Monday, 30 July 2012

A Stranger's Touch, Anne Brooke

Anne Brooke. Need I say more. A short but amazingly thought provoking read.

- Review by Kazza K

Wasn't this an interesting story. I think pretty much every reader will take something different away from it. I'm just expressing my feelings on the book.

I felt like there was a loving, non-judgemental entity here. In this little ebook - I don't know any other way to describe my gut-feel interpretation. That this entity gave the MC, Red, the permission, the freedom to like who he is. That he could embrace his past, he could embrace the present, and he could embrace what he did, and who he was from here on in. God, what a gift. How incredibly liberating for a human being.

Anne Brooke has written something rather unique. A Stranger's Touch is thought provoking, spiritual, and subtlety sexy - quite the combo.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Waves Break My Fall, Kendall McKenna

Another strong, engaging read from Kendall McKenna.

- Review by Kazza K

This is a nice, quick, yet engaging read; and while one of the characters is a Marine, as in Brothers in Arms, that's where the similarities end. Brothers In Arms was grittier, this was lighter, more romantic and whoa mama sexy!

Kage is a Marine, literally weeks back after a tour of Afghanistan. He's jumpy, settling into civilian life and doesn't much feel like being home with his family whilst adjusting. He's gay, unsure of himself, feeling the burden of having been in a warzone, and searching for something 'normal' in Peurto Vallarta.

Zach has just finished college, is in Peurto Vallarta with a group of friends to relax and have fun. He's the sexy type with a banging body, tight jeans and locks eyes across a crowded room with Kage. Zach likes what he sees, the feeling's mutual from Kage, and the next thing you know they're out of the bar and onto the beach. Mmm, mmm.

There's a lot of sex in this book, and I am not complaining, it is well written and Kage and Zach make a lot of sense. Yes, there is insta-attraction, I do not mind that in the slightest when its well written, and it's well written here. Also, the emotional connection between Kage and Zach is developed beyond just lust - Zach is going into law enforcement, a compatible career, he gets some of what Kage has been through, and offers him support and great sex. Kage likes Zach's understanding, masculine body and they share a love of outdoors life.

Kendall McKenna's second book is just as well written and edited as her first and, once again, it is a pleasure to read such engaging characters, along with strong technical writing. While Brothers in Arms had a strong ensemble feel, Waves Break My Fall's primary spotlight is on the two MC's, and I liked that just fine.

I would hope with the way the book ended that there's going to be a follow up; as whilst it's happy, it's abrupt. I felt semi-satisfied but with an emphasis on - "I'm anticipating more." I hope Kendall McKenna is going to give me more of Kage and Zach. This could have been a full book and in all honesty that would have been better. There's a lot more to know about these guys and I, for one, want to know what they're doing and how they're doing it. Good read.

Oh, yes, what a cover.
BUT just be careful it's used on at least two current books from the same publisher. Maybe it's a theme - but I don't like it personally.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Battling Glass (Battling Glass # 1), D J Manly


 For me, this is a beautifully crafted paranormal.

- Review by Kazza K

I was actually settled in to read another D J Manly book when I spied this one and thought “vampire sounds nice.” By the way the book is difficult to review without throwing in spoilers, which there are in here, sorry, or sounding like a rambling loon.

This book is primarily contemporary; it is set in and around current day Montreal, with flashbacks to pre French Revolution and France of the 1700’s. While there are historical aspects to the book it really isn’t an historical book in the truest sense of the word; the history just adds understanding and depth to the characters and it is nicely handled. It’s a hard book to review properly because it is….unusual and complex; however, the writing is not complex, it is written in an easy to read style. Battling Glass doesn’t work within the standard protagonist/antagonist formula. Emilien is the MC but it’s not just his book. There are other characters that would ordinarily be secondary characters in another book, but aren’t here, they're incredibly important. There are lesser characters but they either come later or are needed for plot development. There is role changing right to the end with a character not knowing they are working for the other side, but are, or changed allegiances.

The story follows Emilien, and those that come into his life along the way. Emilien is born in 1753 a ‘product’ of a rare mating between Nicole, a beautiful French/Spanish young peasant and Alexander, a charismatic, powerful vampire. Nicole does not know Alexander’s true nature, thinks him to be the nobleman he is presented as at the town doyenne’s soiree. Long story short, Nicole becomes pregnant with Alexander’s child, Emilien. From there it is a battle, firstly, between Alexander and Nicole’s human family, particularly Nicole’s Grandmere, who knows Alexander is something other than human. Then it escalates as the years progress with jealousies, bitterness, power plays and prophecies coming to a head as Alexander wages his final spiteful campaign against his son in present times.

Alexander has turned few humans during his existence, but all he has created are for his selfish cause, Nicole, Emilien’s mother, Francois, Emilien’s lover, and Carmen, who has been taken in by Emilien and who works the streets - not for sex but for blood. Every single one of them is to get at Emilien. All of Alexander’s creations are incredibly interesting and make this such a good read. I loved Nicole, she did not want to be vampire, and had turned into a shell; until there was a cause and that cause was fighting her mate, Alexander, and supporting her son, Emilien. She was a force to be reckoned with; a woman who started out with youthful love and ideals to a vampire and instigator of an uprising against Alexander. Her motivations were interesting, not always borne out of love, although that was still there.

Francois. Ahh….Francois. I loved him, which flies in the face of characters that I usually embrace. I don’t mind lost, flawed, gentle characters, but I’m not fond of martyrs and those that love without receiving in return. Francois was long suffering, pining for Emilien, yet I loved Francois. I know why – he was loyal, selfless and strong. He was terrified of Alexander, but when push came to shove he fought against him hard and supported Nicole and Emilien with a passion. He absolutely touched my heart in a way Emilien, Carl, and Emilien AND Carl could not. I wanted him with Emilien and I liked it when he bartered his blood for a fuck with Emilien - *happy dance, that's my boy.*

From chapter one, “Carmen,” I fell in love with Carmen. She was discarded and treated the most poorly by Alexander, which is saying something. Alexander would turn a human without showing them how to be a (decent) vampire. She loved Emilien, she loved Jean Paul and Henry, characters that helped her, and when Alexander killed Henry it broke her heart. Carmen, who didn’t know she could love, felt she was bereft of feelings, and longed for it so much, had a big, human heart (she really couldn’t bring herself to kill Tash, in spite of what it meant for her) and right ‘til the end, she was loyal and loved Emilien.

Here I will be slightly negative. I did not like the Tash storyline, I actually liked Tash, but her brother bored me. The time in the Townships was my least favourite of the book  I could not get into Carl, I wanted him gone. I could not understand Emilien's great love of Carl. I mean, I get the root cause - Carl is human, Emilien loves humans, loves the idea of humanity - but there was not much else going on for Carl. To me the characters were very polarizing in this book. However, that’s what made it so interesting. There are so many good characters that you can be quite disenchanted with some, and still be captivated by others, because they are all well drawn, with the exception of Carl. Sorry, I felt nothing for Carl, perhaps would have chosen a different fate for brother and sister and maybe Francois(?) but….c’est la vie.

Emilien, what can I say.  Everyone, and I do mean everyone, loved Emilien. Not one person who meets him doesn’t want him. The vampires that cling to humanity love him or deify him. Those that are walking on the darker vampire side want to possess him. Every one of them want him physically, he’s like paranormal crack. Hell, two on the council sold their souls to Alexander with the allure of possessing Emilien for a while. I am a very definite person and because of this I did not love Emilien, he sat on the fence too much for me; he expected too much of Francois and gave little in return. He who was half human and craved humanity could be the one with the least human qualities, empathy being one of those at times. Yes, he helped Tash, but he lacked empathy for his mother, didn't reach out enough until too late. He took Francois for granted  too. Emilien right near the end, when he is leaving with Carl projects into Francois's mind  -

Francois. I do love you. Don't lose hope. Maybe one day I can....I will need you...

There was snobbery in Emilien. He looked down on what was essentially part of him, his vampiric nature. I understood his issues – dysfunctional doesn’t do his nuclear family justice. Plus, it’s hard to be half and half when one foot is in the paranormal world and one isn’t. When one side of your nature screams humanity and the other fights it, craves human blood.

Where Emilien would do everything to deny his vampire half. Alexander did all he could to shun what he once was. Human. He thought anything human was a weakness, Emilien thought vampire was monstrous. Yet both had these parts in their nature. Alexander was, in fact, ensnared by the very thing that he ridiculed -
The feud between father and son was quite mindless, as far as she (Vanessa) was concerned. Although Alexander thought he was immune from petty mortal emotions, he was as enslaved to them as much as the rest of them. A game of dominace, that's all it was. 

I feel that’s good writing and a strong point that was made by D J Manly. Battling Glass - look in the mirror and what do you see? The same but opposite staring back at me.

This book really isn’t one to be pigeonholed, but for those wanting some clarification Battling Glass is paranormal. The primary MC, Emilien, is gay; however it is not the typical M/M sex/romance-fest, but it does have erotic undertones. If you’re looking for a sex filled vampire novel you will be disappointed. There is both M/M and (one) M/F sexual encounter(s), but they are quick and are there for plot reasons, not as sex for sex’s sake. If you’re looking for an interesting paranormal read with M/M leads, and what I would also classify as sexually fluid characters, this could be your book. I have to give a shout out to Nathan he was a great character, whenever he was on page I kept thinking of him as a punk Cockney. It must have been the hair and the ‘tude.

Every chapter has a character’s name, occurrence or entity heading it up, and everything in that chapter weaved beautifully together to describe the heading and further the storyline all at once. These are the chapters - Carmen, Francois, Tash, Nicole, The Vampire Council, The Soldiers, The Hunt, Carl, Café Carmen, Emilien, Vanessa, Nathan, Dionisis, The Thirst, Reunions, For the Love of Humanity, Rebellion and Death, Mixed Emotions, Death Tunnel, Grave Thoughts, Finer Line, Epilogue. My favourite chapter in this book was “Nicole.” It was historical, it was gloriously descriptive, it was moving, it was quite beautiful; and, in my opinion, it set the tone for everything that happened in the book, irrespective of whether it was written before or after that chapter.

Battling Glass is quite the paranormal saga. I believe D J Manly poured a lot of heart and soul into all the characters in this book and therefore it was lovingly written.  I do highly recommend this book if you love vampires and are up for something a bit unusual.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Depression Part 2, Some Helpful Ideas to Cope

- By Kazza K

Last time I talked about 'Depression, Recognising It.' This time I want to talk about coping once you know you are depressed; after all, knowing you're depressed is only part of the road forward. So, once again, I wish to reiterate that this is a friendly blog spot and nothing I say here is intended to replace professional advice and help. I'm just throwing things out there as a discussion point and to make people think, be cognisant, to help themselves or someone they care about understand, and so you may have some ideas to work with.This is only a small blog and certainly doesn't cover nearly everything it could. Just some basics.

Mostly, human beings have a need to know what is wrong with them or why something is happening. So it's good to have a diagnosis, it means you are consciously aware and accepting, which should help lead you towards dealing with the steps to recovery or feeling better.

First some dont's.

Don't hide your depression - I'm not suggesting you go around telling everybody you have depression. I mean don't deny it or bury it and let it get on top of you so that it all gets too much and no-one can help. I also mean don't feel as if you are weak because you are depressed, plenty of strong people suffer depression. I have always told every single one of my clients, with depression, I have had/still have bouts of depression. That actually flys in the face of my training, a therapist is not supposed to share these kind of things with their clients. Well, I like my clients to have hope, and I like them to know that they are not alone, so I tell them, and they appreciate it. My point here? Don't be ashamed. If you look up famous people, leaders who have suffered from depression there is a long list. You're in good company. Heck, you're just like me, and I'm a strong, decent person :)

Don't medicate with acohol - Alcohol is a depressant and whilst you may feel more mellow or numb at first, the following day you will feel more down. Men have a much greater tendency to 'self medicate' with alcohol. It exacerbates anger and it exacerbates sadness. The other thing to know is that alcohol and anxyiolitics are a particularly bad combination. Alcohol and anti-depressants are not always great either. If your anti-depressant has a sedative effect then it can cause problems. Alcohol can also affect the efficacy of the medication. Please talk to your doctor about this. I'm not saying don't enjoy a few glasses, if your doctor says you can, but I'm saying be aware. Of course certain classes of AD's, such as MAOI's, don't mix with tyramine rich foods or alcohol -  beer and wine included.

Dont medicate with self destructive behaviour - I have seen more than a few people do things that they ordinarily would not do because of severe depression, mood disorders, bipolar etc. Things like gambling, with particular emphasis on poker machines. Now I know that gambling can be an addiction for anyone, you don't have to be depressed, but what I'm refering to here is the behaviour that comes about through depression and an inability to cope. Not taking medication, not seeing a therapist/doctor and doing things that endanger a family and individual's wellbeing. I won't say anymore on it, just be aware of things that can make something difficult almost unbearable and impact everyone around you. It is hard to have depression, it is hard on the loved ones of someone suffering depression.At times depressed people act out in unusual, self defeating ways. Getting professional support aids everyone, self destructive behaviour doesn't.

Alright, those heavier points are out of the way. Let's get positive. Things that I have found to be helpful include -

Keeping a journal - It can help to write down how you're feeling. When you go to your therapist/doctor you can tell them what you may have been thinking or feeling between sessions, because short term memory during depression is terrible. It's also amazing to look back and see your progress. To see that you have gotten better and you are actually moving ahead with more good days than bad. You don't have to write every day but once you get through the worst part try to keep a regular update going.

Meditation/Relaxation - Guided meditation/relaxation is wonderful to help keep calm and focused on something other than runaway thoughts. If you are severely depressed this will not work until your medication has kicked in, usually 2 weeks after starting. If you aren't able to be on medication then wait until you feel a bit more in control before starting meditation/relaxation, so that you give it a chance to help. I'm a firm believer in CD's/tapes where you are guided through the process, not just music or chanting, actual steps to follow. Start with a 10 minute CD and work your way up to 20 minutes to a half an hour. I don't want to favour someone over anyone else but I have always had a love of Sarah Edelman's CD's. Some people take to meditation/relaxation better than others. Do not get despondent if your mind is drifting when you start. I find it takes people a good 3 weeks to start to get good at it and another 3 weeks to get really into it. I can assure you I used to be the worst person to get to meditate, but now I'm good at it because I used to run groups, and I use it when I get anxious or down.

CBT - Cognitive Behaviour Therapy really does work. It helps you look at things in a more realistically positive way. It takes a lot of work, I won't kid you, but it helps immensely. Because I can't take AD's I rely heavily on CBT to help me through my depression. When I have been severely depressed I can't get into it initially, but once I'm feeling a bit better I get into full CBT swing. There are lots of books out there on CBT, seek one out that looks good for you. One where you're comfortable with the writing style and the way the author explains things. CBT is different to affirmations. Affirmations are lovely but if you don't believe the words, then that's all they are, words. I'm not against affirmations, use them in conjuction with CBT, but not just on their own. The basic premise behind CBT is to help change negative thinking into something more positive. Our thoughts are very powerful and have a major impact on how we feel, how we react and behave. For example during my bleakest depression going out of the house was difficult. It was easier to stay indoors, but that was not a good option for me long term. I certainly didn't want to develop agoraphobia. So I would say to myself "this may seem hard but you can do it, if you get a bit anxious it's to be expected, if I keep doing this by next week  I'll be better at it, if I don't try I won't progress" or "I know that I feel awful now, but I won't always feel this way." The last one I would repeat every day because I found it hard to believe at times but intrinsically, deep down, I knew it to be the truth. "I wasn't this way before, with effort and time I can be who I was again." This is very basic, there is much more to CBT but it's too much to discuss here, hopefully you get the gist.

Exercise - I can't begin to tell you how important exercise is during depression. Taking a 20 minute walk during the day is good for the soul in so many ways. Walking helps boost 'feel good' chemicals such as endorphins and serotonin, it makes you feel better afterwards. I'm not saying power walk, just walk at a medium pace and stop occasionally to look at the architecture, the blue sky, the birds, smell the flowers too, if you can. If the scenery isn't that great, no matter, you're doing something to help the chemistry in your body in a natural and enjoyable way. If you prefer to go to the gym, then go. Cycling, swimming, all great. Walking and swimming will always remain my favourite ways to feel better.

Food - I am a great believer in food helping an individual feel better. There is a good book  called Natrual Prozac by Joel C Robertson regarding food and lifestyle. I'm not endorsing all the sentiments in the book. I don't believe that food, excercise, music etc is the cure all for all types of depression, particularly if it is severe, or you're bipolar. I believe they're an adjunct. If your depression is milder then go for it. Never come off your medication without consulting your doctor. So, having said that, look into foods that can help you. For me, grapes always helped boost my mood, potatoes too and, my personal favourite, Milo in hot milk. I drink low fat milk with Milo every day, without fail. Milo contains B group vitamins, B group vitamins help in lots of ways and vitamin B6 helps with the central nervous system. However, just taking a B vitamin on its own doesn't work as it pasees through your sytem without aiding you. Take a mutli vitamin with B6 in it or a better still a multi B group vitamin. I am a big believer in Milo and milk, nothing anyone can say will sway my beliefs on Milo and hot milk. Serotonin is a derivative of tryptophan, an amino acid present in different foods including milk. Look up the benefits of different foods, try them and see what helps you best.

Have a support network - Some friends and family are amazing, they're so supportive, and that's what you need. It may be difficult to get out and see people, it may be hard to talk to people, but please don't shut yourself down. If people are willing to support you, let them. You need them. One day you will get to return the favour, because I guarantee you will be needed due to some illness, sadness, hurt or grief in their lives. One thing about depression is it sorts people out in your life. You suddenly discover who genuinely cares about you, and you just may be surprised. Any naysayers or people who tell you to "snap out of it" are not needed in your life during this time, stick to the positive and understanding ones.

Find a good therapist and doctor - OK, this may sound a bit harsh, but there are some people who never cease to amaze me with how terrible they are in their chosen profession.This goes within healthcare as well. Most working in healthcare are terrific, choose well. Have a friend or family member help if you feel you need it. Word of mouth is always wonderful as a reference. When you're depressed it can be hard to deal with people and some receptionists or practitioners aren't as empathetic as they could be, and it can put you off the process. Why did I start this section the way I did? In the throes of my darkest depression I had a professional tell me that I would "either die or get though it, either or." That was just awful, it made me so, so upset. Please don't be disheartened. Find somone who knows depression, they don't have to have been through it to help you, by the way. They just have to be good at what they do. There is no substitute for an experienced, genuine practitioner and they are out there. It's like everything else, some people may be good at what they do but you still don't gel. Find a person you're comfortable with, that helps you feel at ease. Someone who will help you with medication, if you need it, not everyone will need medication, and, most importantly, help you with coping strategies. It's nice to have someone who listens to you, but also gives you advice and information on how to best deal with your depression.

Be kind to yourself - You certainly didn't choose depression, it singled you out for any one of a multitude of reasons. Don't beat up on yourself. Work on finding things that you like about you. I know that it is easier said than done. We are so programmed to be humble or modest. No room for modesty here, start to find things that are fabulous about you. It's time to love you. Start a postivity notebook. Each day look for something that you did that was good. Look for the little things and then for the bigger things. If you're struggling ask a friend or family member, they should be able to help you until you get the hang of it.

Try to laugh - Laughter really is the best medicine. If you are moderately to severely depressed this won't happen for a little while, but it will happen. Ordinarily I have the craziest, most wicked sense of humour. When I'm at my darkest it disappears, but it always comes back. I have to look for it though. So, as you come on back down the road to feeling better start to look for your humour, let it back in.

Depression has many causes, I won't bore you here with that. Just know that you will get better. It takes time and effort, but you will make it. Love yourself. Find the silver lining around anything you can. My depression made me a much more caring, understanding human being. Yes, it was awful and still causes me problems here and there, but I'm a better person because of it. My children have learned to be better people because of it, because I let them in on what I've been through, and sometimes still do. They admire how I fight it and always win out. My son has had his own battles, partially outlined in another blog, My Son the Aspie, so he really gets it. He's on anti-depressants for life and accepts that, is happy how he feels, but he's had to do work too. You just can't take a pill and not learn how to recognise pressures, stressors and how to deal with them. You need to learn what your triggers are and how to head them off at the pass if you can, sometimes you can't.

You have much to offer life and life has much to offer you. Fight for it, fight through your depression. Let people help you, both friends, family and professionals. Learn why you have it and how to minimise it. Learn to love life and all that it throws at you. And remember this about depression - you start off having more bad days than good (sometimes all bad days), then it's bad days and good days, then it's more good days than bad days until life gets better.

If you have depression I'm thinking of you. All the best and, even though I'm not much of a hugger, I'm sending my best ones your way.

One Sizzling Summer, Kate Patrick

Very nice, uncomplicated yet sexy M/F romance from a very stylish writer.

- By Kazza K

This is a very polished book from the writing to the editing to the characters.

Both MC’s are likeable, mature and intelligent. They both have careers that they take seriously. Ava working towards her Psychology Doctorate, Quinton working towards furthering his acting career. No-one is needy or co-dependent, yet they care deeply for one another.

Quinton is charming. He’s also sexy as all get out, so he’s not boring in any sense of the word. He’s not your stereotypical, brash alpha male. He’s a contemporary romance nice guy.

Ava is understanding, caring, has a good career and friends. She's never a TSTL character.

The official blurb spells the contents of this book out really well. I don't need to elaborate much more. I also don't wish to give away the "secret" Ava has, but you can work it out fairly easily

There are some lovely thoughts and lines throughout the book. It’s all very romantic and charming in nature.

For those looking for a traditional style of M/F romance, with no BDSM or rough play, no major it is. There is a period of self-sacrificing from Ava, and a silly moment from Quinton, but that's pretty much it. However, the pacing was never dull, I wanted to see how it would all work out. One Sizzling Summer will be a breath of fresh air for the true romance enthusiast. It hits the mark beautifully; it’s sexy and stylish all at once.

My only (personal) niggle, and it's a small one, is it got a little gushy/saccharine towards the end - a lot of 'I love you's.' I think I'm old and jaded :(

I thought Stephen was a dish, he needs a book. You can rub my shoulders Stephen. Maria needs a book too.

Siren Publishing caters to an extremely wide variety of tastes in the books they publish. They do have some gems in their writing ranks and I believe Kate Patrick is one of them. If you like a well written romance, with some sizzling sex, then I recommend you grab a copy of One Sizzling Summer.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Born to be Wilde, G A Hauser

Oooh, G A Hauser pushed all my hot buttons with this book....and I LOVED  it!

- Review by Kazza K

Born to be Wilde is about Jesse James Wilde, or JJ, a level two offender/inmate at the Salinas Valley State Prison in California. He received 12 years for narcotics distribution but had his sentence commuted to 6 years for good behaviour; but constantly lives with the threat of his full term being reinstated. When we meet JJ his prison term is in its last months.

The book is also about Michael McClintock, ironically, a probationary corrections officer on his first job and his impact on JJ and, quite frankly, the SVSP in general. He doesn't know whether he's cut out for the job, because he commits the cardinal sin of letting his desires be known for an inmate, that he's gay. He cops heaps of guff from prisoners and peers alike, including "Willy Weiner," a fellow officer who is a sleazy, hypocritical, trouble-making voyeur. All the secondary characters were interesting, including McClintock’s partner, Lloyd Bell, and JJ’s jail buddies, Eric, Arial and his cellmate Corey. I kept laughing at Eric's eating habits and the constant mealtime exchange between Eric and JJ -

"You going to eat those potatoes, JJ?" "No. Here, Eric." JJ scraped them onto Eric's tray.

Eric shrugged. "You going to eat the rest of your eggs?" "No. Here."

"You going to eat that burger?"Eric pointed to JJ's plate.

"You going to eat your Jell-O?" "No. Here" JJ gave it to him.

I will admit this book was slow to begin with. It simply detailed the day in a life of being in prison, and the day in the life of a prison guard. Around 15% through I thought “no way am I going to go the distance on this, this is like reading Big Brother.” I hate Big Brother. I’m glad I hung in there though as it picks up after this. Life in prison is a cycle of sameness with the days seemingly repeated over and over again and G A Hauser sets the tone well. The prisoners and guards all gossip and create dramas; the inmates to break their monotony -

"Who's the new guard?" Arial spoke with his mouth full, "Mike McClintock, fucker's only 22."

Jesse gave him (Michael) a sweet smile and they met gazes. Catcalls immediately rang out -

"Kiss him McClintock! Ya know ya wanna!" "You two lovebirds wanna be alone?" "Let Weiner know when you fuck! He'll want in!"

"Hey lovebirds!" 'Going for some good fag fucking?" "Who takes it up the ass for who?"

You get two POV's in this book. You see JJ's life in prison juxtaposed against Michael's life as a newbie officer as well as his time spent outside the prison walls. You get a strong sense of what's going on inside both MC's heads. How they're both coping in their respective situations, how they're feeling about prison life, about work, about each other, their passion. Their personal feelings towards one another are out there for the reader to see every step of the way. JJ is out as gay, Michael is not, however gossip and his behaviour in the prison drags him out of the closet.

There’s no great social commentary in this book, there’s no real angst, apart from tension caused by a territorial pissing match over JJ between McClintock and Carlos Rios, a gang leader. It had me wondering whether jail rape was going to be on the cards. It also looked at heightened emotions and paranoia developing towards the end of a sentence and how easily an inmate could get an extension on their sentence for someone dragging them into their shit because they can. The sexual encounters between JJ and Michael were off the charts. There is full blown insta-lust in this book. Michael lusts hard-core over JJ from the very moment he sees him. Maybe some other writer might have infuriated me with it, but I just went with GA Hauser and enjoyed the hell out of where she took me. Hooley Dooley, I wanted JJ just because Michael wanted him so bad.

Because of the jail setting, they just can’t be with each other, they have to be creative. The way they touch, tease for a lot of the book drives JJ crazy, it drove me crazy. The inmates are forbidden from wanking-off (amongst other sexual activities), it’s an automatic write-up, along with other penalties, so JJ is melting, and masturbation for Michael doesn’t cut it. When they do have sex - yowzer!!

I think this will be a love or hate book for readers. I don’t think there will be grey areas. Somewhat because of how people view this prison setting, or because of preconceived ideas of prison in general. Mostly, I feel it will be how readers view Michael McClintock – is he abusing his power with JJ? Is he TSTL in the way he ogles JJ, and makes his feelings so obvious? How realistic is he in his prison lust/affair? Can someone get into that many professional scrapes in such a short timeframe? I personally loved Michael, he was so ballsy. He was such a HUGE alpha presence, and the way he looked out for JJ blew me away - did I think a newbie could do all he did? No, but I didn't give a damn, I loved his passion and I enjoyed the ride immensely.

The book covers JJ's time in jail (most of the book), to post jail and has a HEA for those who love their HEA’s. I had a few niggles, but not enough to overtake the love I had for this book. I really loved Michael and got caught up in JJ’s world. I thought JJ was a decent guy who had made a mistake at 20 years of age, which he paid for. I loved them together and although they didn’t really have enough to build a relationship on (one of my little niggles), I didn’t particularly care because they just worked for me. I loved them post jail as much as in jail, although in jail the sex was rougher and so forbidden fruit-ish, mmm, mmm.

I really, really enjoyed this book. I definitely recommend it to M/M lovers. I’ve never read anything by G A Hauser before, but this just grabbed me. I have to fess up about my love of a captive fuck, an interesting alpha male, an alpha and submissive in a captive fuck situation, AND I watch America’s/Russia’s/any where’s Toughest Prisons; so I may be biased as I’m catered to on all fronts by this book. Oh. Yes. I loved the cover, bang on for Jesse James Wilde.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Pure Sex, D J Manly


Think I just found another great writer in one of my favourite genres. Loved this book.

- Review by Kazza K

Second D J Manly ebook in twenty four 24 hours for me and I'm totally impressed.  The writing is quite concise yet conveys real feelings.

Pure sex is about Lance, an escort of sorts, who signs a contract with older, rich men to be their sexual partner for a stipulated time period; with the understanding that he provides his service with no love attached. In return he has life's luxuries and comforts come his way. It's all quite official and detached, as Lance does not think much of love and its associated problems. His contract has worked well enough before with an older gentleman, Freddy, who has recently died. Now Lance has to move on and Freddy had suggested Jackson Scott as a potential candidate for Lance's particular skillset and requirements.

Jackson Scott likes attractive men and likes Lance's proposition of sexual favours for a nice lifestyle in return; after all Lance is a very attractive and sexual man. Contract done, but Lance gets a lot more than he bargained for. Jackson is all about partying hard and owning his contracted boy-toy's arse, he makes Jackson feel like a whore and gets him to do anyone, anyway, anytime he likes. All except Jackson's favourite employee and more than occasional favourite Top, Tobias.

Tobias Naso gets paid well by Jackson, needs the money to help care for his sick grandmother who raised Tobias and his sister, Marina. Tobias well and truly earns his money looking after all and sundry - from making sure Jackson gets his orange juice on time, to helping with company work problems, and partying with those Jackson finds it amusing for him to party with.

I liked this book on several fronts. First the sex is just wow, and there are no restrictions/limits. These guys fuck around. Jackson has the money and the ability to have gorgeous men around him and he does so. He makes no excuses for utilising his wealth for what he wants.

Second, I liked the reality of the situation. Lance feels he has control, he doesn't. The man with the money, the house, the lifestyle always calls the shots, no matter how much Lance may feel otherwise. Toby and Jackson clearly highlight this point when Toby discusses his growing feelings about Lance to Jackson -

Toby "I'm not his type. I can't keep him in the lifestyle he's been accustomed." Jackson "And I can, so I win."

Lance's situation becomes complicated because he starts to feel something for Tobias. The feelings are reciprocated, but there is angst attached. Lance is not at all certain what love feels like and doesn't know how to proceed, Tobias feels claustrophobic, caught between his loyalty to Jackson, need to take care of his grandmother, and feelings for Lance. Jackson just plays the men and has a bit of fun.

I actually liked all the main players in this book. Whilst the writing was nice and simple the characters were anything but. They were multi-layered. Yes, it's easy to dislike Lance because of his mostly detached, arrogant manner, but I found him sympathetic. He did not have a track record of ripping off his partners and his childhood was not nice and shiny. Jackson is who he is, if I could have gorgeous bodies around me whenever I wanted I might just do that too. Tobias is a very likeable character stuck in a 'better the devil you know' kind of situation. Tobias added a much understood, human element into the mix.

The only thing that let this book down was the end. In spite of the positive outcome it was rushed. Pure Sex is a steamy read with really interesting characters. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

The Pro, D J Manly


Two of my favourites in one book - Rent-boy and cop. Really well written and a damn good read.

- Review by Kazza K

This was an excellent read. I've read three rent-boy books in as many days. This one is the best hands down.

Zach is an emotionally burnt out cop attached to the SFPD, who drinks too much, mornings included, and is obsessed with putting away a man responsible for his waking and sleeping nightmares of a four year old girl that was left for dead and he couldn't save. His 'work' obsession has ended his previous relationship with his partner, Peter, and he's lonely, sexually frustrated, with attitude to back it up.

Lee is a $2,000 a night hooker who's client base is obviously wealthy, including some shady and/or high profile men. Lee has all types and one of the interesting things about this book is observing him in business mode with them. I liked Lee, he's a pretty decent guy who looks at what he does as a form of social work, with good pay. One of his regular clients, Daniel Lebeau, fits into the shady category, and is the man Zach has been obsessed about putting away for the little girls death. Lee is starting to get toey about his job because the word whore starts being bandied about more often now, and he gets shaken up at a client's house one night as well.

Because Zach is constantly on Labeau's case he spots Lee whilst with Labeau and coerces him into being his insider. Lee isn't too keen but he's less keen on Zach's threats to be purposely indiscreet about Lee with Lee's clients, which will effectively leave him a pariah without work.

The dialogue is so good in this book, the snarky Zach and sexy Lee go at it and eventually become lovers, and my lord isn't that steamy. The crime component to the book is excellent; I feel the sex to plot ratio is perfect. The storyline is insta-attraction, but you do get to see a development of the MC's relationship and they don't jump into bed together straight away. I also liked the realistic thoughts from Lee about his clients - some have small penises, one is overweight and living at home with mother, one is dying, some are attractive and so on. Some rent-boy books are all about how wonderful every client is.

I love cop books, I love rent-boy books, although it's hard to get a good one, and this one has both in a well written package, complete with delicious protagonists. It was a good read and it kept me turning the pages wanting to see what was going to happen. The Pro is highly recommended reading.

Monday, 16 July 2012

The Epic Love Story of Doug and Stephen, Valerie Z Lewis


- Review by Kazza K

This is a quirky, random, funny book with rather endearing, if not offbeat characters. Therefore I enjoyed the writing immensely.

Doug is thicker than a 2 inch T-bone, he's pretty, models, and makes Derek Zoolander seem like Einstein in comparison (sorry Doug, much love to you though). In Doug’s defence, he does do justice to the axiom that thinking is overrated. He also sees the silver lining around things, sees the good in people, even ‘long-suffering Stephen.’ Oddly, he also listens, and at the most important moments does or says something profound, he doesn’t know it, it just happens. After hearing Stephen say how hurt he's been by being called "a friend" by his ex partner, Phil, to Phil's parents, Doug simply rang his mum, introduced Stephen as his boyfiriend and they had a nice converstation. It was rather beautiful. Stephen had an actual moment of rare and genuine affection and appreciation for Doug -

"Thank you," Stephen repeated. "For being proud of me."

To get full impact you need to read the book. It's like that, there are so many wonderful words and potential quotes, but they are long, and you just can't do them justice in a review.

Stephen is the king of ‘misery loves company.’ He’s convinced he has some depressive disorder, sees the worst case scenario in everything. Hates everyone, himself included. He threatens people dryly with muderer and punching. He is an assistant editor at a Gay magazine, The Flame, yet gets to write fluff about cats in orange swimsuits (I made that up, but that’s the gist of it). He feels the injustice of being a persecuted minority, Stephen's a none-to-happy gay. He loves to read books that pay homage to his suffering and justifies the worst in people and the world. But he’s been hurt, he’s a sensitive soul underneath all his bitter words and thoughts; so he takes absolutely everything to heart.

Doug decides he's going to be gay for Stephen, and boy does he follow through on it. No matter how much Stephen puts him down, snarks at him or carries on, Doug, God bless his innability to hear what's being said, just hangs on in there. I mean they share a deep love of Detective Logan from Law and Order. What more could one want? Oh yes, there's also an intrigue in the book, a corporate scam to investigate, but Doug,Stephen and other characters are really the heart of this book.

Both Doug and Stephen, in particular, are the primary medium for light yet sure social commentary. This is not to say the cast of secondary characters aren't, they most definitely are - inclduing homeless people, a drug dealer, drug buyers, corporate baddies, a photographer, family members and remembered friends.

I loved the observation about the corporate world - one guy is well educated, smart, works hard, but there’s no recognition. Another is pretty to look at, none too smart, incapable of putting more than “the top is itchy” into his, supposed, column that other people stretch out for him, and gets paid for it – welcome to the perplexing world of business.

While this is an extremes-in-character piece of writing, it’s a pretty good satire on life, work, a shitty healthcare system, the lemming mentality; and being middle class and smart doesn't often equate to being happy or right. All done in a humorous way.

My only criticisms would be that the book got a bit bogged down in New York at times, and the ending did the book no favours at all. It literally just stopped.

This is a hard book to classify. It's LGBT at heart, but it's not your stock standard romance, just for the record. What it is is a good piece of writing. Valerie Z Lewis should be proud of what she has achieved with The Epic Love Story of Doug and Stephen. Her observations of people and life are sharp, her general writing witty and clever. If you like quirky and unusual with interesting characters then I highly recommend Doug and Stephen.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Depression, Recognising It.


- By Kazza K

I'm posting two blogs on depression - Depression Part 1, Recognising It. Then I will post over the next few days Depression Part 2, Some Helpful Strategies and Ideas to Cope. This is all done within the frame of a friendly blog. I truly dislike depression and I know the stats are around 1 in 5 people at any point in time is suffering from depression. We were talking about it on FaceBook recently and I felt like sharing my thoughts and feelings. I've worked with depressed clients, I've helped depressed friends, and I've suffered depression.

Without rattling on too much about my experience I feel it's important to state that I have suffered depression. I don't mind people knowing, it's nothing to be ashamed of, just for the record. I had the most shocking Post Natal Depression. Basically, it was Post Natal Psychosis. I won't go into all the details, because there are too many things to cover, and it was awful, but let's just say I couldn't cope after my son's birth, at all. I couldn't perform the most basic of everyday activities - like make up formula, feed my child, look after my 7 year old, cook dinner, pull myself together much to stop crying or panicking. I also felt like I wanted to run away - where to I could never say - but my husband caught me trying to escape through the back gate on a number of occasions. I also couldn't sleep, I was lucky to have 3 hours sleep a day which, of course, compounds things. I also kept battling inner voices telling me to "just drop my son" or for me to "stand behing the car" as my husband reversed out of the garage. There was more, but I don't wish to elaborate. I didn't fill my husband in on these horrific, frightening thoughts until I was more lucid, which was quite a few months down the track. My husband knew what a state I was in by and large, and would not leave me alone, at all. We were lucky to be self employed so he could do this for me and for our family. My husband's family were scattered to the four winds, so they couldn't help and my family are best not discussed. After I recoverd from the initial loss of total control and inability to function, I felt like my life amounted to not much more than trying to crawl out of a big black hole, with no footholds anywhere to be seen. Obviously my life got better, I'm a therapist and I've worked with plenty of clients, post my own major depressive episode, but it took years for me to get properly back on my feet again. I'm still prone to depressive bouts, not a lot but they do occur. If you have a severe depressive episode it sometimes has a hangover effect of smaller/ocassional bouts of depression after, but please don't think this is true of everyone; I had a particularly severe psychotic episode. What exacerbates this for me is that I cannot handle any anti-depressants, which, well, sucks, because AD's can be incredibly helpful for people suffering depression, particularly for those with more moderate to severe depression.

Yes, there are degrees of severity of depression, just as there is with anxiety. Together with your therapist and/or doctor you will be able to work out how severe your depression is and what should be done to help you through. Of course, family members are invaluable at knowing how bad things may be for you as they love you and notice details that you maybe too close to to analyse clearly. So below I have a checklist included for you to peruse, this is not meant to replace talking to a professional and it's not all encompassing. People have some different experiences, for example when I had my PND/P I couldn't guage temperature of water or weather, my doctor had not heard of this before. So this list is not to be used as a be all and end all, just a guide if you or someone you know needs it. I'm putting it on this book reviews and therapy blog as a talking point, an assistance not to replace actual professional help -

Depression Checklist

(Just answer yes or no to the following)

For more than TWO WEEKS have you –

1) Felt sad, down, miserable or irritable most of the time?                              

2) Lost interest or pleasure in all or nearly all your usual activities?              

If you answered YES to EITHER of these questions then look at the checklist below –


Stopped going out                                                     

Not getting things done at school/work/home         

Withdrawing from family                                        

Withdrawing from regular friends                           

Stopped doing things you’ve enjoyed                      

Unable to concentrate                                                

More forgetful (than usual)                                       


 “I’m a failure”                                                           

“It’s all my fault”                                                       

“Nothing good ever happens to me”                          

“I’m worthless”                                                          

“Life is not worth living”                                           

“I just want to run away”                                           

"Everyone is better than me"                                      



Unhappy, sad                                                             



No confidence                                                            




Tired all of the time/a lot of the time    
Sick & run down                                                        


Muscle pains                                                              

Upset stomach/Diarrhea                                            

Chest pain/pain down the arm (on left side)             

Can’t sleep/Trouble falling asleep                             

Waking in the middle of the night then unable
to get back to sleep                                                    

Can’t get out of bed                                                   

Poor appetite/weight loss                                          

As I said before, there are other things that you may be feeling. For me, I just constantly felt like a complete failure as a mother, amongst harsher thoughts. Everybody else seemed to be cruising along and I was falling apart. I had a lovely baby boy, a wonderful daughter, and a terrific husband, but I was a mess. I also felt like I was watching a movie go by. One day I sat in our car, with my daughter, while my husband took our baby boy to quickly go buy groceries, and I just fell apart as I felt like I wasn't part of the world outside the car. It was like a movie, a horror movie starring me. Also, what can start as poor to no appetite can change into cravings for sweet things. I love music but when I'm depressed I don't listen to it, nor do I sing and I pretty much always sing. So, there are other personal, specific things not on this checklist, but please use it as a general guide.

In the next sheet, Depression Part 2, Some Helpful Ideas to Cope, I will write about some positives,  things to think about, ideas. Remember, with depression you project into the future based on how you feel now. That is a false projection based on your current mood. How you feel now will not always be the way your life will be. This is something I know personally, something I tell my friends and clients -

You start off having mostly bad days, then some good days, then more good days than bad days, then good days rule. This is what happens. You will not always feel depressed. Life will get better. 

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Behind Iron Lace, Mercy Celeste

Mercy Celeste writes an erotic, passionate story with cajun heat and soul.

- Review by Kazza K

Okay, there’s going to be an abuse of the word love in this review because I bloody well loved this book! No actual review just my drooling words.

I loved the two MC's, Darcy and Caleb, from the get-go. The secondary characters were excellent, even bitch-face Bailey was so perfectly true of the manipulative mind.

I loved the Cajun and French dialect/language that were used. I come from a country where there is no regional dialect and I love hearing distinct dialect or reading it when well done, as it is here. Do not mistake the lack of my own country's regional dialects as not knowing different dialects and variances within same.

I personally don’t see this book as insta-love. To qualify that further - while there's initial attraction, they did build and share personal feelings on top of that. I loved that build-up between the guys and they didn’t have sex right off the bat.

Darcy was always trying to do the right thing - follow Bailey, make her happy, not disappoint his staff, do the right thing by his readers, never let his mum and dad down, be straight. That’s the right thing to do, isn’t it? Not when you aren’t straight. Not when you’re hiding who you are. When Bailey had a snitty moment with Darcy –

"I thought better of you, Darcy, you’re a nice man –“  “I’m a man, Bailey. I have needs that include sex. I don’t want to be a nice man. I’m tired of being nice, I’m tired of doing the right thing, the responsible thing. I’m twenty-nine fucking years old and I’ve never done anything I want to do. I’ve always done what other people expect of me. My parents, teachers, and then you."

I also do not see this book as a GFY either. I read it as a man who put himself last and had learned to hide his true feelings and identity to the point of becoming asexual. This is then supported by a conversation Darcy had with Amber, an employee and confidant, about his room filled with posters and none of them women, no girly magazines (when growing up) and it was always Bailey who initiated sex when, and after, they got together.

I loved Darcy, he was a nice guy caught up in right and wrong, and loving hot-man-sex when he finally put up the green light. Thank you for that green fucking light.

I loved Caleb - with his dark past, his overt sexiness. Loved his dirty talk. He had lost a lot of important people in his life. He was good at appearing confident, but he was scarred and scared and it made him an interesting character.

Was the book perfect, perhaps no, but I don’t care, because it was full of emotion, hot sex, there was
an age difference, and three dimensional MC’s, whom I adored and were infused with such life and soul. It was also ramped up by the sheer passion that Darcy and Caleb could set free around one another. I am an unabashed Mercy Celeste fan. She mixes her writing up and she never fails the face- melting, window fogging, holy shit! sex I love. However, that’s only part of it, sex without a strong storyline and good characters is meaningless, and I'm never let down by one of Ms Celeste's books on any front. 

What can I say? I love, love, love this book. Once it. It reminds me of Cameron Dane’s writing style, and I have a huge woman crush on Cameron Dane, so....If you haven’t read Behind Iron Lace I’d say grab a copy asap,  I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Dirty Fighters, Kyle Adams

Mmm, Mmm, Mmm. Short and H.O.T!!

- Review by Kazza K

This is mighty short, but mighty the best sense of the word. Cross and Striker = fuckaliciously yummy. Nothing like two guys having a naughty "rematch" UFC style fight in a
private home this time, with a saucy outcome.

Two words to sum this short read up - Naked Combat. If you've seen the videos you'll know what I mean.

Dirty Fighters is a nice, sexy, well written, engaging piece of writing.

Kyle Adams writes a mean short.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Destiny's Path, Kimberly Hunter

An interesting take on wolf shifters. Nice, contemporary/ fairytale-esque read.

- Review by Kazza K
Sasha Edwards is an ordinary 35 year old out for a night with some friends. I liked Sasha from the get go, she's self-deprecating, sincere, and a straight shooter. When she's out she meets a handsome man, Gabe, who she hit with her "no nookie speech" which, I might add, I loved - "And before the game even gets started, I need to tell you that talking is all you're going to get. I'm not into one-night stands, and I've never been picked up in a bar. I'm not the casual sex sort, nor am I an easy mark. You're hot, one of the hottest men I've ever met, but that doesn't mean I'll be leaving here with you tonight." Irrespective of the speech Gabe stays around, they talk, he escorts her out to her car, when she's attacked by a large 'dog.' Gabe rescues her, she blacks out and ends up in a coma. Sasha's life changes from this point. She discovers that it wasn't a dog that attacked her, rather an ancient lupus and she is now well and truly in the world of shape-shifting wolves.

Sasha has to undergo a potentially deadly First Transformation, be a True Mate to Flynn, the pack Alpha's twin brother, deal with a Challenge by a jealous former lover of Flynn's - a fight instigated by the pack's female Alpha - and help with an ancient prophecy. Plus, she has to learn to kick arse as her wolf nature develops.

I don't want to give much away, because it's a good read, and the prophecy and current ordeals are all interwoven well, and are interesting; I feel best left to the individual to read for themselves.

I really liked Sasha, she was a no-nonsense, straight shooter, with a good sense of humour - After Roan, the pack Alpha, explains about the Challenge, Sasha thinks to herself -

'Oh, is that all. I just kick her butt and take her place? No problem. That is if she survived the First Transformation. Then she wouldn't have to worry about fighting the Alpha bitch. She'd be dead and Flynn along with her. Jeez, some days it didn't pay to come out of a coma.' 

And when digesting the idea of the pain attached to First Transformation Sasha asked -

"I guess drugs are out of the question?"

As it sounded somewhat like labour, I'd ask the same thing :)

This is actually my third book by Ms Hunter and she seems to have fun with her stories and her characters. I can always kick back and enjoy without stress. No matter what the story, there is always a strong theme of family-is-what-you-make-it, and who you choose to make it with. Family isn't necessarily about biology in her books. Plus, this book had a whimsical quality to it - hard working, struggle-street woman finds a larger than life, caring, sexy man who, quite frankly, was rather perfect. I'm not generally about perfect characters, I'm a trouble-looking, angst loving person. However, because of the almost fairytale quality to Destiny's Path, it doesn't bother me, it fits into the overriding theme.

Just a few niggles for me. Even though we get Flynn's POV too, I just didn't feel like I really knew him. Sure he was nice, caring, all I've previously stated, but I would have liked just a bit more on his development.  I felt like I knew Roan more than Flynn. Sometimes it was a little more 'tell than show,' but all in all nothing major.
If you like a nice shifter book, some interesting characters, including a no-nonsense heroine who deserves a HEA, then I would recommend Destiny's Path.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Heartstrings (Chronicles of Ylandre book 4), Eressë

I love this series. Worth the wait. Eressë is a talented wordsmith and backs it up with another beautiful book.

- Review by Kazza K

The Chronicles of Ylandre is a tremendous series, beautifully descriptive with wonderful use of the English language in its prose. This series smacks of meticulous planning - every book from 1 – 4 spans approximately the same timeline, interweaving the previous books MC's and occurrences with the current book's MC's as their own relationship unfolds. The world building that Eressë has previously constructed serves her well, as nothing of any great note is new here, just bits and pieces. There’s really no need, it’s all been gloriously built leading into Heartstrings, allowing for a complex story of love lost, love gained, lessons learned, friendships, and new shared and undying love.

Eiren Sarvan and Ashrian Mithani are cousins who have formed a relationship, been together for over 10 years and, even though Ren secretly craves more of a commitment from Ash, none is forthcoming. Ren is a hard working healer, often giving up his own time to look after the needs of patients suffering from any and all maladies; irrespective of title, or hour of the day/night, he’s available to help. Ash is a wealthy blueblood, free spirited, lacking a sense of purpose, experiencing upper class ennui. He has shares in the family holdings, however, he is not the oldest son, so he mostly parties and spends time enjoying the local nightlife. Ren is very serious about his career, almost to the exclusion of his relationship and his personal needs. Even on his downtime Ren travels to markets in search of herbs and material for medicinal purposes. Ash is the antithesis of this and, at times, resentfully acts out by bedding other men. Eventually you know something is going to give.

So, there is infidelity in the first part of this book, no two ways about it. Mostly, it’s not in your face, if that bothers you, but it’s there and it's Ash's final transgression that is beyond hurtful to Ren and forms a central part of what transpires and why. Bear in mind, that these are both grown men - Ash was a definite cad, he slept around, Ren knew about Ash’s dalliances and allowed him to get away with them, even justified it -

‘It was one thing to try to make amends when he’d left Ashrian wanting, and another matter entirely when Ashrian had chosen to rectify his discontent by taking another Deir to bed. That rankled far more deeply than Eiren was willing to admit to anyone even when they had already guessed at the extent of his hurt. How could he still hold his head up in the face of Ashrian’s indiscretions if he owned himself so deeply in love with his errant cousin that he preferred to deny or endure his transgressions rather than break off their affair and thereby forge a life without him? Their cousins had urged him often enough to give Ashrian an ultimatum—behave or be done with their affair. Each time, Eiren had refused, saying he had no liking for coercive dealings. But the truth was, he was not certain Ashrian cared enough to want to continue their relationship at the cost of his freedom. were their liaison to end, Eiren was certain he would suffer more.’

After a major betrayal Ren can no longer take anymore of Ashrian's behaviour. He takes up an offer to leave Rikara and work in another hospital, in Camara, for a year, thus leaving Ash and their relationship behind. Ash is devastated and writes to Ren hoping to reconcile but Ren writes back telling him his letter is meaningless. Ash decides to wait, give Ren time, and when he comes back to Rikara he'll be able to win his affections again. When Ren does return Ash pulls strings to attend his offical home coming party, normally earmarked for healthcare officials, only to learn that Ren is now mated to another, Firyon. Since Ash has been waiting for Ren to come home with hopes of rekindling their relationship he is shattered.

This really is a book of two halves. There is Ashrian part 1 and part 2. Ash part 1 leaves much to be desired, he is often egocentric and childish. He has a point to some of his feelings, but not to the extent to which he acts out. Even though he wants Ren back he still doesn't accept nearly the responsibility he should for his actions. Ren part 1 is a kind, hard working man, but lets Ash have too many liberties and works too hard. Ash part 2 makes massive changes to his heart and mind, becomes a better man, worthy of friendship, forgiveness and love. Ren part 2 has come through being hurt, bitter, and resigned to accept bad behaviour from a partner. He now knows there is better to be had.

After Ren and Firyon settle into Rikara Firyon decides to make a friend of Ashrian, knowing fully of his mate's past with Ashrian. After some snarkiness from Ash and much effort from Firyon, Ash, Ren, and Firyon do become a close-knit group. There is no physical affair between Ren and Ash whilst Ren is mated to Firyon, but there are dreams shared through a bond. Some may feel funny about the dreams that Ren has that pull Ash into them whilst he's married to Firyon that, perhaps, the dreams are cheating. Firyon knows of the love that Ren and Ash have for one another, that he is sick, dying, that is what led him to Ren, that he is just passing through Ren and Ash's love, and he is accepting of this fact. On one occasion Firyon said to Ash -

"I’ve often thought that maybe the both of you met in a previous lifetime.... And perhaps ’tis just a whim of mine, but what if you’ve been together before, Ash? Maybe over many life cycles. Though obviously you never soul-bound, else you’d have wed each other long ago. Then again, maybe ’twas as Veres meant it to be.”

“What do you mean?” Ashrian asked in bewilderment.

“Mayhap He didn’t have you bind earlier so that you could lend Eiren to me in this life cycle. To ease my passage from the world.”

Then Firyon to Ren -

“Tis all right" Firyon whispered, correctly discerning his silence, "I'd accepted even before we met that I'd likely never regain my health. But I never imagined I'd get to experience such joy as I've had with you. So you see, you've given me the greatest gift of all. I'm forever grateful I was given this chance to love and be loved. So many folk never do."

So much more could be written in this review because there's quite a bit going on in the book. Know it is angsty, and difficult at times, there are subjects touched on that will intrigue some but bother others. This series really is best read from book 1 through, to get maximum enjoyment. I guess it could be read as a standalone, but I personally wouldn't recommend it. I also want to say that these are the only mpreg books I've ever been interested in reading.

There is a sadness, as Firyon dies, but there is also a lovely HEA in this book, which I found incredibly satisying, particularly in the birth of a son for Ash and Ren and the name of Ash and Ren's son. So respectful, and endearing, showing how far Ashrian had come. It shows that loved ones can live on in other ways. I loved all 3 of the MC's. Even though Firyon is not a huge focal point in the book, he is an incredibly kind and strong presence, a conduit for change in Ash and Ren's life – soothing Ren’s hurt and bitterness, and helping Ash become kinder of heart.

Well, Eressë nails it again for me. Heartstrings certainly pulled at mine, and it's another wonderful addition to one of my favourite series. I love these mpreg, sci-fantasy, hermaphroditic men with an absolute passion. I hope there is not as long a wait for the next installment in The Chronicles of Ylandre because I can't get enough.

If you have made it to the end of this review, congratulations are in order. This is a rather long winded review. :)

Sunday, 8 July 2012

A Dangerous Man, Anne Brooke

This book is incredibly dark. But it is real and beautifully written. It haunts you during and after.  

- Review by Kazza K

Here is a book that pieces together a very disturbed, traumatised mind. That shows you the effects of the physical on the mental. This is going to be the most intense and bizarre review I think I've ever posted. If you have read the book you still may not understand what the hell I'm saying, sorry, but I must debrief.

Michael is an aspiring young artist, who sells himself for money to help him survive, but more importantly to help him survive until he can reach his artistic goal of his own exhibition and beyond. When we first meet Michael he is living with a local gallery owner, Joe, and Joe's partner, Paul. Lord I have trouble writing Paul's name, he is the most horrendously disgusting individual. Throughout this book Michael cleans up, picks up after everyone, it's a means of control over his chaotic, seemingly powerless life. After one night where Paul uses Michael sexually in lieu of rent money, Michael cleans - Alone, I tidied up my cupboard-sized bedroom,resisting thoughts of what had happened that morning and the night before. It wasn't hard; putting things away where I didn't have to think of them again was something I was good at. And re: Jack's place - Again all was so clean it made me want to stay forever

Jack needs some art work for his reinsurance company, to contemporise their collection. Joe feels Michael may (or may not) be what the company is looking for. Jack meets Michael when Michael takes his porfolio in for viewing at the company. Michael then decides, after the original portfolio viewing, to chase Jack to get the commission. He wants the job, needs to prove he can do this, plus he is attracted to Jack.

The book is from Michaels POV, which is excellent because you see him struggle talking to people, coping with what most others consider to be everyday situations, how he views love and his ongoing, and most powerfully, deep seated issues of trust; his increasingly disturbed inner machinations.

This book tackles the subject of ones' environment, abuse, obsession, and the bleak outlook marginalised people, particularly those with mental health issues, suffer in our society. The effects of childhood abuse is horrendous, this book may be fiction, but it is grounded in fact. I am very picky on the psychological aspects of a book, probably OTT. Frighteningly, I can't fault this book.

I loved Michael, poor soul that he was, and I read this book with constant grief in my heart and tears in my eyes as I knew where he was going, as I felt his life come together yet unravel before me. To see Michael is to see attachment disorder or a personality disorder in motion. I could understand why people may not feel kindly towards Michael, but I was drawn to him, to his plight.

I also loved Jack, he was, at heart, a decent man in a relationship that could never go anywhere but down. Jack could never fully understand his lover's perspective. It was mission impossible - emotionally, economically they were poles apart. Michael loved the idea of comfort with Jack, whilst feeling physically ill because of it at the same time. Jack saw a beautiful and vulnerable young man, someone that needed him, that he wanted to rescue but could never, ever help. Jack was vunerable after the breakdown of a relationship recently, and he wasn't into 'the scene.' Along came this aesthetically pleasing, emotional, but edgy young man, who chased Jack with fervour. Unfortunately for all concerned, Michael was beyond broken, he was ruined - broken implies you can fix something, ruined is beyond repair.

This book is very, very dark. There is no happiness here. Given the way it started, the undertone, the direction, the characters, it would have been bullshit if it went in any other direction. So, having said its bleak, it's also amazingly well written, and starkly, beautifully real. Anne Brooke is a superb writer, both from a technical and artistic standpoint. I cannot fault the characterizations here at all or the psychology. The impact of the book comes from the depth of meaning that Ms Brooke was able to convey so powerfully. For example Michael draws in charcoals and pencils, Joe keeps telling him he needs to soften things, change atyle, but Michael can't, he is incapable of seeing anything but blacks, greys, monochromatic tones to life - to see anything else leads to a frightening annihilation of his mind. His life is a series of light and dark moments, even in the light he portrays darkness. When he sees in colour it is indeed a dangerous man that is set loose, as all checks and balances become null and void. All the places are vivid - Hackney, Islington, Surrey are so strongly juxtaposed against one another to show you how Michael feels and behaves when he's in these places - confused, sick, scared, out of control or resigned.

I recommend this book to those that are interested in a well written book about fragile psychology, tenuous control, with real cause. It is an intense (LGBT) book where romance is not the all encompassing theme, rather individuals' complexities are, and how easily tragedy can collide with everyday life. A Dangerous Man is a very powerful and haunting book.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

My Son the Aspie.

Living With/Raising a son with Aspergers.

- By Kazza K

My son, D, is an aspie. If you're reading this and you know what an aspie is, then chances are you've got your very own aspie. If not, then it's an affectionate term we use for someone with Aspergers Syndrome, which is part of the Autism Spectrum of Disorders; mind you if the DSM V has anything to say about it, everything will be lumped under Autism, but I'll leave that one alone. So, I'm part of the aspie club that many other parents belong to worldwide. You know with all the years I had as a therapist behind me I didn't recognise my son had Aspergers until we got to critical mass when he was in his teens. I guess I was too close to him to really put 2 + 2 together. I just thought D was special, interesting, eccentric, quirky, and marched to the beat of his own drum. In our family that isn't something new, and it's certainly not an insult, we value it. We rather love the unusual, we're drawn to it, and 'it' to us. My husband is definitely an aspie now that I look clearly at it. So how was I to know? I married a wonderfully unique, certainly intense, and unbelievably intelligent man. If I love my husband so much how could D and his ways be unusual or an issue?

So what does being an aspie mean? What is it like as a parent? Well, this is my stripped down version, my experience with my son that I'm reflecting on, it's not meant to be a guide or gospel or even right, for want of a better word. I'm primarily speaking as a parent here, and my experiences are not everyone else's. One thing that I do know is that the Autism Spectrum of Disorders is vast and there are many behaviours that come under its umbrella. I want to state for the record that D is classified as high functioning Aspergers.

Some behaviours that I can say were very noticeable for us were -

D would never say hello or goodbye to anyone. He just didn't seem to notice people or get the relevance of greetings or farewells. We would constantly say "D, say hello" or "D, say goodbye, wave" or "D, such and such just said something to you, answer them back." This went on every day until he was in his mid-teens. By then he had become used to our rote instructions on social etiquette, it became easier for him. Once again we did not know until mid teens that D was an aspie we just got him to be involved or engaged in what we considered to be common courtesies.

D would be very happy to be on his own. That didn't mean he didn't hang out with people. He had a group that he would associate with at school, but he always had one person he felt most comfortable with and that was who he would be around. This happened through pre-school, kindergarten and primary school, in particular. He also found girls to be a gentler or quieter species (if he picked well, and he did),  he handled those qualities better. After school, though, he preferred to just be at home with us and unwind.

D found school stressful. As he grew older he told us that he couldn't cope with the social expectations of teachers and his peers; looking at people's faces, trying to read what they were saying or they meant. He also felt bored in the classroom and that he wasn't pushed enough, yet paradoxically, he couldn't cope with the pressures that could be placed up on him to achieve, achieve, achieve. School is a minefield for aspies - trying to fit into groups, find sympathetic friends, deal with teachers and frustrations.....and the bullies, who love to spot a weakness and go in for the kill. In high school if they changed the room an exam was in it became panic stations. One day D arrived home  unexpectedly in a 'state' because they changed a time and room on him for a major exam.

D could never handle raised voices, this is definitely in line with being overwhelmed, or hyper sensitive to noise. However, interestingly, in D's case, pots and pans banging around him in the kitchen sink didn't bother him, he could go to sleep with that particular noise soothing him, but human voices really did affect him. When he was a baby if you raised your voice an octave he would cry, and he was the most placid baby - he just ate and slept. To this day he's not good around the raised voices of conflict, better now, but definitely not good with it. Conflict is hard to decipher for an aspie, the conflict can be important for the people involved in it, they're resolving something, but for the aspie it's confusing, as it just seems hard to decipher or it seems angry. It can be hard to see any clear delineation between conflict resolution and confrontation for an aspie.

From toddler until now D never stopped moving. People would say to me - D "must have ADD, he never slows down" or "how can you handle him, he's so full of beans." I never thought about it, we all just did what we did and accepted who he was. He could never sit through a movie, still struggles. (Although, movies in a theatre can give him sensory overload). Once people drew my attention to his ants-in-the-pants routine, I guess I did see what they meant about his activity level, but, whatever. We always thought he would be a tap dancer as he used to do this incredible tapping movement across the floor of the dining room diagonally over and over and over. He does tap now:))

D is stubborn and would also attempt to wear you down if there was something he wanted. I don't just mean a day or two I mean months and months of persistently letting you know how important something was. He has never been a materialistic person, it was not about that; but if something got his attention, something that was a passion, he would be like a dog at a bone. We would all hang tough because to crack was not always an appropriate thing to do. More on this further down in obsession.

D has tics. When he was young if he became excited or overwhelmed by something he would grab his penis. Oh lord did this freak his kindergarten teacher out. She told me in no uncertain terms that this was "wrong" and he "needed help." Eventually, after another 'talking to', which I might add was condescending, I simply replied  "I am the help, and I say he's fine." She grudgingly left me alone after that. He grew out of this one in his own time - at least he wasn't grabbing, bullying, biting or punching some other child. 

D also blinks, another tic. He can't handle looking people in the eye, and if forced to for any length of time the blinks set in, if he's tired, the blinks set in, if he's stressed, the blinks set in - you get my drift. He used to get the flappies too, the hand movements, over gesticulation, and general hand-flap movements going on that a lot of aspies get, particularly when overwhelmed or over stimulated.The flappies just seemed to stop for D at, roughly, around 10. D understands the blinks, well, he knows they happen and he can minimise them more now that he is older. He can also maintain eye contact a bit longer and he has ways of looking beyond the person he's talking to in a way that doesn't say "I'm ignoring you", it's still not perfect, but it's pretty good.

D can hear things the wrong way. It's because of an aspies tendency towards being literal. D can hear things without the sarcasm or tongue-in-cheek humour that may have been there. In fact sarcasm is not an aspies friend. Because facial expressions are hard to read for aspies, what people mean and what aspies hear are often not one and the same. D felt people were having a go at him, he was overly sensitive, he had trouble distinguishing between dry humour and someone being mean. I remember D would come home from school and be quite upset or concerned over something someone said, when he told me I had to give him my interpretation of what was meant, and explain why that was the case. Obviously, not being there I could not always tell 100%. Sometimes he got it right, someone was simply being an arsehole. Talking to him about it helped a lot. Eventually he recongised sarcasm and dry humour more and more. Interacting with people got better and more understandable for him.

D always needed to be told to do the simplest of things over and over. "D, close the front door", because that never happens unless he is told, "D, don't lock the top lock on the door," not everyone has a key to that one, "D, close the sliding door, D, get in the car, it's open, D, close the fridge door." These sound funny, I think, as I write them, or if I explain them to others, but it's something that can sometimes get frustrating for a parent when having to say them over and over. Particularly given we all tend to have busy lives and other children to look after, and some days are just shitty, and we're not feeling shiny ourselves. Try to be patient it's better than losing it, this serves no-one any purpose other than stressing your child out and making you feel bad for having lost it. Trust me I know, I've lost it a few times and felt lousy.

D could be both young and old all at once. He can speak like the most educated, oldest soul on the planet, but he was always very young socially. Nickelodeon was a staple for D when other kids were watching grown up movies and adult television. We still watch Spongebob and re-runs of Angry Beavers and Hey Arnold, but we also watch World Movies together and discuss them in great detail these days. He has matured and caught up with his peers now in most ways.

Obsession with something is a big one for many aspies -  a person, dates, objects, sports, trains, planes, cars, rocks, flags, places - the list goes on, anything can become an aspies intense 'passion.' For D it was gymnastics. I loved gymnastics, and when he was about 5 I showed him a competition on TV. He. Was. Hooked. Everything became gymnastics. In the end I signed him up with a local  club. Our house became littered with videos of every possible gymnastics competition that was shown on cable TV, he would know when they were going to be on, would watch, and we would record, come hell or high water. Our furniture became pommel horses, vaults, uneven bars, floor mats and so forth - it's no good fighting it, you just learn to go with the flow for the sake of peace. Besides, who cares, if it's so important to one person and not so much to another, you go with the greater need. As a positive, I'm proud to add, D ended up a multi regional champion, on every single apparatus, as well as a state champion.

Anxiety and depression. For me this was the catalyst for assistance and a diagnosis. D had a definite aura of seriousness and melancholy around him his whole life. From around 10 it started developing into something more insidious. First of all he started obsessing about death, which eventually led into worrying that sleeping would mean never waking up, so he stopped sleeping for a while. He also became obsessed that food contained salmonella, that it was poisoned, then eating became a huge issue. By the time he was 14 he was underweight and growing at the rate of knots (he's 6'1'). He attended school on  a part-time basis, not officially, so it caused problems, there's a lot more to this story that I may visit on another occasion.
I want to add something here by *Nicole Rinehart, Associate Professor of Psychology, Monash University, that I felt was incredibly apt  -*Categorising Asperger’s disorder as a milder type of autism is problematic because it implies that life is less challenging for a child with Asperger’s disorder compared to a child with autism. But in some cases, young people with Asperger’s can suffer from more severe anxiety and depression than their peers who have been diagnosed with autism – and there is nothing mild about clinical anxiety and depression.
This rang incredibly true for D. D went through the most horrendous depression and anxiety, which truly kicked in at puberty and reached a terrible zenith around 14-16. It was a dark period in all our lives as we watched him deteriorate to the point where he wouldn't eat, without much cajoling from myself, my husband and my daughter, he struggled going to school, thought no-one liked him, was being bullied quite a bit and, I might add, some of the teachers actually allowed this to happen in their class. By now  me, my husband and our daughter were doing shifts with D, to make sure he didn't self harm and he ate. Just so you know, this is a very stripped down version of events, it was terribly draining, emotional, and it took a toll. If I go back and look at the journal I kept during this period I cry, and the people that know me know I'm not one to shed a tear easily.

Anyway, we took him to a 'highly qualified' therapist, who proved less than useless, and only angered him. Aspies often suffer a great deal of frustration at times; because feeling the emotions and getting the emotions out don't meet up too well. Throwing things, getting angry quickly and all of the associated issues frustration brings out in the best of us happen more intensely to an aspie. Eventually it was my daughter who found a brilliant adolescent psychiatrist who listened, read my journal that I had meticulously kept about mood and behaviour, and acted accordingly. He medicated D correctly, talked to him and helped him get on his feet. D is on a powerful anti-depressant and will be for life but, boy, what a difference a drug makes, phew. It turned his moods around, he slept, started eating and actually gained 20, much needed, kilos. We now had a diagnosis as well which the school had to accept. The biggest kicker? The school Prinicpal didn't believe that D had Aspergers because he was "too bright", can you believe this? I'm sure some of you have experienced this as well. Just so I'm clear there is no magic pill for Aspergers, however for the aspies that suffer acute depression/anxiety there are anti-depressants available. Obviously this is a personal choice, for D it was what was needed, but I'm not advocating it for everyone.

Can I say, from a professional standpoint as well as just being a mum, keeping a journal if your child is suffering depression, anxiety/panic is a must do. I like to see people's words when they come to see me for a multitude of reasons, for depression it can be invaluable. If your child is an aspie and anxiety and/or depression is part of their life, please be vigilant, see the right professional, don't always believe the more (paper) qualified the better, look for experience they have in the area you're needing help for your child in. Experience can never be beaten.

D is a dancer, a very nice dancer I might add. However, during the dark period he had to stop because he couldn't function, and dance was out of the question. However, post dark period he got up on stage and performed so well, at times he was quite overwhelmed before dancing, but we talked it through and he always went out there and nailed it, so amazing, so proud. Getting back to having to tell D the 'simplest things' - when there were eisteddfods, concerts, or photos he would put the wrong socks on - black with white pants, white with black pants, or he would put the wrong shoe on the wrong foot, you have to laugh sometimes. So either I or my daughter made sure we stepped up and "organised" him. A number of people at the studio think I baby him, because he's been so tall for so long, but too bad, I'm not explaining myself or D. There are those who know and understand. The dance studio's owner's son is an aspie, so she gets it.

As a parent I would have to say that an aspie learns much from parroting. Constantly and calmly going over how to do something, the why of it, if they are up for that, some better ways of understanding meanings behind other people's words can be both comforting and reassuring. Most importantly it's educational. Everything is dependent on the level of Aspergers, but just socialising them reassuringly, going over everyday phrases, activities and expectations of behaviours all help.

The reason for this blog is to just write my experiences down, to let others now they are not alone, to make someone aware of something they may not have previously been aware of, to give light at the end of the tunnel. it's not meant as expert advice, I don't work in this area ordinarily. As D matured some problems became more intense, others died down or went away and whatever was an issue we worked as a family to deal with and improve. Family means a lot and together you can be a great team.

So, I want to end on a positive. D is now 19, he is happy, healthy and studying at university. He has also recently starred in a play, which was amazing, and he student teaches ballet. He knows to say hello and goodbye, he talks to people, he is quite popular, and the girls all love him, he's a very nice looking young man, quite often the case with aspies, but he's gay, so....sorry girls. Another blog on that one, D has had plenty in his young life worth blogging about. On a couple of occasions he has helped me out in my practice letting other children know things get better if they're being bullied. D now has a nice partner, who is good for him, and he has friends that know he uses big words, can appear arrogant, but isn't, and he can sometimes be a little intense, but he has the most amazing sense of humour and makes me laugh. D is one of the nicest people on the face of the earth, this is not just a mother speaking. So many children at the dance studio he student teaches at love D. He has built amazing empathy skills, and continues to work on these, something aspies are not supposed to be good at. He is working towards a career where he can help others and I think he can do it, he'll be great at it.

Our nuclear family is tight, my husband, my daughter and I have all put a lot of effort into socialising D and making him feel confident, understanding that his place in this world can be fabulous, and that he can do anything he wants; even if it seems daunting. He still has moments of anxiety and he still doesn't shut the front door without being told to do so, but he's sitting on a high distinction average across all university subjects in a hard course...ah, the complexities of Aspergers.

My boy who started out not saying hello or goodbye, grabbing his penis, endured rubbish from some nasty peers and poor teachers, ending up in a full blown depression and anxiety-driven melt-down, has turned much around. It's not perfect, but much, much better than it was. I implore parents out there to hang in there if things are tough now. If you have read this and think your child may have Aspergers, get them diagnosed. It isn't a label, it is a diagnosis for assistance. Go to someone who knows this field and will give you the correct diagnosis, a plan of action, and hold your hand a little too, because no matter how much you love your children, sometimes it is overwhelming. Having a diagnosis should help you with your school, some pay lipservice to it, but others have help in place; utilise it if it's available. University recognises it through Disability Service here in Australia and they are great advocates for the student with Aspergers. I know there are parents out there coping with much more difficult Autism Spectrum of Disorders children and I'm thinking of you. I take my hat off to you and your child and hope that you have the love and support you need. I would not change a thing I've been through, D would not be who he is now without his Aspergers, but others have a more difficult time, it's all relative. Don't feel bad if it feels hard sometimes, find the silver lining, ask for and look for support, reach out.

Before I finish, I want to send a special shout out to my daughter, A. There is a bit of an age gap between my two children, it's not huge, but A has been like a second mum to D; and they love each other. A was instrumental in finding the psychiatrist for D, and she spent many a night with me holding D's hand during trying circumstances, she is an amazing sister, daughter and person. Love you A.