Friday, 31 May 2013

Self Preservation, Ethan Day

Sometimes you can't go back....

- Review by Cindi

Self Preservation
Davis Andrews always knew that he and Jack would someday get back together.  They may have broken up six years earlier but no way would they not come together again and spend the rest of their lives together.  There has never been any doubt.  Sure, they only see each other every year or so but that doesn't matter.  They are meant to be together and they will be.  Davis knows this in his heart.  He has loved Davis for much too long to think otherwise.

Until he receives the dreaded phone call.

Davis in the process of opening his restoration shop, Aesthetic Artifacts, for the day when he is surprised by a visit from his longtime best friend, Deseree.  Deseree and Davis have been friends since college and have remained close ever since.  They haven't seen each other in a year.

"Davie," she said, cocking her head to one side.  "Davie Unwavie.  How's my favorite root-bound homo?"
As the two begin to catch up Davis receives a phone call that turns his life upside down.  Jack is calling to invite Davis and Deseree to his wedding that will take place in a few days, a wedding to a man who Jack has only known for two weeks.  Stunned and heartbroken, Davis and Deseree make plans to go to Chicago for the wedding but to arrive two days earlier without Jack knowing. Davis wants to transform into a man who will knock Jack's socks off.  Deseree, a famous fashion designer, will be doing the transforming.  After new clothes, new hair... a whole new look... Davis is ready to see Jack and to do whatever it takes to force him to call off the wedding and realize that he and Davis are meant to be together.  Tadd, Jack's husband-to-be, won't stand a chance once Jack realizes that he has never stopped loving Davis.  The plan is in the works and it seems to be going well from the moment Jack sees Davis again.  That is, until Davis meets Tadd.  Tadd is not the toad-like man that Davis had pictured in his head.  He is a good guy and damn near perfect.  

With a little help from Deseree and Tadd's oldest friend Alex, Davis embarks on a journey to win his man back even if it means being deceptive and sneaky.  Unfortunately not all goes as planned. Tadd is not this horrible person who has swept Jack off his feet.  He's a wealthy and popular businessman as well as a philanthropist who does good work for charity.  He also appears to worship the ground that Jack walks on.  How can Davis compete with that?

This is a funny story but yet I found myself feeling a little sad quite a bit for Davis.  He tries so hard to win back what was lost years earlier that he misses what (who) is directly in front of him.  He is so centered on stopping the wedding that he does not stop to think that perhaps he and Jack are not the same people they were even just a short year ago.  It takes a major step back for him to see that what he's been searching for may not be in the past.  It may be in the form of a man he has only just met.  Taking that step back is difficult but once Davis does everything falls into place and he is still able to keep Jack in his life.

There is an amazing cast of secondary characters.  Deseree is the ultimate female best friend. Then there is Candace, Jack's mother, who is the perfect parent for anyone.. .gay or straight. There are others but none who compare to these two.  Normally I get annoyed (quickly) by overbearing female characters but these two?  Priceless.  I adored them both.

And then there is Alex Parker, Tadd's oldest friend.  Alex is a wealthy playboy.  He makes himself known to Davis pretty quickly and latches on, to Davis' dismay.  Had Davis taken the time to look at Alex instead of being clouded by Jack, he would have seen someone who was genuinely trying to get to know him.  But Jack is always there.  He won't go away until Davis lets his feelings known.  Things don't go quite as planned but everything works out for everyone in the end.  I love the way it ended.

Overall, an excellent book.  Ethan Day's classic humor shines through but yet the serious stuff is there as well.  I couldn't decide until long into the book who I was rooting for for Davis.. Jack or Alex.  In the end he makes the right choice.  A very entertaining read.

My rating:  4 out of 5 stars

This book was provided by Wilde City Press in exchange for a fair and honest review.

In Search of a Story, Andrew Grey

"He's searching for a story but finds so much more."

- Review by Cindi

In Search of a Story

Brad Torrence is one story away from being fired from the newspaper where he works.  He has been given one chance to find the story before he finds himself in the unemployment line.  Not long out of college, he knows even landing the newspaper job in the first place was a major stroke of luck with the state of the economy.  What happens if he loses it and is forced to move back home with his parents?  Desperate, he scans the classified ads of the paper and comes across one listing brand new baby items for sale.  Taking a chance, he calls the telephone number in the ad with hopes of doing a story on a mother mourning the loss of her child.  Having watched his mother and the aftereffects of three miscarriages after Brad was born, he knows he can go into this (hopeful) story with sympathy and compassion.  What he doesn't expect is to speak to a father who lost a child before birth, not a mother.  An interview is set up with Cory Wolfe and the story takes on a life of its own.

Cory Wolfe is an anesthesiologist at the local hospital.  A smart child growing up, he was able to skip grades and move onto college and then medical school having gotten his medical license at a very young age.  At twenty-six he is a year out of school and is settling well in his position at the hospital.  Professionally all is going perfectly for Cory.  Personally, he is devastated over the loss of his son Adam who died before birth along with the baby's mother who was Cory's best friend in the world.  Under pressure from his family months later, he places the ad in the newspaper to sell Adam's nursery items.  Receiving a call from a reporter surprises him but he takes a chance and offers to meet with him.  Brad turns out to be compassionate and kind and allows Cory to discuss his losses without the pressure reserved for his overbearing family members... family members who mean well but could never understand his loss.  

Brad digs into Cory's life but in a kind way.  Before long Cory has unloaded it all and feels better for it.  The two men meet up again before the story is published and from there a tentative friendship begins.  It doesn't take long before they are a couple in a sense.  Days and nights are spent getting to know each other both in bed and out and they gradually get closer.  Unfortunately for Brad, Cory is close to being offered an important research position over a thousand miles away and this leaves Brad in doubt of where he stands in the other man's life.  At the same time, Brad is in the midst of a dangerous story that will reveal things publicly that could ultimately get him killed. There is doubt from both men about the other.  If Cory is offered the research position where does that leave Brad?  Will Brad survive if he keeps digging into things for his story that a lot of people wish to remain hidden?  Both need to be resolved before Cory and Brad can even consider taking their relationship a step further.  Unfortunately, it takes a violent act in order for this to happen.

This is a nice story.  I have discovered that I can jump into any Andrew Grey book and know that I will end it pleased with the outcome of the story and with a smile on my face.  In Search of a Story is no exception.  Brad and Cory are perfect for each other and I enjoyed watching them find their way and ultimately their happily-ever-after.  Another entertaining read by Andrew Grey.

My rating:  4 out of 5 stars

This book was provided by Dreamspinner Press in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

The Boy Who Came In From The Cold, B.G. Thomas

The Boy Who Came In From the Cold

- Review by Cindi

My rating:  3 out of 5 stars

Todd Burton has run away from the small town of Buckman.  He has run away from an abusive stepfather and a mother who stands by and allows the abuse to happen.  He runs to Kansas City in hopes of being trained in culinary skills by a famous television chef.  Of course, she laughs him out of her restaurant (naive much?) and he is forced to use what little savings he has in order to survive.  Unfortunately the savings doesn't last long and he is evicted from his rundown apartment during the biggest snow storm of the year. Standing inside the lobby of an apartment building, he meets Gabe Richards.  Gabe immediately sees Todd as a hustler but he helps him anyway.  He brings him food and coffee and even makes the mistake of propositioning him for the night.  Todd takes offense as he is definitely not gay (uh huh) and he says some pretty homophobic things to Gabe and Gabe leaves him to it even if it bothers him to leave someone who seems to desperately need help.  Not long after Gabe disappears back to his apartment, the building manager is on Todd and knowing he can't go back out into the blizzard, he lies about being Gabe's boyfriend.  The manager takes him to Gabe's apartment to verify the story (which Gabe does to be nice) and this begins the relationship between Todd and Gabe.  One (innocent) night turns into a week and then much longer.

This book started out well.  I felt immediate sympathy for Todd and I liked Gabe right off.  It took me seeing the name Bianca for it to click in my head that I have read about Gabe before in Bianca's Plan.  Once I refreshed my memory on that story a bit I was even more eager to see how this one would play out.  

This review will be laid out a little differently from my norm.  I will begin with the cast of characters, saving Todd and Gabe for last.

Tracy - The token female friend (of Gabe) who is a nosy, busy-body who feels that she alone knows what is best for her friend.  She betrays confidences.  She goes behind Gabe's back and tells tales that are not hers to tell.  She is Gabe's coworker and so-called confidant.  That last part I could not understand.  If you know that the person you are sharing secrets with will turn around and repeat everything you say, why bother?  She does it all the time so do you think that maybe this one time she will actually not blast your personal business?  She does this in the name of helping Gabe but the fact is, it's not her place.

Can you tell I don't like Tracy?  At all????

Peter - Peter is an extremely wealthy older man who took Gabe in ten years prior and gave him a chance when Gabe thought there were none.  Peter likes to show up at Gabe's place randomly and without warning with no thought of whether or not Gabe (and Todd) have plans, one time even inviting himself to dinner that was specifically planned as a romantic dinner for Gabe and Todd.  He (Peter) will not take 'no' for an answer regardless of how the others feel about his visit.  He is also prone to quoting literature, at times using old cliches.  This (the quoting) was refreshing at first but got tiring quickly.  

Todd's mother and stepfather - Todd ran away from his family home to get away from the abuse of the stepfather who made it his mission to degrade Todd at every turn, constantly calling him a faggot or queer even though Todd had not come to terms with his sexuality at that point.  In fact, Todd was convinced that he was straight, even going so far as to have a long-lasting sexual relationship with his childhood female friend, Joan.  Todd's mother sat back for years and allowed Todd to be abused, never once stepping up or speaking up.

Daniel - Gabe's ex who is only spoken about in the book. He never actually makes an appearance.

Brett - A boy (I mean that literally) who Gabe had fallen in love with two years earlier.  The story behind Brett is when my opinion of the book went from "very nice" to "just ew!"  There is a major creep factor for me with the Brett story. I found it to be disturbing on more than one level.  There was no coming back after Brett and Gabe's story is revealed.

Gabe - A wealthy businessman who had been picked up (by Peter) ten years earlier after hitting rock bottom.  He claims to have a "hardened heart" but it is revealed that he, in fact, falls in love rather quickly as is proven by Daniel, Brett and later, Todd (and also in Bianca's Plan, a book that takes place a few months earlier to this one).  It is stated that he is much older than Todd but I do not recall his actual age being given at all in the book.  

Todd - A naive twenty-year-old who has been taught his entire live that homosexuality is an abomination so he has pushed those urges back even having a not-so-satisfying sexual relationship with a woman (Joan, who later betrays him in the worst way).  There is also Austin, Todd's former best friend but there is not much to say about him other than he also betrayed Todd and was the ultimate nail in the coffin as far as Todd leaving his hometown.

As mentioned above, this book started out very well.  I loved Todd right off and I found Gabe to be charming.  This is your classic Cinderfella story where the wealthy man takes in the poor, homeless one.  I'm not a fan of insta-love (by any means) but I could almost see it working in this case even if everything (pretty much the entire book, minus the Epilogue) takes place over the course of a week.  Everything was going along well.  I was pretty much set on this being a 4 star review.  Instead, it dropped a star when Gabe's history with Brett is revealed.  I have read other reviews where other readers had the same issue with the Brett situation as I do so this should not come as a surprise.  I personally did not get it and to be honest?  I'm not sure I want to.

Todd has to come to terms with the urges that he has for Gabe, a male, after being taught his entire life that two men loving each other is wrong.  When he does come to terms with his sexuality, it happens rather quickly. One moment, he is feeling guilt and the next he is willing and eager to have as much sex as possible with Gabe.  Don't get me wrong, there is not a lot of sex in this book but there is enough for me to shake my head a bit at Todd's immediate about-face.

The other cast of characters (listed) play a somewhat major part in the story of Gabe and Todd though I would have been thrilled had Tracy never been introduced but that's just me.  Todd discovers things about his mother and stepfather that helps him in the long run (thanks to, and I say this grudgingly, Tracy who betrayed yet another confidence in order to obtain this information). Peter also steps in and does something pretty amazing for Todd as well.  

Overall, a nice story that I feel could have been better had the story of Brett been written differently. The Epilogue is necessary and I'm glad the author took us a year or so down the road.  Had the book ended without one, I would say this had a HFN ending. The Epilogue allowed the reader to know there is, in fact, a happily-ever-after for these guys.

This book was provided by Dreamspinner Press in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Honor C, C Zampa

Sometimes it's like someone took a knife, baby, edgy and dull
And cut a six inch valley through the middle of my soul...
I'm on Fire, Bruce Springsteen

With the steady bass thrum of Springsteen's "I'm on Fire," I remembered Jorge naked - every curve and line of that body, every inch of skin as soft as a kitten's belly. Oh, Jorge.
The real Honor Castillo - the man who craved men so bad, so painfully bad - tried to scream from the closet where I'd bound and gagged him years ago.

Honor Castillo

Review by Kazza K
**Contains Spoilers** 

Honor C
Not my favourite cover
Honor C begins with a quick reflection by Honor Castillo about his life to date. Then there is a brief look at the time leading up to his connection with, and goodbyes to, his first, true love, Jorge Villagomez. How they started as friends in middle school when Jorge would sit next to Honor and have lunch. Jorge the slender, frail kid, Honor the bigger boy with a bit more meat on his bones -

Thin, pale Jorge, who always seemed to be frail in health...
Although he never spoke of it, not even to me, the undisputed word - from a kid named Julie something-or-other who knew everything - was that Jorge had a heart condition.
Beautiful, ungodly beautiful Jorge. Somehow his fragility made him all the more divine. Unbearably delicate skin complimented with the shiniest, blackest hair I'd ever seen. But it was his eyes that riveted me. Clear, mystical startling silvery grey.

Fiery, icy, bossy, bitchy, girly, sweet, adorable Jorge.  

To Honor's time spent in his treehouse club with friends. To his time spent there with Jorge as young  lovers. As they grew, secreting themselves away there to explore each other, to be intimate -

It was here I discovered I didn't go for the chicas in the nudie magazine but instead the cocks and the tight asses of the chulos. 

One hot Summer night a million years ago, on the floor of this little dilapidated tree house - crickets going wild in the dark and lightning bugs glittering in the shadows of the trees -  I made out with a boy for the first time. That boy was Jorge Villagomez.

But more importantly the book initially looks at the farewell that Honor is making in the treehouse to Jorge as he is going to marry Rebecca Sanchez. Because that's what you do when you aren't gay. You marry the girl, just like Honor. Jorge had tried to tell Honor they're one in the same, and resorted to being blunt -

You've fooled yourself into thinking you can fuck a man and that it means nothing, that it doesn't mean you're gay. I'm here to tell you my friend, you're so fucking wrong. So fucking wrong. You are so goddamn gay. And you're only using Becky to ensure a life of smooth sailing...the whole Roy Rogers and Dale Evans trail of happiness.

Ah, but Honor was having none of that. Honor saw things another way - 

I wouldn't break through the tight closet door, ever, not even now while being faced with my last night of intimacy with him. Because there was no closet to come out of. I believed with all my heart I wasn't gay.
Besides, I wanted Becky. It was as it should be. Men and women. Fucking Jorge had been a wonderful experience. I'd convinced myself that being attracted to him didn't mean I was queer. It was just a secret adventure that I had to leave behind.

So, Honor Castillo is not gay. And thus begins eleven years of massive closeted denial. All brought about by a vitriolic, homophobic father who thrashes Honor within an inch of his life when he finds pictures of naked men in Honor's possession.

After the initial prologue/chapter we are now in current time and let into Honor and Becky's life. You can see that there are fissures, gnawing doubts overshadowing their life. Becky and Honor argue. Becky always suspects that Honor has someone on the side, he is a good husband and father, but not passionate about her, and a part of him seems absent from their life. It has to be another woman, what else can it be?

"Okay, tell me. Which one is she?" Becky's voice jarred me from my studying. She nudged me...
"Let me guess. The red dress with the bubis grandes."...
"On no, baby, we're not going there today." I constantly had to assure her - every time we went out together - that I wasn't watching other women. It was best to change the subject.

But Honor is not being unfaithful. He just can't give all of himself to someone who isn't a man. Someone who isn't Jorge Villagomez.

It's Labor Day, and Honor and Becky's six year son, Michael, is performing the Mexican Hat Dance in a group performance. At the end of the performance the dance instructor walks up on to the stage -

Goddamn it fuck it to hell. The face I hadn't seen for eleven years. The achingly beautiful face I thought I'd never see again.
There he stood all elegant and tall against a backdrop of green, red and white crepe streamers dancing softly in the breeze. Oh, Jorge. Stunning as ever. When had he returned to San Antonio?
Involuntarily, I touched my chest. Yes, my heart still beat

Jorge is at the performance with Gabe Barbosa, an interesting secondary character who you learn bits and pieces about as the book progresses. He isn't in it a lot but I liked him and his dialogue every time he is on page. There were times in this book when I thought 'if I were Jorge I would be with shady but fiercely loyal and open Gabe'. But that isn't what this book is about and, of course, Honor and Jorge are instantly drawn to one another....again. Jorge is thinking that maybe Honor isn't married anymore, that the family unit he sees at Labour Day, when Michael danced, was like many other families that are separated but come together as dutiful parent's for their children.

Jorge is wanting to build a dance studio and Honor is a successful businessmen with his own architectural company. So Jorge wants to talk to Honor about, perhaps, commissioning him to design his studio, and he also needs to know where Honor is at, marital status wise -

"You are still married, Honor?"
"Si" now I sounded apologetic, and I privately begged Becky to forgive me.
"I am."
"Ah," Jorge nodded....
"I needed to make sure." Then cocky spice ignited his eyes. "In case I got the urge to seduce you."
"The Jorge of long ago wouldn't have let that stop him." What the fuck was I thinking, goading him, as if I wanted to encourage seduction.
"Yes, he would." Indignant. "He did let it stop him. I never did call you, did I?

Touché, Jorge!

But Jorge still asks, and Honor still accepts to design the studio which throws the two men together - discussing plans, going to look at the building, talking....longing. Even though Honor sees Jorge as this gorgeous, beguiling, sexy creature,goes to see him dance, sends him white roses, he cannot bring himself to admit his sexual orientation. Meanwhile, life at home for Honor and Becky goes on with Becky sure Honor has all but left their marriage. But she loves him, her handsome, wonderful, masculine Honor. The father of their son. And Honor loves her too, only not the way she wants it to be -

"You know what they say about going to bed angry," I traced my finger along the mouthpiece.
A heavy sigh. "I'm not angry, Corazon."
No, he wasn't angry, and that scared me. He wasn't angry, he wasn't sad, he was....nothing.
I was losing my husband. Little bits of his heart sifted through my desperate grasp every day. Oh, he denied it. He promised it was my imagination But I knew better.

There is a lot going on in the book. A lot of developments and angst and every time you think you have your head above water a wave hits you and pushes you under again. By the 56% mark I was ready to throw my Kindle out the damn doors. The book takes a very personal look at the three MC's and the catalyst for loss of one relationship, the foundations of another built on lies, the breaking down of a relationship, and the possibilities for what could have been all along. The way it shifts from Becky seeing nothing passionate behind her husband's eyes to Jorge feeling the exact same thing. To Honor feeling trapped by his predicament -

And now I teetered on a high fence. On one side gaped the awful, dark abyss of the horrible sin I wanted to commit. The other side was the sunshine of my life as it existed, the life where the man I pretended to be lived and smiled and died inside.

To the lasting love that one man had to endure knowing the man he loved was so close but he couldn't/wouldn't show it -

In a few hours, I'd be facing an architect to finally bring my dreams to reality. And, oh fuck, how I tried to make this no big deal in my mind - I'd just happen to be bringing this dream to life with the man I'd never stopped loving.   

Honor C is written from three character's individual POV - Honor, Becky and Jorge - giving each a very clear voice as their lives are forever changed. It solidified the delicately interwoven lives of the characters. It helps tear at the heart all the more because the author cleverly chose to write it that way. Any other way would have made Honor seem somewhat insipid, Jorge seem like a wounded interloper, and Becky seem irrational and unkind. All of them actually come off as decent people. So all three perspectives are important to have made this right and also make it an emotionally super-charged read - to give the reader much needed psychological and personal insight.
I will also say that this is one of the best romance fiction books I have read in terms of complex relationship breakdowns and the impact on all the individuals involved clearly portrayed - the anger, the hurt, the protectiveness of a six year old boy for his mother. The things our children hear if we aren't careful. How do you compete when your husband loves a man? How do you feel when you were actually there first?  The pain behind someone having to live a closeted life - not just for the closeted person, but those around them. How things can heal if you let them. It all lent great credibility to a good book.

Overall -

If you like a pretty big dose of angst in your M/M - right up to the end - a more feminine sashaying character - with strength and great self worth - a closeted man coming to grips with who he is, the fact that two men have spent years apart but still cannot get over one other - one of my personal favourites - realistic feelings, decent characters, a HFN ending, and some good writing that sucks you in, then I highly recommend Honor C to you.

4.5 their love never died stars

This book was provided by the publisher, Dreamspinner Press, in return for an honest review.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Vicky Banning, Allen McGill

- Review by Cindi

My rating:  5 out of 5 stars

Vicky Banning
Vicky Banning is not your average seventy-three-year-old woman.  Nothing about Vicky could ever be called typical.  She lives her life and she lives it to the fullest regardless of what others think.  She's loud, can be a tad overbearing and others be damned.  She never intentionally hurts anyone... unless, of course, they deserve it.  She hates liars, cheaters, and fake people. If she comes across one she will call them out but not always publicly.  She has her way of making sure that bad people get what's coming to them.  The way she does this is priceless.  She may pose as a drug dealer, a Madam or even a cheesy journalist but she will do what's right.  

Vicky moves into Sanctuary, a home for older folks that caters to a more wealthy group.  She knows going in that her time will be limited but her reasons for this do not come out until much later in the book.  While living at Sanctuary, she meets an eclectic group of people. There are Roger and Steve, a gay couple who do not live there.  Doris, the manager/everything at the building.  Then there's Sarah, a former mayor's wife who feels that she rules the manor, so to speak. There are others of course but none like these three.  Roger is the interior decorator that Vicky hires (with the help of Doris) to redecorate her room that "was a riot of ruffles!  Pink ones!  Everywhere!  It was if the room had been smothered by a graduation dress."   Vicky inappropriately inquires about Roger's sexuality.
"I'm an interior decorator," Roger said.
"Oh!" Vicky exclaimed and chuckled at what she'd been thinking.  She studied him more closely.  "But you don't look gay!" she said, with accusing brusqueness.
"Who said I was?"
"No one, darling," said Vicky.  "But all my decorator friends--the best ones at least--are all gay...some of them real screamers.  So?  What's your story?"
Vicky is in no way PC.  The book is set in the eighties so the words 'politically correct' had not yet been made mainstream.  Not that it would matter.  Vicky is going to say what's on her mind regardless of what others think.  She's that kind of gal.

Vicky and Roger become close friends pretty quickly.  Roger never does actually use the word gay but he does have a male partner, Steve, who has a connection to Doris.  This connection is interesting to say the least.  

While living at Sanctuary, Vicky becomes quite popular with some because of her antics and hated by others as a result.  But in the end it's all about Vicky wanting to do right in the world even if it embarrasses a few along the way.  She comes across as open and a bit loud, but no one really knows Vicky.  She keeps a lot of secrets about her personal life and her past.  Some memories come out during some of her weaker moments but all in all, her life is held close to the vest.  With her time being limited at Sanctuary, she must do all she can to live her life during those few months to the fullest.  There is casino night to raise money for charity where Vicki performs as a stripper.  She goes into sweet grandmother mode when she meets a little boy who is being forced to give away his beloved puppy.  She brings two exes together so that they can go back to being the friends they were before they married.  She cons a cop, a diner owner, a shop proprietor and others and even makes sure a drug dealer is shut down so that he can no longer sell to children.  While some of her antics may come across as being sneaky... wrong.. in the end it is all done for the right reasons (in Vicky's eyes anyway) and everything is made right.  Her family secrets come out at the end and I was happy with the way that played out. Not what I was expecting which I am sure is the point.

This is a delightful read.  I was laughing out loud before I even got to 2% on my Kindle and I continued to do so until the very end.  Vicky Banning is an entertaining woman. She's loud, boisterous but inside she is a genuinely kind human being.  Never would she be called the "grandmotherly type" because of her adventures and personality but once you see her with her family your heart will melt a little.  Mine did.  

This is not my normal type of book though it does have a gay couple in it that plays a big part. However, had I not read this book I would have missed out.  An excellent book with an amazing cast of characters.

This book was provided by the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

The Closed Mouth: A Quinn and Dave Gay Mystery, E.M. Mispiel

-Review by Kazza K


The Closed Mouth: A Quinn And Dave Gay MysteryOkay, so I had a review pretty close to nutted out for this book and then the ending came and that all went out the darned window. How does that happen? I mean, come on, its just an ending. I'm not sure what to think about The Closed Mouth: A Quinn and Dave Gay Mystery now. I'm flummoxed. I want to give it the original rating but I just can't. I feel torn but I have to call it as I feel it.

Brief synopsis - Quinn and Dave (from Garnetville) are still together months after the close of that saga and are in a relationship? of sorts. They are not your typical couple. Anyway, Quinn hassles Dave into going home with him for Thanksgiving. Dave doesn't want to go but Quinn is a force of nature so off they trundle. When they are there a murder has occurred that involves an old crush of Quinn's, Hector, which utilises Dave's journalism skills. It also gives Dave and Quinn a chance to see more than just the Cetino household, actually escape the Centino household into something more normal, like a murder.

So, with that said, let me say what I think worked well in this book and what didn't, and why.

What worked for me -

Dave and Quinn. They are an amazingly funny, off beat, snarky, bitchy, unlikely pair of gay guys in some sort of weird-arsed relationship? - I love that they really can't be pigeon-holed. There are never any declarations of love in the books, it's more about sex (though this is not an erotic book), coping, especially for Dave, and solving a mystery/crime. Quinn is a handful and a half. But he is hilarious in the way he bounces off Dave and off his own nuclear family. But Dave is meant for Quinn. Who the hell else has the wit, apathy? patience? and cock sucking skills to deal with the human tornado that is Quinn Centino. I would have murdered Quinn and buried him out the back by now, but that's just me, not Dave.

The writing is good, absolutely laugh out loud funny. E.M Mispiel writes these two young men in such an absurdly hilarious way...but they are always believable (grumbles, well nearly always) and are so three dimensional in every way. Although I really enjoyed the writing, overall it is not as strong as Garnetville. But Garnetville is one of my all-time favourite books, so it was going to be a tall order for The Closed Mouth to live up to it.

The Centino (Quinn's) family is priceless. They are beyond doubt crazier than my family, marginally, which is no mean feat. They say the most cringe-worthy things to one another, and, as they grew up, played horrible pranks on one another, they are freaking hilarious, they make your head spin. There are no flashbacks but we get to see a lot about Quinn growing up, just recounts in very well written moments,  often including the unwilling Dave.
They are always at each other and can take and give better than most -

"I'm getting cremated when I die so you cant steal any of my organs!" Quinn told him and pulled away.
"Like I'll be waiting for you to die," Caleb said.
Quinn deafened them all by yelling, "Mom! Caleb's after my organs again."

"Would you like me all over your boyfriend?" Quinn directed this at Emily, who was unimpressed by his threat. So Quinn added, "I would turn that frat boy gay so fast I would make your head spin.
Emily didn't even look away from the TV.
"Anything you can do to that boy to make him more interesting is fine by me," she said.

And Dave is the constant butt of size jokes, as in Dave is shorter than everyone in the Centino household, and Quinn, and the rest of the family, is always letting Dave know it -

"Dave never lets anything go. It's why I like him. And for his ass. And his cock sucking skills. I just wish every day that he was taller."

Quinn grabbed his own crotch roughly. Dave could tell it was bulging.
"You been thinking about me?"
"No. I've been thinking about tall guys!" Quinn claimed.

But the recollections of how they all felt, and they get a POV, about their son/brother being hurt in Garnetville is an insight into how much they care, despite them voicing (very evilly) their opinions to the contrary. And at the back of all of their minds is the fact that Dave was there, with Quinn, when their obnoxious, tattling, strange baby brother/son was hurt.

The thoughts that are well written about Dave not having a large family, his dad died when he was young, his mum and Dave were it. The Centino's are a loud, in your face family and I liked the way the author wrote that. The way Dave sees things of importance between their households is subtle more often than not.

Lily, although only quickly in the book near the end, is the perfect Quinn-hag - the way they have loving disdain for each other, talk at each other, the strength of the individual characters, is perfect. Wish she was in it more instead of Hector

I loved Dave's acceptance of having this guy trail after him in Garnetville, which Quinn did. Dave didn't ask Quinn to come, he just Quinned himself into the journey back to Dave's home town and here, in this book, he Quinned himself all over Dave until Dave is coming home with him for Thanksgiving and helping out an old crush of Quinn's in a tight spot.

I liked when Dave spoke to his newly sober mother and his thoughts on it. A changed family dynamic is not always an easy one. Just a few lines/paragraphs in the book, but so well handled.

Quinn's idea of showing Dave the sights of home was via everywhere he shtupped someone - In Quinn's life, boyfriend wasn't a person, it was a well populated category.  It also had meaning for Dave - growing up in a small town full of rampant homophobia didn't allow him to have the experiences that Quinn did coming from the city.

What didn't work for me -

Hector. I know he was the device for the mystery component, he was, at best, two dimensional and insipid in amongst some incredibly strong, well drawn characters. He was just a means to an end. A boring prop. Mycroft Shumaker was dead in Garnetville and he was more alive than Hector.

Quinn had constant explanation marks after his words. I know he is a loud, out there kind of guy, I get that. Still, I don't like exclamation mark abuse.

The mystery component was not as well written as Garnetville. It was not bad, but the story concentrated heavily on Quinn, Quinn's family, and Dave and Quinn's original brand of relationship.

The resolution of the mystery was anti-climactic.

And the nail in the coffin for me personally....

.......THE ENDING. The paragraph-from-nowhere kind of cliffhanger killed it for me. A paragraph threw the book into total disarray for me and took it from 4 stars to less. I'm all for something intriguing happening, something to throw me, but this was not well executed. It was lazy writing to just break them up like that. It was a total disconnect for the reader. It didn't fit with what came before it. This series is not like others. Wrong series to be doing this on. I don't want to suddenly, and I do mean suddenly, have these guys pigeonholed into a romance cliché series style of ending. I don't want Dave pulling a Scarlett O'Hara right at the end. He may as well have said, "After all, tomorrow is another day." That is bad enough. What makes it even worse is that the author, E.M Mispiel, tells us that there will be a prequel and then a mystery/reunion book. NO. FREAKING. WAY.**** I will not be buying a prequethen wait for a reunion. Wrong order for this reader. I am not reading a prequel about them, constantly thinking, "Dave and Quinn are NOT longer snarking off one another, no longer being random, my kind of crazy, getting to know one another more, having weird sex, doing weird-arse, stupid things....together." Nope, no way. I won't be reading the series the way it is outlined as happening. I understand these are not my characters, as much as I love them, and it is not my writing, so I don't have a right to tell an author what to do, but I have a right to be upset and to not buy them. Never have I voiced that before, that's how pissed off I am!!
*** The author contacted me after this review, with much grace I might add. They let me know that the prequel/sequel is not about the MC's of the first two books, which changes my perspective on the prequel/sequel. I will now be reading it because E M Mispiel is worth reading. I'm still sad about my Dave and Quinn ending, no change, but there may be hope.  

Overall -
There is no doubt that E.M. Mispiel is a very good writer. Even if you don't read The Closed Mouth, which is well titled by the way, cerebral but good, then do yourself a favour and read Garnetville. You don't have to read it, as this book can be read as a standalone, but it would help the reader get a handle on Dave and Quinn's offbeat relationship. This is a funny, funny book and I laughed so hard throughout until a spanner was thrown into a fun read. I do have this place of strong affection for Dave and Quinn. They are written cleverly by a talented author and the book was, by and large, a decent read. But the ending didn't do it any favours and was not for me. I'm also not happy about the order of the books to follow, it makes no sense to me. Maybe I am in the minority and people will look past the ending in a way I could not. My blog partner, Cindi, gave this 5 stars. Same book, different outlooks. I would have given this 4 stars until the end, bear this in mind as you read my review, the book is a decent piece of LGBT fiction but I'm personally pissed off. I've slept on it, I've written a new review, which can often change my mind, but, no, I still feel the same.....

2.75 Sadly Pissed Off Stars

Monday, 27 May 2013

Raining Men (Sequel to "Chaser"), Rick R. Reed

- Review by Cindi

My rating:  5 out of 5 stars

Raining Men
To quote the blurb:  "The character you loved to hate in Chaser becomes the character you will simply love in Raining Men."  I remember reading this when this book was announced and thinking "Yeah right. Not going to happen."  I seriously hated Bobby in Chaser and I knew without a shadow of a doubt that nothing, regardless of the talent of the author, would make me change my mind about him. Normally if I hate a secondary character in one book nothing will push me in the direction to read a book based solely on him.  Only my love for this author's work had me reading Raining Men.  I am a big fan of Rick R. Reed and I knew I would read this one eventually (as I'm on a mission to read all his work) so I figured why not now?  I mean no disrespect to the author (and I'm sure he knows this) but I was seriously not interested in seeing Bobby get his happily-ever-after.  Those who have read Chaser know what I mean.  Now I have to say it would have been a total waste had I let this one go without reading it.  I was only 5% into this book on my Kindle before I was already feeling sympathy for Bobby.  Who knew, right? Farther along, I found myself rooting for him.  By the time the end came I was actually loving the guy.  Only a seriously talented author can pull that off with a character like Bobby Nelson.

Bobby is an egotistical, selfish slut.  He cares nothing about anything or anyone but himself. He will always get his way... and his man... regardless of who he hurts in the process.  This was proven in Chaser with Caden DeSarro, his so-called best friend and the only person who appreciated Bobby for Bobby.  Caden wanted nothing except friendship.  There was never anything sexual between the two of them. It was just friendship.  Instead of appreciating the fact that someone actually wanted him for something other than sex, he threw that friendship away in a very big, hateful way.  I started off loving Bobby in that book but by the time I finished it I hated him with every fiber of my being.  Through it all there were indications that what you saw of Bobby was not all as it appeared.  His outward, slutty actions were a facade.  He obviously wanted someone to love but went about finding that in a bad way.  It backfired on him and in the end he was left with nothing and no one.  

Raining Men begins a few months after the end of Bobby and Caden's friendship.  Bobby is dealing with the loss of Caden on top of feelings of pure loneliness for wanting what Caden had found with his man, Kevin:  love, companionship.  He uses sex as a means to take his mind off of everything when in turn the sex only leaves him lonelier than before once it's over.  Bobby does not just have occasional hook-ups.  He has to have someone almost every day of the week.  Feeling more empty than ever, he goes to see a therapist, Camille, the same therapist that Caden saw months before.  Camille forces Bobby to take a step back and see why he is the way he is.  The sudden death of his father forces him to face things he is not quite ready for.  A visit to Seattle for the funeral cements it.  He's miserable.  He hated his father while he was growing up.  The man had belittled Bobby often and made him feel unloved during his formative years.  Bobby had not seen him in the ten years since he left home and moved to Chicago.  No visits back home. No visits from them to him.  

Home, where he was not the confident, successful, handsome, well-built man he was now, but a scared little boy who was made fun of nearly every school day for being a sissy and who hid in his room, reading books far too adult for a child. (Rosemary's Baby in third grade, really?)
It was strange, and now Bobby did want to cry, because if he felt anything at all, it was relief.  The man was gone.  No longer would he be able to cause Bobby's face to redden at the dinner table as he once had when a little Bobby asked him to please pass the salad.  His father had smiled, holding the teak salad bowl aloft, and Bobby had smiled back.  Then his father said, "I don't know what it is, but something about you reminds me of a girl."
No longer would his father be able to laugh off Bobby's starring role as Tony in his high school's production of West Side Story and refuse to be in the audience because, as he had put it, "Musical theater is for fairies.  You a fairy, son?"
No longer would he live to find fault, to ridicule, to ensure that nothing, nothing Bobby did would ever be good enough for his standards.  Bobby bent over the man and planted a kiss on his cold cheek.  He whispered, "You can't hurt me anymore."

While at the funeral home, Bobby reconnects briefly with Wade, a former classmate.  There is chemistry between the two men but family obligations prevent them from acting on it.  When they finally get a moment or two alone later, things don't quite go as Bobby plans.

Back in Chicago, Bobby's life takes a downward spiral.  More men.  More bathhouses.  More hook-ups with total strangers he meets online.  Each leaves him feeling cheap and angry with himself but he can't stop.  The reader is able to see a pattern with Bobby.  Each time something hurtful happens in his life he has a lot of anonymous sex.  This is his way of blocking out the other stuff.  Caden refuses to speak with him.  His therapist may or may not have a crush on him, even knowing he's gay.  He can't reconcile his feelings for his late father.  Wade, someone Bobby feels he can someday love, is hundreds of miles away.  When Camille suggests that he attend Sex Addicts Anonymous group sessions he balks at first but in the end decides to try it.  This is a turning point for Bobby as is finding a stray Chihauhaua on his way home from yet another sex fest at a bathhouse.  Another member of the Sex Addicts group is Aaron.  Bobby and Aaron had met one time before but that meeting did not exactly put Bobby in a good light. Thankfully, Aaron had once been where Bobby is in his life so he manages to overlook that initial meeting and take Bobby under his wing so to speak.

This book is not really a love story though there is a bit of romance here and there and Bobby does eventually find love in the end.  This is about Bobby embarking on a journey of self-awareness.  He has a long road to travel before he finally gets where he needs to go.  He must deal with the anger and bitterness toward his late father. He must force himself to stop having sex with random strangers every time something traumatic happens in his life.  He must learn to accept that Caden may not ever be part of his life again.  He has to find himself before he can think about finding a man to share his life with.  

This book did not go where I expected it to go and I have no doubt that was the intention of the author.  At first, I was not too pleased with the direction it was going in regards to a couple of the characters. Only when I really thought about it did I see that the story could not have been written any other way.  It was kind of a "what goes around comes around" type situation.  To say anymore than that would be too telling.

Bobby does eventually find love and he finds peace with himself and with the memory of his late father.  There is a lot of forgiveness toward others as well as toward himself.  The stray Chihuahua that Bobby takes home (inappropriately named Johnny Wadd because he is well-endowed)  and falls head over heels in love with, plays a big part in Bobby learning to understand how to love and be loved.  

Overall, this is another amazing story by Rick R. Reed.  Never in a million years would I have thought that I would love Bobby.  Only a truly talented author could turn a character like him around as he did.  I do have to say that I am not sure how I feel about the Epilogue.  It brings closure to a few things that were left hanging in the book but I'm not sure if I'm on board with it. Don't get me wrong, everything is tied together neatly and certain issues are resolved but a couple of those things I felt could have been left undone in my opinion, but that's just me.  Otherwise, an outstanding book.

The cover is beautiful and fitting for the story, as is the title.

This book was provided by Dreamspinner Press in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Portrait of a Crossroads, Kelly Rand

-Review by Kazza K

This is a very nicely written story. It has this no-frills, resigned feel about life, melancholic, but with hope. If you are looking for a romance then perhaps look elsewhere. This is about a relationship, but not where person A meets person B, they have insta-love, fall into bed, and then live happily ever after in fiction-land. It is subtle, contains an edge to it, and I agree with another reader who said age and life experience definitely gives you an ability to appreciate this story just that bit more.

Annette is a young girl, eighteen, who is literally, and metaphorically living at the crossroads in her life -

She hadn't been ready to leave high school. She didn't know where to go now. At some point, she'd known what made her unique, but she didn't know what anymore.

Everything was connected to where she lived - at a crossroads, a four way intersection -

There were never any kids on the corner between Burford and Brantford. Annette missed seeing them.

The brochure on top was for Brock University, one of the best schools for studying education. It was located about an hour away from the intersection between Burford and Brantford.

Annette found her father hanging from a rafter in the basement of the family home the previous year. She lives with her two older brothers, Christian and Angel in the family home. Her brothers both work in blue collar jobs, it's a blue collar kind of town, one where people try to escape somewhere else from. Annette doesn't work, doesn't go to college, doesn't have friends, now - they all rushed out when the final bell sounded on their senior year of high, and kept going. She was neither popular nor unpopular at school, her oldest brother, Christian, makes sure there is a frozen lasagne in the microwave for their dinner but, apart from that, he is twenty four and has his own life. He also has a bike and can get around, unlike Annette who is isolated.

In this book no one is mean to one another. Her brother's comment that the woman next door is a "dyke." Apart from that one 'observation' there is no judgement. There are no protests when Annette starts spending time with Sadie, the "dyke"next door. Sadie seems collected, mature, Annette guesses in her late twenties, has tattoos, and does everyday things, like clipping hedges. She also paints portraits for people who commission them. Annette starts helping Sadie out by rinsing paint brushes and cleaning up. Sadie's partner, Joanne, has just left. There is no great display of emotion from Sadie about this, it just is. There is never any great displays from anyone, it all just is. Even when Sadie and Annette go to bed, have sex, it just is. There are no declarations of love, no uncomfortable moments afterwards, it just is.

I liked Portrait Of A Crossroads because it is very, kind of, Australian in the way it is drawn. If you ever watch an Australian movie they are different - grittier, realistic, no flash. - this book was not flashy, the characters felt realistic. I was reminded of rural Australia and a certain kind of uncomplicated attitude there, which may be a funny comparison given this is set in Canada. But it's painted so well, it's so familiar it resonated with me. I felt like I was watching something real unfold as I read.

The descriptions given  - of two houses, the different sounds that vehicles make on the road, the traffic lights forever changing colour, the meaning behind a permanent coffee mug ring on a coffee table, the memories of the smell of warm beer and cigarettes on a missed father, the companionable silences that Annette enjoys, no one in the book is the loquacious type, the "cracked dry wall" comments from father and now son -  by Ms Rand are so vivid, so beautifully drawn that I thoroughly enjoyed something just a bit different.

I recommend the well named Portrait Of A Crossroads for people who like contemporary F/F, or lesbian literature, those who like a subtle, quietly nuanced, book about real people, with no angst, no antagonists, rather a well written depiction of life for a couple of people at the crossroads of Burford and Brantford.


Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Tats of Honor, Vona Logan

Tats of Honor

- Review by Cindi

Kegan Andrews has a unique way of showing his life to the world.  He does this in the form of tattoos.  Each tattoo signifies love, loss or a special event in his life.  There's one for his mother, the woman he is engaged to, his cousin whom he has just lost to suicide.. among others.  Each new lifetime event means new ink.  His entire life can be seen simply by glancing at the ink on his right arm. The story begins at the burial of Justin, Kegan's cousin who died by his own hand.  Justin and Kegan were closer than brothers.  Finding the body and knowing he had pulled away in recent weeks fills Kegan with so much guilt that he is barely able to function.  He and his fiancee, Helen, had been planning a trip to New Zealand since long before Justin's death and Kegan feels by getting away for awhile that he may be able to come to terms with the man's death.  At the absolute worst time possible, Helen pulls a disappearing act and Kegan is forced to go on vacation alone.  When he lands he discovers that her betrayal goes beyond skipping out at the airport.  Determined, he makes the most of his holiday away from work, Helen and constant reminders of Justin.

Dominic Lewis has been mourning the untimely death of his long-term partner Alex for two years. He barely functions.  He doesn't date, doesn't go out and feels as if he should have died right along with his partner of fifteen years.  He purchases a new home with the hope that by having no shared memories there with Alex that he can begin to heal.  A surprise visit by an old female friend helps to push him in that direction.  When Lisa shows up Dominic is forced to step away from his memories to entertain her during her visit.  On one outing, they accidentally run into a tourist who Lisa immediately sets her sights on.  Unfortunately, this tourist seems to only have eyes for Dominic and for the first time in two years Dominic is beginning to feel something other than pain. This tourist is Kegan Andrews.

This book started out very well.  It literally starts with Kegan burying his cousin and best friend. My heart broke as Kegan himself placed the dirt in the grave, not stopping until the job was complete. Going to New  Zealand was to be his own way of healing.  Helen pulling her disappearing act was a blessing in my opinion.  My heart also broke for Dominic and I was eager to see him finally pull himself out of the hole he had thrown himself into after the death of Alex. When Kegan and Dom met I was expecting some kind of chemistry.  Unfortunately I felt nothing. Throw Lisa in the mix, who is doing everything short of raising her dress for Kegan, and my interest in the story plummeted quickly.  

I tried to enjoy this story as I am a sucker for seeing two broken men find each other to become whole.  It is relatively short so I did not expect a lot of details to be thrown in but I did expect to see more of the two main characters together.  Lisa takes up entirely too much of the story.  Yes, she is the one who eventually brings Dom and Kegan together but it's because she herself has her sights on Kegan.  She annoyed me.  

Then there is the fact that Kegan is just coming out of a four year relationship with a woman and has done nothing more than experiment once with a man up until now. No relationships with men. I saw no indication of him ever wanting to be with a man (aside from a quick experience in college). Suddenly he sees Dominic for the first time and he falls head over heels in love with him almost instantly.  I didn't feel it... at all.  

Over a period of a few days, Dominic, Kegan and (of course) Lisa spend a considerable amount of time together.  Dom and Kegan have no real alone time together because Lisa is always around trying to get into Kegan's pants.  The way Kegan eventually lets her down is laughable and a bit offensive.

Kegan and Dom kind of play around a little and of course Dom panics and practically runs away.  I got that.  Really.  This is the first man he's been with since the death of Alex so I could see where he was coming from.  It was all that happened in the days that followed that I could not see. Nothing from there on worked for me at all.  You suspend belief when you read fiction.  I get that. However, there is suspending belief and there is "No fucking way" and this book totally falls into the latter, especially toward the end. 

This book had so much potential and I hate that it did not live up to it for me.  The dialogue, the descriptions, a tad of paranormal and a little psychic ability from a dead man on top of the relationship that I felt just wasn't.  Something also occurs with Kegan's mother that I had a hard time buying into.  I love the story behind Kegan's tattoos and they are described beautifully.  The cover is amazing.  However, the story simply was not for me.

My rating:  2 out of 5 stars.

This book was provided by Dreamspinner Press in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

My Roommate's a Jock? Well, Crap! Wade Kelly

My Roommate's a Jock? Well, Crap!

*** This review has some spoilers. ***

- Review by Cindi

I will start this review by saying that I love books about nerds and the wearing of glasses is mandatory as I have this thing for men who wear them.  I am not a fan of the title but yet this book has been on my to-be-read list for months, since shortly after it was published.  When the author asked if I would read it for a review, I was eager to jump into it as it is a book I had every intention of reading anyway.  My thanks to the author for pushing me to move it up on my list and for the e-copy.

Cole Reid is a nerd.  He is also not the nicest guy in the world.  Having been outed and burned by a group of jocks while he was in high school, he has a hate for anyone wearing a sports uniform.  This hate is well known to those who know him.  He is also cynical about life in general. This does not endear him to most and he can only call one person a friend, his former college roommate.  When the roommate dares to graduate and move out of town with his girlfriend Cole is stuck with the task of finding another roommate for his last year at university.  Cole is also OCD and is anal (no pun intended) about the apartment that he must eventually share with another student.  When he is unable to find someone who can tolerate him to live with, the housing advisor for the university does it for him by selecting Ellis Montgomery to be his roommate.   Ellis is not picked at random. The reasoning behind him becoming Cole's roommate comes out later.

Ellis is a straight soccer player and the exact opposite of who Cole wants to live with.  The first meeting does not go well as suddenly Cole's clean and organized apartment is overrun by a group of rowdy jocks.  Cole makes his anger known by being rude to not just Ellis but his friends as well. Over a period of weeks Cole begins to see that Ellis and his friends are not like the jocks who made his life a living hell his last two years of high school.  Of course, he is still cynical so he doesn't go out of his way to give them a chance even when this is proven.  As time goes on, Cole and Ellis begin a reluctant friendship that kinda/sorta turns into more before something happens that knocks the relationship and friendship back a few steps.  Thus begins my first issues with this book.  While I thought my issues would be with Cole as he is seriously not a nice person, my initial problems begin with Ellis who had, until this point, come across as a very decent human being.

Cole and Ellis have been building up to a sexual relationship for weeks.  Finally, they have sex and Ellis freaks out.  I expected this as I don't know that I've read a nerd/jock book where the supposedly straight jock did not freak out after his first taste of gay sex (and believe me, I've read a lot of nerd/jock books).  Ellis did not just freak out over the experience.  He treated Cole horribly and then went on to do things that showed what kind of person he really is.  Until this, I liked Ellis a lot. I had a hard time coming back from that.

Other issues for me:

-  Ellis's mother.  I disliked her from her introduction and this lack of love did not improve as the story played out.  Ellis has a serious accident on the soccer field and is rushed to the hospital. He goes to go stay with his parents afterward.  Apparently "Mom" is suddenly feeling maternal toward her middle child when apparently she hasn't up to now.  Ellis is twenty, not twelve, but dear old Mom treats him as if he is.  The poor guy is bedridden.  He can't get up and move around on his own.  He is stuck either sleeping on the couch or staring at the walls for days on end.  She won't even allow him to take a shower. She then takes his cell phone away for over two weeks. Why does she do this?  Because she wants all of Ellis's attention on her and can not handle the fact that he may want to interact with anyone else, even his best friends.  Sure, the friends are allowed to visit Ellis on her terms but she stays within earshot at all times.  Cole, after a major misunderstanding involving Ellis before and after his accident, comes to visit and Ellis's mother treats him nasty from the get-go.  When she sees that Ellis is smiling for the first time in days (because of Cole) she gets even more 'maternal' and her nastiness increases.  She had never met Cole up to this point but she knows that Cole is making her son smile and this angers her.  SHE should be the one making her son smile, not some nerdy kid from college 'who has not cared enough up to now to visit Ellis'.  She is selfish and manipulative and if I treated my sons this way it is doubtful I would still have much of a relationship with them.

-  Ellis calls his mother mommy.  Did I mention he's twenty?  I did not find this cute in any way.  I have raised three sons and I have to admit that my two younger ones (now adults) call me that sometimes just to annoy me.  It's in fun.  Ellis, on the other hand, does it with his mother because it's the norm for him. No jest there. He is dead serious.  

-  Ellis's mother walks into Cole and Ellis's apartment without knocking.  She finds them in a compromising position (serves her right).  Does everyone have a key to the apartment?  She is not the only character who walks in without knocking.

-  The excessive use of exclamation points throughout.  If you have ever read any of my reviews before now, you know how I feel about that so I won't elaborate.

-  The points of view are all over the place.  When the book is referring to Cole it is in first person. Everything else is in third.  I found this to be confusing as it changed constantly and I had a difficult time keeping up.

-  Ellis has a group of friends who also befriend Cole.  This is before the nature of Ellis and Cole's true relationship comes out.  I liked all of them with the exception of one who does something horrific to Cole much later in the book.  This event was thrown in out of left field.  At no point did I see this character as being capable of any type of hate crime so when this happened I was shaking my head.  Also note that this person is not a huge part of the story.  He is only mentioned in passing to this point.  Apparently he's not only a homophobic bastard but he hates short people as well (seriously).  Being vertically challenged myself I would have loved to have that bit of info early on so I could despise him from the onset. :)

I know that what is listed above makes it look like I did not enjoy the book.  That is not the case at all.  I enjoyed watching Cole finally get over his bad attitude and give Ellis a chance.  He also realized that not all athletes are like the ones who bullied him in high school.  The relationship between Cole and Ellis took awhile for me to come to terms with but I did eventually.  Once their issues are resolved (with the exception of the mother) I really did enjoy seeing the two of them together.  There is also a lot of humor in this book and I devour books with humor in them.  A couple of the secondary characters came across a little on the creepy side but not enough for me to dislike them.  Another thing I enjoyed is that the roles are reversed in this book compared to others I've read involving a nerd and jock.  That was refreshing.  

Overall, a nice story about a typical nerd and a not-so-typical jock.

My rating:  3 out of 5 stars.

This book was provided by the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.

The Boy From Brighton, Geoffrey Knight

- Review by Mr Austro-Hungarian.

The Boy from BrightonEat your heart out, Edgar Allen Poe, and that pun was very much intended; who needs the heart beat in The Tell-Tale Heart when you have the tickety-tock-tock-tock from Geoffrey Knight’s The Boy From Brighton?

This short story is a quirky one. It is mainly focused on a Charlie – a young boy of seven – and his mother leaving their drunken father to stay with ‘Jane’, the woman’s sister from Brighton. This young man, all of seven, thinks he is invincible, as he is adamant that the surgeon’s operating on his heart – when he had a heart attack at four years of age – gave him a clock for a heart. This leads him into performing dangerous stunts that test his hypothesised immortality.

This is when we cue in The Boy from Brighton – a young man named Ant, who is from a troubled background. Ant comes to the rescue of Charlie, and makes sure that he is safe for the night.

I thought, first and foremost, that this was a very cute story about love and how it can save even the bleakest of situations. But it wasn’t just about romantic love; the story showed that love does not strictly limit itself in the form of a romantic partner, which I thought was a nice touch by the author. We all are loved, no matter who we are – we have parental, sibling, romantic, platonic…heck, even edible love! – and love can overcome anything, if given the chance.

I also thought the way the author used a very well-known event within history to skip forward in time was very clever. If there is one thing I cannot stand, it is jumping back and forth in time without anything to ground me, and this was mitigated within this novel. The writing was also quirky and unusual – it sometimes read more like a poem than a piece of literary prose – but it worked for the most part; this story had the plot to match the whimsical and unique writing style.

If there was one thing that I had to say was a disappointing aspect of the book, however, it would be the realism of the seven-year-old boy. I often had to check back and make sure he was seven, because his actions, vocabulary choices and even physical abilities were not that of a boy of seven. For example, this…

   “Instantly, I started sprinting too, heading in the same direction but on the opposite side of the street, my skinny legs carrying me as fast as they could until I was running parallel with the boy…”

 …implies that a sixteen-year-old boy, who is hinted at being a shoplifter and can obviously sprint, is easily matched by a boy who is seven – this strikes me as odd. The language choice also does not help the cause for the realism of the characterisation. I do understand that this book is not going to be absolutely accurate to the portrayal of a juvenile mind, otherwise this would be a children’s story, but there were many times where the age of the boy was lost; this irked me.

However, it was still a pleasant read, and it was too sweet a book to really hold one criticism against the lovely morals about human nature and the seemingly limitless capacity with which love can operate.

For this reason, along with the quality of the writing, is why I give The Boy from Brighton four stars.

This book was supplied by the publisher, Wilde City Press, in return for an honest review.

Monday, 20 May 2013

To Catch A Fox, Geoffrey Knight and Ethan Day

-Review by Kazza K

To Catch A FoxI can't really review this book as it would give away the mystery components so I'll just add a few things about the basic storyline and my likes/dislikes.

Jon Fox comes from a family with a distinct history in Louisiana, New Orleans to be more specific. They are a family of old money, skeletons, notoriety, and they have a big, well-to-do family company, Fox Industries. Fox's Uncle, Mason Wilkes, runs the family business on a day to day basis and Fox, not being interested, is a PI. Fox has a quirky family - his father died when he was young, 'suicide', his mother, Savannah, has periods of being lucid amongst being off with the pixies - running semi-naked on the estate, De la Fontaine, and calling Fox, Beau, his father. Virgil is a family friend who can best be described as surly but loyal, staying at the house looking after Savannah, and they also have a pet (white) alligator, of sorts, Snowflake, who makes regular appearances on the property. So they are pretty quirky.

Jon has had an unusual request come in from your typical sweet grandmother-type, Betty, to find a man who she can then kill. Betty just adds to the eccentric characters that permeate the whole book. There seems to be a Betty-connection to a young, extremely good looking man, Tucker Wilder, so Fox stakes him out, and likes what he sees. Tucker is working at his Aunt Millie's café, but his heart lies in Hollywood. He's been there before, has an agent, but he said the wrong thing to the wrong person, so he's back in NOLA. Throughout the book he constantly draws parallels between incidents that occur to movies and characters. Fox and Tucker are soon thrown together when Fox saves Tucker after he witnesses a rather nasty crime. Soon they are more than just rescuer and rescued.

There are a lot of things going on in this book. Too many things going on in this book. It felt like Days of Our Lives to me, and there were unnecessary POV, villains included, and flashbacks that were too verbose detracting from the relationship aspect of the book. Given that these two are going to be the subject of more books, I needed to feel like I wanted to continue the series with them because I was invested in their relationship. I wasn't.

I didn't particularly like Fox, and the book is named in his honour, so that's a problem for me. I found him at best two dimensional. But mostly I think I'm ambivalent towards him, really. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's because he seemed robotic, apathetic, and somewhat selfish. I also found the sex he had with Detective Ford gratuitous and that put me off him as well, made him seem sleazy.

I didn't mind Tucker, but he didn't set my world on fire either. Of the two MC's he did grow on me as the book progressed, just not enough.

It might sound like I really didn't like this book but that would be incorrect. I liked it well enough. It was middle-of-the-road reading for me. It was slow for a while, but the last 25-30% did get a move on with quite a bit going on. I thought Knight and Day wrote pretty well as a team. I just didn't get into the humour, although I can see where others may well do. The book ends with more to come, which I didn't mind, but I doubt I will be reading the next instalment.

In full disclosure mode, I am not into several other very popular sleuthing, PI type M/M series on the market, so maybe the problem is this is really not my type of book.

   3 middle-of-the-road stars

This book was supplied by the publisher, Wilde City Press, in return for an honest review.