Friday, December 24, 2010

The Match Before Christmas by Eden Winters

Candlelight, mistletoe, gaily wrapped packages beneath a trimmed tree, and someone to share it with. That’s all contractor Barry Richards wants for Christmas. Desperate for a traditional holiday, he takes drastic measures. Creating a profile on “,” he hopes to find the perfect man in a matter of weeks. When one date after another goes sour, while all around him friends are falling in love, he starts to lose faith.

The first snows begin to fall and the world is filled with seasonal cheer, all except for Barry, for whom time is running out. Facing the prospect of a lonely holiday, he tries just once more to make The Match Before Christmas.


Oh, poor Barry. All he wants is someone fabulous to be with, now, always, at the holidays, and he's having so much luck finding that wonderful man that he tries an internet dating site. Blinded by the hype, Barry sets off on one dating misadventure after the next. There are so many toads that want to be kissed.

Anyone who's spent any time in the dating pool will relate to Barry's awful evenings -- there are some LOL moments, and face covering moments, and when hope has nearly died of experience, someone who beats Barry's revised expectations (it's gotten all the way down to 'someone he can stand to spend a second date with') emails him. And after that, it's hopeful and all you can do is hold your breath that it isn't Barry who screws it all up this time.

This story taps right into our collective dating experience and our hopes, and fulfills them, even for those of us still waiting for the fateful email of love. It's a Christmas story only because that's such a potent deadline -- this one is a sweet year-round re-read.

Buy here.

The review copy was very kindly provided by the author, who did herself out of a sale because she's auto-buy for me, so I'm going to buy it as a gift for friends.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Army Green by J Rocci

Army Green
Evan Miller and Cam Jackson have run Glenhaven Farm together on behalf of Evan's grandparents for the past couple years, giving the farm everything they have to make it a success. But when Evan’s old commanding officer asks for Evan’s help with the wild child of their squad, Evan and Cam don’t hesitate to find a place for Reo at Glenhaven. Reo is a city boy with a penchant for trouble, and he stirs up more dust than expected. Reo’s behavior -- and Evan ignoring it -- causes Cam to confront issues he hasn't been able to verbalize until now.

Evan has been juggling a whole set of worries, though, and they take their toll on his health. When he ends up in the hospital, it's up to Cam and the rest of Glenhaven to make sure he follows his doctor's orders.

Featuring the boys from the Torquere Press Single Shot "Taction.” ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
This slice of life story grew on me, from an initial reaction of foot-tapping to ah, let the relationships bloom. While I’ve jumped in on the second in a series (eyes wallet, need to buy more books) I didn’t feel lost with Cam and Evan, who clearly had a long-standing and still evolving relationship. Reo, from Evan’s past in the military, stir up a lot of feelings and aggravation, but is a very engaging character, and makes Cam think.

Reo also makes Derrick, the nineteen year old Hooligan and stable hand think, and the two stories are very entwined. The point of view, although it seems to ooze back and forth sometimes between Cam and Evan, does spend about a third of the story with Derrick, and that makes his storyline real important. He’s attracted to Reo, and doesn’t know what to do about it. That’s kind of cute but it’s way incomplete.

So, it smells like sequel-bait, and while I love followon stories, I still feel like instead of getting two complete story lines, I’m getting about one and a half in this book, and that is a lot less satisfying. Any sequel would have to back up a bit to get these two introduced, so how bad would a hug and a kiss have spoiled anything? If we’d only watched these two through Evan’s eyes, leaving it incomplete would be a whole different matter, because he sure wouldn’t be watching their first gropes or thinking Derrick’s thoughts.

The cast of dozens introduced before page twenty also added to a bit of dissatisfaction, because while most of them had something to do with either backstory or running the stables, they didn’t have a lot to do with the story lines, except they all seemed so important that I had to remember them for the whole book. If Ostie’s kid had shown up at the picnic to play his tuba, that might have made recalling all those details worthwhile, but he’s never seen or heard of again and he's one of several flash in the pan characters.

The real strength of this book is Evan and Cam together, and I’d like to see more of them.

Buy here.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

And Is Never Shaken by Alexi Silversmith

And Is Never ShakenCassian Ford is a successful writer in his forties, established at the local university. Andy Havers is a book restorer in his early twenties who just moved to town. They have nothing in common, and yet somehow everywhere they go, they seem to run into each other. Despite a bumpy beginning—an exasperated Cassian accuses Andy of being a stalker—the gap in age, and their many other differences, a passionate romance develops between them. But just when Andy is convinced he's found true love, secrets from Cassian's past erupt into the present, and Andy realizes it might not be him Cassian wants at all....

So many elements of this story piled on top of each other to make this a really good read. The same very things that brought Andy and Cassian together could drive them apart if they allowed it, which is a great trick, not often done right. The music and the quotes, some was new to me, some was familiar, added depth to the story. Watching Cassian return to life in Andy’s company, then seeing how it could possibly all go wrong, kept me turning pages.

This was a May/December story that really worked, and couldn’t have happened if Cassian hadn’t had some heartbreak in his past. I like that, when a story absolutely requires a character to be in it or else be different. Andy and Cassian had a lot to work through to become a couple, and it all might have gone more smoothly had they listened to each other better, but then, Andy’s youth and impetuous nature made that difficult, and again, nothing would have been the same without that. Win x 2.

The sex was sweet, but with a couple of weird assumptions, about who does what and what that means the receiving partner does, or doesn’t do.

What I especially loved about this was that Cassian’s erudition was an important part of the story -- and that Andy was well rounded enough to recognize and respond to things that were important to his lover. He didn’t just tell Cassian, “Turn off that irritating piano piece!” but could say, “Gnossienne #1 has always made me sad.” In a genre that contains a lot of characters more obviously sexy than academics, that’s refreshing. The author pays us readers a compliment, too, by assuming that we can either recognize Shakespearean sonnets or figure it out.

This was another story good enough to send me in search of more information. I recognized some of the pieces (Pam Singer played Meditation from Thais for me) but I didn’t understand why Gnossienne #1 made Andy so sad, until I listened to it. To save you the trouble, here’s a link to a good version.

Buy here.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Black Leather by Vic Winters

Black LeatherTwo years ago, the lead singer for Axel Grind died of a drug overdose. Now, the label has brought the band back together and given them a new lead singer -- a young hot shot named Ricky. Ray, the band's lead guitarist and the man who writes most of their songs, has been given the task of being Ricky's babysitter. If anything goes wrong, it'll all be on Ray.

With a lead singer who has enough stage fright that he's puking before the show, and three original band members who resent the hell out of the new kid, what could possibly go wrong? Add in Ray's attraction for Ricky and he figures it's only a matter of time because things get messed up. In the meantime, Ray's going to ride the high performing brings him for as long as he can and maybe find a little love while he's at it.
In twenty-six pages, Vic Winters turns broken dreams, lost love, and substitute singers into some real magic. Ricky, who’se never fronted a band before, has replaced the previous lead singer, dead of all the classic rock star excesses, and he’s now Ray’s responsibility. While we’re seeing the evolution from Ray’s eyes, it’s Ricky who changes the most, starting out with a nasty bravado that’s hiding some real vulnerabilities, and becoming both a rock star and a really decent person to have around. This story is a look at dreams crushed and revived, and some dreams that work out better than the dreamer could imagine.

The language is rough, gritty, and perfect for Ray, who has a very direct way of looking at the world, and lets us share his joy in his music, his band, and Ricky. That joy is a while in coming -- Ricky's got to get to the right headspace too.

Buy here.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Change of Tune by JM Cartwright

A Change of TuneA Change of Tune by JM Cartwright

Johnny Rayne has had enough - enough of being at the top of the rock music industry for the last decade, enough of constant touring and recording. He wants something more -- just something very different. Moving to a farm in West Virginia, Johnny meets Sheriff Virgil Grissom on his first morning in the mountains.

The sheriff challenges Johnny in a multitude of ways - with overt machismo, disdain for Johnny's musician past, and all-around know-it-all-ness. The two men clash continually, and Johnny resists succumbing to the sheriff's brash charm until Grissom forces him to admit some very basic truths. One: Johnny's definitely attracted to men. Two: Johnny's definitely attracted to Grissom. And three: Johnny's definitely going to enjoy every moment of it.

The logic-fail at the very beginning of the book should have warned me. Johnny Rayne, front man for the band, and the brains of the business operations, doesn't understand why his one-sided decision to leave doesn't go over so well. He's shocked the rest of the band resents having their artistic and financial futures thrown into doubt so he can go find himself.

So buying a house he's never seen in a place he's never been makes relative sense. Especially when he's coming to terms with his sexuality, going to an area not known for tolerance and understanding of such things is going to work out fine, because this chunk of West Virginia is really a suburb of San Francisco. The cover says so, those are "painted ladies" in the background.

Everyone thinks gay couples are cute, an openly gay sheriff has no problem with his staff or anyone else, although he allows there might be one or two grouches up in the hills. And he takes Johnny from m/m virgin to fisting in less than a month.

The part of the story that isn't directly sexual exists only in flashes through the first two hundred pages, and after that it's still thin. Johnny came to the country with adopting a family on the mind, so the sheriff thoughtfully provides him with not one but two kids. Grissom treats getting kids with roughly the same importance as getting kittens, and it's not much harder, either, when the judge thinks two months of sex equals stable relationship.

Issues are introduced and then dropped, the author makes a big deal about the Sheriff's name, Virgil Grissom, being the same as the astronaut's, but nothing further ever comes of that. An escaped prisoner plot fizzles out before page eighty, and the prisoner never does anything desperate, he gets talked about a couple times. Johnny's a good enough musician to coach a local into Julliard, but that gets a handful of paragraphs and shows mostly that he's a good guy.

The language is probably the strongest point, it's fluid enough to lull you along into not noticing what's really going on for pages and pages. Until you run into yet another use of the Lord's name that isn't capitalized. I got so mad at this that I stopped reading and started counting, and got to 40 before I gave up, and there was still a half a book. "Blondie" is apparently important enough to capitalize, but 'god' is not. The nickname vs name issue in another story by this author is here too, it's a plot point, but annoying.

In short, there's no conflict. It's all happy happy, get comfy with gay sex, laugh at grown men learning to change diapers. If you want an extremely undemanding read with lots of sex, you'll like this, it's erotica, with babies and doggies and kitties and old ladies on the side. If you're expecting an honest-to-God story, you'll be as disappointed as me.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Rainbow Awards

One of my favorite reviewers, Elisa Rolle, has been working very hard to narrow down a huge number of good reads to a small handful of really outstanding stories, distracting us along the way with the cover contest. (WOW did I love looking at some of those covers every time I went to vote.) Results are in.

The entire list of winners is here at Elisa's LJ blog but I hope she won't mind the signal boost. Because there are three categories that are really close to my heart.

Best Gay Contemporary Romance:
1) Sloan Parker - More
2) Marie Sexton - Strawberries for Dessert
3) Eden Winters - The Wish

And if you click on that link at Elisa's, you'll Eden's other book, The Angel of Thirteenth Street, was Honorable Mention in this same category, so two books in the top ten!

And some other serious favorites have also been honored: Ruth Sims' Counterpoint: Dylan's Story made the top ten for Best Gay Historical Romance, see the entire list here.

And if Eden hadn't already cleaned up one category, her novel Duet made the top ten for Best Gay Paranormal/Horror, which may be as close as you can come to characterizing a book this unique. The whole list is here.

Allessia Brio picked up an honor as the cover artist for Angel of Thirteenth Street, too, more reason to celebrate! You guys have to see this. Hardly ever see such a good fit with cover and story, too, so congrats, Allessia!

So why is a reviewer getting all excited about all this? First off, I'm so new to being a reviewer that I'm just happy that someone else agreed with me! I reviewed Duet not long ago and, and I've read almost all of her other work and loved it, whether or not I reviewed. Ruth Sims' short story is wonderful, too, and Counterpoint is burning a hole in my hard drive on the TBR list.

And second, Eden and Ruth both took the time to say a kind word or two to someone they don't even know, because I (and Pam) opened my mouth about what I'd read. So I'm all excited that something good happened to two sweet people.

As Eden said, "I'm jumping up and down, and that could be dangerous for a woman my age!"

Ladies, I'm jumping with you.

(And my TBB list just expanded by about 42 books.)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Unfinished Business by Angela Benedetti

Unfinished Business (A Hidden Magic story; Sentinels #1.5)
After a morning of saving the world, apprentice mage Cal Toscani heads down and works a full day in his busy restaurant, because foiling the bad guy doesn't pay the bills. After midnight, bruised and aching from the aforementioned foiling, and exhausted from a long day of work, Cal goes home hoping for a hot bath, a nice massage and some sex, not necessarily in that order. His lover and master, Aubrey Fletcher, unfortunately remembers that he'd given Cal a lesson that morning before everything got exciting, and he's determined that Cal's going to finish that lesson before anything else happens -- yes, right now. Cal finds himself naked in bed, trying to figure out how to remove Aubrey's spell, while a naked Aubrey does his best to be distracting. Cal's pretty sure he's going to explode long before he figures the damn thing out!

This was fun -- the author expanded on a little scene in a larger work (A Hidden Magic). Cal, the apprentice, gets a really funny, sexy lesson on paying attention under duress, and Aubrey, magical adept and Cal's master, provides plenty of hot, hot duress. If every lesson was that much fun, Cal will be an adept in no time at all!

I'd read A Hidden Magic a few months back, so I remembered the set-up for the whole asses-ears business, and that was my only quibble with this story. The beginning feels like a scene that was removed from the book for flow, and it doesn't really capture the purpose of the ears or why they even existed -- as a stand alone story they come sort of out of the blue. As a read with, it just follows right on. Following Cal around the restaurant at the beginning establishes that he's got a life outside magic, but it doesn't set up the rest of the story as well as it could. Asses ears --> creme brulee --> asses ears might have worked better than creme brulee --> asses ears.

All the same, the sex was hot, the relationship between master and apprentice was both loving and responsible, and the ending sweet.

Buy it here.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Off Trail by JB McDonald

Off TrailOff Trail by J.B. McDonald

Recently widowed, with one dog now crippled and another about to give birth, Keith needs help. Problem is, he doesn't want it. When Spencer blows into his life, Keith does his best to shove Spencer back out. Spencer is everything his dead husband wasn't, and little too close to the wild side for Keith's taste.

Spencer can see that Keith is drowning in details, just as he can see how a little aid would go a long way. But Keith keeps refusing help -- for everything except the crippled dog. Spencer's way into Keith's house is through fur on wheels; finding his way into Keith's heart won't be so easy.


McDonald does a beautiful job of drawing an overwhelmed and still grieving widower, who has to get a handle on life as it must go on. I really don't know how Keith has survived the previous year without his husband -- nothing could have been one bit easier back in town, except for intact walls and ceilings to keep the elements and wildlife out. He's reached that point of exhaustion where he will keep putting on foot in front of the other because he's too tired to stop, until he drops.

Spencer is a good guy, willing to break that cycle because he sees someone really worthwhile inside Keith's closed off feelings, and he has some great attributes -- I wanted to shake Keith and say "Listen to the man!"

There was a really great turn-about sequence, involving the dogs that are such an overwhelming part of Keith's life, the author clearly understands big dogs, but honestly, while I get why Keith struggled so hard to keep Sam going, it didn't seem fair to anyone, yet, how could he stop once he'd started?

The tone of hopeless exhaustion on Keith's part does go on a while, understandably, but not pleasantly and probably has something to do with why I didn't like it more than I did, and yay for him seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. For all that it isn't pleasant, it's well done, and when the tone lifts, it's all the better.

Buy here for ebook or here for print.

Rants to the Universe

I am trying to buy some books. This is behavior you authors and publishers try to encourage, right? Then make it easy - why can't you

A) make your website easy to navigate with some tags, so I can find the rock star books or the firefighter books or something a little more specific than 'contemporary' or 'BDSM'? My wishlist at Goodreads isn't a substitute for decent navigating here.

B) authors, do your publicity under your own name? If LJ names are how you market yourself, like  longhairedcat21 publishes under SB Jones, which do you think I'm going to remember? You just lost a sale, cause I am not digging back through there. My time is valuable enough that I'm not going to spend longer hunting than it would take to read. Too many other choices.

C) Proofread before you post on your website. I do look and if there's 8 mistakes in a coming soon blurb, I won't get excited to read.

Aghhhhh back to spending money.

Apologies to any real SB Jones who markets under the right name.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Smoke:Askari by Lee Benoit

Smoke: AskariSmoke: Askari by Lee Benoit Noble is an American medical anthropologist who wants to save the world. His work in Kenya is off to a slow start until he accidentally moves into a brothel. The night guard, Harry, is more than what he seems, and soon he’s helping Noble take his research, and love life, to a whole new level.

Their work among the poorest of Nairobi’s poor is challenging, and they find great comfort in each other until an old crush calls Noble away and sinister forces mass against him and Harry. From slums and whorehouses to game parks and Indian Ocean beaches, this isn’t the tour books’ Kenya, and Harry and Noble aren’t your ordinary couple! Can simple love triumph against the complex forces of corruption, prejudice, and public health crises? Or is it just a curl of smoke, ready to be blown away?

This is a cross-cultural romance, done by someone who has to have had experience in East Africa. The smoke burned the back of my throat, the smells and tastes startled me with their strangeness, and the attitudes made me think. The romance, though it was importance, was almost secondary for me in the strange culture. It wasn't a travelog, it was an immersion.

The main character, Noble, gave the impression of looking for a new culture because he didn't quite fit into his 'home' one, and he found a way in, with Harry the askari of the title, a protector that always seemed to have a little more meaning lurking than the author actually explained. I like that detail, it gave the impression of you could figure it out if you could just read a little more, if she would PLEASE just write more pages with more hints. Anyone who's reading just for  the sex would probably be irritated by that quality but I loved it.

So don't read it just for the sex, which is sweet and hot, understated for the most part and a reminder that the rest of the world sees things a little differently, but read it because it's a big step outside your culture and that's good.

A negative for me was Stuart, because while I could understand the evolution of Noble's feelings towards him, I wasn't so sure what Noble saw in him in the first place. Maybe it's another kind of win if the reader wants to hit a character with a big stick.

Buy here.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Same Time Next Year

Jerome and Greg played on the dirt road halfway between their homes when they were kids, and found much better games to play there when they grew older. It's their special spot, the perfect place for Greg to propose, and the worst place possible for the accident that takes his life.

Devastated by the loss, Jerome visits that lonely road on the anniversary of Greg's death, only to discover that not all endings are permanent.
Ms. Winters has done it again: she's provided a solid little story with elements that are familiar in her work but still fresh because she handles them differently every time. A main character, very much in love with his partner, dies, and she's made me like it sniffles and all. Love persists after death, but so does life -- her character doesn't quit thinking or feeling or living, no matter what his sister might think. And it ends happy, and makes me happy.

The story does drag a little at first, but keep going, cause it's like the roller coaster, have to get moving and then whee. The last line was off-the-wall and perfect.

There's an author extra, which turned out to be a little scene that didn't fit into this story but goes with it that you can find here on Goodreads. Don't know why it's not on the blog. Or there too.

Buy it here.
Disclaimer -- The source story was provided by the author for review, which is a first WOOWEEEE! Oh. Well, it is, so add to the list of things I'm thankful for is that someone actually wanted to know what I thought.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Fuchsia: Fanged Trouble by Winnie Jerome

Shifters and vampires never mix, even shaken or stirred. That's the lesson Adam has learned, but now he has to fake becoming bonded to his biggest enemy, Philippe, for the good of his clan. To say the two of them don't get along is like saying a volcano is a little hot.

Philippe is gorgeous and sexy as hell, but he's also a king-sized snob, which is a turn off to down-to-Earth Adam. Soon Adam may have to change his tune, though, because zombies invade the city intending to make a tasty snack out of anything that moves, and the only person he can turn to for help is Philippe, even though he'd rather eat his own leg.

It's been a while since I read an LOL-funny, but this one had me giggling every few pages. The author takes all the tropes about vampires and werewolves, turns them upside down, inside out, and slips them a margarita, too.  It's battle, with fangs, claws, and --- social media?

The zombies took me a little by surprise, gotta read the blurb first, but it's been a while since this shopping trip, but hey, nothing like a common enemy. I thought the ending was a little anticlimactic, but the giggles along the way made it all worthwhile. (I did mention I loathe soul-mate stories, so it's just a darn good thing this story was tongue in cheek all the way.)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Losing my marbles again

A reviewer is going to have some biases. We're people, our likes and dislikes are going to show. Sometimes you can get past the issues, sometimes you can't. It isn't reasonable to expect total objectivity when your big squick button has just been pressed. Sometimes all you can do is back away slowly. I just read a remark from another reviewer about how the treatment of race in a particular book made her decide against reviewing it, because she didn't trust herself to be objective. It made sense to me.

I should tell you what my problem issues are and how I plan to handle this.

First off, I will tell you in a review if one of those issues crops up. I won't let you guess if it's the theme or if it's the writing. In a recent review, I've had to identify one story that I couldn't finish and why, and it had nothing to do with the quality of the writing. In another, I had to admit that the entire setting (BDSM) makes me uncomfortable. And I liked the story after all. I do try to be fair, and if I can't be fair, I'll be honest.

Soul mates -- this one hits the gag reflex, no matter what the writing looks like. It screeches me to a stop 99 times out of a hundred, and the hundredth one is probably involving a non-human. Apologies to writers who use it and readers who like it, but it strikes me as a stupid, cheap plot device, and I hate it in real life, too, where it was definitely a stupid, cheap device. You may never see a soul mate story mentioned in this blog unless it would be leaving out one story in a collection. And then I will say why it was a DNF.

A more general kind of "mates" I can enjoy, if it's personalities first, then the bonding. But the whole "you are fated to be with this person and this person only" thing will get a fast exit. Or whining if it got sprung on me late.

Rape/incest  -- rape doesn't usually turn up in romances except as some past trauma, which is fine, I can do without that altogether. Even then, the bunglings in fanfiction have left me jumpy -- it's usually not handled well and if it's not, I WILL mark it against the story. Count on it.

Incest- also a problem. I buy my reading material and so most of this is won't get past at the cash register, but if you hear some faint voice shrieking, "oh hell no!" it's probably me reading a blurb with identical twins.

BDSM -- this one is trickier because I'm not a fan of the kink and mostly just find it sad or upsetting, but every now and then there's a story that I like, which isn't to say that I read all the way through. It doesn't come up often, because of that cash register thing, but it could, and I will remind you that I have issues, and then you can grind as much salt on my words as you need to. But I won't mark down a story just for being BDSM -- all the other stuff has to work

Crap editing: sometimes this is hard to tell from crap storytelling, because not every house out there edits as much, but I'll notice. Sentences that lie there on the page like a nest of garter snakes get noticed too. Sometimes out loud. Some lapses in line editing I can overlook, but it's sloppy and makes me wonder. This isn't exactly a "have to flag thing", but it can cost a story half a marble if there's a lot because it interferes with reading

I WILL notice logic-fail out loud. And if I can't find the plot beyond "hawt guys fuck" you can call me Cryssy Crankypants.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Torquere Charity Sip Blitz #9

Ah, at last I have come to the end of the alphabet in this massive collection, and with it, authors both new to me and familiar. And all made for great reading. And now I have to go buy some more books!

Mind/Body Medicine by Gabriel West

Rindae's fa'ithe Justan, the warrior he has given his life to, has succumbed to the force that drives all Maa'rish warriors. It has taken over his mind so completely that Justan is trapped within the force. Rindae goes to see what has become of Justan during his stay at an institution. Can the bond that they forged before Justan's mind was swept away be strong enough to bring Justan back to him?
This was one of the few stories in the collection not set in our world or some recognizable derivation of it, and it took me a bit to take in the world and it's inhabitants (no blurb-induced expectations, didn't even see it until I grabbed it to post here). Then it took me a while of thinking about how the Maa'rish could distinguish a force within them as separate from them, and then I decided, just accept it, Crys.

Anyway, this story went deep into the choices that one partner has to make when the other partner becomes very impaired, and in this world, those are hard, hard choices. I was astounded at how much hope one word could generate. And I applaud the author's restraint in not going for a miracle.

This is a new-to-me author and it took me a bit to get in synch with the world, but the ending was good for half a marble all by itself. I'd read more.

What You Can’t Live Without By Eden Winters

A flashy car, a trendy apartment, membership at a swanky country club -- Dr. Mitchell Rollins has it all, except someone to share it with. Dr. Arnulfo Oliva doesn't share his materialistic views and has no use for expensive toys. Turning away from all the U.S. has to offer, Nulfo returns to El Salvador, where he feels truly needed.

A magnitude 7.8 earthquake rocks El Salvador and both men. Desperate to find his former lover, Mitch joins a mercy mission to the devastated country, coming face to face with the man who left him behind. Can two men from different worlds find common ground after the crisis?
This one left me sniffling. But aw. Dr.Mitch has had his expectations slapped around and his needs redefined in terms of what's really important, like what will you carry if that's all you can have. The author did a super job of portraying the beauty and the danger of El Salvador in the earthquake - that all felt very real. "Welcome to my shaky country," she has Dr. Nulfo saying. I felt like I was there, and I bet she's been.

Mitch had a pretty drastic change of heart, but I think his experiences should have changed him, and being with a person who lives his convictions has to make a difference. (But I think the mini-van was still a Lexus!)

The Boyfriend Line By Avery Zeno

David and Rafe are “friends with benefits,” but definitely not boyfriends. When David discovers he might have cancer, he doesn’t tell Rafe for fear that leaning on his friend would be pushing too close to the boyfriend line. When Rafe finds out, will David’s secrecy push them farther apart?
There are a lot of 'big misunderstanding' stories, where the problem would be solved pretty fast if the two people would just talk to one another, but that isn't what we have here. It's more the second half, minus the watching them flounder around, though it's pretty clear that the relationship David and Rafe have isn't satisfying either of them when something big and life changing happens. And then they talk, and we get to listen, which is pretty satisfactory, although Rafe is awfully perfect. I kept waiting for him to waver in there somewhere. This story started at the emotional bottom and just kept going up up up. No dips.

Pasion’s Dream By Kate Cotoner

Pasion of Miletos has suffered from insomnia for over a year. He's traveled the length of the Eastern Mediterranean in his search for a cure, and desperation leads him to the shrine of the healing god Amphiaraos. There Pasion meets Kyronides, his former beloved and once the most beautiful youth in Athens. An accident has robbed Kyronides of his sight, and if the shrine's priests can't cure him, Kyronides will be sent into exile.

Finally able to tell Kyronides why he was forced to end their relationship, Pasion discovers that the truth cures his affliction -- but as the days pass without a miracle for Kyronides, Pasion must think of another way to heal his beloved.
I like historical, and the world here is very complete, but I couldn't help feeling that the story was a bit dry, just trying to get the feel of the ancient times. Pasion (nice choice for a name) and Kyronides meet again on their pilgrimages to find cures for their afflictions, and their relationship existed more offstage and flashback, but they leave the story with hope, and I liked that. Not all tidy wrapped ends, either, and I liked that too. But I feel like I shared that meal of dry barley cake, dried fruit, and dry red wine, from all the formality of the language.

Buy any or all of these books here.

Having this entire monster collection of twenty eight stories in one volume, made me treat it like an anthology, which it probably wasn't meant to be. But what it also did was give me a look at authors I haven't read before and authors I've seen before but doing new things and going new directions. And there might have been a place or two where there was a bit of overlap that wouldn't have happened in an intentional anthology, or where one story suffered a bit for comparison to another story, but this is an amazing collection all the same, and more than worth the time and the money. And I have lots of names to add to the "watch for" list.

And everybody remember that my ratings aren't the same as others, a 3 is still I liked it, a 5 is I  fell over whimpering. Check the details here.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Charity Sip Blitz Review Set 8

Hey yah! Getting to a couple of my favorites! More goodies with a medical theme, and wow, no one has had the same idea yet.

On Call:Crossroads by PD Singer

Dr. Keith Hoyer has lost patients before but never like this, not at sixteen and not by intent. Certain that he could have prevented the tragedy with some word or deed that he left unsaid or undone, Keith is desperate for a way to redeem his failure.

If he's going to practice medicine in a Third World country, Keith's lover, veterinarian Dante James says, he needs time to sell the practice and brush up on diseases of goats. "Whither thou goest, I go," Dante tells Keith, but where will those words take them?
This story stands alone just fine, even if it does have two others in the series. Keith's and Dante's work and private lives mix in such a way that I would hope doesn't happen all the time, but does make a good story. They tend to the bittersweet, someone's always getting hurt, and this time, killed, which sends Keith just a bit over the edge, and Dante has to reel him back with a reality check. They are a committed couple, and Keith gets to find out just how committed, when he proposes uprooting their lives in his grief. What happens next maybe qualifies as catching Keith in a vulnerable moment, but they are both utterly happy about it, and they turn all the condoms into cat toys.

The headlines lately have an ugly resemblance to the plot of this story, although I know the author didn't plan that, but it does have a ray of hope at the end for young gay men.

Disclaimer - I had to listen to Pam babble about writing Fire on the Mountain on the drive to and from work for months and she betas for me, so I’m probably bending over backwards to be picky. It's a wonderful story and I want to give it a 5 but she is a friend and I don't want to look like playing favorites. What do I do? Not review? Not rate? Help me out here.This is gonna be a bigger problem as I meet more authors.

You Don't Need a Doctor by Julia Talbot

When a gunshot victim comes into Alan's ER, he jokes that this guy doesn't need a doctor, he needs a veterinarian. As he keeps working, though, the patient seems to be getting less hairy and less hurt. All except for the bullet wound that's now festering badly. Alan is shocked when his patient seems to miraculously heal as soon as he removes the bullet. He's even more shocked when the guy turns up at his house later to offer a very personal thank you.

Can he figure out Shiloh's secret before it's too late?
Thunk. Right into one of my issues. Although the story was almost over except for the wrap-up, so I got suckered into it, and it will be all spoilery if I tell you now. So I guess it just proves that you can slide a story past my known dislikes if you do it well enough. We the readers have a good laugh on the doctor, cause from that vantage point it's easier to see what's going on, all peeking through fingers at the giant revelation that's  going to startle only the hero.

A nice little romp.

You don't know what my issues are? Guess I should talk about those sometime. Not now. It would be a spoiler.

Some Good Doctoring by BA Tortuga

Working as a clinician in bull riding isn't easy, especially when ornery cowboys get up all in your face and give you a punch of your nose. Lucky for Jonesy, he has Cody Butler on his side, ready to not only wade in and keep him from being hit again, but to give him the best personal doctoring a man could ask for.

Featuring the men of the Roughstock world.
"It was what cowboys did. They fucked hard and fought hard and called the people they loved 'baby'."

Guess that about sums it up for the story -- it's short, violent, sweet, and full of the little choppy sentences that wouldn't fit in with anybody but cowboys. It's very intense, very immediate, and very hot.

Buy here:

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Torquere Charity Sips Review Set #7

Still working my way down the alphabet of authors who contributed to the benefit campaign for Doctors Without Borders.

The Pavilion by Tracy Rowan

Eliot is a doctor who knows he can't save everyone, but that doesn't keep him from letting guilt and grief shut down his life when his lover dies. He leaves everything behind, moves to a new city, and resolves to live a quiet, solitary life. He finds his way back to a medical practice after a few years, but even the satisfaction he gets from his work doesn't help heal his broken heart.

Enter Jamie, a younger man who works at the local diner and has ambitions to become a chef. He chooses Eliot as a guinea pig for his cooking, and as the object of his affection. Eliot's head tells him to send Jamie away with a polite refusal, but his heart is aching to open up to Jamie. Can an impromptu dinner in Eliot's garden be just the right prescription to get Eliot back on his feet?
This was fun, Jamie knows what he wants, how to get it, using food and humor as bait. But Jamie's not prepared for what passes for a Brit's sense of humor, either. Be sure not to have liquid in your mouth when you get to the negotiations, right about here:

"That's a little cold, but I guess it'll do. Eliot, I like you a lot, but hardly enough to do the whole I-love-you thing, and if I said different, you'd figure I was just lying to get you horizontal."

Cause what comes next will make you snort.

The time/location thing was a little clunky, it's told in flashback/flashforward, but Eliot's backstory matters. Jamie's ethnicity gets played up a lot, (having a part-American Indian cooking curry comes across muddled) but seems to be mostly for a way to have objections to starting a relationship, not because he couldn't be anything else and still be in this story.

These two look like they could manage an HEA.

Borders by Kathryn Scannell

Hooking up with a stranger in a bar is hard for a shy young doctor, but it’s the only option when not staying in the closet might get you killed. So Kevin has taken his first long weekend off from his job in Gaza City, and headed for Tel Aviv to find some action. Things are looking promising when he meets a handsome Israeli who seems just as interested as he is.

But it’s not so simple. David is an Israeli soldier, and Kevin may have noticed too much about a sensitive operation David was part of in Gaza City a few weeks ago. Is David’s interest genuine, or just a trick to get Kevin alone to find out what he knows?
I found the back away/come together/back away/ come together part of this story very authentic feeling - it isn't a simple situation on either man's part. Kevin has every reason to doubt David's direct approach and sincerity.

A couple things felt rushed; David's making a beeline for Kevin felt like kind of bad craft for a secret ops guy, it triggered the recognition, which seemed a bit premature from across the room even so. One part of the sex went by in a blink, too.

The setting is unique in my reading and feels real and gritty, and the feeling of living in a war zone was clear. I liked this story a lot, but would have liked it more had a couple things come about half a page later than they did.

General question for the universe -- why do authors assume that men who aren't in relationships aren't doing anything by themselves?

Eyes Wide Shut By Meredith Shayne

Adam Taylor liked working for the Royal Flying Doctor Service. He didn’t even mind the tiny outback town in Western Australia where he was based. If the downside was doing the regular clinic at the Mount Keith nickel mine where his mining engineer ex-boyfriend Chris Barker worked, well, he’d coped with worse. When a visit from Chris leads to an unexpected encounter, Adam can’t help but hope for things to get back on track.

If Chris couldn’t keep away from Adam, the least he could do was make sure that his redneck workmates never found out. It was better for everyone that way. At least, that’s what he’d thought, until Adam got caught in a mine cave in and Chris thought he was dead. After that, being outed didn’t seem so important anymore. Chris just hoped he’d get a chance to tell Adam that.
I liked this story enough to find a map and figure out where Meekatharra and Perth are relative to each other. Okay, ignorant American here. Another story with the Royal Flying Doctor Service, but a totally different flavor and focus, so not repetitive.

In the first heady encounter between Chris and Adam that we see, they are all over each other, but nothing about why they broke up has changed so it doesn't seem all that hopeful, and all the fighting that follows doesn't move them along, so frustrating, cause they obviously love each other. I think Chris has some legitimate concerns, too, which I didn't see Adam taking so seriously. Dropping rocks on his head did knock some ideas loose for Chris, I just wish that Adam had budged, too.

Buy one or all of the Healing Hearts Charity Sips, benefitting Doctors Without Borders, here.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Torquere Charity Sip Blitz Set #6

Still working my way through this substantial collection.

Have Hope by Emily Moreton

When what was supposed to be a simple exchange of information goes to hell in the form of armed soldiers and two bullet wounds, double-agent John Grey makes a fairly desperate run for his rendezvous point. And doesn't make it.

Fortunately, luck's on his side, and he wakes up in the house – the bed – of a local clinic doctor, Mohammed Saleem. Attractive and smart, with a sharp sense of humor and a tattoo, Mohammed is exactly the kind of guy John falls for. Mohammed has very strict rules about what should and shouldn't happen during a recovery period, but John's sure he can change that.
The present tense makes this story feel very urgent and immediate -- while it's a choice I don't always enjoy, here it was perfect for combat and escape. The situation is savage, with only a moment for sweet, and the two men take what they can from their opposite sides of a great divide. The ending left me sighing.

The Rosebud by M Raiya

James was born with the ability to heal any injury or illness simply by touching the person who is suffering. The price James pays is falling in love with the person he's just healed. But how can he act on any of his infatuations if he knows that the moment he heals someone else, his feelings for the last person will end? He goes through life avoiding people as much as possible, using his gift with great discretion, and constantly nursing a broken heart.

One night, James comes across a car crushed beneath a logging truck in northern Vermont. Inside, dying, is Ambient, the most beautiful man James has ever seen. All he can do is hope that this time, his gift will not turn into a curse, because Ambient is not someone he can resist.
Insta-love with a good explanation works lots better than insta-love just because. James comes with a built in insta-love generator, and coping with it is a major plot point, so yay. Not so sure where the other guy is coming from, aside from a serious case of gratitude and a hippie attitude. I don't like the soul-mate thing in general, and Ambient's choices smack of that, so it's left me with mixed feelings. Name choice here was a bit of a mood breaker. Non-standard names are fine, but this one isn't easy to say so it became little jolts on the page. I wanted to call him River or Wind and see if that helped.

I really liked what the writer did with James, so I'll keep an eye out for other stories, cause this one has a lot of good points.

Dregger's Deep by J. Rocci

Tulley is the head of security for the most influential business man in Oilsmouth. His latest assignment from the boss is to escort the company’s new doctor down to tend to the miners of Dreggers Deep. Unfortunately, Dr. Edmund Peniwill and Tulley have a history. Edmund left Tulley behind to attend medical school overseas, with no request for Tulley’s input. But Tulley isn’t the type to hold a grudge, even if he’s not sure what he’s currently feeling. Life in Oilsmouth isn’t easy, though, and a brush with sky pirates soon has the two resolving a few issues.
I was impressed with the world building -- the impression of a dirty industrial world hit the page really fast.

"At least he had new boots on his feet and had washed the grime off his face just that morning."

Like washing his face wasn't something he did all that often, no reason to, grime's just part of everyday.

For some reason, I had the impression that this whole setting was underground, so sky pirates needed an attitude adjustment on my part, which is my bad.

This sort of had the feeling of being part of a larger project. Tulley and Edmund came to an understanding by the end, but a couple of characters that got introduced like they were really important (Kit and Edge) disappeared completely. Where'd they go? Were they supposed to come back in a chapter three that isn't there?

I haven't read a lot of steampunk, but I think I like it, and will check out more of this author.

Buy any or all of these stories here, and help support Doctors Without Borders.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Captain Obvious paid me a visit

But I didn't notice. Obvious though it was.

Actually, it was the friend who (took mercy on me and) redid the look of this blog. But she said, "This thing has no focus, girlfriend. That was ok when your readers were from fanfiction, or your pals and family who actually give a rat's beedeedee about your issues with appliances."

That's really embarrassing, but true. The slide show had animal pictures that dated back from when I was working on a humongous fanfic that had those sorts of characters. It had posts about dishwashers and voting. All fine in a general rambly blog but if I am going to do reviews, it should have a theme. Pictures that relate to the content. A header pic, even. BTW, tell me if the header is too dark to make out. It's supposed to be mysterious, not invisible. I have NO idea how she did most of it, but she did ask if I liked the pic. Um. Yeah!

Pam took care of it -- she's really sweet about doing stuff like this, even though I don't think she meant to spend her Saturday night writing html, but I wouldn't have had a prayer of getting all those marbles in the previous post to line up like little soldiers. Tables, she said. I'll set one and put food on it, I said, and you fix my blog. But she changed a bunch of stuff and now it looks what it's supposed to be. Thank you, Pam!

I actually can add a link unsupervised, so if any authors want a link on the sidebar, email me at CryselleC AT gmail Dot com and I'll put it on.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Losing my marbles by the numbers

So how does this Cryselle chick decide how many marbles to lose?

Here's what I'm working from. The lowest ranks are around mostly because teenager who photoshopped my marbles did a whole suite, not because I expect to use them. ACKs will probably be DNF and you're unlikely to hear about it. I am drawn to trainwrecks, though, so it could happen.

A three marble review isn't a bad review. It's "I liked it." May not have gotten excited about it, but there was something to like there, and I did. Fives rock my socks all the way off.  Editing is not what I'm looking at most, but a lot of goobers may cost half a marble, because it detracts from the reading experience. I have the world's fussiest beta and it's rubbing off.
WOW Photobucket
Loved this Photobucket
Really liked this Photobucket
Liked this a lotPhotobucket
Liked this Photobucket
Okay, but... Photobucket
Meh Photobucket
Didn't work for me Photobucket
Really didn't work for me Photobucket
Ack Photobucket

The online behavior of authors will influence a review, but mostly because they won't get reviewed. I won't knowingly spend money on someone who flips out on the readers. If my baser instincts get loose I might laugh and point, though.

Crossposting to Goodreads is a problem, because it's whole numbers only over there. Rounding up or down is going to have to be a judgment call, and if the number isn't round over here, I'll note it there.

This is all still evolving for me -- changes will get announced.