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Archive for May, 2013

countrymesses185Title: Country Messes
Author: Jameson Dash
Length: 15k words
Publisher: Torquere
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Rating: C+

Blurb: Matthew loves his dog and his garden. He doesn’t love the club scene. But just when he’s decided to stop looking, Amie drags him away to her grandparents’ beach house, where they discover Louis, her cousin, has been hiding out all summer. He’s there trying to write a musical; Matthew is trying not to make a fool of himself in front of his three best friends.

It’s summer savory which brings Matthew and Lou together, in the garden, near the beach, on the last weekend before summer comes to an end.

Review: Jameson Dash is a new author, with one previously published book (also with TQ), but for me, this is definitely a new author. I’m always a little bit hesitant to try out new authors, like many of you. Then again! That’s one of my top reasons that I LOVE reviewing shorts, because it’s such a great way to find new authors and also a great way for prospective authors to toe the water a bit (although, we’ll table the discussion of novel/short skill for now). So, this was really a shot in the dark for me and it ended up being a bit of a mixed bag for me as well.

First off, Country Messes is written in present tense — something that doesn’t usually bother me. Here, though, I had a really hard time getting through the story. I’d connect, then get thrown out of the flow of the prose just because of the tense. I don’t usually have problems with tense, I can handle them all so to speak and not really mind, but I had to keep digging back in. Granted, I mention this up front not only for importance to the review but also as a bit of a disclaimer (we probably shouldn’t get into um… cognitive efficiency here… I wouldn’t win any tests today!). But, it’s worth mentioning. I know that the present tense is a stickler for many of you.

Its the end of the summer in Seattle and Matthew’s friend Amie shows up to take him away with two other friends to her Opa’s beach house on an island in the sound for the weekend. Taking Matthew’s dog Summer along for the trip, the four set out for a stay only to stumble upon a squatter once they get there. Amie’s cousin Louis is a composer working on his current musical (or… not working) and using the house to get away from the city for a while for some peace and quiet and perspective. When it looks like Matthew and Louis may be hitting it off, the girls make some convenient excuses to give the two boys to time to themselves.

I did particularly enjoy a few things in the story. First, Jameson Dash is definitely an epicurean, foodie, whatever term you want to use. At times, what bothered me about the present tense was that it led to a tendency for the author to get bogged down in details, like someone recounting their day and each little thing they did. Much of that wasn’t really needed and most wasn’t appreciated. The food though… mmm I wouldn’t have minded even more of that. I would have loved to share in their meals, which they took a real delight in making. Part of that leads to another thing I enjoyed, the garden at the house. Matthew is a gardener by trade, working for a community project in the city. So when he sees a garden slightly gone to seed but still bearing plenty of goods they can use for their meals he can’t help but dig in and sort out the mess. I assumed that that is really the meaning behind the tittle, probably referring to the most enjoyable garden scene, which was slightly… shall we say, dirty? 😉

While I wouldn’t overly praise this story it was enjoyable. I had some difficulties with it, including that I never really felt like I got a handle on who Lou was, but I also saw a solid base for this author to build on and I’ll definitely pay attention to any of their new releases.

Also, a note here about covers: Torquere isn’t a publisher that I usually praise in regards to covers, but both of the two books that Jameson Dash has written, which were both published by TQ, have the two best covers I’ve yet seen from them… Maybe Jameson Dash is a cover artist as well? Click here to look at both of them.

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fatedropsinTitle: Fate Drops In
Author: K.C. Grim
Length: 7,063 words
Publisher: JMS Books
Genre: m/m contemporary
Rating: C

Blurb:
Werewolves and vampires have always been sworn enemies. They have fought battles and raged wars to keep their kinds apart for centuries, but that all changes one night when a young wolf named Connor accidently drops into a room full of unexpected vampires.

A young wolf living on his own in the city would be easy prey for a group of angry vampires. They are older and stronger than the werewolf, but Connor isn’t ready to give up without a fight. Can he face them alone, or will he find an ally in the most unusual place?

Davis has lived hundreds of years in the shadow of darkness, but what good is eternity if you spend it alone? With nothing left to live for, the older vampire is losing his desire for life when Connor comes crashing into his world. Is the handsome, scrappy werewolf worth saving if it costs Davis his immortal soul? Or will saving this young wolf end up saving them both?

Review:
I’m always keen to read a story with vampires and this one begins well. Connor is a werewolf who left his pack when they were going to arrange a mate for him. He’s travelling alone through deserted streets after spending the evening at a bar when he accidentally falls through a door into the cellar filled with vampires. He’s rescued by Davis and the pair have an immediate attraction, but it isn’t easy for a werewolf and vamp to be together.

I liked the first part of this story. It was atmospheric with a good amount of foreshadowed creepiness in Connor’s trip through the city, followed by a very tense moment between Connor and the vampires. I also liked the way that Connor and Davis get together in a very frenetic and exciting sex scene, full of forbidden desires as both know that they should be enemies, not lovers.

After that point things stopped working so well. The plot changed as Davis pushes for Connor to be reconciled with his pack and then Connor returns home to face his past. This wasn’t a bad change in pace, but it did cram in an awful lot of things into a short page space. We are hurriedly introduced to a large number of characters as well as Connor’s parents and the ending seems too easily done after the build up. I felt a little bamboozled by all these new characters and the word length meant that they were all mere snapshots, rather than fleshed out, even Connor’s parents.

So in the end, whilst I enjoyed the meeting of the characters and the start of their relationship, the rest of the story felt rushed and a little flat. This was the first story I’ve read by this author and I wouldn’t mind reading another one.

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carnivorousvegan_3d_500Title: The Carniverous Vegan
Author: K.A. Merikan
Length: 5,800 words
Publisher: Storm Moon Press
Genre: m/m contemporary
Rating: B

Blurb:
Aiden is not only a vegan, but also into freeganism. Late at night, he often goes off to scavenge the bins of a local supermarket. Unfortunately, this is not his lucky night, and he falls prey to the worst predator of all—the store security guard. His crystal skull didn’t warn him about this! But was that a glimmer of attraction he saw in the guard’s eyes? Maybe luck was turning his way after all!

Review:
This comic short combines a hot encounter with a amusing lead character in Aiden. He’s scavenging the bins at a local supermarket for the vegetables that are still fresh but thrown away for being past their sell by date. He’s caught by the security guard who’s determined to call the police and even the offer of a blow job doesn’t seem to sway him to let Aiden go.

I really enjoyed this cheeky story which poked gentle fun at the sort of person who has dreadlocks, is a strict vegan and consults his crystals on important matters of health during meditation. I liked Aiden and great deal and found myself laughing a few times at some of the things he thinks about. The fun of the story is in the dialogue between the characters as the confident Aiden baffles Pavel, whilst Pavel is helpless before Aiden’s strong come on. Poor Pavel the security guard doesn’t stand a chance against him as Aiden manages to wheedle his way out of being prosecuted and into Pavel’s pants.

The story is limited to the encounter between the men but I didn’t mind the lack of detail in the characterisation, especially Pavel because I was having too much fun with the whole story. The romance is limited to the hint that there be the possibility of further meet ups but again, I didn’t mind about that. In fact I would definitely like to see more of this pair who would be a very odd couple being quite different in personality and lifestyle.

If you’re looking for something short and fun then this would be the perfect story. It’s also free at SMP, being part of their Earth Day celebrations, so there’s no excuse not to pick it up and have a read!

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shannonTitle: Shannon’s Solace (The Unwanted, Book 1)
Author: Westbrooke Jameson
Length: 18,563 words (50 pdf pages)
Publisher: Self-published
Genre: m/m science fiction
Rating: B

Blurb:

Three years ago, a race of aliens called Narsoreal made contact and gained asylum on Earth. In exchange for technology and medical advancements, the United States government allows the Narsoreal to collect and bond with the country’s “unwanted” citizens. In one city, a Narsoreal bond-matcher has set his sights on a small band of male and female prostitutes in desperate need of salvation. Each of the five has unique needs, but it just might be that there is a Narsoreal ready and willing to meet every one of them.

Every day is a struggle for survival, and Shannon often feels like everything is out of his control. He longs for someone to come into his life and offer him some peace, be the one he can lean on, and maybe someday forgive him his past and love him anyway.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This is the first story in a 5-part series available individually and as a whole sold under the title “The Unwanted” which will be available by the end of 2013. Reading each story in order is recommended.

Review:

I wasn’t sure what to expect with this story, not having read anything by the author before, but it hit a few of my like buttons. It’s got aliens, rent boys and fruit flavoured spunk. 🙂 As this is the first book in the series, it spends a bit of time setting up the rest of the series, including introducing you to the cast of characters including Shannon, aka Shots, Derek, the head of their little family unit who is now suffering from something called VIS, one of the few diseases the arriving aliens were unable to find a cure for, Joel, a young man discarded by his family they are determined to keep innocent, and Ambrosia, either a cross-dresser/drag or a trans* character, it’s not clear yet, and Sara, a sweet but not too bright lesbian. There are other people who live with them and either work the streets or steal to keep them all going.

One night on the street, a client approaches and despite his better instincts, Shots is giving a blow job on the sidewalk and forgoing a condom. He gets sort of drugged and wakes up in the guys bed. After a bad experience with that happening before, he freaks out and runs. Later after doing some research, he finds out that now he’s bonded with the alien, the alien with die if he doesn’t complete the bond. Despite being kind of freaked out, Shots isn’t a bad guy, and maybe, just maybe he could find love, so he goes back, saving Alimund and finding out more about him and that maybe there are similar partners for his friends on the street.

There’s not a lot of conflict. Shannon takes to the idea of having someone love him pretty quickly, but then not having to work the streets is not a bad thing.  Sometimes I’m not looking for tons of angst or conflict. The premise is that Alimund can tell by looking at someone if they will be mated with any of his kind, a matchmaker, so I’m sure he’ll be finding matches for some of the other characters. But it was definitely a feel good story and one where you want to see the street people get to find love. The back-story of the aliens and characters was added in without feeling info-dumpy, so I’m looking forward to seeing the others find their HEA, especially Derek. I’m not sure if there will be f/f or not in the series, but I guess we’ll see who the characters are who feature in future editions.

If you too like aliens and rent boys, I think it’s very much worth picking up, although some people may prefer to wait until all the episodes are out and read it at once. I don’t mind doing it this way as it’s not a cliff-hanger.

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dragonTitle: Flying with Dragons
Author: Sean Michael
Length: 10,800 words (44 pdf pages)
Publisher: Torquere Press
Genre: m/m fantasy paranormal
Rating: B

Blurb:

Having annoyed the council, Grunk is assigned the job of Director of Human/Dragon Relations. Unfortunately for Grunk, he hates the city, he’d rather be in his dragon form than his human one, and he already hates the job even though it’s only his first day.

Then he meets his assistant, Kyfan, and he’s instantly smitten. When he finds out that Kyfan has never really flown and rarely spends any time in his dragon form, Grunk is shocked and insists on changing that, immediately. After all, flying with the lovely Kyfan’s way better than sitting behind his desk in his office.

It turns out that Kyfan is a lovely little dragon and once they’ve flown together, Grunk knows that they share a bond and he prepares to make his claim. The fact that it’s going to annoy the council is only a bonus.

Review:

It seems to be the month of the dragon, but I thoroughly enjoyed this short story, even though I think there was so much more that could have been added. It’s set in an alternative reality where dragons presence among humans is “normal”.  The biggest joy in this story however was Grunk. He’s just kind of surly, hates that he has to do this new job for the council and it’s his little internal dialogue like being hopeful when he sees Kyfan sitting in the office that maybe they’ve found someone else for the job and he can get out of it. Or his shock and incomprehension of the fact that Kyfan hasn’t shifted in decades and has never really flown, because Grunk can’t fathom that kind of life for a dragon and he’s determined to right it immediately.

It’s typical Sean Michael in that you have the strong dominant type male, with the smaller nervous virginal bottom, but that is part of why I enjoy this particular author, so if that’s what you are in the mood for it’s a good choice. So while I thoroughly enjoyed the relationship between the two, watching Kyfan who was “old” for someone to have found their heart-mate realize that despite being odd for a dragon, someone loved him, there was so much more that could have been fleshed out.

Why was Grunk in trouble with the council? Was it just his surly attitude? What about Kyfan’s background and his current conflict with his supervisor who has been jealous of Kyfan. There was also the process of telling the council about their bonding and what that means. So I was definitely left wanting more of this world, or more of Grunk more or less grudgingly following the rules so they’ll stop bothering him. However despite that, I still enjoyed this a great deal and found myself smiling several times through-out, so if you like dragons, this is another good selection this week

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plantingseeds_3d_500Title: Planting Seeds
Author: Alex Whitehall
Length: 3,000 words
Publisher: Storm Moon Press
Genre: m/m contemporary
Rating: B

Blurb:
Gabe, white collar through and through, and his coworkers spend Earth Day helping a soup kitchen prepare its gardens. But Aiden, a soup kitchen volunteer, gives Gabe nothing but grief for his help. Is this a thorn he has to bear for the day, or will they end up planting the seeds of friendship?

Review:
This tiny freebie from SMP was released as part of Earth Day. It tells of Gabe who has volunteered to help in the garden of a soup kitchen for a day. When he gets there his co-gardener, Aiden, treats him with disdain but eventually both men learn a little about graciousness and what it means to really give your time to a good cause.

Because this story is short, the focus is on the events that happen between Gabe and Aiden and so we don’t learn much about these guys. Gabe wants to do his bit and is annoyed that Aiden won’t give him credit for that. Aiden is a regular volunteer and is annoyed by people who turn up once a year and then go back to their lives feeling smug at having ‘done their bit’. However, you get a strong impression that Gabe is a genuinely nice guy and he soon wins Aiden round just be being pleasant and interested in what Aiden has to say. This shames Aiden into admitting that he may have been a little harsh in his views. It was nice to see these developments in character as Gabe realises that he could do more and Aiden softens his attitude.

I also liked the sparks between them as the antagonism lessens and the respect grows. There’s only the barest hint of a romantic conclusion, but I was happy with the promise of things to come.

So overall, this was a nice little read with an interesting premise which made me think, as well as two decent characters. It was too short really for much development or even any background other than the bare minimum, but there was enough to flesh out the characters a little. For a free read this is definitely worth picking up and spending some time reading.

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Mister May ITitle: Captain, May I?
Author: Kayla Bain-Vrba
Length: 6,300 words (27 pdf pages)
Publisher: Torquere Press
Genre: m/m science fiction
Rating: C+

Blurb:

Kale and Monroe’s favorite game to play is “Captain, May I” and not just because Monroe is captain of the starship Discovery. As intense and passionate as their relationship is, it’s still a secret — because Monroe is Kale’s commanding officer. However, when their ship crash lands on a deserted planet and an unknown enemy begins picking off the crew one by one, Kale and Monroe are forced to reevaluate their relationship and the boundaries of the game they’ve created.

Review:

While this is a sci-fi story, the setting does not really cast much relevance on the romance. Captain Monroe and Lieutenant Kale keep their relationship on the down-low on the ship. They play a bit of a D/s game, “Captain, May I?”, and things seem to be going pretty well, however after a recent battle with space pirates, their ship is disabled and they end up over a strange planet to effect repairs. They go down to the surface and the team ends up killed with another officer trying to get the captain out of the way.

The bigger theme running under the action, is the fact that in order not to show favouritism, Monroe never promoted Kale, who was on the fast track to the top. Kale is now starting to resent this and wondering if he’s given up his professional drive for love. A little turn-about in the bedroom sets the scene for a discussion about the real reasons Monroe hasn’t promoted Kale.

I thought that theme was interesting, and is something that many couples who both have career aspirations find themselves in. Will one of them have to allow their own dreams to take a back seat for the sake of the relationship? Is love enough? The action part seemed pretty typical to a sci-fi movie or television show, it set the scene in space but didn’t really have an influence on the central plot of the two men working through a cross-roads in their relationship, except to find a rather simple solution.

So if you are looking for an in-depth sci-fi story, this isn’t the one, but if you like a little bit of pop culture sci-fi surrounding a more character driven romance, it’s a good choice. I do enjoy this author’s writing style and enjoy reading her work, but this one was a little light on depth for me.

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