by the writing style. I could visualize the area well from the author’s descriptions, and even given the shortness of the tale, the personalities of Alex and Shannon (and even the third-wheel Ricky) came through clearly.

Check out Dudleytown and help support L.B. Gregg!

Other reviews for Dudleytown are on L.B. Gregg’s website and GoodReads.

Book Review – ‘Let There Be Light’ by R. Cooper

•October 19, 2010 • 1 Comment

Genre: Steampunk Historical Gay Romance
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press (September 7, 2010)

About the book:

“In war-torn Europe of 1872, Karol and Hart devoted themselves to protecting England and the peace England maintained. Hart was a spy and bodyguard for Karol, a brilliant but hotheaded scientist. Their partnership was almost unstoppable… until Hart could no longer bear to see Karol in danger—or with other men—and seeing Hart repeatedly put his life on the line came to terrify Karol. Then a horrible accident separated them for what they believed would be forever.

Now the enemy’s plan to kidnap Karol has Hart volunteering to guard him once again. Alone together with their fear and pain from the past might destroy them… or it might give them hope for a brighter future.”

MY REVIEW:

I picked ‘Let There Be Light’ by R. Cooper to read just because my friend told me that the unlikely but very cool setting for this MM novella was an alternate universe of Steampunk-ish Victorian England. In R. Cooper’s war-torn Europe of 1872, Queen Victoria’s Britain maintains a shaky kind of peace in Europe, mainly due to the discoveries of England’s brilliant in-house scientists (nicknamed ‘Victoria’s Zoo’) who live and work in a protected university-like enclave called the Menagerie. Several recent breaches in security have identified Karol Zielinski – a brilliant inventor/scientist & ex-weapons specialist/spy who is about to announce a radical new discovery – as the primary target for kidnapping (or worse). His ex-partner/bodyguard Robert “Hart” Hartley-Battridge – an ex-Spy turned Spy Master – is then dispatched by the crown to protect Karol’s life.

The whole novella covers the approximately 24 hours that the two men spend together in Karol’s tower (laboratory). It turns out that they have major ‘unresolved history’ (i.e. a world of misunderstanding & unrequited emotions) together, and haven’t had any contact for the past three years since Karol unexpectedly left the Spy service. R. Cooper does a great job of capturing the claustrophobia of the location and the isolation and danger that the characters face. Karol and Hart are both emotionally intense (while pretending to be distant or unaffected by each other) and there was a desperateness to them that tugged at me. Not to mention the insane sexual tension between them that I was just waiting to boil over.

My main problem with ‘Let There Be Light’ is that reading it was like walking into a movie theater when the movie is already about halfway through, and then once you get to the good stuff, you get an electrical black-out and you don’t get to know what happens next. It’s like the author reached in and tore out some middle chapters of a completed book and just published that. It is unbelievably frustrating since R. Cooper shows a lot of promise – there’s great imagery, intriguing characters and a really cool historical setting that sets this story apart from other MM books. But there’s no time given for a build-up to introduce the plot or characters (with the entire first paragraph of the book blurb just the back story) and the ending isn’t really an ending since the main problem (Karol’s danger) isn’t resolved and even the sexual tension is just relieved a little. If ever there was a book that (at the very least) practically cries out for a good prologue and epilogue it would be this one. Though what I really want is a whole lot more chapters before and after the events in this novella.

Check out Let There Be Light and help support R. Cooper (and maybe she’ll actually bloody write the complete book!)

Other reviews for Let There Be Light are on Rainbow Reviews and GoodReads.

 
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