Sunday, October 23, 2011

This 'n That: I'm back, YA LGBT Books Charity Campaign, Vacation

Hi everyone! My computer was resuscitated. I've no idea what happened, but my husband found help and somehow gave it CPR and got it to work again. It's still going in for a nice check up at the Apple store, though.

I've missed almost a whole week of returning emails and posting, although admittedly that had as much to do with cleaning up at work as I get ready to go on my week's vacation, as it did with computer problems. Lots of late nights and exhausting days. But I did finish reading ONE whole book! The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan, the second book in the young adult fantasy series Heroes of Olympus series. I'll be reviewing that book!


In the meantime while away, I found out that Steve Berman editor of Speaking Out, the young adult anthology I reviewed recently, is starting a charity campaign to donate books to school libraries. I love it! This is a wonderful project and one that I wholeheartedly support. There is such a need out there for books like Speaking Out, and there's just not enough inspiration (or literature in schools) for LGBTQ kids. Here are Mr. Berman's own words on the matter:
"According to GLSEN (the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network), a 2009 National School Climate Survey revealed that nearly 9 out of 10 LGBT students suffer harassment in school because of their identity.

While there has been renewed calls for legislation to fight homophobia and bullying, while there have been countless videos of "It Gets Better," kids are still dying by their own hand. And some kids are seeing the It Gets Better campaign as a bit empty--they want to know when does it get better.

I edited Speaking Out: LGBT Youth Stand Up to offer teens stories that aren't about coming-out but rather about living life openly as well as overcoming intolerance and bigotry. I wanted to inspire readers, to help them realize that they are not alone or powerless, that their voices can be heard."
Of course as with all campaigns, the more awareness, the more people who see the campaign, the better! So you can spread the word, make a contribution to Mr. Berman's charity campaign or both! Here's the link where you can find out more about this campaign and/or make a contribution:

And last, as I mentioned above I'm going on vacation! Yesss! I mentioned before that I would be around, and later there were plans to leave for a few days for places unknown (lol!), but due to a (another) health-related family emergency that cropped up yesterday, I will be hanging around the area after all. My husband and I will be taking advantage of living across New York City for the week, and will be celebrating his birthday too!


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Computer problems! Reading Update

Well, when it doesn't rain, it pours... and it's pouring! My iMac desktop crashed with a vengeance on Monday and I can't get the reinstall program to work. Sigh... it's only three years old and it has all the latest and greatest updates.

I'm taking it to the Apple Store so, hopefully, they can repair it, but that won't happen until the weekend. In the meantime, I'll have to borrow a computer here or there if possible, if not I will post something for you all on the weekend.

Since I have a minute right now, I figured I would do a quick recap on what I'm reading at the moment:

Well, at the moment I'm reading:
  • Scandalous Desires (Maiden Lane, #3) by Elizabeth Hoyt! Yay! It's out!
  • The Son of Neptune (Heroes of Olympus Series #2) by Rick Riordan -- I'm really, really enjoying this book so far. I'm finding it more entertaining than the first one, and of course it's wonderful having Percy's "voice" back.
  • Down These Mean Streets edited by Gardner Dozois and George R.R. Martin -- This is a wonderful anthology where the focus is urban fantasy, the noir private investigator and the paranormal -- a combination of both (UF). But some stories have an emphasis in one or the other. I'm finding the stories quite interesting so far. Not quite what I expected from this wonderful duo.
I do have next week off (from work), so hopefully all the wrinkles will be taken care of at that time. I don't have travel plans for the week, but I do have plans *g*... lots of relaxation, hopefully. I will be around. Hopefully with a computer that works!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Review: Embassytown by China Miéville

In the far future, humans have colonized a distant planet, home to the enigmatic Ariekei, sentient beings famed for a language unique in the universe, one that only a few altered human ambassadors can speak.

Avice Benner Cho, a human colonist, has returned to Embassytown after years of deep-space adventure. She cannot speak the Ariekei tongue, but she is an indelible part of it, having long ago been made a figure of speech, a living simile in their language.

When distant political machinations deliver a new ambassador to Arieka, the fragile equilibrium between humans and aliens is violently upset. Catastrophe looms, and Avice is torn between competing loyalties—to a husband she no longer loves, to a system she no longer trusts, and to her place in a language she cannot speak yet speaks through her.
In EmbassytownChina Miéville throws the reader onto his science fiction world of aliens, dopples, "immersers" and humans isolated in the Arieka planet at the edge of the known universe from page one. The story is structured in a biographical first point of view format from Avice's perspective, moving between the present and past throughout the first half of the book until the timelines meet, as Miéville slowly unravels his world from the vernacular, to customs, to actions and characters.

There's nothing complacent or superficial about a Miéville novel, although of course there's a surface story. In this case we have a human colony that inhabits Embassytown in the planet of Arieka where there's eventually a breakdown between them and the indigene alien population or "Hosts" they've depended upon for survival for centuries. The break when it comes is violent with the humans' demise an almost certain fact. Avice has a front row seat and witnesses the unfolding debacle -- as both an observer and information gatherer -- that develops when the Bremen send in their own outsider Ambassador(s) to Embassytown. Avice likes to gather information, and although she's an "immerser" who has travelled the universe as part of starship crews outside of Embassytown, she doesn't like to take action. But, survival is important and eventually Avice takes her place with a band of humans attempting to save the Ariekei and Embassytown.

However, this is Miéville we're talking about and there's so much more to the story. There's much emphasis placed on language or "Language" and the effect that references, signification, similes, and eventually metaphors have or eventually come to have on the alien race -- the differences between speaking and that of real understanding, grasping, knowing. That knowing and real understanding applies to more than language though, and not just to the alien race but also to humans. That is because ignorance and dependency are also two strong subjects that apply to both humans and aliens in this story.

Miéville's aliens are intricate and mesmerizing. I've never read anything like them and for a science fiction fan they can become an addiction (I was blown away by his aliens in Perdido Street Station). There is certainly nothing human-like about the Hosts or their environment in Embassytown. Interestingly enough as alien as they are depicted, the Ariekei ultimately represent a colonized indigenous population. As such, although initially they seemingly retain power, they'll never be the same again because of their interactions with the human (or outside) race. However, it is through their interactions with humans, or perhaps because of the contrasts shown, that the aliens in this story are most effective.

The humans also have an intriguing society where ignorance and dependency, whether chosen or cultivated, are both central to their world. The planet depends on the Bremen to provide products and news from the outside world. The people of Embassytown are solely dependent on the Hosts/aliens for everything: from the air they breath, to food, to the space (town) where they live. Yet, they happily remain quite ignorant about the Hosts and the planet as a whole. Humans are also dependent on Ambassador(s) to be the go between for them with the Hosts, placing Ambassador(s) at the top of the hierarchy. Plus, the majority of people remain ignorant (or don't want to know) how things really happen -- political intrigue, power plays, abuse of power or cruelties that include inhuman acts -- as long as their lives continue to move in the right direction.

Does any of this sound familiar? This is one of the aspects of science fiction that I love the most -- how a writer takes and bends current or historical events and places them in what seems like a completely alien world and makes it work.

The way Miéville uses Avice's memory, which of course is colored by distance and personal baggage, is quite effective. Avice makes an interesting biographical narrator and I think in many ways realistic. Some of the information given by her is personal, only relevant to Avice's character including her indifference to people or dismissal of events with her personality shaping the story, and other times relevant to the overall story.

Overall, Embassytown by China Miéville is a fascinating science fiction read where the writer throws the reader into his creative world and slowly reveals it through the first half of the book, with some much appreciated literary content in the middle of it all, and lots of action and somewhat expected results through that second half of the book. This science fiction tale might not be for everyone, but as with my previous experience with  this author's work once begun I certainly couldn't stop reading until that last page was turned.

Genre: Science Fiction
Series: None
Publisher/Released: Del Rey/May 17, 2011 - Kindle Edition
Grade: B+

See biography and list of Miéville's books here.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

October 2011: New Releases

Holy great release month! There are lots of books being released this month. I'm looking forward to reading quite a few of them. The list is long and extended.

October 4th alone was a great day for releases. Let's see, here are three books I already have in my possession, although there were a couple of others that I purchased and am not highlighting or decided to get later... one of these books I've already read and reviewed:

Angels of Darkness Anthology with Ilona Andrews, Nalini Singh, Meljean Brook and Sharon Shinn
The Son of Nepture (Heroes of Olympus, #2) by Rick Riordan
Animal Attraction by Jill Shalvis

Upcoming Releases I'm really looking forward to reading:

Scandalous Desires by Elizabeth Hoyt
Release Date: October 18, 2011
Finally, Silence's story in the Maiden Lane series by Elizabeth Hoyt! I'm loving this series and will absolutely read this book as soon as it hits the shelves.
The Famous Heroine/The Plumed Bonnet by Mary Balogh
Release Date: October 25, 2011
This two/fer release by Balogh looks very tempting to me. It's very rare that I miss a release by Mary Balogh, and if I can't find the original books, I will definitely buy this one!
Real Men Will by Victoria Dahl
Release Date: October 25, 2011
This is the third installment in Victoria Dahl's Donovan Brothers Brewery contemporary romance series and another definite read for me. I still have Bad Boys Don't in my TBR, but hope to read it before this one releases. I liked Eric! :)
Holiday Releases
Then there are all the new Holiday books (yes I said Holidays!) that I received for review and that are releasing in October. I always remember that every year there are friends who ask about Christmas or Holiday books, so here are a few new ones. Of the following there are a few that I will be reading and two that I've read or am reading at the moment:

A Texas Christmas with Jodi Thomas
It Happened One Christmas by Kaitlin O'Riley
Season for Temptation by Theresa Romain
Tis the Season To be Sinful by Adrienne Basso
Christmas At Timberwoods by Fern Michaels

Here's one contemporary, and if you like a little heat for your holidays, one erotic romance:

Unwrapped with Erin McCarthy, Donna Kauffman, Kate Angell
Silent Night, Sinful Night with Sharon Page, Melissa MacNeal, Chloe Harris

I had so many new releases this month that I decided to link you to Goodreads for the book descriptions, otherwise the post would have been too long.

So, what about you? What new releases are you looking forward to reading in October?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Review: Angels of Darkness with Ilona Andrews, Nalini Singh, Meljean Brook and Sharon Shinn

The Angels of Darkness anthology was a must read for me, as it contains stories by three favorite authors, leaving only one new-to-me writer and series in the mix. It's a mixture of urban fantasy and paranormal romance with dark angels, guardians, vampires, and of course good and evil.

Nalini Singh's story Angel's Wolf fits in with her Hunter Guild series, and with its happily ever after it further solidifies my belief that this series is leaning more toward paranormal romance and moving away from urban fantasy. This is a romance between the vampire Noel who in an earlier installment was torn into a bloody pulp at the Refuge, and Nimra the Angel who rules the Louisiana territory.

Noel is assigned to Nimra's court to investigate an attempted assassination by someone close to her and while investigating her closest friends and allies the two fall in love. Noel falls rather quickly for this angel who begins the process of healing his deep psychological wounds, and Nimra is taken with the arrogant and rather forceful Noel. Although we are told that as an Angel Nimra is terrifying, there is really little proof to this claim. Instead Nimra is shown to be a rather sweet and quite human-like angel who needs love and gives love and tenderness to those who are under her care. Noel's character was more daunting in this story. The romance is enjoyable and engaging, but not terribly dark or exciting. Grade B-

Alphas: Origins by Ilona Andrews is an excellent beginning to a new series by this writing team. I love the world building in this novella with it's touch of science fiction, genetic experimentation and mutations, that allows for travel or ripping between the known universe and pieces of that universe. There's a war with humans unknowingly in the middle and in danger of extermination if the Ordinators win. This is the world that Karina and her daughter Emily are pulled into one sunny day on their way back from a school field trip -- a violent world of monsters, blood and war.

Karina is poisoned and dying when a monster and three men come to the rescue, she's given a choice: die or become a blood slave to the monster and she and her daughter Emily will live. She agrees. This story is full of interesting characters, including Karina whose rather violent and touching relationship with the monster that is Lucas develops as the story moves along. The world, characters and plot are all dark(ish) and rather violent. This is different from the Andrews writing team's two other series but I think it's just as great! I want more. Grade B+

Sharon Shinn's Nocturne, the story of an angel set in her religious-based world of angels, humans and the god Jovah focuses on two wounded souls. I enjoyed the interesting world building, which I think is explained well enough to pique the interest of a new reader like me. Moriah, the daughter of an angel and an angel-seeker is running and hiding from the angels and a powerful lord. She is working at a school tucked away from everything, out in the desert. She feels safe there even after her curiosity takes her to the head mistress house and Corban, a wounded angel. I really wish that the characters in this story had been as interesting as the world itself, but I'm afraid they just didn't work out for me. Corban pitied himself incessantly and I don't understand how Moriah could stand him after a while. And although there's actually a sex scene in this story, there's a sense of detachment to it and to the ending that left me cold. I do wonder, however, if other stories in this series are better. Grade C

Meljean Brook's novella Ascension is set in her Guardian world. I love the fact that Brook didn't waste the pages in this novella, as she develops a romance plus further explains the world building in this paranormal romance series. Marc Revoire is in charge of guarding the Midwest and senses that there's a demon at work in the small town of Riverbend. Radha comes to Riverbend to ensure that Marc is well after she last saw him alone and distraught as Caelum fell to pieces. Centuries ago, Radha and Marc shared a deep friendship but it all fell apart when they became lovers, and Radha hasn't spoken to Marc since. Now the two of them team up to find the demon and in the process work out their relationship.

I liked both characters in this novella and the way they talked through long standing issues that stood in the way of their passionate love for each other. More so, I'm quite happy about the fact that Brook finally explains the reason behind the Ascension that left the Guardians so vulnerable. In explaining his reasoning for staying behind, Marc also explains quite well some of the Rules and how they apply to Guardians -- it clarifies a few points in a simple and direct way. So, although I thought the demon hunting part of the story was a bit weak, this story as a whole worked for me. Grade B

Overall this is a good anthology with one story that really fits the title "Angels of Darkness" quite well, and three where the angels are not so dark. However, the excellent, creative world building found in all four stories makes this anthology worth the read. I enjoyed it.

Category: Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance
Series: See below
Publisher/Release Date: Berkley/October 4, 2011 - Kindle Edition
Grade: B-

"Angel's Wolf" (Guild Hunters, #4.5) by Nalini Singh
"Alphas: Origins" (Alphas Series, #0.5) by Ilona Andrews
"Nocturne" (Samaria Series) by Sharon Shinn
"Ascension" (The Guardians, #7.5) by Meljean Brook 

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Review: Speaking Out: LGBTQ Youth Stand Up edited by Steve Berman

This excellent collection of thirteen stories gathered and edited by Steve Berman for and about LGBT and Q young adults not only features stories that address the difficulties of coming out to friends and family, but most importantly Speaking Out: LGBTQ Youth Stand Up highlights experiences, changes and difficulties that affect and are experienced by young adults after that important step is taken.

The stories are as varied in style and content as are the writers themselves. L, G, B, T, and Q stories are all represented in this collection with gay and lesbian themes seemingly taking center stage, however you will find that the characters in all the stories are as varied as the challenges they face. The stories feature young adults and their struggles, triumphs, realizations, and lessons learned and taught.

I really want to mention all the stories. Instead here are a few as examples of the type of stories found in this wonderful collection. In Lucky P by Rigoberto González, a bisexual young man realizes that there's a difference between a crush and reciprocal love, and learning about pride, accepting support, and dealing with bullies after coming out in an all girl's Catholic high school is the subject of Gutter Ball by Danielle PignataroVictories, acceptance and respect are earned the hard way within the realm of high school sports in the multi-layered coming out story Captain of the World by Alex Jeffers where the focus falls on a Turkish young man whose struggles include battling prejudice against the Muslim religion and homophobia.

In Steve Berman's wonderful story Only Lost Boys are Found about closets and what they hide, two childhood friends fall in love but while one is out, the other needs rescuing when he gets lost and trapped in the maze that is his closet. The Proximity of Seniors by L.A. Fields on the other hand is all about finding that one unexpected friend who shares a mutual struggle and provides support throughout the worst and best of times during and after those high school years. I loved this story about a gay boy and a lesbian girl who become best friends for life.

Subtle Poison by Lucas J.W. Johnson is a fantastic story about the value or toxicity of friendship that features the challenges of being accepted as an FtM transgendered teen and a gay young man's battle with substance abuse, and Sparks of Change by Dia Pannes is all about a brave young woman who teaches her father and small town a lesson about ignorance, intolerance and acceptance of her lesbian teacher and hopefully her future self. Then there's The Trouble with Billy by Jeffrey Ricker, a wonderful story about two young men, one who is 'out' and barely dealing with daily bullying episodes, and the other full of rage. And I really enjoyed the lovely Duet: A Story in Haibun by Charles Jensen told in narrative and poetry style from the perspective of two male high school band musicians who are deeply in love: "how a pair of shoes, reflections of each, share the same body." 

Each story is prefaced by one page with a short anecdote from the author sharing a personal life experience with the reader. These short personalized notes effectively become a part of this collection and with few words all convey key, refreshingly candid moments or the need to have books like Speaking Out readily available.
"The last time this happened was in Decatur, Georgia. At the end of the presentation, a teenager comes up to me and asks in a timid voice: "Excuse me, Mr. González. Could you recommend some books about people like us?" People like us need to keep spreading the word." Rigoberto González.
In his introduction writer and editor Steve Berman says, "voices must be heard," well, they are heard here. Speaking Out is a collection of stories written by writers of LGBTQ young adult literature who not only capture their voice, but also understand the daily challenges they face. This collection is affirming, inspiring and informational.  I highly recommend it. Specifically recommended for LGBTQ young adults and those interested in supporting their friends, parents of both LGBTQ teens and those interested in teaching their teens tolerance, as well as to librarians in general. Pass it on.

Category: LGBTQ Young Adult
Series: None
Publisher/Release Date: Bold Stroke Books/September 12, 2011
Source: Bold Stroke Books
Grade: A-

Stories and authors in order of appearance:
"Lucky P" by Rigoberto González
"Day Student" by Sam Cameron
"Gutter Ball" by Danielle Pignataro
"Captain of the World" by Alex Jeffers
"The Proximity of Seniors by L.A. Fields
"Subtle Poison" by Lucas J.W. Johnson
"Forever is Composed of Nows" by Will Ludwigsen
"Spark of Change" by Dia Pannes
"The Trouble with Billy" by Jeffrey Ricker
"Only Lost Boys Are Found" by Steve Berman
"Waiting to Show Her" by Ann Tonsor Zeddies
"Duet" A Story in Haibun" by Charles Jensen
"All Gender U" by Sandra McDonald

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Review: Kissing Comfort by Jo Goodman

Bode DeLong knows that his playboy brother Bram isn't really in love with Miss Comfort Kennedy, even though it's clear that she's enamored with him. With Bram's motives for the engagement suspect, Bode figures the safest place for Comfort to be is in his arms. Now, Bode just needs to convince Comfort that the childhood fancy she has for his brother is no match for the incredible desire that sparks between them every time they touch.
Jo Goodman is one of the few western historical romance authors whose works I read as soon as they are released. Kissing Comfort turned out to be a different type of western, and one that I thoroughly enjoyed.

The story is set in late 1800's San Francisco and it's all about Comfort and Bode's romance with a bit of a mystery about Comfort's past. They've known each other for years and while Bode has loved Comfort from afar, she has been "in love" with Bode's brother Bram for years, or so she thought. After a fake engagement is announced between Bram and Comfort and later both Bode and Comfort are attacked in the streets of San Francisco, our couple gets closer to each other and sparks fly. There are bar fights, opium dens, gamblers, a kidnapping, some pretty evil villains, love scenes in a ship, and a competition between the brothers that has nothing to do with Comfort. Plus of course there are those family ties that are at the heart of this story -- both Comfort's and Bode's.

I love Bode as the male protagonist with his longing, love and passion for Comfort. And she is wonderful in understanding her old feelings for Bram and then the real feelings she develops for Bode. I like that Comfort doesn't let those old feelings get in the way of new ones. Her honesty and frankness are refreshing, as well as her love for her "uncles," and even for an old friend who betrays her. The scenes between Bode and Comfort are passionate and in some ways full of wonder. I like that.

The secondary characters in this story are quite good, Bram and his mother, uncles Newt and Tucker, and even Bode's assistant and butler all make excellent contributions to the story. I especially like Bram's story arc and am curious as to how or if his life will change. However, the weaknesses in this story come in the mystery of Comfort's past and how that is resolved, as well as the main villain's characterization which I think is underdeveloped. For me it's a case of too many coincidences and too pat an ending.

Overall Kissing Comfort is a solid historical romance with a wonderful setting, excellent main characters, good secondary characters that help the story along, a romance I really enjoyed, and a few weak spots. I understand Bram's story is on the works and look forward to finding out how he turns out.

Category: Historical Romance
Series: None
Publisher/Release Date: Berkley/September 6, 2011 - Kindle Edition
Grade: B

Visit Jo Goodman here.

Monday, October 3, 2011

September 2011 Reads & Minis

September is over! I am so glad... lol! September was a long burn-out month for me with lots of work and running around. I was behind the eight-ball for most of the month, and in need of rest and relaxation. My blogging and reviewing suffered and yes... I ended up slow blogging for the month. However, although much of my time was spent away from the computer, I took the opportunity to read whenever possible. Thank goodness because I definitely need those books to relax. :)

Overall September turned out to be a pretty solid reading month. It was pretty well-balanced when it comes to diverse genre reading, although I do wish I'd included a straight science-fiction romance read in there (not steampumk), but in the end decided to go with literary fiction instead. I'm including two minis in this post, as well as an impromptu review I first posted at Goodreads for Captain Harding's Six Day War by Elliott Mackle.

Here are my reads for September:

Total Books Read: 14
  Contemporary: 3 (Romance: 1 Erotica: 2)
  Historical Romance: 2
  Historical Fiction: 1
  Paranormal Romance: 3
  Fantasy/Steampunk: 2
  Literary Fiction: 2
  LGBT Gay Fiction: 1
  • The Feast of the Goat by Mario Vargas Llosa (Re-read): A
  • Captain Harding's Six Day War: A Novel by Elliott Mackle: B+
Hah! I really enjoyed this book. The writer pulled me in to the story from page one. I meant to skim it to read later and ended up reading it in one sitting. It's all about Captain Joe Harding's escapades at the Wheelus Military Air Base in Tripoli, Libya. Set in the 1960's right before the Six Day War in the Middle East. That Joe is something else! "He's got balls." He's in the military, gay, and deep in the closet -- he has to be in order to keep his career intact and himself out of the brig. Remember these are the 1960's so it's worse than let's say.... last year! He transferred in as a crazy Colonel's right hand man and administrator with the idea of being discreet and maintaining a low personal profile. But that's just not Joe!

In a short period of time Joe's having under cover affairs with two different men, making goo goo eyes at the American Ambassador's young son, and getting himself and a friend in trouble at an all-men party turned orgy. Joe's not very subtle, even though he really tries. In the meantime he's making friends and enemies. As both he and his friends become embroiled and get caught in the middle of military politics, often due to deep-set prejudices (related to race, sexual orientation and gender), Joe becomes bolder in his attempts to save himself and his friends from disaster, and wages his own Six Day War at Wheelus. Of course as in all wars, expect victory, defeat, some wounded and casualties.

This is a fast paced story, full of excellent military details. I loved Joe's story, from the sexual escapades and attempts at self-deception that affected his personal life, to the manipulative machinations that he and friends used to achieve their ends (complete their mission) at the military base. The secondary characters are wonderful in this story too (both friends and foes). Disbelief must be suspended a couple of times before the end, and those pesky military acronyms get to be a bit much at times, however, this was a great read with a surprisingly sweet ending. This is my first read by Elliott Mackle and I really enjoyed the writing style. I’ll follow up by reading It Takes Two. (LGBT Gay Fiction)
  • The Greyfriar (Vampire Empire #1) by Clay Griffith & Susan Griffith: B
I featured this book in my recommendations for Halloween/October reads because I really did love the fact that the vampires in this steampunk/fantasy book are portrayed as such vile creatures. They are scary, violent and not a one sparkles in the bunch. It has been a while since I read vampires that were this nasty. The humans are quite intriguing themselves, not quite a black and white portrayal there either. Besides the way vampires and humans are characterized, there's quite a bit to recommend this first book, the adventure is fast paced, the world building is engrossing and the characters that populate the book are quite intriguing. Toward the beginning of the book there seem to be a bit too much of the passive third person point of view going on and it slowed down the action, but later on I either became accustomed to the writing style(s) or the plot reeled me in enough that this stopped being a problem for me. I enjoyed it enough that I'm reading the second book.
  • Good Girls Don't by Victoria Dahl: B
  • Archangel's Blade (Guild Hunters, #4) by Nalini Singh: B
I'm not following this series, yet I picked up this book mainly because it's all about Dmitri the vampire. This is one of the most violent romances I've read in a while. I liked the fact that Singh didn't change Dmitri's character to fit the romance and that he remained a "killer" even as he exhibited a softer side. I admired his loyalty and tenderness throughout the whole story when all I expected was passion. Honor was also a good protagonist who turns out to be quite strong while working on her recent traumatic experiences. Unfortunately, neither the numerous flashbacks, nor the foreshadowed reasons given at the end for Honor and Dmitri's romantic union really worked for me. Despite that, overall this was an enjoyable UF/Romance book that in many ways felt more like a paranormal read. 
  • The Book of Want by Daniel A. Olivas: B (Upcoming Review)
  • Supernatural by Larissa Ione, Alexandra Ivy, Jacquelyn Frank, G.A. Aiken: B
  • Kissing Comfort by Jo Goodman: B (Upcoming Review)
  • The Blushing Bounder (Wild & Steamy Anthology) by Meljean Brook: B
  • Los cachorros by Mario Vargas Llosa: C
  • Tempting the Highlander by Michele Sinclair: C
  • Raw Desire by Kate Pearce: C
  • Rough Play by Christina Crooks: C-
That closes my September reads. My top three picks of the month were The Feast of the Goat by Mario Vargas Llosa (Historical Fiction); Captain Harding's Six Day War: A Novel by Elliott Mackle (Gay Fiction), and Demon Marked by Meljean Brook (Paranormal Romance). How about you, any great reads in September?

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Halloween Reads: Steampunk/PNR/LGBT Spec-Fic

October is here and that means Halloween! From the books I've read lately and some read a while back, I have accumulated a few recommendations of books you might want to read: Paranormal Romance, LGBT Speculative Fiction, Horror, and well... things with fangs, claws or some that go bump in the night.

The Greyfriar (Vampire Empire #1) & The Rift Walker (Vampire #2) by Susan Griffith and Clay Griffith: (Steampunk Adventure/ Romance) See Leslie's review here.
The first book in the Vampire Empire trilogy has some of the scariest vampires I've seen around in a while. I really enjoyed the fact that they are Nosferatu-like vampires, parasitic, violent and portrayed as animalistic and clannish in nature. The humans are also portrayed quite differently in this world, and for the two main characters it's a learning experience as they venture into the world of vampires in the northern lands where they rule. There's a princess, a masked and caped hero, horrifying vampires and violent, often fast-paced battles, plus the beginning of a sweet romance that develops between two very different people. Along with the first book, I will recommend The Rift Walker (Vampire Empire #2), a book that I'm reading at the moment, and where the fun, chilling adventures continue. 
Demon Marked (Guardian Series #7) by Meljean Brook (Paranormal Romance): See review here.
Weather you begin this series from scratch or decide to pick up where you left off doesn't matter. This is a series that I highly recommend and that is appropriate for this month with it's angel-like Guardians and demons, hell hounds, heaven-like Caelum, and vampires. There's a lot to be said about Meljean Brook's world and it's all good... it's complex, tight, and fascinating. The romance and heat are off the charts and I can't recommend it enough. 
Supernatural with Larissa Ione, Alexandra Ivy, Jacquelyn Frank, G.A. Aiken (Paranormal Romance): See review here
And if you want something lighter, Supernatural is a paranormal romance collection of novellas where the writers feature characters set in worlds created for already popular series. A couple of the stories are a bit darker than the others, but all four are on the erotic side of the scale with lots of sexin' going on along with the fangs, claws, darkness, fire and brimstone. 
LGBT Speculative Fiction and Horror:

Wilde Stories 2011: The Years Best Gay Speculative Fiction edited by Steve Berman (Speculative Fiction): See review here
I just reviewed this collection of stories and highly recommend it. All the stories included are excellent: there are vampires, flesh eating zombies, stories about the occult, mermen, a mesmerizing psychic, a clown!, surfer dudes and dudettes, and well... romance and love along with all the hmm... weird fantasy.
Pumpkin Teeth by Tom Cardamone (LGBT Speculative Fiction): See mini here
Oh boy! Did I enjoy this collection by Cardamone or what? This is one fantastic collection of spec-fic stories where Cardamone includes both horror and fantasy. His stories are shocking and nightmarish, and if you love those ambiguous endings that leave you holding your breath at the end you'll love these. I read it last year and will be re-reading some of the stories again this October. :)
The StarCrossed Series by co-authors Reno MacLeod and Jaye Valentine (Speculative Fiction): See reviews here and here
Demon Tailz (Book 1), Opposite Ends of the Spectrum (Book 2), Sangria and Seraphim (Book 2.5), Objects in the Mirror (Book 3), Angel Tears (Book 3.5), In the Blink of an Eye (Book 4)
This is spec-fic of the horror, homo-erotic kind. The best kind. It's exciting and disturbing with demons, vampires, angels and witches equally doing their thing among humans and with each other. MacLeod and Valentine's series escalates and gets better and better as it goes along. But you don't have to believe me (I only wrote an ini-Mini), I've linked you above to Indigene's reviews of this series. She reviewed all four books when the series was first released a few years back and in my opinion, these are still the best reviews about this series out there. This series has had a resurgence in popularity recently after it was re-released by OmniLit.

There are many excellent Speculative Fiction books out there to read! I've slowly become an addict of this sub-genre, horror and fantasy in particular. For LGBT fans, Lethe Press' quarterly magazine, Icarus: The Magazine of Gay Speculative Fiction, is a great way to check out short stories by new or favorite writers, interviews, reviews, news about upcoming releases and of course networking information. So, I usually end up browsing through their book catalogue which has great choices. The upcoming fall issue has an interview with Ginn Hale who has the popular serial The Rifter out now. I've only read and reviewed the first episode from that series and am holding off on the rest. :)

So where do you look for new speculative fiction, horror, fantasy, new writers and upcoming books, LGBT or otherwise? What about books in general? What have you read lately that you would recommend as a great Halloween, October read?