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Archive for February, 2013

weallscreamTitle: We All Scream
Author: Elias True
Length: 5,994 words
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: m/m Contemporary Erotica/Romance
Rating: C-

Blurb: A massive storm is brewing and Seth is ready to head back home. But when he sees an unrequited crush from high school driving an ice cream truck, he must pursue. When they meet, Seth flirts and finally gets what he craved from Aaron all those years ago – and much more – in the back of the truck as they wait out the storm of the century.

Review: This is the first story I’ve read by this author and I’ve been looking forward to reviewing it. Sometimes it’s nice to have a quick erotica tale and as an Oklahoman, I’m well used to storms. This story takes place in Oklahoma during a storm, so I knew I wanted to read it, just to see how it was.

What I discovered was some of what I expected and some not, including a few mistakes that were pretty glaringly obvious to me. I’m going to get picky here, and many of you probably won’t mind these details because you either aren’t as familiar with modern meteorology as we are or with Oklahoma. The first sentence and paragraphs were where all the problems were (picky, I know, but it’s also the story’s first impression on the reader). Here’s they are (corrections in brackets):

The air was still and humid and the AC [in] Seth’s mom’s Saturn had chosen to stop working.

Breaking news on the radio: thunderstorm warning for all of northeast Oklahoma. Seth punched the off button. A chance of violent thunderstorms in the Midwest in May was not a surprise. Progressive rock on a commercial radio station in Oklahoma City would be a surprise.

So my first impression wasn’t that great. Besides a editing problem in the first sentence, that paragraph is a mess. Oklahoma is a pretty big state (approx. 70k square miles, compared to all of the UK together which is approx. 94k square miles) and OKC Is nowhere near northeastern Oklahoma, where I live. Also, at the most, I’ve seen probably 4 or 5 counties under tornado warnings at once. To say “thunderstorm warning for all of northeast Oklahoma” is like saying that 1/3 of the state is being hit by tornadoes at once.

Reading on, I found that I still enjoyed the story. There’s a fair bit of history shown between Seth and Aaron and I felt like I got a pretty accurate taste of what growing up gay in Oklahoma is like from Seth’s history, though much of it is only alluded to. I did find myself a bit incredulous at the two having sex in an ice cream truck during a tornado, but then people are known to be rather stupid during tornadoes and heavy storms all the time! No, the real problem wasn’t the little nit picky things that stood out to me because of my geographical closeness to the setting of the story, but that instead of leaving this as an erotica story, the author had to throw an “I love you” in there, between characters who haven’t seen each other since they were kids with the exception of a quick romp. Why couldn’t it have stayed as an erotica short? Why did it have to have a tacked on insta-love HEA to make it a romance short. It wasn’t really a romance if you ask me.

So, I honestly wouldn’t really recommend this one. But, I know that Ruby recently reviewed one of this author’s other stories and liked it, so I’ll keep faith in the author and read some more of Elias True’s work.

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asylumTitle: Asylum
Author: Piper Vaughn
Length: 16, 800 words
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: m/m contemporary romance
Rating: B

Blurb:
Johnny Cairo is known as the Scaremaster. He works for Fear Asylum, his father’s traveling haunted house, and makes his living terrifying people. But Johnny has never frightened easily himself. That is, until he wakes up in the middle of the night and finds his best friend’s younger brother in his bed. Naked.

Johnny’s fought against his attraction to Brennan for years, worried that giving in to it will lead to losing the friendship he shares with Brennan’s older brother, Eddie. As much as he fights it, though, the lure of having Brennan in his bed proves too hard to resist. They start an affair that’s supposed to be no-strings-attached, but Johnny’s persistent denial of the growing feelings between them leads to a rift that might not be mendable. Then an accident at Fear Asylum nearly costs Johnny the one thing he holds dear, and he learns that while his nickname might be the Scaremaster, he knows next to nothing about real fear.

Review:
Johnny is in bed asleep when he wakes to find Bennan in his bed. Johnny has fought his attraction to Brennan for years and finds it impossible to resist when Brennan comes into his bed night after night. However, Johnny knows that his best friend and Brennan’s brother, Eddie, would be unhappy with the relationship and so tries to keep Brennan at arm’s length.

This story had two appealing aspects. Firstly, I loved the unusual setting of a group of travelling haunted house ‘carnies’. They are set up in Chicago for October and I liked that we get the odd glimpse into how the haunted house works and the pride that Johnny feels in scaring people, and in the family history. These snippets of information – such as how Johnny has helped the grow the family business, and the sneaky ways the guys get the most of the scare factor – added to the setting, making it more than just about two guys and their struggle to be together. I also liked that the men are very much a group, who live and work together and so know each other very well. This was especially the case with the character of Cameron who acts as friend and advisor to Johnny and Brennan.

The second aspect was the relationship between Johnny and Brennan. The story is quite heavy on sex for the first few pages, but this reflected the nature of their relationship. Johnny’s struggles to reconcile his feelings for Brennan with his desire not to alienate his best friend were handled well, even if I did want to bang his head against a wall at times! The change in the relationship from just sex to something deeper happens gradually but I wish I’d seen a few more scenes of them out of the bedroom. They spend all the story at the stage of not being able to keep their hands off each other but that doesn’t lead to useful discussion. At times, Johnny is quite cruel in the way he treats Brennan, and if it wasn’t for the fact that we see things from his point of view, and so understand why he acts as he does, then he could have come across as unfeeling. Instead, I rather liked Johnny and wanted him to stop being an idiot and face up to his feelings for Brennan.

The story left me with a smile on my face and I was pleased by the way everything was resolved. Those looking for a hot read with a romantic core should enjoy this one.

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firefliesTitle: Catching Fireflies
Author: KC Kendricks
Length: 20,000 words (80 pdf pages)
Publisher: Amber Allure
Genre: m/m contemporary
Rating:  C+

Blurb:

Sequel to the Amber Allure best-seller Between The Moon And The Deep Blue Sea

Dale Langley longs for some triple R time—rest, relaxation and rejuvenation. He accepts his cousin’s invitation to winter over on Ocracoke Island, far away from the hustle and bustle of life on the mainland. He’s always loved being a rolling stone, traveling for his job without the worry of a place to call home, but it’s time for something different. Now Dale anticipates several blissful months to learn how to be still with no demands on his time while he prepares for the next phase of his life.

Aubrey Zimmerman came to Ocracoke to attend a friend’s commitment ceremony. Never one to settle down, Aubrey’s had enough of involvements that took him from man to man without a place to call home. He needs a break—and a little solitude. Housesitting while his friend is on his honeymoon is the perfect way to clear his head and catch up on his sleep. At least it seemed that way until Dale arrived and Aubrey realized sleep is the last thing he needs.

Fate has changes in store for Dale and Aubrey, the sort neither one knew they wanted. Sometimes the more you wander the closer to home you get.

Review:

I did not realize this was a sequel but it really can be read as a standalone. The couple from the first book feature in this as Aubrey’s friends, but they how they got together doesn’t really play a big role.

Dale has been recovering after he was attacked by some thugs when stopped at a red light and nearly killed. He just can’t face going back to work as a travel writer and has been let go. However living with his mother is not working, so his cousin invites him to come and live in the old family home on Oracoke Island where they used to spend summers with his grandparents. The first day there he sees a gorgeous man, and is told they are invited to celebrate the commitment ceremony of the neighbors. Despite having been rather reclusive since the attack, Dale is happy to go along since the good-looking guy he saw is a friend of the couple. Within seconds of meeting, Dale and Aubrey are flirting up a storm and by the end of the night, despite Aubrey saying he would sleep with him, they are in Dale’s bed having some fun. However Aubrey has his own demons, only recently breaking up with is older lover and also having survived a life changing event when he was gay bashed.

This book has a very distinctive feel to the prose. I won’t say it’s purple prose because it’s not. It doesn’t lapse into ridiculous euphemisms, however it is more flower (for lack of a better term) than most of the books I read, and to be honest that I prefer. An example:

His tongue was silky warm on mine as our hands stroked skin, each careful not to race ahead of the other. I tore my lips from his and kissed my way down his neck, dipping beneath the covers to go lower. In the hot darkness, the rich scent of male musk filled my senses, making me breathe in the heady fragrance.

I know some people love prose which evokes scents and emotions, but for me I find it distracting because I find myself wondering if someone would really think like that?

I did like Dale’s cousin a great deal. He’s straight but has no issues with flirting or just having fun with gay men. I did find the fact that he had won the lottery and thus was able to refinish the house and not work a bit convenient, but I liked his character. I didn’t get to know Aubrey very well, but Dale’s memories of family and childhood were nicely done and evocative of childhood lost. I think readers who enjoy a very prose rich story will enjoy this, but it may not work as well for those of us who enjoy a bit more straightforward method of storytelling.

Sequel to the Amber Allure best-seller Between The Moon And The Deep Blue Sea

Dale Langley longs for some triple R time—rest, relaxation and rejuvenation. He accepts his cousin’s invitation to winter over on Ocracoke Island, far away from the hustle and bustle of life on the mainland. He’s always loved being a rolling stone, traveling for his job without the worry of a place to call home, but it’s time for something different. Now Dale anticipates several blissful months to learn how to be still with no demands on his time while he prepares for the next phase of his life.

Aubrey Zimmerman came to Ocracoke to attend a friend’s commitment ceremony. Never one to settle down, Aubrey’s had enough of involvements that took him from man to man without a place to call home. He needs a break—and a little solitude. Housesitting while his friend is on his honeymoon is the perfect way to clear his head and catch up on his sleep. At least it seemed that way until Dale arrived and Aubrey realized sleep is the last thing he needs.

Fate has changes in store for Dale and Aubrey, the sort neither one knew they wanted. Sometimes the more you wander the closer to home you get.

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phallicTitle: Phallic Worship – World-Wide & Centuries Long
Author: Allen Mack
Length: 5,052 words (20 pdf pages)
Publisher: JMS Books
Genre: non-fiction
Rating: C+

Blurb:

The phallus has been an object of adoration, envy, worship, ceremonial excesses, ritual orgasms, and pain throughout the world since before written history. The ultimate representation of masculine pulchritude and strength, the usually flaccid organ may be stroked, teased, moistened, pressed, and fondled into a tumescent, vigorous, upstanding display of dominant muscularity.

Phallic Worship: World-Wide and Centuries Long explores the history of our fascinating preoccupation with the conduit of life.

Review:

As noted, this is a non-fiction book, but it’s not done in a dry scholarly manner. The author has included a few light-hearted comments along the way to liven it up. It is essentially a historical look at phallic worship in a wide variety of cultures. From ancient Mesopotamia to more recent worship. It was very interesting to see how things changed through the years, where often the worship wasn’t exactly sexual, but more from the fertility side, until the Greeks got involved. LOL Oh those Greeks.

As well, it was interesting to see how “modern” practices have incorporated some aspects of phallic worship but you wouldn’t see them as that today. A bit like Christmas incorporating trees and other symbols of pagan practices which unless it’s pointed out are just accepted as Christian. There are some amusing moments. An example was when discussing the activities of a festival of Dionysus, well-known debauched god of wine and sex:

Drinking and dancing to the sounds of pipes and drums lasted long into the night, elevating the celebrants to an ecstatic state. When it reached its peak, the male multitude approached the “god” en masse and, each in his turn, tasted of his “raw flesh.” When they were filled with his “divinity,” they caroused and gamboled until dawn. Similar festivals are still held today almost daily during the summer in certain parts of Fire Island in New York.

Having been to Fire Island heard stories, this could well be true. 🙂 My only niggle if there were, is that there is a lot of information, with a lot of names of gods and cultures and places that sometimes left me a bit reeling. Especially those which I wasn’t familiar at all. But it was still fun to read about the practices that perhaps our more puritanical ancestors would have preferred not be discussed in polite society. If you are interested in that type of history, it’s certainly worth a read and you are unlikely to be bored while doing so.

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AL_FamilyIsForeverTitle: Family is Forever
Author: Anna Lee
Length: 20 pdf pages
Publisher: MLR Press
Genre: m/m contemporary romance
Rating: C

Blurb:

While making a gift Charlotte asks her Daddy why he and Papa aren’t married, leading Landon with the help of his daughters to make Father’s Day one that they and Devin will never forget.

Landon and Devin have been together since Landon a children’s writer read to Devin’s second grade class. Now eight years later they have two beautiful daughters, Charlotte and Gracie. While making a gift for Devin for Father’s Day, a happily ever after story of her Daddy and Papa, Charlotte asks Landon why her parents aren’t married leading Landon and the girls to put together a special proposal in Devin’s classroom on Father’s Day.

Review:

I decided to try something a bit different for me and go for a sweet romance involving kids. Really, I should have known better as this was just way too saccharine for my tastes. I suspect it will be just right for other readers, though.

The blurb pretty much tells it all. The story is told from Landon’s point of view, and opens with him talking to his daughter Charlotte about her special Father’s Day gift for her Papa. Charlotte is a Disney obsessed six-year-old in search of a happy ever after, and she gets upset when she realises that her parents aren’t married like they should be. Even worse, Landon explains that some people wouldn’t want them to be either. There’s only one way to appease the upset child, and that’s to propose to his partner of eight years himself, and make it all part of Charlotte’s special surprise.

As you can probably tell from that summary, Charlotte is a hugely important character in the book. In fact, I think she eclipsed both her fathers, who I couldn’t really distinguish from each other as they were both so nice and clean-cut. We are given exact physical descriptions of both men, but aside from differing hair colour, eye colour and jobs, they didn’t come alive as distinct people in their own right.

There’s an interesting mix of real world and sentimental in this story. Homophobia isn’t denied, although we don’t actually see any in the story. Everyone is just incredibly lovely and tolerant, so if you like to read stories set in that kind of world this could really work for you. The one detail that I did appreciate is how Devin’s surprise was partially spoiled, as it felt more realistic and cut through the sugar a bit. Other things jarred, though, like the child who pipes up in surprise that Charlotte’s parents aren’t married because all parents are married. Made me wonder just where he’d been living to have never encountered an unmarried couple with kids, let alone a single parent family.

This isn’t an awful story, it just really wasn’t to my taste. If the characters had been a bit more individual, the plot less predictable and the whole tone a little less Disneyfied I would have enjoyed it more.

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DemiseTitle: Life After My Unfortunate Demise
Author: Edward Kendrick
Length: 6,480 words (37 pdf pages)
Publisher: Silver Publishing
Genre: m/m paranormal
Rating: C

Blurb:

Ghost Lesson 101: you can’t move on if there’s unfinished business. So Mark tells newly dead Dixon. They have to find out who murdered them. But apparently there is more to it than that, including their growing feelings for each other.

Review:

While I enjoy this author’s work, I didn’t really connect with this story, perhaps because with ghosts you have to have a fair bit of “convenience” to facilitate the romance, although this has a light breezy tone. Mark, a former PI, has been wandering around the building where he was murdered for the last 30 years with only a ghost cat for company. However the hottie lawyer he’s been watching just got murdered and he soon joins Mark in his wanderings. Out if the blue, the cat starts talking and tells them that they are stuck on earth until they know who killed them. That is quickly revealed, but then it seems the murderers have to be caught to move on. Meanwhile, despite being unable to touch anything or anything touch them, Mark and Dixon can touch each other and they make good use of the skill.

As I said, conveniences like only Mark and Dixon can touch each other, and that suddenly the cat speaks and explains what is going on, seemed rather contrived in order to facilitate a romance between the two men. I was also a bit confused as to the whole basis for the murders which had a connection even 30 years later, but the emphasis is on the efforts to prove the crimes which really reinforces the connection between the two men.

I didn’t feel that I really got to know either man that well, ghost perhaps. 🙂 However people who enjoy stories with ghost protagonists will likely enjoy it and it’s not meant to be taken too seriously. There is a talking cat after all, so I suppose it’s more of the light-hearted sitcom feel with a touch of drama as the killers are revealed.

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Little dancersTitle: The Novelty Maker
Author: Sasha L. Miller
Length: 13, 500 words
Publisher: Less Than Three Press
Genre: m/m fantasy romance
Rating: B

Blurb:
As often as he can possibly manage, Cole slips away from the parties and teas inflicted upon him by his mother to visit Harlowe, the brilliant, mercurial novelty maker he met several months ago when commissioning a piece for his mother. Overwhelmed with work, and preferring to avoid people, Harlowe is not an easy person to know, and Cole values too much their hard-won friendship to ever risk it by telling Harlowe of his true feelings. Then Harlowe begins to receive letters from a secret admirer…

Review:
Cole is a wealthy man who is close to his family, even if his brother is a little annoying and his mother keeps trying to set him up with women. He’s also attracted to Harlowe, a brilliant maker of novelty items whose scarred face is hidden behind a mask. Each day, Cole visits Harlowe who works too hard thanks to a bad-tempered employer, but he cannot find the words to tell Harlowe how he feels about him.

This was a sweet and amusing story of two men who seem quite opposite and yet have developed a friendship. I liked Cole, despite his excuses for not confessing his feelings for Harlowe. It was amusing to see the jealousy when he agrees to investigate who is sending love letters to Harlowe, especially because this turned out to have a humourous twist to the story.

Harlowe is a little more difficult to understand but I felt that the author had done a good job in showing him to be lonely and unused to simple friendship. I liked that he had a certain arrogance about his work. He knows he’s good, and so throws himself into each project, hiding himself away in the process. It was sweet to see Cole breaking down the defences that Harlowe had built up and therefore making the romance work at the end.

This is more a character based fantasy than one with a vivid or strong setting. I didn’t mind that because I liked both characters and the setting worked in the context of the story and I finished the story feeling that I’d had a satisfying and romantic read. It’s also free, so there’s no excuse not to give the story a go!

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