Showing posts with label Challenge. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Challenge. Show all posts

Sunday, January 3, 2016

TBR Challenge: Wrap Up & A Fresh Beginning

My participation in the 2015 TBR Challenge was a huge bust. It's a shame my blogging mojo was off because a big chunk of the books I read during the year were from my TBR. Still, from the books reviewed, both my January and March/April contributions were great reads.

Following is my measly list of reviews for the 2015 TBR Challenge: (Click on titles to read reviews)

January: Big Boy (Strangers on a Train) by Ruthie Knox
Theme: We Love Short Shorts

February: Kiss and Tell by Allison Kent
Theme: Recommended Read

March/April: Patricia Brigs: Overview Alpha & Omega (Posted in April)
Theme: Did not follow theme

The above results, however, have not discouraged me from signing up to participate in the 2016 TBR Challenge along with Wendy and the crew. I will do my best to keep up since last year MORE books wormed their way on to that ever growing, dust gathering, TBR pile. So, one more year!

To join this year's TBR Challenge, or if you are curious about the monthly themes, non-rules, non-regulations, and/or posting dates, just follow this LINK to The Misadventures of Super Librarian.

As always, thanks to Wendy  for hosting this fun and useful yearly challenge.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Completing: The 2012 Science Fiction Experience

The 2012 Science Fiction Experience hosted by Carl V. of Stainless Steel Droppings was a quick, short term non-challenge that I joined for a period of two months, from January 1st through February 29, 2012.

Carl V. made this a cool experience by giving the participants the choice of discussing everything science fiction: from movies to books, to well... anything. It was fun! I participated by watching quite a few movies, more than I posted about, and reading quite a few books, again, more than posted on my blog. I also ended up purchasing MORE books for that ever growing TBR pile after reading some of the reviews posted by my fellow participants, and adding some old favorites for re-reading purposes in ebook format.

At the beginning of this experience I had in mind two series and authors whose works I wanted to read, but was not sure which one I would choose. I ended up finishing one series, and began the other. So not too bad! Here they are:
Below is a summary of my posts for The 2012 Science Fiction Experience. I've also listed the titles of all books read, and movies that I remember watching.

  1. Science Fiction "B Movies"
  2. The Butcher of Anderson Station: A Story of the Expanse by James S.A. Corey - Mini
  3. Overview: Old Man's War by John Scalzi (Old Man's War #1, The Ghost Brigades #2) 
  4. Impressions: Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold
Books Read:
    1. Old Man's War (Old Man's War, Book 1) by John Scalzi
    2. "Quiritationem Suis." (Metatropolis Anthology) by John Scalzi
    3. The Ghost Brigades (Old Man's War, Book 2)  by John Scalzi
    4. The Sagan Diary (Old Man's War, Book 2.5) by John Scalzi
    5. The Last Colony (Old Man's War, Book 3) by John Scalzi
    6. After the Coup (Old Man's War 4.5) by John Scalzi
    7. The Butcher of Anderson Station: A Story of the Expanse (Book 1.5) by James S.A. Corey
    8. Shards of Honor (Vorkosigan Series, #1) by Lois McMaster Bujold
    9. How I Proposed to My Wife: An Alien Sex Story by John Scalzi
    Movies Watched (watched more!):
    1. The Matrix
    2. Pitch Black
    3. Soldier
    4. Push
    5. The Chronicles of Riddick
    6. Star Trek (2009, directed by J.J. Abrams)
    7. Priest (spec fic)
    8. The Andromeda Strain
    Thank you, Carl V., I had a blast!

    Saturday, January 22, 2011

    2011 Book Club: The Women of Fantasy

    I've been dithering this whole month about weather or not I should join Challenges or Book Clubs. Mainly due to my new work schedule. If I make a commitment, I always do my best to come through unless it's out of my hands. However, The Women of Fantasy Book Club, hosted by Erika of Jawas Read, Too!, is just the perfect fit for me this year.

    Reading more fantasy is a personal goal I set for myself at the beginning of the year. I was planning to read some of the books and/or works by authors that are listed as part of this book club. So, why not join, right? Plus, Erika made it easy... not all 12 books need to be read for the year, only those that interest me.


    All year we’ll be reading books published by female authors in the Fantasy genre. Some are older titles, some newer, but all look to be amazing reads. Participants can join in the discussion in one of the months, all twelve, or a random selection from the entire year. It is up to the reader!

    There will be 12 books—a different one for each month. Readers will have the entire month to read that selection. At the end of each month, there will be a review/discussion post at Jawas Read, Too! where Erika (1) reviews the book and (2) welcomes comments and discussion. Discussions pertaining the book will be held. Comments or links to reviews (if one is written) every month or any month are not necessary in order to participate.

    Instead of having links in several different locations all of the pertinent information for this challenge will be on this page. It will serve as a hub for easy access to previous month’s reviews and discussions throughout 2011.


    So what books do I want to read? Well, I actually have the first book on the list The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jesimin in my TBR pile and will read it this year. However, I just began reading the first book Elizabeth Bear's Promethean Age series, Blood and Iron, and want to finish it this month. This is a series I've had in my TBR for a while and really want to explore, together with series by other female fantasy writers, Robin Hobb, Tanith Lee, and others. I will eventually read other books included in the list provided by the book club, but for now I've chosen the following four:

    March 2011
    Prospero Lost
    L. Jagi Lamplighter
    April 2011
    Four and Twenty Blackbirds
    Cherie Priest

    June 2011
    The Dark Mirror
    Juliet Marillier
    September 2011
    Mercedes Lackey

    Check it out, this is a fun Book Club! Plus, it's being done in conjunction with Dreams and Speculation's 2011 Book Club: The Women of Science Fiction.

    I will keep you all updated on my progress at the bottom of this page with links to my reviews. And a cross link from my review to this page in future posts.

    1) Prospero Lost by L. Jagi Lamplighter - DNF
    2) Four and Twenty Blackbirds by Cheri Priest - Grade B-
    3) The Dark Mirror by Juliet Marillier - DNF

    Thursday, December 16, 2010

    M/M Romance & The Big Book - 2010 Completed Challenges!

    The 2010 M/M Romance Challenge - Hosted by Anezthezea of I Heart Paperbacks

    100 % Completed October 2010

    I had lots of fun participating in the M/M Romance Challenge this year. Again I read books by new authors whose works I'll be exploring in the future, and some of my favorite GLBT books of the year are included in this list.

    That includes my favorite GLBT romance anthology of the year Fool for Love: New Gay Fiction edited by Timothy J. Lambert and R.D. Cochrane; The Boy Can't Help It: Sensual Stories of Young Bottoms by Gavin Atlas, a hot collection with an even hotter cover from Lethe Press; The Adrien English Mysteries by Josh Lanyon, a series that caused a crazed Lanyon read and re-read cycle I've still to overcome! And two of my favorite reads of the year, Diana Comet and Other Improbable Stories by Sandra McDonald and A Strong and Sudden Thaw by R.W. Day!

    Following is a list of books read. Click on titles to access reviews. I signed up for 20+ books this year, and although I read and reviewed over 20 books, I chose to stop listing them after 22.

    1. Fool for Love: New Gay Fiction edited by Timothy J. Lambert and R.D. Cochrane
    2. Best Gay Erotica 2010 edited by Richard Labonte selected by Blair Mastbaum
    3. The Boy Can't Help It: Sensual Stories of Young Bottoms by Gavin Atlas
    4. Fatal Shadows (Adrien English Mysteries, Book 1) by Josh Lanyon
    5. A Dangerous Thing (Adrien English Mysteries, Book 2) by Josh Lanyon
    6. The Hell You Say (Adrien English Mysteries, Book 3) by Josh Lanyon
    7. Death of a Pirate King (Adrien English Mysteries, Book 4) by Josh Lanyon
    8. The Dark Tide (Adrien English Mysteries, Book 5) by Josh Lanyon
    9. Crossing Borders by Z.A. Maxfield
    10. Cheating Chance by James Buchanan
    11. Carbon and Ash by Chris Owen (Read-read)
    12. Henry and Jim by J.M. Snyder
    13. Vintage: A Ghost Story by Steve Berman
    14. Bound by Blood (Soul Mates Book 1) by Jourdan Lane
    15. Deceptions (Soul Mates Book 2) by Jourdan Lane
    16. Sacrifice (Soul Mates Book 3) by Jourdan Lane
    17. Diana Comet and Other Improbable Stories by Sandra McDonald
    18. Zero at the Bone by Jane Seville
    19. A Strong and Sudden Thaw by R.W. Day
    20. A Hidden Magic by Angela Benedetti
    21. Unfinished Business by Angela Benedetti
    22. Caught Running by Madeline Urban and Abigail Roux

    Thank you Anezthezea for hosting this great Challenge!


    The 2010 Big Book Challenge - Hosted by Orannia of Walkabout.

    100% Completed August 2010

    This was a deceptive challenge, it looked easy but it turned out to be tough for me. All you had to do was read ONE book -- a really BIG book with more than 500 pages before the end of 2010. I was successful and completed the Challenge by reading one new release and re-reading another big book. However, I did not read the book I chose initially. Why? Unfortunately, after over 5 months of not being able to get past page 200, the book became a DNF for me.

    Books Completed for the Challenge:

    Title: Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows (Re-read)
    Genre: YA Fantasy
    Release Date: July 2007
    # of Pages: 759
    Reading Start Date: July 1, 2010     Finish Date: July 3, 2010
    Review: July 25, 2010 - Link to review here.

    Title: The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan
    Genre: YA Fantasy
    Release Date: May 4, 2010
    # of Pages: 516 
    Reading Start DateAugust 17, 2010     Finish DateAugust 21, 2010
    Mini-Impressions: December 14, 2010 - Link to Mini here.

    My initial choice for this Challenge was:

    Title: Naamah's Kiss by Jacqueline Carey
    Genre: Fantasy

    Release Date: June 24, 2009
    # of Pages:
    Reading Start Date: August 26, 2010     Finish Date: DNF

    Thank you Orannia for hosting this Challenge! It was a tough one, lol!

    Saturday, October 9, 2010

    Review: A Hidden Magic by Angela Benedetti

    Fey incursions into the mortal world have been on the rise lately, and Paul MacAllister's trying to figure out what the king of the local elven enclave Under the Hill is up to and how to stop it. Rory Ellison was caught up in one of those attacks and nearly killed by a gang of goblins. He doesn't believe they were real, though, and is resisting anything Paul might say to the contrary.
    Normally Paul would be willing to let Rory go his own way, at least until he's taken care of more immediate business. But Rory has a particularly rare gift, one the elven king needs to have under his control in order to carry out his plan. Keeping Rory away from the fey who'll use him -- to death if necessary -- means protecting him night and day, whether Rory agrees or not.
    A Hidden Magic is an excellent beginning to Angela Benedetti's new M/M urban fantasy series. She begins by plunging the reader directly into her world of magic and setting the dark atmosphere that will surround her characters.

    Paul McCallister, Cal, Manny and Aubry are members of a Mage Team who use spells and other magic abilities to battle Fey, trolkins, goblins and other magical creatures and come "topside" to steal magic from humans so they can banish them back to Under the Hill where they belong. The urban setting for these disturbances: Downtown San Jose, California.

    Rory Ellison has always been different. He has seen strange creatures all his life, and in fact after years of therapy and medication Rory believes these creatures are hallucinations -- a product of his deluded, psychotic mind. Rory is attacked by a dangerous gang of goblins and almost loses his life. The Sentinels come to the rescue and it is then that he finally learns the truth about himself. His life is about to change forever.

    As Paul and the Sentinels protect Rory from more frequent and dangerous attacks from the fey, Rory battles not only his grave doubts about this new world of magic, but a growing attraction for Paul. And Rory fights hard! He doesn't want to believe and he doesn't want to be attracted. However, when all investigations as to the continuous attacks point to King Pelamine, things rapidly deteriorate for the Sentinels and Rory. The real battle begins.

    I enjoyed this book. To develop Paul and Rory's romance, Benedetti uses sexual tension quite effectively throughout the story. It all builds up to an intimate encounter and the beginning of a relationship. Although both Paul and Rory are attracted to each other and there's a satisfactory outcome to their attraction, as follows with most urban fantasy series, there's room for further development of both the romance and the world building in future installments.

    The two main characters in this story are well developed, although there's more depth to Rory's character than Paul's. The Sentinels as secondary characters are well defined, their personalities are set and it's obvious that they'll be pairing off in future installments. Aubry as the most powerful Mage and Cal as his assistant stand out in this story.

    Benedetti uses Rory's introduction to the Sentinel's world of magic, his doubts, and the exploration of his new powers to introduce the reader to the world building for her new urban fantasy/romance series, and answers questions as the story moves along at a fairly fast pace.  The story was intriguing with lots of action, interesting characters and twists and turns along the way, it kept me turning those pages. A solid beginning to this new series.

    Genre: M/M Urban Fantasy Romance
    Series: Sentinels, Book #1
    Released: May 26, 2010/Torquere
    Grade: Solid B

    Anesthezea's 2010 M/M Romance Challenge

    Mini: Unfinished Business (Sentinels, A Hidden Magic #1.5) by Angela Benedetti

    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 gave Cal a lesson that morning before everything got exciting, and he's determined 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

    As a follow-up story to A Hidden Magic, Unfinished Business -- a Sip by Torquere --is quite the hot short story. This is a quick encounter between Aubry and Cal and follows up on a scene that takes place in A Hidden Magic. However, this Sip stands well on its own as an erotic encounter.

    I loved seeing this side of both Aubry and Cal and I thought it was an excellent glimpse into these two characters and their relationship. I definitely hope to see more of them in future installments. Hot, hot!

    Genre: M/M Urban Fantasy Romance
    Series: Sentinels (A Hidden Magic Story), Book #1.5
    Released by: Torquere
    Grade: B

    Anesthezea's 2010 M/M Romance Challenge

    Thursday, September 9, 2010

    Minis: Soul Mates Series (Books 1, 2, 3) by Jourdan Lane

    For the M/M Romance Challenge, I read the Soul Mates series by Jourdan Lane, Books 1 through 3: Bound by Blood, Deception and Sacrifice. I don't usually read M/M Paranormal Romance, so this was a bit off the beaten path for me.

    Bound by Blood got my attention and I just had to know what was going to happen between the main characters Peter and Colin, but even with that curiosity pulling at me, I wasn't thrilled with the series as a whole. The first book was the best read for me, Peter a human bartender and Colin, a vampire who falls in love and takes him into his world of vampires, werewolves, and other shapeshifters. Colin is the head of his Coven and chooses Peter as his mate. This book sets up a world full of shapeshifter action, with lots of hot, sexy scenes and a romance between Peter and Colin that I enjoyed. At this point I definitely wanted to go on reading the series.

    My problem with this series began with Book #2, Deception. The plot was all over the place and there were times when I just didn't know where the story was going. I didn't know what the heck happened but it definitely was not to my liking. Peter and Lucien began having relationship problems, as Peter wanted to be turned into a vampire and Lucien refused to turn him. Peter's answer is to have sex with the males he finds attractive (which at one point seems to be everyone around), but he wants Lucien to be faithful to him. In other words, he wants his cake and wants to eat it too. Ugh! There's also a storyline where there's a betrayal by a very close friend. In Deception, Peter turns into this spoiled character that has tantrums every other minute and this drove me crazy. His characterization is inconsistent, one minute he seemed tough and the next a total spoiled brat, and frankly, I couldn't understand why everyone in the Coven thought he was such a hot tamale.

    I read the 3rd book, Sacrifice, just to find out what the heck Peter was going to turn out to be... but truthfully he was really on my nerves by that point, although I still liked Colin and some of the secondary characters. Peter is bitten by a werewolf and his body seems to be dying... he's not turning into a vampire or a werewolf so there's a question and a mystery there. This is the only thing that kept me reading at this point. Some scenes were quite tough to read, especially when his body's dying and he's half out of it and all of a sudden you know there's another threesome or sexual scene involving Peter in the offing. What the heck? Wasn't he just dying? But he has enough energy for a threesome? Really? The mystery of Peter's turning is resolved by the end, although of course there are some threads left hanging that are picked up in the next book.

    After reading the first three books in the Soul Mates series, I found that there's only one real monster and that is the "Green Eyed" one: Jealousy. It is the cause of all the petty shit that goes on. I've never seen such a big bunch of needy, jealous men who are supposedly Alpha and all that... but that well... are not. [Sigh]

    But if I'm really going to be honest with you all, what really frustrated me about this series was the fact that although I was frustrated with the weaknesses in the storyline and the characterization, I couldn't stop reading the darn books! LOL! Yes... this is one of those series that catches you unaware and gets you all hooked and next thing you know, like crack or candy on a stick, you can't stop reading it no matter what. Huh!

    Genre: M/M Paranormal Romance
    Series: Soul Mates (Books 1,2,3)
    Series Grade: C

    Visit Jourdan Lane here.

    Anesthezea's 2010 M/M Romance Challenge

    Sunday, August 1, 2010

    July 2010 Reads + Two Minis

    Was July the longest month of the year so far or is it me? Maybe the torturous heat, haze and humidity that came along with the sunshine had something to do with it. I had lots of distractions this month, after all it is summer and even with the over-the-top heat, there were gatherings and events to attend. Nice! As a result of all the activity, I've been reading -- indoors and outdoors -- but I'm still behind on my reviews. I think the sun fried my reviewing mojo! Or at least slowed it down, lol.

    July was a great reading month for me quality-wise. I read 6 new releases this month and I'm happy to report none of them were huge disappointments, in fact they were all enjoyable. Here's my summary of reads for the month:

    Total books read in July: 15  (Click here to see full list of books read & grades)

    My favorite reads of the month?
    I really liked this book! A book with tons of head hopping going on... back and forth... that I didn't seem to mind, why? Well, Jake and Brandon are great characters and theirs is a wonderful story, it's that simple. Jake's the high school P.E. teacher, baseball and football coach and Brandon is the science teacher. They went to high school together and one was the jock and the other the nerd, so there's a history there. I love the way Jake and Brandon get together -- neither is what you would expect. Urban and Roux did not give this couple "magic gaydar" so the friendship and attraction develops before the hotness begins. Both characters are likable, although Jake is definitely a favorite with me. This is an M/M book that, although flawed, is already a favorite and will go on my list of comfort reads. Great story and characters, both central and secondary -- added bonus, baseball! Thanks to Tracy, Mariana and AA for recommending it. ;P  
    My biggest disappointment?
    • Zero at the Bone by Jane Seville: B-
    I had high expectations for this book, and in my opinion that can be a recipe for disaster. In this case, I found Zero at the Bone had many good qualities to recommend it and not all my expectations were dashed -- good action, love, angst galore and good character development -- so it wasn't a great disaster, but still... a disappointment. The uneven/choppy pacing that yanked me out of the story more than once, a character whose personality got on my nerves the more I read the book, and an ending that was not only never-ending, but that seemed out of place, awkward and ambivalent, frustrated me to no end. Endings can make or break a book for me, and unfortunately this ending spoiled a lot of what I did enjoy.
    Anezthezea's 2010 M/M Romance Challenge 

    What about you? How did your reading month go? Any favorites?

    Sunday, June 13, 2010

    Minis: James Buchanan & Chris Owen

    Cheating Chance (Taking the Odds Series #1) by James Buchanan

    I finally read Cheating Chance by James Buchanan, a book I've had on my "to be read" pile since last yearNow this book I really liked. The story of Brandon, a cop from Riverside, California who leads a double life and is definitely in the closet, and Nicky, a Nevada Gaming Officer who is very much out in the open with his sexuality, but who's on the rebound after ending a three year relationship.

    Brandon and Nicky were incredibly hot from beginning to end. The story is set in both Nevada and California and while the two of them get involved in an investigation, their rocky relationship evolves. I loved the details and research Buchanan used in this book about both Nevada Gaming and police procedure. The characterization is wonderful as are the dialogue and the plotting. This book doesn't have a "happily ever after" (HEA), it has a "happily for now" (HFN) and it works. Expect some light D/s and rope work in this book, as well as sizzling scenes. There's a second book, Inland Empire,where this couple's relationship is further explored and where they continue their adventures, I'll definitely be reading it.

    Genre: M/M Suspense/Erotica
    Published: MLR Press - July 18, 2008
    Series: Taking the Odds, Book #1
    Grade: B+

    Visit James Buchanan here

    Carbon and Ash by Chris Owen

    Carbon and Ash is a short story and a re-read by a favorite author, Chris Owen. I must admit Carbon and Ash is the one story I re-read most often by this author. Why?

    Myles and Todd are both single fathers who love to spend time with their little boys participating in different types of activities -- little league, camping, cookouts, movies and overnights. Myles and Todd also hang out together after these events and by now they have established a routine. Todd is a single gay parent and Myles is straight and divorced, but when we meet them this routine includes an occasional meeting of the two on the couch where they touch each other as a type of release. Myles doesn't think this means much until they both think about dating other people and their routine is disturbed. Myles begins to realize that maybe his feelings for Todd are not so casual.

    So why do I love to re-read this story? It has more than a few of the ingredients I love in a story -- a taste of summer, baseball, family, true friendship, and the meaning of patience and surrender. Who can ask for more in a short story? But for me it's not just the content I love, it's how Owen writes the story. It's how she captures all of the above mentioned with only the necessary detail to deliver a complete story in a few pages.

    Genre: M/M Romance (short story)
    Series: None
    Published: Torquere
    Grade: Solid B

    Visit Chris Owen here.

    Anesthezea's 2010 M/M Romance Challenge

    Thursday, June 3, 2010

    M/M Review: Henry and Jim by J.M. Snyder

    A bittersweet short story about a lifetime love affair. Henry and Jim have spent a life in love, from the very first date arranged by Henry's sister, through the rocky times they worked to make ends meet, and into their twilight years.

    Old men now, Henry reminisces about the love they've shared as he learns to cope with Jim's fading memory and his own fear of being forgotten by the only man he's ever loved.
    This is more a post than a review because well... this book touched me on a personal level and it definitely affects the way I view this story. I began reading Henry and Jim by J.M. Snyder and was sobbing by the second paragraph. I had to stop reading before I could continue.

    It's a beautiful short story about an elderly couple, Jim who is exhibiting Alzheimer-like symptoms, and his partner Henry who is the caregiver. Through Henry's point of view, we experience a morning in their present lives, Henry's anxieties about Jim's memory loss and his fear of being forgotten. Through flashbacks, Snyder highlights Henry and Jim's first meeting, part of their life struggles, and some very happy moments. It ends on a high note and it's a beautiful and touching story.

    But for me... well... I couldn't help but think of my own parents. My mom suffers from these symptoms and my dad is the caregiver. They had a beautiful love story and first meeting. They saw each other once, wrote love letters, met once more and then married -- they saw each other twice before making that commitment. They have been married and devoted to each other for over 50 years. And I mean lovingly! As kids and even as adults, my brothers and I would begin with the "Aww mom... dad, stop!" and would end by looking at each other and doing the eye roll.

    The scenes in this little story... Henry's anxiety for Jim; his fear that Jim would get hurt if he were left alone by the stove; his fear that Jim would forget his name, their love and the details of their lives, all of that was so REAL to me. I've seen that fear in my father, and my brothers and I have experienced it too.

    I sobbed throughout much of this story for the loss, and at the same time thought how lucky they were to have found and experienced that love -- the fictional Henry and Jim, the real Henry and Jims out there, and my parents (my brothers and I too). And as tough as it is, I couldn't help thinking how lucky we are to be able to experience closure together -- there are so many Henry and Jims out there who are not so lucky.

    Thank you J.M. Snyder for writing this story and for reminding me of the love that came first.

    Genre: Contemporary Gay Literature
    Series: None
    Grade: A

    Visit J.M. Snyder here. Read excerpt here.

    Anezthezea's 2010 M/M Romance Challenge

    ETA: Thank you Mariana! This story is being highlighted for the real life struggle of Clay and Harold vs. Sonoma County in CA

    Sunday, May 30, 2010

    M/M Mini: Crossing Borders by Z. A. Maxfield

    Tristan's got issues; he knows he does. So when his most recent girlfriend dumps him via messenger, and he can't stop staring at the messenger's cock while he's breaking the news, Tristan figures it's about time he makes some changes. He formulates a foolproof plan to get himself someone who can show him what he's been missing -- until who should crash his little adventure but Officer Michael Truax, the man who gave him a really expensive ticket for boarding without a helmet back when he was in high school.

    Michael has been trying to catch Tristan for give him a second ticket. Suddenly he's faced with his 'Sparky', all grown up -- and looking to get laid. The habit of protecting him isn't gone completely, but the opportunity is too much to resist. He figures the kid must know what he's getting into, so he takes him home. There, they carry on a cautious dance, only to find out that neither is what the other expected, and that together, they're hot enough to melt glass.
    Crossing Borders by Z.A. Maxfield was a lovely coming out story. If you like that first kiss, that first love scene, that first everything... you'll love this book. I enjoyed the humor and the characters, never mind the hot couple that Officer Helmet and his "boy" Sparky made.

    However although there are conflicts to the story, I found them to be somewhat predictable, lacking and... perfect. Tristan is the perfect son who has the perfectly lucky and "safe" coming out, with a perfectly accepting family and in the process finds the perfect man in Michael. I kept waiting for some edge to the story and never got it.

    In the end I thought Crossing Borders lacked edge and real conflict, and although the story itself was predictable, there were plenty of sizzling hot moments and humor to keep me entertained, as well as the extremely likable couple, their "happily ever after" and the sweet epilogue.

    Genre: M/M Romance
    Series: None
    Release Date: September 8, 2008
    Grade: C+

    Anesthezea's M/M Romance Challenge 2010

    Thursday, May 20, 2010

    Review: The Hell You Say (Adrien English Mysteries, Book 3) by Josh Lanyon

    Demons, death threats...
    and Christmas shopping.
    It's gonna be one Hell of a Holiday.

    In the third in the popular Adrien English series, the "ill-starred and bookish" mystery writer has to contend with a Satanic cult, a handsome university professor and his on-again/off-again relationship with the eternally conflicted LAPD Detective Jake Riordan.

    And, oh, yes, murder...
    Oh my! After I finished reading The Hell You Say by Josh Lanyon, the third book in the Adrien English Mysteries, all I have to say is that I loved this book! I was exhausted by the end.

    The mystery was excellent and quite involved; there is a whole sect of Satanists, curses and ritualistic murders. When it seems as if Angus, Adrien's assistant (and resident warlock) at the Cloak and Dagger bookstore is the main suspect, of course Adrien must get in the middle of it all.

    The investigation progresses at a slow pace with multiple characters and threads introduced. As opposed to the investigation, the action is quick paced and doesn't slow down from beginning to end. Lanyon again integrates Jake and Adrien's ongoing relationship into his storyline so that the mystery flows and keeps the reader involved, while the personal conflict between the two main characters becomes more complex making The Hell You Say a suspense on both fronts.

    Jake and Adrien's relationship was a bit of a roller coaster ride, with a slow, tentative beginning building to a highly emotional end. Their relationship took the expected turn in this book, but I found the journey to be both emotional and quite gripping. There's a definite turning point for Jake's character in this book and in turn one for Adrien.

    Jake's decisions, his actions and reactions fit him and I think Lanyon took a risk with this character -- an excellent risk. In my opinion, anything else would not have been believable and whatever happens in future books, The Hell You Say had the perfect ending. However, I can't help but hope we get more Jake in the next book and see the consequences to his actions.

    There are other factors I didn't mention previously that also make this series an outstanding one. Adrien's quick wit and amusing internal debates lighten up tense moments at the most unexpected of times. There are also unforgettable secondary characters that make the series feel complete. Their interactions with Adrien provide some unforgettable moments. My favorite so far? The often hilarious exchanges between Adrien and his interfering, overprotective and relentlessly manipulative mother Lisa.

    The Hell You Say was a beautifully written book that provided a thrill on all fronts. I'm thoroughly hooked and going on to read Death of a Pirate King!

    Genre: LGBT Suspense/Mystery
    Series: Adrien English Mysteries, Book 3
    Release Date: 2007 Revised Edition
    Grade: A

    Visit Josh Lanyon here.

    Anesthezea's M/M Romance Challenge 2010

    Sunday, May 16, 2010

    M/M Review: The Boy Can't Help It: Sensual Stories of Young Bottoms by Gavin Atlas

    At some point, hasn't every bottom yearned to be ravished by a powerful, inescapable top? What dominant hasn't fantasized about a gorgeous young sub with an incredible ass, so horny he could never say no? The Boy Can't Help It offers over a dozen such stories of beautiful young men: a gymnast, a diver, a surfer, a marine and many college boys submitting to construction workers, horny professors, butch jocks, corporate titans, insatiable miners, and even one's own psychiatrist. Whether you long to be the helpless bottom or the top nailing him...whether your wet dream is a bit of bondage, a gang bang, sex on the sand, or naughty Gavin Atlas has the stories to satisfy your every need.
    The Boy Can't Help It: Sensual Stories of Young Bottoms is a collection of Gavin Atlas' erotic and raw short stories.

    As the title indicates, all are stories about bottoms and their erotic fantasies. For the most part these thirteen stories contain short, raw, sweaty, marathon-style sexual encounters. In other words, these are down and dirty, erotic fantasy-based "stroke" shorts, where in some cases the more the merrier applies and no is not a word often used. Gavin Atlas' talent for writing great slutty bottoms, dominant tops and their wet dream fantasies in a fast paced, clean and raw style is well showcased in this collection.

    If you're looking for a hot bottom fantasy, you'll probably find it here. You'll find single hot encounters as in Wet Pass, the story of a polo player and a reporter. A short, hot, wet unexpected sexual encounter and the story that hooked me on Gavin Atlas' raw writing style. Or Blue Star Boy, the sexual fantasy of a man who while on a cross-country search for that perfect bottom finds him, and a bit more.

    You'll also find stories involving multiple partners, interesting tricks, and slutty bottoms going on wild fantasy rides. Boy do they ever! In Claiming Danny, Simple and Easy, and Business with Pleasure all fantasies are fulfilled. Although I've only mentioned a few titles as examples, all the stories in this collection are well-written, sizzling reads. There's even what I'm calling a "bonus" story included in the book, an error by the printing press that gave the readers that extra hot read.

    I love collections by single writers because usually their best work is compiled under one cover and I can take my time reading and savoring each story slowly, this is no exception. I took my time reading this book and can tell you without reservation that Gavin Atlas' The Boy Can't Help It: Sensual Stories of Young Bottoms (with a gorgeous cover I can't help but drool over) is now part of my permanent erotica print collection.

    Genre: LGBT/ Gay Erotica
    Series: None
    Release Date: Lethe Press/February 14, 2010
    Grade: B+

    Visit Gavin Atlas here.

    Anesthezea's M/M Romance Challenge 2010

    Wednesday, May 12, 2010

    M/M Mini: A Dangerous Thing (Adrien English Mysteries, Book 2) by Josh Lanyon

    In this second LA-based adventure, bookseller Adrien English arrives at the Pine Shadow Ranch (left to him by a beloved grandmother) to find a corpse in his driveway. But by the time the unfriendly local sheriffs arrive, the body has disappeared.

    Who are the mysterious strangers excavating on his land? And will he sort out his problems with LAPD Detective Jake Riordan, heavily into S/M sex but not so hot on relationships? Find out in this engrossing, slyly witty thriller.
    This series is getting better. A Dangerous Thing, the second book in the Adrien English Mysteries series, has excellent balance between the mystery/suspense and Adrien and Jake's developing relationship. I love how well Lanyon almost seamlessly integrates the two. The mystery is full of great twists and turns with multiple murders, suspects and red herrings thrown into the mix. I didn't really guess who the murderer was until almost the end; just the way I like my mysteries.

    Adrien was well developed in Fatal Shadows, but we only got enough of Jake to wet our appetite. In A Dangerous Thing there's a bit more focus on him, and we begin to see exactly how deeply conflicted he is about his sexuality. Jake is harshly vocal about his beliefs and self-doubts, resulting in uncomfortable situations and not so pretty scenes. Jake is still a work in progress when it comes to development, and I would say he has a long way to go as his character unfolds slowly.

    I couldn't help but think as I was reading the story... "Adrien, you lovely man, what are you getting into? Get out while you can!" But as their relationship seems to be deepening, it's obvious that Adrien is going to go for it with Jake... he is cruising for a bruising and that's obvious too. Their intimate scenes together caught me by surprise. I expected passion, but not the tenderness that's obviously the "hook" when it comes to Jake.

    I am loving Lanyon's writing, these mysteries, the characters that populate them and can't wait to read The Hell You Say.

    Genre: LGBT Suspense/Mystery
    Series: Adrien English Mysteries, Book 2
    Release Date: 2007 Revised Edition
    Grade: B+

    Visit Josh Lanyon here.

    Anesthezea's M/M Romance Challenge 2010

    Friday, April 23, 2010

    M/M Review: Fatal Shadows (Andrien English Mysteries, Book 1) by Josh Lanyon

    Fatal Shadows by Josh Lanyon is the first book in the Adrien English Mysteries series; a series I've been meaning to read since 2008. My friend Mary brought it to my attention and I finally, finally got to it! Why did I wait so long?

    Lanyon begins this series with a murder mystery that had me turning the pages and racing to the end. I read it in one sitting. Fatal Shadows is chuck-full of atmosphere and at times it felt almost as if I were reading a "cozy." Although you won't find the knitting, cooking or baking theme in this book, there is a theme. You will find a circle of mystery writers, references to mystery books and authors, and of course the amateur sleuth, all of which give it that vague "cozy" feel.

    I was quite taken with the setting in this book and thought Lanyon was clever in choosing Old Pasadena, California, a modern and bright place if I've ever seen one, and then endowing it with a feeling of darkness, mustiness and oldness that doesn't feel contrived. I think it's the old used book store, the alleyways, the old two story brick building where the bookstore is located and the old mystery books that Adrien sells. I could almost smell the dust on those books. Lanyon did an outstanding job of setting up both atmosphere and setting.

    I really enjoyed the murder mystery and Adrien, as a sleuth, was both a crack up and quite good in his way of thinking. Adrien is a mystery writer and has a wonderful imagination; one minute he's trying to figure out whom the murderer is, in his own inimitable way, and the next minute he's just freaking out. Adrien's sexuality plays a big role in the storyline, even though this is not an erotic book or a romance. Homophobia, closeted gays and subtle prejudices are all part of the storyline.

    Predictably, in this first book of the series, our main character Adrien is introduced to the reader as the main suspect in the brutal murder of his best and oldest friend Robert; a device usually used in mysteries to set up the base for a series and introduce the characters. Adrien's life is turned upside down when the police begin to investigate his life thoroughly as a murder suspect. When anonymous flower deliveries, unsigned sympathy cards with creepy poetry arrive, followed by silent phone calls in the middle of the night and other creepy events, it seems as if Adrien might've also become the main focus for the murderer. When Adrien reports these incidents, the police don't take him seriously. Desperate and afraid for his life and future, our amateur sleuth decides to go off on his own and conduct an investigation that leads to a dangerous and emotional climax.

    Lanyon uses the crime investigation to deeply develop Adrien's character by delving into his past and present life. By the time Fatal Shadows ends, we are well acquainted with Adrien's life, his personality, quirks and thought process, providing an excellent base for the rest of the series. Quite a few secondary characters are introduced, multiple suspects and those who populate Adrien's life. Most are kept on the periphery and none are developed as deeply as Adrien in this installment.

    I find it interesting that characters that are either downright homophobic, in the closet or just out of the closet surround Adrien, a man who is confident and comfortable with his own sexuality. Some of them wear their prejudices on their sleeve, and while some are vociferously and brutally homophobic, others are subtler in how they display their deep-seeded prejudices. In the case of the policemen conducting the criminal investigation, their initial disdain and contempt for Adrien and Robert's sexuality is palpable.

    Jake Riordan, one of the two detectives investigating the murder, is the saddest of all these characters in my opinion. Lanyon develops Jake with a light a touch in this installment. However, we do get to know a few key facts about him. He's a tough cop, a "man's man" who has prejudices a straight man might have against gay men, but who leads a double life. He doesn't think of himself as gay, but has "homosexual" encounters of the "leather and BDSM" kind -- nothing touchy-feely or gay to his way of thinking. The man is deep, deep in the closet emotionally and intellectually. In Fatal Shadows, he doesn't seem conflicted about his life for most of the story; it just seems to be the way he deals. He is going to be an interesting character study.

    There is no obvious set-up for the next book in the series, except for a developing attraction between Adrien and "closeted" Detective Jake Riordan. Fatal Shadows is a solid beginning to this mystery series, with excellent writing, wonderful atmosphere and setting, and excellent characterization. I look forward to reading the next installment in this series, A Dangerous Thing.

    Genre: LGBT Mystery/Suspense
    Series: Adrien English Mysteries
    Release Date: 2007 Revised Edition
    Grade: Solid B

    Visit Josh Lanyon here

    Anezthezea's - M/M Romance Challenge 2010

    Wednesday, April 21, 2010

    Review: Her Colorado Man by Cheryl St. John

    When eighteen-year-old Mariah found herself pregnant and unmarried in her small Colorado town, she disappeared. One year later, she returned with a baby—though minus the "husband" who had conveniently ventured off to Alaska's gold fields to seek his fortune….
    But now, with handsome adventurer Wes Burrows turning up and claiming to be the husband she had invented, Mariah's lies become flesh and blood—and her wildest dreams a reality!

    I finally read Her Colorado Man by Cheryl St. John, a Harlequin Historical I've had on my "to be read" pile since it released last December. I loved her book, Joe's Wife and have begun collecting some of the books in her backlist already. She also has a new book this month, To Be a Mother and I'll definitely be adding that one to my pile as well.

    Her Colorado Man is the story of a young woman in 1800's Colorado who gets pregnant out of wedlock. Her grandfather sends her away to Chicago to have the baby and tells the rest of the family and the community that she met and married a man there, Wes Burrows. This man then left Mariah and their newborn child for Alaska to seek his fortune looking for gold.

    Unfortunately, the name grandpa uses is the name of a "real" person. Through the years, grandpa's old friend Otto writes letters to the young boy pretending he is the father who is away in Alaska. When Otto dies, the "real" Wes Burrows receives the letters and through their correspondence falls in love with the boy. Wes then decides to come "home" to meet his son and to be a "real" father to a boy who he feels needs him. Of course, he doesn't take into account that a wife comes with the son too.

    In Wes, St. John creates a tough, but sensitive male character who needs as much as he is needed. I was touched by his sensibilities, his need for love and family and willingness to give. Wes is a "good" man. Mariah on the other hand, is a woman who is ahead of her time, but also very much of her time. She has an outward toughness that hides her inner vulnerabilities. Mariah is independent within her family circle, but is very much restrained by her gender and circumstances. She is trapped by both and her independence is almost an illusion until Wes comes along. 

    This was a touching story. St. John begins this romance by having Wes fall in love with the boy first, then with the extensive Spangler family, and at last with Mariah herself. Mariah is understably weary of Wes and really doesn't understand what he wants -- this stranger who comes out of nowhere and whom she has to accept or break her son and family's hearts by revealing her lie. She is quite ruthless with Wes for a long time, even when he is a gentleman and a sweatheart. I think her reactions are quite understandable under the circumstances.

    The book is warm on the sensual scale and excellent when it comes to characterization. St. John really takes her time when it comes to developing the protagonists and their romance. She gives you the reasons behind both Mariah and Wes' motivations as we get to know their past histories -- some of which are complex, especially when it comes to Mariah's past experiences. The author also takes the time to develop the large cast of characters that make this story what it is, the Spangler family in particular. Through them, she also explores the setting and historical times by cleverly using the family's ties to the brewery industry to do so.

    A well written and developed Harlequin Historical, with excellent characterization, Her Colorado Man was an enjoyable read for me. I loved the clever way in which the setting and history were incorporated into the story, as well as the sense of family and the unique way in which it influenced this romance.

    Genre: Historical Romance - American
    Series: None
    Release Date: December, 2009 - Kindle Edition
    Grade: B+

    Visit Cheryl St. John here.

    KMont's 2010 Year of the Historical Challenge - April Review

    Wednesday, April 14, 2010

    Review: Courting Miss Hattie by Pamela Morsi

    The news spread like brush fire through the whole county when widower Ancil Drayton announced his intention to start courting Miss Hattie Colfax. She was certainly spirited and delightfully sweet natured, and she'd managed to run her family farm almost single-handedly. But wasn't a twenty-nine-year-old lady farmer too old to catch a husband?

    An Irresistable Suitor.

    All his life handsome, black-haired Reed Tyler had worked Miss Hattie's farm--and dreamed of one day settling down on his own piece of land with the pretty young woman he'd sworn to marry. Hattie was someone he could tell his hopes and troubles to--someone he looked on as a sister. So he thought, until the idea of Ancil Drayton calling on her made him seethe. Until the night a brotherly peck became a scorching kiss... and Reed knew nothing would bank the blaze--and that his best friend was the only woman he would ever love.
    Courting Miss Hattie is the second book by Pamela Morsi I read, and they're now both favorites and keepers. I loved Simple Jess, and this one is just as wonderful.

    In Courting Miss Hattie, Morsi once again sets her story in an Arkansas farming community and captures both time and place. She tells the story of Miss Hattie, a 29-year-old spinster who has never been courted, until now. In Miss Hattie, Morsi again works with a character that is viewed as different by her community. She is respected, as an excellent farmer who owns her own land, is independent and knowledgeable and also happens to be an excellent housekeeper and cook. But Hattie is a woman, and as a woman in a community where girls marry at the tender age of seventeen, she's considered an old spinster and treated as such. The fact that Hattie's looks are lacking count heavily against her -- behind her back her nickname is "Horseface Hattie."

    When local farmer and widower and father to a slew of children, Ancyl Drayton decides to come calling, you can feel both Hattie's pain and her hope for a future she thought she would never have -- a husband and children. I loved Miss Hattie. She is the perfect spinster/plain Jane type of protagonist that some of us love to read about in a book. Hattie isn't exactly your missish spinster, although she is definitely naive and has her moments. She is an independent woman who is direct and plain speaking and a tough and hard-working farmer. As a woman she is vulnerable, passionate and all heart. There is a joy in Hattie that makes her beautiful.

    Reed Tyler? I could have eaten him up with a spoon. What a great character he turned out to be. He is younger than Miss Hattie, but he is a real man. Reed began working at the Colfax farm when he was a 14-year-old boy. After Hattie's parents died and left her the farm, Reed stayed to help her and became a sharecropper using Colfax land. Reed and Hattie are close friends and partners. His dream is to save his money to buy the Colfax farm from Hattie so he can settle down with his young wife once he marries. That is...until Ancyl begins courting Hattie.

    Courting Miss Hattie is a wonderful friends to lovers romance. In a way, I hate to put it that way because it simplifies this story and it is more than that. The community at large, and Hattie herself, both see Ancyl's courting as a godsend and a favor to her -- all except Reed. He doesn't think Ancyl is good enough for her, as a man or as a farmer. I loved him for that. Reed begins to see Hattie as a woman and to seethe. Slowly, Ms. Morsi develops the story, and the sexual tension and romance between Hattie and Reed builds. And a passionate, joyful romance it is!

    I have many favorite scenes in this book. The scene where Reed explains to Hattie that there are three different types of kisses: pecks, peaches and malvalvas, and Miss Hattie comes to love her "peaches," is a favorite. But, I think their overall joy and laughter in the midst of the discovery of their passion and love is what makes this romance stand out for me.

    This review would be incomplete if I didn't mention a secondary romance that impacts Hattie and Reed's relationship. Morsi doesn't leave this romance behind in passion or in characterization; she takes her time with both. As in Simple Jess, she again develops a community that is vital and their down-to-earth, everyday interactions add depth to this story. The secondary characters are very much a part of Courting Miss Hattie and complete this romance.

    This is another Morsi book I highly recommend for those who want to read a different type of historical romance in an American setting. In Courting Miss Hattie you’ll find a beautifully written, well-developed, passionate romance, with a friends to lovers theme, and an unforgettable secondary, lively cast of characters that has more to offer than your every day fare. This is definitely a keeper.

    For other Morsi reviews, check out:
    Courting Miss Hattie at Leslie's Psyche
    Wild Oats at The Misadventures of Super Librarian

    Genre: Historical Romance - American
    Series: None
    Release Date: August 26, 2009 - Kindle Edition
    Grade: A

    Visit Pamela Morsi here.

    KMont's 2010 Year of the Historical Challenge - April Review

    Tuesday, March 30, 2010

    Review: Dark Angel and Lord Carew's Bride by Mary Balogh

    Jennifer Winwood has been engaged for five years to a man she hardly knows but believes to be honorable and good: Lord Lionel Kersey. Suddenly, she becomes the quarry of London’s most notorious womanizer, Gabriel Fisher, the Earl of Thornhill. Jennifer has no idea that she is just a pawn in the long-simmering feud between these two headstrong, irresistible men—or that she will become a prize more valuable than revenge.

    Jennifer’s cousin Samantha Newman is smarting after she too is toyed with by Lord Kersey. In the midst of her heartbreak, she seeks solace from her new friend, the disabled gardener Hartley Wade. If only she knew that Hartley is secretly Lord Carew, and that he hides more than extraordinary wealth: a passionate secret held deep in his heart that only her love can reveal.
    This book by Mary Balogh has two related stories: Dark Angel and Lord Carew's Bride featuring Jennifer Winwood and Samantha Newman, a pair of young cousins coming to London for their first season. These two books set in Regency times were originally released by Signet in 1994. I didn't read the original releases and was happy to get my hands on this book since I'm still making my way through Balogh's backlist.

    In Dark Angel, Jennifer is the central female character. She has been engaged to Lord Lionel Kersey for five years and believes herself to be deeply in love with him, and although her contact with Lionel has been quite limited throughout the years, she dreams of being his wife. She admires his physical beauty and standing in society, but doesn't seem to see or really know anything else about Lionel. Her hope is that they'll get to know each other once their engagement is formally announced. Instead, the man she gets to know is the Earl of Thornhill.

    Gabriel Fisher, the Earl of Thornhill, is attracted to Jennifer on sight, but he also has a grudge against Lord Kersey. Gabe seems to be Lionel's opposite, where Lionel is blond and light, Gabe is dark. He has a terrible reputation and is barely tolerated by polite society. Gabriel begins a subtle game of courtship and seduction and Jennifer unwittingly becomes his main focus and eventually a victim in Gabriel and Lionel's games of revenge. But she's not the only victim, as a secondary character Samantha, Jenny's beautiful younger cousin, plays an important role in this story and also falls victim. Sam will never be the same girl after these events are over.

    I enjoyed Dark Angel. I liked Gabe as the main male lead in this story. He was an honorable man who let his thirst for revenge overcome that honor. With his character, Balogh mainly addresses his personal fall from grace and then his redemption through what he thought was sacrifice and turned out to be love. Jennifer on the other hand is an interesting character study. She is a naive young woman of her times who is blinded by Lionel's beauty and what she thinks is love to the extent that she can't see anything else. Jenny's self-deception doesn't allow her to see Lionel's villainy even when it's right in front of her eyes. She puts on her blinders and basically has to be told the facts to see the light. This made for a difficult conflict between Gabe and Jenny with a good but tough resolution at the end for this couple.

    Lord Carew's Bride features Samantha Newman, Jenny's cousin from Dark Angel. Six years after Jennifer and Gabe's wedding, Sam is still unmarried by choice. Samantha no longer believes in love and has decided marriage is not for her. She is a blond, blue-eyed, petite beauty who gets more than her share of proposals and who is tired of being admired for her physical appearance.

    While on a walk through the woods at her cousin Jenny's estate, Samantha trespasses on Lord Carew's lands and meets a gentleman. She assumes he's a gentleman "gardener" by his ordinary looks, clothing and knowledge of the parks. They like each other immediately and strike a beautiful friendship based on mutual likes and dislikes. She likes him because he doesn't seem to focus on her beauty and feels the bond of friendship but no passion, therefore she feels safe with him. This gentleman gardener, Hartley Wade, turns out to be Lord Carew. He is rich, talented, sweet, patient and also crippled. I fell in love with Hartley as soon as he was introduced! He is SO sweet. Although he likes Samantha's personality and admires her independence, he of course also appreciates her beauty and falls in love with her.

    Lord Carew's Bride was a beautiful story. I found myself rooting for Hartley as he overcame his shyness and self-consciousness about his physical shortcomings and went after what he wanted, Samantha. I also liked the way Samantha's character grew and her feelings for Hartley moved from friendship to love. There are secondary characters that bring cohesiveness and humor to this story, but Francis, Samantha's old beau and true friend is a favorite of mine. I loved the ending and their happily ever after.

    Conclusion: In summary these are two enjoyable re-releases by Ms. Balogh. In Dark Angel and Jenny's character, in the way this character loved because she was "supposed" to love, Ms. Balogh gives us a glimpse into the way some society women followed the rules and mores of Regency times without question. In contrast, in Lord Carew's Bride, Ms. Balogh shows that a woman could also be independent of thought during that time and still be acceptable to society.

    In both books she places emphasis on how large a role physical beauty played in how people in that society "viewed" themselves and others. In Dark Angel we see this through Jennifer's eyes when she contrasts Lionel's "angelic" beauty to Gabe's dark and "satanic" looks. We see that emphasis even more in Lord Carew's Bride where Hartley is an imperfect cripple who is shown either disgust or contempt by his peers because of his imperfections -- disgust and contempt they're willing to disguise only because of his wealth -- as opposed to Samantha and Lionel who are beautiful and physically flawless in society's eyes. Lionel is beautiful and a well-known dishonorable man, but because of his "beauty" society is willing to overlook and quickly forgive his flaws. In Samantha's case, she is judged by her beauty when she marries Hartley. Society assumes someone as beautiful as she, can only marry a cripple like Hartley because of his wealth. In Balogh's world, however, the heart wins every time. :)

    Genre: Historical Romance - Regency
    Release Date: February 23, 2010
    Grade -- Dark Angel: B
    Grade -- Lord Carew's Bride: B+

    Visit Mary Balogh here.

    KMont's Year of the Historical Challenge 2010 -- March Review

    Friday, March 12, 2010

    M/M Mini Review: Best Gay Erotica 2010 edited by Richard Labonté selected by Blair Mastbaum

    In Best Gay Erotica 2010, Richard Labonté together with Blair Mastbaum, again puts together an excellent anthology that gathers a wide range of perspectives from the gay community using the erotic and of course different writing styles.

    Some of the stories tackle subjects that are not always comfortable: closeted married or engaged men who are on the "down low" and cheating on their wives or girlfriends; older men cruising and using younger men; men looking for sexual pleasure in seedy places. Then there are touching stories... stories of couples, of loss, of single encounters that make an impact on the reader. The writing and the content make it possible for both these types of stories to make that impact.

    By the time I finished reading, I found that I did have favorites in this anthology: Smoke and Semen by Jeff Mann; Colin and Gregory: 1956 by Jonathan Kemp; Holiday from Love by Hank Fenwick; Better Late Than Never by Rachel Kramer Bussel; The Boy in the Middle by Thom Wolf; 8 Beautiful Boys 8: The Follies Revisited by Jamie Freeman.

    The above are not in any particular order and represent the wide variety of stories that are included in this anthology. I must admit that Smoke and Semen by Jeff Mann is my favorite story. The plot has everything in it, from light BDSM, to love, to loss -- the characters are developed in this little story and by the time I finished I had thoroughly connected -- not an easy thing to accomplish in a 13 page short.

    These are all excellent stories, all well written and well edited so there's no waste. I certainly enjoyed reading the entire book. This is an anthology I recommend if you like variety when reading your erotica.

    Genre: LGBT - Gay Erotica
    Series: None
    Released: December 1, 2009
    Grade: B+

    Find it here and here

    M/M Romance Challenge 2010 Review